ADPList Matches Laid-Off Designers with Mentors for Free
The new platform has more than 5,000 designers and mentors in a supportive, global community to help designers skill-up and advance their careers.
Design and collaboration tool software provider InVision has had a productive year.
In November 2020, they reported a gain of 2 million new users. In January, they announced another project, meant to give back to the design community, with the Amazing Design People List (ADPList) a free platform for designers to build on their skills and connect with mentors.
InVision believes in empowering designers and empowering companies with “design intelligence” — which is explained by their Chief Design Evangelist Stephen Gates on the Growth Manifesto podcast.
They have the distinction of working with all 100 of Fortune 100 companies, so their roster of Design Mentors hail from all over the world and include major brands like Nike, Apple, and Google along with smaller companies and design-focused recruiting firms.
The platform has been quietly growing over the past 10 months and in January the platform fully launched with profiles, easier sharing, and more mentors around the globe.
I spoke with Jennifer Aldrich, Director of Community Engagement at InVision to learn more about the platform.
Jennifer Aldrich, Director of Community Engagement at InVision
What led to the creation of ADPList?
The digital product design community is integral for organizations forced to accelerate their digital transformation efforts.
Yet (that) couldn’t keep designers safe during the mass layoffs that started in March of 2020, when the pandemic truly started to take its toll on the global economy. Designers, particularly junior designers, were losing their jobs in record numbers.
Felix Lee in Singapore and James Badour in Ghana, both accomplished designers, found this unacceptable. Their partnership started with the realization that there was no easy way for laid-off designers to list themselves as looking for a job, and no central clearinghouse where designers could connect with other designers to secure employment, mentorship, or even just support during a difficult time.
So they put together a public spreadsheet where people could mark themselves as “looking for a job” or “ready to mentor,” and called it the Amazing Design People List (ADPList). It took off around the global design community. That weekend, they decided to hack the first website on Webflow. It struck a nerve, and hundreds of people signed up. Mentoring happened almost immediately, and some of the laid-off designers started finding jobs.
But, given the demand, Felix and James needed to scale. James and Felix knew Stephen Gates, head design evangelist at InVision, who helped them apply for funding from the InVision Design Forward Fund.
How do you see this new platform working?
It’s a simple concept: a platform to connect designers with mentors who help them uplevel skills and connect them to companies with open roles. Designers join and, with the relaunch of the platform as of January 14, 2021, can now build a profile for free. Mentors give back to the community by opening up their calendars (literally, via a Calendly integration) for meaningful 1:1 connections. Recruiters search through profiles and post jobs. Since April, ADP List has grown to 5,000+ participants and arranged dozens of job placements.
What role can mentorship play to help designers?
For unemployed designers (and frankly, for many professional tracks) there’s a lack of feedback during the recruiting process. When someone doesn’t get an offer, they’re usually left wondering why. What set the winning candidate apart from me? What do I need to work on? These lingering questions are even more critical in a contracting job market suffering through a pandemic. Design, more so than other industries, is a discipline that relies on how a potential hire shares and explains past creative and design work as an indicator of future success.
Mentorship, networking, and even friendship improve designers’ skills and marketability enough so that they can land an even better job than what would have been possible before.
Functionally, mentorship can happen in myriad ways. It can include everything from portfolio reviews to career guidance, mock interviews, and leadership advice. Mentors help designers find their voice and get their footing in the industry, which is particularly important for fresh graduates. Access to mentorship should be limited to those who gain access to an exclusive club. It should be available to all.
ADPList operates on the principle that mentorship is for everyone and needs to be accessible to all. Individual designers must be supported so that design continues to be elevated in business.
On an individual level, it’s ADPList’s goal to help designers find exciting, challenging, and worthwhile job opportunities in today’s market, and to give mentors an easy way to give back to the industry that’s given them so much. It is the entire community of designers—including recent boot camp graduates, unemployed designers, and high-level design directors too—who will shape the digital products that the world uses to navigate our every day. It’s critical that the design community is harnessed, supported, and deeply connected, ready and able to build the best and brightest future of our world.
What are the parameters for getting on the list?
It is not an exclusive group. Quite the opposite. There are no parameters. It takes just a minute to complete a profile, and you’re in.
There is a higher standard for mentors, though. The ADPList is only as good as the advice the mentors provide. The criteria for mentorship include elements such as past mentorship and leadership experience and high technical abilities among others.
Is this global, or mainly focused on English speaking audiences?
It’s a global platform with founders spread across the world. ADPList is in 30+ countries and conducts sessions in 18+ languages. Most of the meetings, which include one partner meeting and two major events per month, have been in English, but as the community expands, the languages used and the countries represented will, too. Language should not be a barrier to community involvement. That’s also one reason why ADPList uses InVision’s Freehand virtual whiteboard for event icebreakers: it’s welcoming and easy for anyone to use, regardless of language.
Beginning this year, ADPList will also host Genius Hours, which are dedicated opportunities for mentors to teach other designers skills beyond design.
How does the Amazing Design People list fit in with InVision’s larger strategy to cultivate collaboration between designers?
The ADPList is the personification of collaboration that InVision knows is instrumental to design. Great digital product design is now so complex that no one person, or even one team, can bring a great product to market single-handedly. Only structured and inclusive collaboration between teams can bring great products to consumers. And such collaboration is only possible when designers feel confident in their discipline and are elevated within their businesses.
ADPList raises up the design community and nurtures a vast network of leaders and up-and-comers around the globe.
By supporting ADPList, InVision is able to bolster an entirely new community of designers at a time when they need it most. In the future, this group will continue to share learnings, deepen connections, and collaborate. Both the higher-level skills and the connections these experiences foster will build the foundations of strong design-led product teams that make an outsize impact on the products we all use every day.
This is my fourth feature of free and freemium online resources for designers and those, like me, who just occasionally do some design. This is another worthwhile free tool — one that may have more of an impact than being able to edit TikTok videos or create Zoom backgrounds.
You can register at no cost as a Designer or Mentor with a range of specializations including AV/VR Design, Game Design, Design Writing, Design Ops, Growth Design, Industrial Design, Motion Design, etc. Once you go through the 3-step process to register as a designer (which I did, though that is an exaggeration to the point of distortion on my part), the platform presents you with three Mentors and the option to schedule a session with any of them.
Once you create your profile, you can let ADPList continue to match you with Mentors or search them yourself based on Location, Language, Topic, and Areas of Interest.
I did not set up a mentoring session since I am not a “real” designer — but one can see how the platform is potentially pretty exciting for designers in early and mid-career (or maybe beyond) that want to connect with other designers and learn more about how they do what they do.
I’ve had the good fortune to have a few great mentors in my own career, for writing, marketing, and PR who I know had a real impact on my career. I’m not a designer, but I see ADPList as a simple good for the design community, and FWIW if I were a designer I would definitely check it out.