In my junior year of high school I was the starting defenseman on the varsity hockey team. We won it all that year. We played our final game against Martha’s Vineyard at the Boston University arena. There wasn’t an empty seat in the house. I felt like a rock star that day. I don’t play hockey any more though. I hung up my skates for good. Now, I dribbble.
Do not adjust your monitor, folks. That third “b” is in-fact intentional. Dribbble is the hippest designer network on the block. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with it yet, you better clear your calendar because you’re going to spend the next week straight gazing at endless amounts of inspirational work.
To cut to the heart, Dribbble is a network where designers are drafted (hand selected from users) to become members, then share “shots” of their work in progress. “Shots” are limited to a 400 x 300 pixel crop and are meant to display only specific areas in which you are working on. Other members can then give praise or leave critique within a comment. Members can also “rebound” your shot by taking your design, slightly altering it, then reposting it to help visualize their thoughts. It also has some other fairly standard network functionality, but it’s way cooler and more targeted than others. So yeah, facebook and twitter just took a back seat.
At face value (including my description above) it might not seem overly attractive. I mean, another social network? There are already so many other networks out there that require regular maintenance; who really wants one more to deal with? This was my initial reaction, anyway… Through time, however, the idea of posting work for review by my peers really started to become inciting.
As luck would have it, I was eventually drafted. At first I started to use it as a portfolio, so-to-speak. I would post shots of only the most flattering parts of my design. Then one day I actually needed some honest feedback on a project I was knee-deep in. So I posted a few variations and immediately got some really valuable responses. At the moment, I was so invested in the project that I didn’t even realize the obvious, but great solutions the other members were suggesting. That was when I first saw dribbble as a tool rather than a portfolio. This is just the tip of the ice burg though.
Sweat the Small Stuff
Within a month, I found myself constantly stepping back from my projects and cropping them to 400 x 300 pixels. Even if I wasn’t posting them, I would still go through the motions. Then it dawned on me… This was a super effective approach to analyzing concentrated areas of a design. Often times I’d be patting myself on the back, praising the sweet new design I just completed, only to realize it looked boring and untreated when isolated to a specific area. So I started to look closer. What could I change/add/remove within this cropped area to make this design more interesting. Before I knew it, I was like a horse wearing blinders; designing right within a 400 x 300 pixel dimension.
Granted, the end user won’t be limited to viewing only 120,000 pixels of the design, so you sometimes have to overlook the balance of the actual crop. However, when focused on only a few elements that are close in proximity, and how they are working together, you’d be surprised at what could be revealed.
Lead. Don’t Follow.
While I’ve got an obvious fascination with Dribbble, I’ve also got one qualm. In the past, I’ve found my self falling victim to “inspiration gallery envy”. In weak moments, I would find myself perusing galleries in search of much needed inspiration, or more appropriately, much needed ideas. This can be dangerous. When your ideas are coming from someone else’s successes, rather than the solutions you’ve come up with based on your clients needs, your doing everyone a disservice (including yourself).
So, this “qualm” I speak of, does not lie within the site itself, but rather, the user. Be careful. If you catch yourself heading to dribbble to look for inspiration/ideas before you’ve even put your own thought into the project, then beware. It’s possible you’re becoming a follower, rather than a leader. A dangerous path to go down in our industry.
Join the Team
With that said, joining Dribbble should be on any aspiring designers wish list. So if you, or anyone you might know would be interested in being drafted, let me know. I just so happen to have one invitation left. How about this? If you’re interested in being part of the community, leave a comment on this post and include a link to your portfolio. I’ll take a look at everyone who has applied and hook up the designer that I think will be the best fit with an alley-oop.