How to Find Your Design Community and Get the Help You Need
Whether you’re in the early stages of learning design and just starting to build up your portfolio or are an experienced creative with a roster of clients and work experience, being able to get feedback and help from other designers is crucial to ensure you continue learning and improving as a designer.
But sometimes it can be difficult to get satisfying feedback and answers to your design questions—or to even find people who are willing or qualified to look over your work. Especially if you didn’t go to design school, don’t live in a city with a thriving scene, or lack personal connections to the design world, it can feel isolating or impossible to break into the community.
Luckily, we’ve got your back. We put together a list of resources you can use to find other creatives to critique your graphic design or UX work, answer your questions, and ensure you’re on the right path to achieving your creative goals—and it’s so much easier than you ever could have imagined.
Find Your Community Online
The first places you should look when you want design help are the communities that designers have built specifically for this purpose—the work is already done for you. Online platforms like dribbble and Behance, Facebook groups like Designers League and Designers Guild, and reddit’s Design Critiques are excellent starting points when you’re in search of feedback or advice.
Engage in the conversation immediately by commenting on work you see online and answering questions if you feel comfortable. Even if you’re just getting started as a designer, most people in these spaces just want honest feedback on their work.
As you start to build up a portfolio of sample work, you should begin actively posting your own work. (Don’t panic if reactions are tepid or even harsh—everyone can learn from constructive criticism.)
The more you contribute to these communities and make a name for yourself as a team player, the more help you’ll receive when you have a question or request. If you’re looking to see some friendly faces, don’t be afraid to ask your Facebook and Twitter followers to find you on these sites as well so you can get their feedback, too.
Use Social Media
In my experience, the creative community is astonishingly active on social media. While Twitter and Instagram can feel more like the wild west compared with groups and sites specifically built for new designers, using these networks can be an additional way to engage directly with the heavy hitters in the industry whose work you most respect. As you become more active in the feeds and posts of a few of your favorite creatives, you’ll be able to ask for their feedback periodically.
Start by following designers that you admire on Twitter (this list has some serious talent), and if you start to engage with the community (like people responding, retweeting, or having conversations around a designer’s work), you might be able to develop relationships with a few creatives—and if you’re really lucky, they may have a specific passion for mentoring.
Similarly, follow designers you like on Instagram—and be sure to comment on the work they post. When you post your own projects, use hashtags related to your field so other creatives can find your work and offer their own feedback.
Once you start building an active presence and audience on social media, reach out to designers directly on Twitter, LinkedIn, or other communities asking for critique. It’s as simple as saying “I so admire your work, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on X project of mine. Here’s the link!” You could also try a specific question like “Since you’ve been such an inspiration to me when it comes to fine line work, I was wondering if you’d take a look at my technique.” As always, be polite, gracious, and thank them for their time. And remember: The response rate might be low, but keep trying. The creative community, in particular, is generally receptive to newcomers, so this technique can be super effective.
Meet Up IRL
Meeting someone in real life and building a long-term relationship with them is one of the trickiest and most valuable ways you can improve as a designer. If you’re self-taught and don’t have the network of a design school, there’s no reason why you can’t meet people: Like online communities, face-to-face platforms already exist exactly for this purpose.
To get started, try searching for design-related MeetUps around you. Most cities have dozens of design groups that get together every week and this is a great way to network and meet established creatives who can help you on your creative journey. Even if you just go and listen the first few times, what you’ll learn will likely be invaluable and you’ll get practice dipping your feet into the community.
Another option is to join an official in-person mentorship program like those hosted by AIGA and XXUX. AIGA is a globally spanning design professional organization with chapters in most cities, and many of their chapters have official mentorship programs that can pair you with a mentor in your city. XX+UX is an international community of women in UX whose aim is to create networks of support in order to combat gender bias in the tech community at large.
With these tools in your back pocket, you should have the resources you need to get design feedback and help anytime you need it—even if you’re the only designer you know. With these in mind, there’s no reason to ever feel isolated: The design community is just a few clicks away.
RookieUp is an online mentorship platform that lets anyone learning design skills easily schedule video mentor chats with a community of creative professionals. Sometimes a 1-on-1 video chat with someone who’s been in your shoes before is the best way to get real-time feedback and answers to your hard-hitting questions.