Dribbble & The Power of Exclusion

If you’re a designer and you have not heard about Dribbble, you must be living under a rock!  The community has been abuzz about this new online design network for weeks now. Dribbble is an invite only design critique community, similar to ConceptFeedback.com and as of yesterday, I was finally “drafted” off the bench!

Now — so far, it seems like a fun community to be a part of, but what has been most interesting to me is how everyone who isn’t a part of it yet is hurting for an invite! I was whining on Twitter for several days before I got one. In fact, in the early stages of the sites launch when people started talking about it, I wanted in before I was even 100% sure what it WAS! What is this? I don’t know, but someone invite me! All I knew was a lot of cool designers were a part of something and I wanted in!

The power of exclusion is pretty amazing, people want what they can’t have (or so they say.) I think I understand Dribbbles reasons for their set up, closing the site to be invite only puts the power of who is part of the group into the design community itself, possibly cultivating a higher quality of users — however, I can’t help but think in other ways all it really does is run on that Junior High “popularity contest” rule. Making it invite only doesn’t nessecarily mean the most valuable designers get drafted, people will draft their friends.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you used Dribble? Are you looking for an invite? (I don’t have any yet!) What do you think of the “invite only” policy — is it about quality, exclusion, or just a marketing scheme?


  1. I’ve heard twitterings about dribble but never knew what it was until you posted this! I would love to be a part of it, and I think it’s great to be invite-only (to keep quality levels high)… but at the same time I’m sure there are lots of designers like me who have lots to contribute and might not ever get invited. It makes me second-guess my skills, and it makes me feel like I’m not involved enough in the design community…

  2. Ever since I saw the tweets about dribbble and users tweeting about their “shots” I felt kind of left out. I wasn’t itching so bad to be a part of it but it would be cool to participate! Now that it’s public, I really want to be involved and seeing the quality of work has made me want to improve on my skills.

    I can see how dribbble being invite only can make others feel a little bitter. I’d like to think dribbble is all about quality but I agree that those who have invites will invite friends. However, I’ve seen tweets from dribbble players asking people to send their portfolio to be considered for an invite.

  3. I think that the dribble community idea is a great one, especially now that they have at least opened it up to be able to view the “shots” as an outsider. The invites only is a great idea if you want to keep the quality up, but lets face it, the majority of the people getting invites are already great designers. It’d be nice to have a section or a membership option for those in the “Juniors” (to continue to play off the awesome dribble terminology) that would be able to receive feedback from the drafted players and help bolster the design community and raise the quality.

  4. @ Liz Thanks! Maybe since you’ve made it into the dribble community you can spread it and see if it catches on with anyone. It’s a modern take off of the old school apprentice/master relationship and a combination of the critique portion of design classes.

  5. Haha, I definitely like the idea of the “Juniors” but that could open up a whole other can of worms… who decides who is junior and who is senior? unless it depends on the amount of work you’ve produced that others have “liked”… still, gets a bit messy. I think invite only is good.

    invite-only definitely keeps the quality up, and forces you to only upload your absolute best, and keep the “maybe” stuff out of the pile.
    the only problem is that 400 x 300px doesn’t really give a lot of context, so its hard to actually properly “critique” anything- its more of a show and tell, and a chance for some designers to connect and share what they’re working on- especially things that are really interesting but may never get published!

  6. Congrats again on getting drafted in Dribbble! =)

    It’s been interesting watching the whole business unfold (nudging people for invites occasionally, of course, like an eager puppy begging for a bone =P ) and in some ways, as one of the (as I think you put it) bench warmers, it’s hard not to feel a bit silly for being so eager. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with an invite-only system, but I do think it’s funny (and, from a marketing standpoint, extremely impressive) how much hype they’ve managed to generate just by virtue of a) making it a mystery at the beginning and b) having a lot of big-name types hanging around.

    It probably does make it into a higher-quality community, and one where there’s a lot of good feedback to be had. But there is that popularity contest aspect, as you say, as well, and it definitely seems to be a situation where those of us who are still learning (as I’m not ashamed to admit I am), and who might really benefit from the influence of those around them, will have some difficulty getting a foot in the door.

    It’s in its Elvis year at the moment; it’ll be interesting to see how it develops as a phenomenon or whether it peters out. I’m certainly keeping an eye on it for inspiration if nothing else.

  7. Finally!! :) I wish I had some invites to give you sooner. I don’t know how you get granted the ability to draft people, but I wasn’t a lucky one. Ha ha. I’ll definitely be following you! I’m RibbonsOfRed on Dribbble!

  8. The exclusiveness of the site has become a marketing ploy, rather that was intentional or not is another matter. There may be other legitimate reasons for it as well such as content quality, and operational cost. I’m still not sure how the site operates or what the business model is but I think it will need to grow and open up more if the owners want to keep things interesting.

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