How Grace Ling Built Design Buddies

Learn how Grace Ling built Design Buddies, a Discord Partnered community from nothing, to over 40,000 members.

How Grace Ling Built Design Buddies
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I’m Grace – a designer, community builder, runner, and content creator. Full-time, I’m a product designer at a large gaming company. For fun, I founded Design Buddies on Discord, draw, build 3D models, run, swim, and create content about all of that. I previously designed and developed virtual reality games to make learning fun and studied bioengineering and computer science engineering in school before pivoting my career to design.

I’m excited to be sharing more about Design Buddies, how I built and grew it, and the many life lessons I’ve learned from it.

Design Buddies’ mission is to help designers level up in their careers. We provide resources and connections to help Buddies improve their craft to land jobs. (We call our members “Buddies.”) We also provide an organic meeting place on Discord where Buddies can make lifelong friends, support each other, and even meet their future hiring manager!

In Design Buddies, we have events, a job board, design resources, design challenges, design & portfolio critique, giveaways, mentorship, design content, interest clubs, 50+ channels to help Buddies find community in their more specific interests, and exclusive perks on Discord. We’re always experimenting and trying new things.

I created Design Buddies on Apr 10, 2020, as a student because I wanted to experiment with something new. I was also transitioning my career from engineering to design, and I didn’t have many designer friends. I wanted to meet other designers to learn more about design. I found other design communities at the time quite intimidating, so I created Design Buddies with a fun colorful bunny-themed brand and vibe to help others feel open to be themselves in the community.

Design Buddies mainly grew through word of mouth, LinkedIn, and Instagram. We encourage members to invite their friends because it’s a resource to help them out, too. We also encourage members to write a post on social media if they had fun and learned something new from our community. Design Buddies and I also have a strong LinkedIn and Instagram presence and I sometimes share about Design Buddies on my own social media. In the beginning, I and my admin team also proudly and shamelessly promoted Design Buddies everywhere we could and we had a lot of fun.

My main takeaways from community building are –

  • Create a space where people feel comfortable being themselves. This looks like having respect for others, even when they have a different opinion. I value curiosity and having an open mind when learning about different perspectives in a community.
  • It’s a fun experiment. Always be creating, launching, learning, and iterating. Community building is iterative – the needs of people and your interests will always change. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Life is an adventure.
  • Delegate and give others opportunities. A community can’t scale if there is only one person to do everything. Identify people who would be a good fit to be on the managing team. Understand their interests and goals to help give them opportunities to create the community, too.
  • If you try to satisfy everyone, you will satisfy no one. It’s not scalable to please everyone.
  • Build in public. Understand your community member’s needs and get feedback on your ideas and features early on.
  • Now is the best time. You don’t need anyone’s permission (as long as it’s legal). If you’re wanting to start a community but don’t feel like an “expert” yet in that field – still go for it. You’ll probably make some mistakes along the way but they will always teach you something new. You’ll keep learning and levelling up as a human!

Thank you for reading! Feel free to connect with me on any social media platform. I also have a case study I wrote about Design Buddies if you’d like to learn more about community building.