Dribbble. Inspiring or incestuous?

It’s been about a year since Dribbble left beta and entered the real (online) world.

According to its own PR, Dribble is “show and tell for creatives”. It’s a place for designers to post small shots of what they are working on (400×300 pixels) and for other members to give feedback. A social network for designers, if you will.

You can register as a spectator to view the content, save your favorites and even put your self down as a “prospect”; but to actually become a fully-fledged member of the community, you need to be invited. Therein lies the problem.

Like any invite-only community, dissenting voices tend to be drowned out – if they ever get an invite in the first place.  It’s more usual that the members will only invite others whose artwork they like – which often means those who share similar styles and views get a Guernsey, whereas unique artists might miss out.

Also, it soon becomes apparent with only the most cursory of glances, that much of the feedback is of the “Oooh, aaah, dude this is aweome” variety, rather than true constructive design criticism.

Finally, it proves something I have long suspected…that designers often design for other designers, rather than for the general public or, even worse,for  the client (don’t worry, writers do the same).

It does, like any social media, have some big plusses.

Firstly, and most importantly for the members, it’s rewarding and comforting to know you are part of a community. It’s a basic human need. I can imagine that for freelancers in particular to be a part of a community of like-minded artists might be the encouragement needed to get on with work rather than head ot the beach :).

And some of the designs are truly wonderful. I particularly enjoy browsing through the “rookies” to see what’s new. (China’s  xiaomaohua had joined just one hour ago at the time of writing this post.)

Since it allows non-members to download and save images, it can also be a great way to boost your reference portfolio.

And, as designer Jacob Cass reports in his blog, it can even lead to job offers.

But do these positives outweigh the negatives? And what can Dribbble do to accentuate the good aspects of the site, rather than continue to go down the path to eventual oblivion?

Might I suggest a “audience vote” where anyone – not just members – can cast a vote for new prospects? And once a prospect gets a certain amount of votes, they get an invite. A bit like Survivor, except you get votes to get on to the island rather than off.

Are you a member? Do you want to be a member?

Do you think Dribbble continues to have relevance a year on? Or is it slowly devolving into a designer love-in? Here at Design Drops, we’re happy to listen to dissenting opinions.