Beyond Meetup: Building a Creative Community

Role

Leadership, Event Planning, Logistics

Shout-outs

Braeden Miguel, Tara Gee, Jesse Litton, and many other creative folks

Sponsors

Galvanize, Viget, Mondo Robot, Gloo

Last September, I stepped up to lead Design Hour. Historically, the group is known for Design Debate, a morning discussion series for creative-minded folks.

We’re a diverse and curious troop that includes every discipline from marketing and industrial design, to landscape architecture and user experience. But, as much as I love open-ended conversations about design, something was missing. I wanted to be doing more to build an active community and raise our standard of design—together.

I started by gaining a better understanding of our group interests with a simple dot-voting exercise.

The Evolution

With these interests as the foundation, I set out to create an environment of collective ownership and enthusiasm. Boulder might be small, but it’s full of incredible creators, architects, artists, and engineers. We’re a community of Doers. So, the first experiment I tried was inviting a guest from the community to host Design Debate each month.

This approach was valuable for two reasons. First, I discovered that it keeps the tone, style, and pace of discussion fresh. And second, it creates a sense of accountability and distributes the challenge of preparing new content each month across the community.

Since last fall, we’ve explored a variety of topics ranging from kinetic typography to AR, established a steering committee, and started a Slack group. I even refreshed our Meetup page with a bright new identity, inspired by the tones of a quintessential Boulder sunrise and the general worship of coffee.

Taking it to the Dark Side

Sure, participation at Design Debate had increased, but how else could we cultivate a creative community? (And by dark side, I just mean after work. Definitely not evil. We’re actually a pretty empathetic bunch.) Essentially, I wanted to organize an event that would deviate from the typical post-work Meetup: networking, presentations, and panel discussions. They leave something to be desired for me. Too formal. Safe. Predictable. Yawn.

I like to do unorthodox things. So, I asked my self, what if we tried something really different? Say, for example, creative-tailored improv?

From this question, Boulder’s first creative improv competition emerged—Pitch Masters. The premise is: a presenter gets up and gives a 1-2 minute pitch on a surprise topic. As in, you have no idea what you’re going to be talking about until you’re on stage. Could be kangaroos. Could be about Ron Swanson. Or perhaps peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Part exhilarating. Part terrifying.

I set a date and got down to planning. This included everything from securing sponsors and giving direction to competitors, to designing the event collateral and getting the community psyched. I even invited two improv experts from Denver to judge the competition and award prizes.

My favorite part was seeing the deck each competitor created. They were assigned to one another Secret Santa style, so you could play up the other competitors’ strengths or weaknesses. They covered everything you can imagine from art-based cryptocurrencies and mock apps to Why Raccoons are Man’s New Best Friend.

Pitch Masters was a hit. Several weeks of logistics culminated in an incredible evening of roaring laughter, pizza, and libation-fueled professional development. There will absolutely be another in the near future.

Nice! What are you working on now?

I’m so glad you asked. We’re working on a few events for March and April right now. More details next week. In the meantime, connect with us on Meetup.