How Dribbble Grew

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, platforms for creators to showcase their work are abundant. However, few have managed to cultivate a community, influence industry trends, and serve as a launchpad for countless careers quite like Dribbble. Dribbble is more than just a social networking platform for digital designers; it's a melting pot of creativity, mutual learning, and professional growth.

Part 1: The Genesis

1.1 The Brainchild of Dan Cederholm and Rich Thornett

Born out of the creative genius of Dan Cederholm and Rich Thornett, Dribbble began as a small side project in 2009. The duo, neighbours in Salem, Massachusetts, had an idea and the will to bring it to life. They had no grandiose plans to revolutionise the design industry, just a simple mission to create a space where designers could share their work-in-progress and bounce ideas off each other. It was this ethos of creating a community for designers that set the foundation for Dribbble's enduring success.

1.2 The First Shot

The first 'shot', a term coined by Dribbble to denote a small screenshot of a designer's work in progress, was posted by Cederholm on July 9, 2009. This first step marked the initiation of a journey that would prove both challenging and rewarding for the co-founders.

1.3 The Name 'Dribbble'

The name 'Dribbble' emerged from the dual metaphors of 'bouncing ideas' and 'leaking your work', encapsulating the ethos of the platform perfectly. It was to be a space where designers could share their ideas, get feedback, and learn from each other.

1.4 The First Customers.

The co-founders of Dribbble initially attracted their first customers by sending out 50 t-shirts, along with cards, to friends and colleagues to announce Dribbble's beta launch in 2008. This approach played a crucial role in forming the foundation of the community and its development. The gesture of sending a t-shirt, rather than a generic email, was effective in encouraging people to check out the site. For more details, you can read the full article on Dribbble's blog.

Part 2: Building the Community

2.1 The Invitation-only Approach

In March 2010, Dribbble transitioned into a public platform with a unique twist: new members required invitations. This invitation-only approach was not intended to create barriers for legitimate designers but to manage the platform's growth effectively.

2.2 The Initial Members

Dribbble's initial membership was tactfully chosen, comprising designers whose work the founders admired and wanted to follow. These early members played an instrumental role in shaping the community and setting the tone for future members. Their feedback was invaluable in developing the platform's features and maintaining a high standard of work.

Part 3: The Growth and Evolution

3.1 Feature Additions

Over the years, Dribbble added several features to enhance the user experience. This included API integration, attachments, player stats, and a Pro option for an elevated, paid profile. Each feature addition responded to the community's needs, effectively demonstrating the founders' commitment to making Dribbble a valuable platform for designers.

3.2 Global Expansion

Dribbble expanded its reach beyond the digital realm by launching in-person designer meetings called 'Meetups'. By the end of 2016, the Dribbble community had grown to 486,771 members, with 142 Dribbble Meetups taking place worldwide.

Part 4: The Acquisition and Beyond

4.1 Acquisition by Tiny

In January 2017, Dribbble was acquired by Tiny, a holding company with a roster of internet startup companies. This marked a new phase for the company, with Zack Onisko appointed as CEO. Under his leadership, Dribbble continued to grow and evolve, staying true to its mission of serving the design community.

4.2 New Initiatives

Post-acquisition, Dribbble launched several new initiatives. This included a designer job board, team accounts, a design podcast called 'Overtime', and a customizable portfolio product called 'Playbook'. Each initiative aimed to provide more value to the Dribbble community and foster professional growth.

4.3 Acquisition of Crew

In April 2017, Dribbble made a strategic acquisition by absorbing the freelancer platform Crew. This move expanded Dribbble's capabilities and solidified its position as a leading platform for digital designers.

4.4 Introduction of Video Feature

In 2018, Dribbble added a video feature to its platform, enabling designers to share their work more dynamically. This addition demonstrated Dribbble's commitment to staying abreast of digital trends and meeting the evolving needs of its community.

Part 5: The Impact

5.1 Influence on Design Trends

One of Dribbble's most significant contributions to the design industry is its influence on design trends. From the skeuomorphic period of the late 2000s to the popularity of long shadows and flat design, Dribbble has been a platform where trends are born, thrive, and evolve.

5.2 Global Reach

Today, Dribbble is used in 195 countries worldwide, with the website attracting more than 4 million visitors each month. Its remote team comprises over 40 employees, dedicated to maintaining and enhancing the platform.

5.3 Awards and Recognition

Dribbble's contributions to the design industry have not gone unnoticed. The platform has been recognised by the Inc. 5000 list of Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America (2018 and 2019), the Webby Awards (2019), and the CSS Design Awards (2019).


Dribbble's journey over the past decade is a testament to the power of community, perseverance, and an unwavering commitment to the craft of design. From its humble beginnings as a side project to its current status as a leading platform for digital designers, Dribbble's story is one of success, evolution, and continued relevance in the design industry.

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