Sydney Design Thinking Meetup. From 1 to 2,000 in 15 Months!

Sydney Design Thinking Meetup

Milestones are funny and relatively arbitrary things but they do provide a good trigger for moments of reflection. Today our Sydney Design Thinking meetup (#SydDT) reached and passed 2,000 members… a moment to pause and look back on the 15 months since we started the meetup.

TL;DR – it’s been an amazing 15 months. Thanks to everyone who has made it what it is. Please help us work out what’s next and get involved!

Kingsley has told the story many times of how we got started… he posted the group on, I made contact offering to help out, provide a venue and quickly became a co-organiser. From there our little team of committed volunteers grew with the addition of James CooperLucas Mara and Zoe Rosen. Right from the beginning it was amazing how quickly everything came together and the community started to grow. Rapidly.

Why Design Thinking?

Design thinking is enjoying a resurgence of popularity in Sydney. But what is it? It’s a human-centred approach to innovation and solving complex problems – it’s as much about thinking as doing.

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

—Tim Brown. IDEO President & CEO


The vision for the meetup from the get go was to build a community and ecosystem of people from a diverse range of design practices, industries, contexts and roles… to learn and share. To find their tribe. To get exposed to what others are doing and be inspired. We’re proud to see this in our community – our members are anthropologists, experience designers, chemists, architects, researchers, engineers, service designers, mathematicians, consultants, app developers, project managers, medicos, startup founders and a bunch of other roles.

The Meetup

Over the past 15 months, we’ve had 12 meetups – usually around 100 make it – with about the same number on the waitlist. Is it the lure of free drinks and pizza… or a lot of people keen on design thinking. I reckon it’s a powerful combination of the two.

We like to keep it pretty casual with plenty of time for networking, a speaker or two and a healthy Q&A that often turns into a group discussion. We’ve had talks on a broad range of topics… covering:

  • The singularity and the future of work (Brian Lim & Michelle Williams)
  • Anthropological research of the impact of drug cartels in Mexico (Shiraz Visinko)
  • Permaculture, zen and nature-based design (Cecilia Macaulay)
  • Designing for health (Jane Cockburn)
  • Design leadership (Anthony Quinn)
  • Design thinking for purpose (Grace Young)
  • …and more. You can see past topics and attendees here


Replaying the past 15 months, it becomes obvious how many people are involved in making Sydney Design Thinking meetup a success. Did I mention we’re currently the 12th biggest design thinking meetup in the world (on anyway).

The Community

We’re grateful for how quickly the community has formed and how willing everyone has been to engage openly… the community is the whole reason we’re doing this, so it’s rewarding to see how quickly it’s been adopted.


A huge thanks to the 18 people who have presented so far. Having great speakers with interesting stories to share and be the catalyst for discussion adds real value to the community.


ThoughtWorks Sydney have been a great supporter, getting onboard early and then being both venue and refreshment sponsor for all of 2016! A special thanks to Pete Cooper from The Start Society who provided the venue for our first three meetups, helping us to quickly find our feet. Jevons Global, Charterhouse, Commonwealth Bank Innovation Lab and ansarada have all provided key sponsorship to give the group somewhere to meet and kept everyone dosed up on pizza and beer!

Sydney Design Thinking Meetup Organising Team

Bringing all of this together each month takes work… thanks to Kingsley, Zoe, Lucas & James for powering on.

All these thanks make it like something is coming to an end… hell no!

What’s Next?

We’re always looking for ways to make the meetup better and provide more value to the community. We’ve got plenty of ideas but we apply a design thinking approach to what we do with the Sydney Design Thinking meetup.

As we start looking forward to 2017 (too early to say that?!), we’d love to hear your thoughts. We’ve put together a brief survey that should take less than five minutes to complete. Have your say!

Get Involved!

We welcome new members! If you’re not a member already, you can join on our meetup page. Each meetup audience is curated to a degree to make sure we have a mix of new people as well as the committed regulars.

We’d love to hear from you if you’re keen to speak – or if there’s someone you think we should invite to speak.

There will be more sponsorship opportunities coming up… if you’d like to be a supporter, please get in touch!

It’s been an amazing journey so far… with plenty to come. I look forward to seeing you at a Sydney Design Thinking meetup very soon…