Dan Spain from Design Stuff talks us through how he and the rest of the team got started, how they find speakers each month, the best ways to promote events and why you should think about giving it a try.
Hello Dan, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hello to you too :)
I’ve been a designer for about six years now, working across digital and print for a handful of really cool people. I actually started out making terrible gig posters for my band and all our mates, which led me to a graphic design degree in Canterbury. In 2010 I moved to Cardiff and nervously found my feet in the local design community. I currently work freelance, and for a great studio in Cardiff Bay called Burning Red.
What is Design Stuff and how did it come about?
Design Stuff Cardiff is a monthly (and free) social event about design… stuff. Each month, two designers talk about a topic of their choice, which is based in and around design. At Design Stuff we get together to listen to interesting people, have a few drinks, make some new friends and generally have a good time. This all continues long after the talks have finished.
Cardiff has a great design scene and the community is collectively doing some amazing work. I set up Design Stuff to create a reason for us all to come together, because although there are lots of creative meet-ups and talks happening in Cardiff, not many are specifically aimed at designers.
I’m a big believer in just having a go at something and Design Stuff was just that. I had a go and realised that other people thought it was a good idea too. We all wanted awesome talks about design. Besides, all of the designers in Cardiff should be the best of friends.
Setting up something like that sounds pretty full-on; how did you guys get it all started?
Starting out in anything is a scary experience and getting Design Stuff off the ground was no exception. I spent a few months going to a bunch of creative events, talking to people and getting to grips with what was missing in the community. A little bit of research goes a long way and once I had a clear idea of what Design Stuff could be, I started planning.
I knew Design Stuff would need a team and after asking friends in the design community, we established a team of four people, which is now a team of seven.
From working in design and being a part of a band, I knew there were a few things that had to be in place before anything else. A venue with sound and AV equipment, a laptop for presentations, a website, an identity, a ticketing platform and a Twitter profile. Once they were in place it was all systems go and I asked a couple of my local heroes if they wanted to take a chance with us and speak about the thing they love for 30 minutes, to which they kindly agreed.
The DSC team and our whole roster of speakers all give their time for free. I’m incredibly humbled by how nice people are and the fact that people continue to enthusiastically support the event, it’s amazing!
How do you find speakers for your events?
There’s a massive community of designers in Cardiff to invite, it’s just a case of asking people who we think might have something interesting to talk about. Recently we’ve gone further afield and started contacting designers in cities such as Bristol and London, which is super exciting!
We get a lot of recommendations through word of mouth too and sometimes designers put themselves forward, which is great. We are also happy to receive speaker requests through our website. Let us know if there’s someone you think could bring an awesome talk to Design Stuff! Maybe that’s you?!
What do you hope attendees are going to take away from the experience?
The event is friendly and informal so it’s about having a good time and leaving inspired and motivated, hopefully with some new friends.
That’s pretty much Design Stuff in a nutshell: listen to great talks, have fun and make friends. We’re a community, extending out from the monthly event – so much so that we’re nearly ready to launch in Bristol with one of our previous speakers, Polly Aplin.
What are some of your favourite ways to spread the word on upcoming events? Do you have any go-to promotion tactics?
We have quite an informal, tongue-in-cheek tone of voice and we treat promotion the same way. Twitter is great for any type of promotion and we enjoy talking to people in 140 characters. We also send out email newsletter updates but we really love talking to people in person so we all go out on a regular basis to socials and events within the city.
This year we’re hoping to introduce more students and recent graduates to Design Stuff and so have booked to go to a few universities to promote the event. I think the plan involves a megaphone, which should be interesting! We also get along really well with creative agencies and a few small businesses, which we promote in return for a bit of a shout out.
Oh and we give away a load of merchandise all the time. We’ve always got a healthy supply of badges and stickers but in the past we’ve had cookies, notebooks and greetings cards. If we can get Frisbees, that would be awesome! Having a physical thing to give to people is powerful and everyone loves free stuff.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other creatives looking to set up social events in their area?
Do it, no questions asked. The reward that you can get from doing something and making something new happen is worth every second of your time!
Seriously though, if you think you can add something of value to where you live then why not try? Work hard at your idea, be friendly, professional and believe in what you are doing. It goes without saying that a web presence is essential and you need to develop an identity and a brand to support what you are doing. If there’s something you don’t know how to do, I bet you know someone who does know, so ask them if they would like to help you create something awesome! The most important piece of advice I have is this - remember why you are doing something and who you are doing it for.
Get out there and talk to people, find out what’s missing and go for it with everything you have because at the end of the day, what’s the worst than can happen?
You can find the good folk at Design Stuff online here — drop by and offer your services as a speaker, or attend one of their events and get involved in the discussion. Credit for all photography goes to Owen Mathias.