Meetup gets serious about design

We’re declaring it: 2015 is the year of design at Meetup. This year, we’re rearchitecting Meetup for a lightweight, personal, mobile experience, and design is at the heart of that effort. It’s an exciting time to be a designer at Meetup HQ.

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The design team takes Halloween seriously

Design is uniquely positioned at Meetup—as a company, our business interests are completely aligned with the interests of our members. “By doing the best possible work for the user, you’re doing the best possible thing for the business, and that’s crazy special,” explains Meetup’s Experience Design Director, Jennifer Gergen. The high value placed on research across teams also sets Meetup designers up for success. “We really care about who our members are—we pay attention to their whole experience,” says Gergen. Meetup’s in-house usability lab makes it easy to test designs and prototypes in real time. “There’s no designing in the dark.”

Our design ambitions are big, and we’re building an all star team to match—the design team is six members strong and growing fast. “We may well double our team this year,” reports Gergen. With two new hires since the new year, we’re off to a strong start. In January, Kristen Stewart joined our ranks, after spending six years living and working in China, where she gained deep localization experience. She brings a unique game mechanics perspective to our team, applying user-delight thinking to all her work. On Kristen’s heels was Farah Assir, the newest addition to the team. Farah, whose background is in graphic and print design, joins us from the New York Times, where she led a major redesign of the NYT Android core app. She was also central in the NYT Now iOS app, as well as NYT Cooking. We couldn’t be happier to welcome them both on board.

In addition to building out our in-house design team, we routinely bring in guest speakers from outside our walls. Visitors so far have included Khoi Vinh, Tina Roth Eisenberg, Elan Miller, John Maeda, Rus Yusupov, and more. These speakers share their stories, field questions from our team, and help keep us inspired and curious.

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Khoi Vinh drops in for a chat

Design plays a crucial role in Meetup’s 2015 roadmap, and our newly minted design lab provides the perfect space for designers to get to work. The design lab was conceived in fall 2014, as a space within Meetup HQ for designers to claim as their own. In and out of the lab, design is subtly changing Meetup culture for the better—design studios are commonplace.

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At work in the design lab

Once a week, instead of sitting with their cross-functional product teams, Meetup’s designers work side by side in the design lab. “We need to define a standard shared idea of what Meetup is supposed to look like, feel like, sound like,” explains Gergen. “One way to do that is to just literally be in each other’s presence. It’s supposed to be a little bit social, it’s supposed to be about collaboration.” The space also serves to expose the rest of Meetup HQ to the design process. “Everyone is welcome. We’re trying to build a design culture into a company that historically hasn’t had one. It’s important to have a space where people can come in, talk to us, and see how we work, in a way that’s organic.” Plus, says Gergen, “we needed a place where we could take out our smelly markers!” One thing is certain—it’s a space conducive to great creative work, of which there’s no shortage ahead.

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