Accelerator Design Program
What’s the current problem?
At most early stage startups, there is only one designer, two if you’re lucky. While I’m sure they kick ass, they are still cut off from the benefits of a larger design team, like:
- Design reviews with peers who understand design and the company goals
- Brainstorming sessions with designers who understand the design thinking process
- Learning from more senior or differently skilled designers
- Support when trying to frame ideas or arguments for the user
How is it currently (not) being solved?
Now, solo designers rely on a few different methods:
- The more design savvy engineers can give great feedback and collaboration, but engineers are still looking at designs through their own lense—they aren’t looking out for the same things a fellow design practitioner would see—and they don’t have the experience of possibly having solved a similar design problem in the past.
- Giant slack channels and facebook groups where they can post designs for feedback, but the level of people there is ambiguous and they can’t have enough context to give useful feedback. Of course, there’s Dribbble, but Dribbble has long stopped being a place for thoughtful critique.
- Designers can find community through Twitter, online groups, and meetups and they can find “mentorship” through reading and attending talks, but very rarely are these solving their specific challenges.
What's the solution?
The answer is an internal “design team” comprised of all the designers at the accelerator. They would meet for design reviews, brainstorming, and workshops with guest experts. This combats many of the problems above by providing:
- Thoughtful feedback from trusted peers who have a better understanding of their goals, audience, and product history
- Collaborators whose skill level and strengths are known
- Trust that no one seeing the designs is a competitive threat
- Additional guidance from senior designers brought in to host workshops, give talks, and have discussions about topics specific to their unique challenges
How does it work?
- Weekly design review meetings where each designer has an opportunity to present something they’re struggling with to the group for feedback and ideas (1-2 hours)
- Monthly workshops, talks, or discussion topics, either over lunch or dinner
- An accelerator-only design Slack for camaraderie, brainstorming, and feedback
- Help from myself and/or other designers to evaluate design candidates when companies are hiring (as well as an increased network).
- Companies in the cohort will create better products because designs will be vetted better, designers will up-level faster, and more ideas will be generated early on.
- The designers themselves will have more opportunities to learn and grow their skills, develop a discerning eye, and figure out their own opinions on design.
- Because of the increased learning and collaboration in tandem with the autonomy and impact of being the first design hire, companies in the cohort will be better able to recruit the best candidates.
- The accelerator can pitch the above advantages (easier hiring and better quality products) to attract more, better startups.