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Swarm – Frequently Asked Questions

How does this work again?

Here it is, broken down into 10 easy steps:

  1. Fill out the Swarm Form.
  2. Look at the spreadsheet — you’ll see everyone who’s filled out the form, including yourself.
  3. Find people you’d like to swarm with — maybe they’re local, or in a similar vertical, or have good availability. They may already be part of a swarm, or not.
  4. Email those people, and see if they’re in.
  5. Update column M, “Swarm Name” to give your swarm a unique name, or to indicate the swarm that you joined.
  6. Use whatever communication method works to set up your first swarm.
  7. Exchange NDAs, either our boilerplate or your own, so you know that everything you discuss is confidential.
  8. Commence to brainstorming on your first problem!
  9. Presumably, most often you will set up fairly regular swarms, and take turns bringing problems, (but this isn’t required).
  10. Rinse and repeat!

So are you finding my swarm, or am I?

You look at the spreadsheet and find your best fit. We’re not matchmaking, just providing the digital venue for people to find one another.

Why are the tools so… “minimal”?

We just came up with this a few days ago, and we’re not sure how many people will be interested. So we set up this lightweight scheme with Google Forms and Google Docs. If we see good interest, we can look at putting together a better tool that takes care of some of the matchmaking for you.

Why would I want to do this?

There are lots of benefits to these design swarms:

  • You get to meet and learn from other designers.
  • It gives individuals and small teams a chance to tackle their hardest challenges with fresh ideas.
  • It gives you a chance to stretch your creative muscles in a low-risk situation.
  • Working on new challenges may give you a fresh perspective on your own.
  • Presumably, since this is about work, you can do this during work hours.
  • Your manager will appreciate the infusion of fresh ideas at no charge.
  • Assuming that the swarms happen at other locations at least sometimes, you have a chance to get out of the office.
  • There is nothing at risk, only upside.
  • It is free.
  • If it doesn’t work out, you can just stop doing it.

What was the thing about the first swarm at DesignMap?

To generate interest, we’re offering to host the first swarm at our awesome office in Mission Creek. (We’re not offering designers, just the physical space.)

Can I join a swarm if I’m just a student still?

Sure. There’s no “queen bee” here, no one making rules, except that we don’t want to see money changing hands. But frankly, we’re not policing any of it. If people want to swarm with you (and there’s no reason why they wouldn’t, just because you’re a student), great!

How frequently do we need to swarm?

We suggest weekly for about 90 minutes, but it’s totally up to each swarm. We’re not policing any of this. To be fair, everyone should probably get a chance to bring one challenge to the group before you decide to change the schedule, disband, etc.

Can we do this evenings and weekends instead of during the weekday?

Sure. We’re not the boss of this. But we thought it would be nice to keep it relevant to work so that no one is obligated to carve out evening or weekend time.

Is this the same thing as a Hackathon?

Ehhh… sorta. Except that the same group is meeting regularly, and since it’s work-relevant, it’s probably happening over a shorter amount of time and during the workday.

I’m confused. What?

Email me at and I’ll try to explain. :-)