Product Of ___

Product Of ___

Local & International Design Community • Events
March 2017 – Ongoing • Personal Project

Local & International Design Community • Events
March 2017 – Ongoing • Personal Project

Product Of ___

Local & International Design Community • Events
March 2017 – Ongoing • Personal Project

In 2016 I started a Meetup for Brisbane Digital Product Designers. A Sydney group followed, and we're working together to envision an international network of local design communities.

After a few months of sitting on the idea, the motivation to actually start Product of BNE happened in a spur-of-the-moment decision one night in Februrary 2016.

A designer I had never met or heard of popped up in the Spec.FM Slack, an international community of a few thousand designers and developers, and said something like:

"Hi, I'm Greg, I'm a Product Designer from Brisbane, Australia, and I'm glad to find this community because we don't really have much of a design community here…"

I created 'Product of BNE' minutes later.

Why start another community?

I'd been attending a local UX Meetup for a while, and while I'd found a lot of value in some of the content and in the connections I'd made, many topics I was interested in weren't covered, or wouldn't have suited the groups audience.

Areas suchs as brand, visual & UI design, interaction & micro-interaction design, or prototyping & product performance all felt like they might have been out of place within that group, despite being of equal interest to myself and I felt to others who considered themselves 'Product Designers'.

The other challenge I felt this group faced was due in part to their success and their status as one of the only groups covering this topic area in Brisbane.

A combination of a large membership base, regulalry large event turnouts and a general 'stand-and-deliver' talk format felt like the group was somewhat limited to having to curate content to be suitable to an audience with a lot of student and junior members.

It didn't feel like it could offer as much for more experienced or senior designers in this format.

GV Design Sprint Workshop, April 2016

Defining and differentiating our vision

Based on these observations, my two main goals for the community from the outset were: to target a broader range of topics related to digital product design, and to hold events that offer value to seniors and experienced designers as much as to students or juniors by being interactive and participatory.

The third goal for the group was to foster genuine community building. I wanted to avoid 'professional networking' or competitive attitudes, and to find a way to truly build friendships and support networks among people that share the same interests.

Targeting Digital Product Designers
Within the tech industry here, the concept of a product designer as a specialist generalist, or someone with a broad skillset who can work on a product from early strategy right through to roll-out, was only just starting to be more common.

This concept seemed to suit designers who might have started in graphic or visual design and had evolved to have a great interest in UX design, as much as UX designers who simply recognised the importance of brand, look & feel and interactions on the products they worked on, and were interested to undertand this area more.


Interactive & Participatory events
By avoiding classic stand-and-deliver talk events, and instead focussing on things like workshops, discussion panels, and demonstrations, I felt that the group would be more valuable to experienced and senior designers, while also being open, inclusive and welcoming to students, juniors or other people with an interest in product design.

The hope was that more confident and experienced senior designers might take more group leader responsibilities in workshops, and offer their own experiences and knowledge in discussion panels or demonstrations, which in turn offers broader and more complete topic coverage to inexperienced or junior members of the audience.

Community building
Going into this, I had a fair idea of some things I didn't want to do, but I wasn't sure exactly what to do instead. Luckily, Luke Brooker got involved early.

I'd met Luke in passing at other events, and knew him from Twitter, but we got talking after I held the first Product Of BNE event, and he soon came on board as a co-organiser.

Luke had  been involved in similar groups within the design, front-end-developer and Javascript communities, and had already been toying with the idea of running a casual weekly industry breakfast event as a way of building the community.

We started those almost immediately, and have continued them weekly for over 18 months now, regularly getting turnouts of 12-18 people for breakfast every Friday, with a nice mix of new faces each week offset against a rotating cast of returning regulars.

Prototyping Demo & Discussions, October 2016
Product Breakfasts
Product Breakfasts
Product Breakfasts
Product Breakfasts

Connecting > Networking
One way we've tried to differentiate from many industry events is by intentionally avoiding any prolonged 'networking' time before and after events, in favour of encouraging collaboration during workshops, and taking mid-session breaks.

We've found, mostly from personal experience, that pre or post-event networking time can be awkward and can feel forced. We'd all experienced either intentionally turning up a bit late, or pretending to be busy on our phone for pre-event sessions, or leaving immediately after the main event for post-event socialising.

However, we've found that taking one or more short ten minute breaks in the middle of a workshop or other event never feels as pressured or forced. This might be partly because the event already set an obvious discussion topic, and people feel free to stick to discussing that, and sharing their understandings so far, or to move onto other topics.

Also, by encouraging workshops to be performed in small groups, many connections are formed in the process of collaboration.

Combined with our compleley casual weekly breakfast discussions, I can honestly say that I've made more close new friends in the time since I started this group than I had in all my years in the industry before that, including the designer I'd never met, or even heard of, who had popped into the Spec.FM Slack community to kick all this off, Greg Le Seuer—now co-organiser of the Product of BNE group.

