The New Dribbble Metagame and What You Need to Know About It

There is a lot going on in the design industry, from growing technology to new trends or fostering communities, it can be overwhelming at times. Dribbble remains near the forefront of the communities, but it has evolved quite a bit since inception, and I fear you aren’t keeping up.

If you’ve spent some time with us here at Inspiredology you may find no surprise that I am bringing a new discussion to the table regarding dribbble. In my last dribbble article, I questioned whether dribbble could fashion a great artist or grow talent or even develop skill in artists who otherwise might lack it—I find that its possible, however unlikely. Regardless, the community still shows out wonderfully beautiful content.

As dribbble continues to be one of the most sought after design communities to be part of and be successful with, it is suffers the burden of my somewhat harsh critiques (no way less pertinent to you, mind you) and probably many others. Dribbble’s evolution is a cause of its increased popularity, but its likely you haven’t even noticed this evolution yet.

Homepage of Dribbble

(dribbble HD Extension for Chrome)

What is a Metagame?

Before we get into the meat here, I’m going to be incredibly brief and explain what I mean in terms of a “The dribbble Metagame”. First, I consider dribbble to be a game of some type. It may not be an Xbox or iOS game, but its community often treats it as entertainment just as much as they might use it as a tool—you play with it and sometimes post fun or quirky designs just cause its fun.

With that said, meta, in this sense of how I am using it, refers to itself. So, the dribbble game is referring to itself. Therefore a metagame is essentially the game referring to itself twice, and you get a game within a game (gameception!) since we just established dribbble as a game.

Being a Pro dribbbler

This is the most obvious evolution of dribbble. Last year in 2011, dribbble announced the ability to “Go Pro”. This grants the user a host of features that range from being able to create projects or placing a “Hire Me” button underneath their avatar—a very powerful tool. This is all fine and great; really opening up the options for the users and granting them valuable tools to be successful within and outside the dribbblesphere. Unfortunately, it isn’t all rainbows and butterflies.

…they are tricking your mind and taking advantage of you.

Going Pro also means you can add attachments to your work. Not that you couldn’t always, its just that dribbble wouldn’t host it and you’d have to upload it to a server, write the link in the image description, etc—it was a pain. When you went Pro, dribbble now hosts the image and places the attachment link right below the post and above the description, making it perfect to access. All done for a nominal fee, mind you. Wonderful news…if you’re the Pro.

Granting Attachments to Uploads

The problem lies with those who aren’t Pros. You seriously lose a major advantage to showcase your work. When you can only post 400×300 sized images, real-estate becomes incredibly valuable—and sought after! Everyone is looking and working hard to find ways on how to best optimize the limited space (the metagame) for each upload. Attachments destroy this metagame. By having the easy ability to attach full sized images, eases the workload; it isn’t so much about being creative or showing the best part for that 400×300 space, instead the shots become a gallery. Likely, the best remedy, would be that the entire dribbble service should charge a fee to all the users. Likewise, I can’t blame the creators for doing what they did. It is a business and if you’re a serious designer/freelancer then you’ll pay the measly 20$ a year.

The Ugly New Metagame

Here’s the real juicy bit. While I can deal with the attachments from the dribbble founders (they had real good reason), it is my choice to not play that way. We all know, you have to pay to play. Contrary, the new and ugly metagame isn’t something I have found good reason to like. While attachments is an obvious way to gain an advantage, the “Slanted Picture of a Design”, may be more subtle.

The Ugly Dribble Metagame

It should be no real surprise to you that I have revealed this new ugly dribbble metagame because you probably have been noticing it. Users are started to upload “What They Are Working” by taking a photo of it and slanting it, instagraming it, taking a picture of their screen showing the work, and the list goes on. I will be honest with you, there is nothing divine about this tactic, nor is it anything new. Rest easy if you were thinking only the great designers have the keen eye on how to beautifully showcase artwork like this in a 400×300 space, in fact, they are tricking your mind and taking advantage of you.

The Ugly Dribbble Metagame

The best way to understand this is to ask yourself the easiest, simplest question: Is this the best way to see my art? If you’re having trouble, I will save you the time, no; no it is not the best way to show your art. Be honest with yourself and fellow dribbblers, because I find it very difficult to focus on these pieces of art and see the great details. You can’t see anything but general layout and color, the details are gone. Maybe I am wrong in this, but swirly lines caused by one’s monitor isn’t a great look. I wont blame you, however, you can blame your brain.

You Can Blame Your Brain

It is not your fault. If you go back to any of my past articles on controlling eye movement, you will find that is largely based on symmetry, whether its done with color, negative space, asymmetry or anything, its based on symmetry. These types of screenshots disregard all types of the principles I mention. The image is so incredibly dynamic it creates dystopia with your brain!

How does this happen and what is the culprit? The eye has no real focal point, or the focal point is too strongly emphasized, causing your eye to either fixate and cause what I call Dynamic Visual Stress, or scatter all over the place. This stress is caused from your brain having a lack of guidance and forces your eye to view the image generally. You’ll find you can’t take your eye off of it, again, its not your fault—this makes your brain think “because I can’t pull the eyes away from the image, it must be one hell of a good image”—maybe it is, but your eye is being tricked. This is just a cheap trick to get your attention.

Its likely that the artists who are formulating these images aren’t even aware of what’s going on. They may think as many do and feel that “this is a good image” kind of feeling. If they are aware, its a great trick but its disrespectful to viewers and realistically, if you have great work to show, this technique hides all of it and who would want that?


Have you noticed this recent trend on dribbble and how do you feel it affects the art? Do you like the style or is it just a cheap trick? Let us know in the comments below!