Design Communities, The Industry’s Best-Kept Secret. | by Nicolas Candelaria | Dec, 2021


Nicolas Candelaria

As with any other discipline, consistently exposing yourself to the craft is one of the best ways to improve. When I started learning French in middle school, my teacher would always put on French children’s shows, take us to the library weekly for some French books and comics, and of course, we were even obligated to speak in French the whole time that we were in school. Because of this, my middle school cohort moved on to highschool with a professional level of proficiency in the language which we further refined in other classes.

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Now in design, many of us do not have the resources, funds, or even time to expose ourselves as deeply as I did during my time in middle school. Bootcamps are one way to constantly discover more and more of design however, the gradual exposure that I had in the 3 years that I spent high school is what I attest my success in the language to. Bootcamps force knowledge into participants during a 6-month long period and although this works for a few people, the majority find that their knowledge is surface level, and reproducing the projects that they created are quite difficult without an instructor’s tutelage.

What are design communities?

With that said, design communities are a wonderful resource that is free to access. With the advent of the global pandemic, many meetings were taken onto Zoom, Discord has seen a massive boom in usage and online conferences and meetups are becoming more prevalent.

Design communities are places where like-minded individuals converge to discuss design, ask for feedback, and schedule conferences. This consistent exposure of interacting with your community doesn’t seem like a chore as opposed to other methods such as bootcamps outlined earlier.

Benefits of a design community

Design communities open more doors to individuals by hosting talks and conferences where senior designers and professionals discuss their experiences with members of the community. There are also feedback channels where members can receive feedback from award-winning designers. Finally, some design communities also offer challenges and competitions for designers to compete and collaborate to solve a given prompt. Their submission to these competitions can be used to create their own case studies and improve their overall portfolio.

Design communities encourage you to try new things, new designers are always eager to learn and as a result, it is easy to find a partner or a group of friends that you can ask for feedback from or enter competitions with. This generates a feeling of accountability, it makes it seem as though you are missing out when you do not participate in these free conferences and design challenges. Additionally, even after reading all the design books, you can access and after completing multiple bootcamps, nothing beats receiving personalized advice from industry professionals and leaders. People who have spent a large part of their lives learning and providing guidance to newcomers have a massive wealth of knowledge that is ultimately free to access with design communities.

Design community red flags

Now you may be thinking that design communities are the be-all and end-all for your success in design. However, this is not the case and as with everything else, should be taken with a grain of salt.

You should always be careful with which design communities you join and make sure that you perform your due diligence and research before joining a bunch. Design communities that show a lack of leadership, a lack of resources, or resort to advertising on Twitter and other social media are some of the worst communities that I have ever joined.

These communities are filled with beginners and a lack of organization so when asking for feedback, you are simply greeted with a wave of compliments. This is extremely detrimental for newbies since they gain confidence in their weak design ability.

Another red flag that I have seen in design communities is graphics packs that are being sold by their founders. This is a scummy way to monetize their pre-made graphics packs where similar resources can be found online for cheaper or even for free. This not only takes money from members of the community but also makes newbies reliant on these graphics. This stifles their creativity and prevents them from coming up with graphics on their own.

Examples of paid graphics packs

My favourite design communities

I don’t want to end this article on a bad note so I prepared a few resources which you can visit. These are a few design communities that I have found an incredible amount of support and where I spent a great deal of time browsing and interacting with the rest of the community.

The first is the official Adobe discord channel:

If you are going to join a single design community it should be this one. It hosts the Adobe Creative Jam competition which is widely recognized and collaborates with other well-known companies (its most recent one at the time of writing this was a Jam with Patagonia). It also has a mentoring section where you can reach out to industry professionals and ask for feedback on anything you may need. I consider this feedback channel the most valuable resource that any designer may encounter. Other than that, there are a variety of other channels where you can interact with other designers ask about career advice, or even chill and vent.

A glimpse of the Adobe Discord Channel

Another community is a local community that I have just recently joined but shows promise. If you are located in or around the Vancouver area, this is a wonderful community to join.

It includes resources to books, websites, and other blogs that have been filtered by the designers of Vancouver. There are also channels where you can look for job referrals and get some advice for your portfolio and case studies.

If you are not located in Vancouver, there are many design communities that you can find on or similar sites.

Finally, this design community is one that was founded during the pandemic.

The Design Buddies discord group was founded by Grace Ling in order to help connect aspiring designers with industry professionals to help streamline their experience with the industry. The community features feedback channels and resources but its defining factor is the regular conferences that they hold where hackathons and mentorship sessions hosted by senior designers help newcomers in all things related to design.

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