Some of the events we've held include:

GV Design Sprint Workshop

The first workshop we ran, and by far the most wildly ambitious, we attempted to cover all 5-days of the GV Design Sprint in a single evening mini-sprint.

In hindsight, we're not sure what we were thinking either, but over three hours into the event we had just scraped through finishing the third day, when we decided to hold seperate events for days 4 & 5 (prototyping & user testing).

A massively rewarding experience for all though, as we discovered some of the issues, and uncovered some common misunderstandings, thta we might each have only discovered upon attempting our first real design sprint in a professional environment.

Prototyping Demo Panel & Group Discussion

When we finished the GV Design Sprint event somewhat prematurely, we realised that it was a blessing in disguise if it allowed us to hold a whole event dedicated to one of our favourite topics, prototyping.

For this event, we looked at different levels of prototype that can be produced, and tried to demonstrate where and when each might be the most useful in your design process.

We had a representative from the group demonstrate a tool or method they used to prototype, and talk about it's pros and cons, for four levels of protoyping: paper prototyping, lo-fi prototyping of complex flows (Invision), micro-interaction prototyping of simple flows (Principle), and high fidelity interactive prototyping (Framer).

We then had a lively Q&A session, with the audience asking further questions about each tool, offering alternative options or debating when each might be the most valuable.

Usability Testing Expert Panel

Since the publication of the GV Design Sprint book, we'd perceived that their use of the term 'user testing' had begun to cloud many younger designers understandings of the difference between testing a prototype to validate a solution vs actual usability testing.

We'd covered much of the rationale for product validation during our discussion on how and why to prototype to different levels of fidelity in our previous event, so we decided to focus instead on proper usability testing.

To do so, we invited three of the most experienced usability testing practititioners we knew of in Brisbane to join an expert discussion panel covering all aspects of why, how, what, and when to perform usability testing, and who to recruit.

We broke the discussion into six phases, each with it's own audience Q&A:

  1. overview, strategy & planning
  2. recruiting & screening testers
  3. setting up the testing environment
  4. on the day: running the tests & debriefing
  5. synthesising and delivering the results
  6. achieving and tracking outcomes

Jobs-To-Be-Done Interview Demo & Workshop

Jobs-To-Be-Done has been a favourite topic of Friday breakfast discussions since we started the group, so we couldn't wait to run an event on the topic.

Two members of our group with extensive experience with JTBD research techniques organised and ran an event that combined an introduction to the methadology with a demonstration and a collaborative group workshop element.

After introducting the concepts of functional, emotional and social jobs, and tools such as the timeline & forces diagrams, the facilitators conducted a demonstration interview with an audience volunteer while the rest of the group workshopped and compared their own timeline and forces diagrams.

Gamification Workshop

We're lucky enough to have a member of the Brisbane group with a PHD in Product Gamification, so we were super keen to learn from his expertise in a group workshop.

Dr. Zac Fitz-Walter, of Eat More Pixels, delivered an amazing workshop that introduced the concepts of gamification design, and asked small groups of attendees to apply the process to motivational problems they had encountered in their own products or lives.

Community Critique Sessions

Every couple of months we run a community critique session, where one or two members of the group volunteer to present their work for critique from the group.

The reason for these events is twofold. Firstly, to offer the whole group a regular chance to participate in a structured design critique, and to hone their objective critique skills.

And secondly, to allow group members who don't have other designers on their team to go to the chance to seek design critique from a group of their peers.

So far we've based the sessions off articles describing the Facebook design critique model, however over time we've refined the process to suit the unique needs of seeking critique from designers who don't work on the same product and need more background context set to be able to give helpful critique.

User Centred Branding

User Centred Branding

The Sydney group ran a full-day workshop based on a process Ustwo have been working on to develop brands based heavily on the needs of a products users.

The workshop takes a similar shape to a user centred design workshop for product needs, but focusses on the brand traits the customer expects from the product.

Product Design Breakfasts

So far the only common thread between the BNE, SYD and SFO chapters of the community network has been the concept of preferring workshops to talks, and breakfast.

All three locations run either a weekly or fortnightly casual breakfast catch up that changes venue each week and has as little structure as is necessary to get the discussion flowing.

What's next?

We're also working on a shared vision of a platform for sharing knowledge, resources and connections between communities in each city. If you'd like to be involved, join one of our local communities, or get in touch if you're interested in starting a group in your own location.

Project type

Community building events, Global community network platform

My role

I started the Product of BNE group, and worked with Tim Cruickshank to start Product of SYD and to envisione the concept of the network

Global team

Jai Mitchell – Co-founder
Tim Cruickshank – Co-founder

Brisbane team

Jai Mitchell – Organiser
Luke Brooker – Co-organiser
Greg Le Seuer – Co-organiser

Sydney team

Tim Cruickshank – Organiser
Jessica Tong – Co-organiser
Jay Gray – Co-organiser
Markolf Zimmer – Co-organiser

San Francisco team

Phill Farrugia – Organiser
Tom Medhurst – Co-organiser

Want to know more?

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