.DESIGN In The Community: An Interview With Andrew Merriam Of Top Level Design
In 2018, we invested time in connecting with our local neighbours and customers, in Vancouver and Germany, to learn more about our customers and understand their domain needs. One of our big learnings was how well the design community connected with HEXONET, and were interested in domains and internet security. For this reason, and that the .DESIGN team is superb to work with, HEXONET partnered with .DESIGN to sponsor multiple events where we connected attendees with free .DESIGN domains. This led to curiosities and chats about new domains, the possibilities and excitement this brings to the design industry, and how new TLDs, such as .DESIGN, can benefit businesses and individuals.
As a TLD, .DESIGN makes sense to the retail customer. It fits well within different industries like graphic design, interior design, and UX design. .DESIGN also provides users with an easy way to showcase their portfolio and skillset while staying true to their creative self. .DESIGN creates an online creative platform for businesses and individuals that quickly explains what they do and how they stand out in the market.
With all the buzz we've been receiving about this unique TLD, I wanted to sit down with Andrew Merriam, Director of Business Development at Top Level Design to discuss where he sees .DESIGN going and how they have made such an impact in the market.
How do you see .DESIGN progressing in 2019 and in future years?
I’m really excited about 2019. We set some really high registration goals for ourselves and were worried that they might not be attainable, but we’ve already shown that we can do it - we just have to keep it up. For us, though, the numbers are just a leading indicator of whether or not people like the product and are using it. And that’s really what we, and your readers, are more interested in.
I had a call last week with an accomplished designer that I’ll be introducing at an upcoming event. I asked him if he had seen or used a .design site before and he casually said, “Of course.” That shows me we’ve done our work for the past 4 years and that working hard for another 4 will continue to change the landscape.
Some big names are using the .DESIGN TLD including Facebook, Dropbox, Slack and Medium. What are some of your favourite examples of live .DESIGN websites?
My favorite new .design site is tacobell.design! Like facebook.design, adobe.design, amazon.design and the others you mention, the strategy behind the site is most clearly recruiting. That is, recruiting top-notch designers is tough and so these big companies create corporate .design hubs to show off those departments and their work, thereby attracting more talent over their competitors. Tacobell.design, however, is the first to take this use-case outside of the tech bubble.
Many of our other examples are Silicon Valley or tech-focused companies. And while Taco Bell is innovative in many ways, I wouldn’t call them a tech company - yet! They are renowned for savvy marketing so I’m really excited for that site - as well as the modest but growing Instagram account they connected it to! It’s humbling to watch big people and companies start from scratch on .design.
Why do you think .DESIGN has made such a connection to the general public?
Most everyone loves good design. It appeals to both our rational and animal brain to see something well-built and aesthetically pleasing. We, as the registry behind .design, are successful because designers are being given more credit and leadership positions than ever before. The more we put design front and center in our business decisions, lives, and culture, the more creative and engaging content we’ll see on both .design and across design communities’ many platforms. It doesn’t hurt that our target audience of designers are prolific content consumers and creators; they track what is going on around them and produce in response or in conjunction with that.
Where do you see new TLDs in the next 10 years?
Some will be household and used frequently, even daily, and others will remain as niche as they were always intended to be. We’ll have forgotten that there was this era between .com and the hundreds of other options.
Where do you see .DESIGN in the next 10 years?
As the logical website and email address on every designers’ business cards. For better or worse, we’ll still be using business cards in 10 years!
What are some things that Top Level Design is doing to bring new TLDs to the forefront?
Our biggest marketing investments tend to be design conferences. These are fun because they get our team out of the office and talking to potential customers as well as plenty of folks that already use .design. I walked into the IxDA conference in Seattle this year, which we sponsored, and the first thing I saw was that Spotify had branded their entire booth around their spotify.design site, even their very cool swag! That felt good.
You recently partnered with content.design, an international design conference that takes place in Vancouver, BC. Tell us a little bit about why you decided to pursue this partnership.
They’re a great, small team and every year their event grows just a bit more. As a small business ourselves, we’re about 4 people, it’s exciting to use what growing resources we have to boost other developing communities and businesses that are aligned with our values. We were also able to get them the name content.design for their site (it had already sold and we bought it back from its current owner!). They try really hard to do something different and program a unique show, and we see that in the engaging conversations we have while participating.
What do you consider some unique marketing and branding benefits a business or individual receives when using a new TLD related to their industry versus a generic one?
I mean, if you’re able to get yourfirstname.design or yourlastname.design or some fun, short brand.design domain, that says a lot. It shows that you were thinking about how to brand and present yourself and your business well before it was time to order the business cards or establish your Adwords budget. It may also show that you’re new, or the current business you’re working on is a new venture. That’s great. It feels like it’s coming from an innovator or successful start-up.
The tech industry, and the domain industry in particular, can be often misunderstood by the general public. Why do you think this is? And do you have a solution for educating the public about this unique and important industry?
I think my, and our work, will always be obscure. But I do think people already get it. People can see that joanne-designs.com is a less ideal name than joanne.design. But, Joanne might have had a business on the latter for years and moving or thinking about moving might be a pain. I get that. It’s an opportunity for the next Joanne!
People often don’t understand why I do what I do and why .design exists until they see or hear an example. I also think they don’t realize it’s an industry with hundreds of companies and competition and products involved, they know one company, they know .com, and the rest makes more sense as they see and experience it. Perhaps that is part of the more general misunderstanding around tech industries; people don’t understand all the money, lingo, and interest floating around until it makes their life easier or better.
Portland is known to have a collection of really cool design and street art. With Top Level Design being based out of Portland, do you have any favourite local designers or brands?
Our old office was right above a gorgeous interior and home goods store, Canoe - they moved, then we moved. Now, I see they’ve also moved their site to canoe.design! We had nothing to do with that. I’ll be honest that a lot of my favorite brands are in the food and drink space. Still, there are some great fashion brands like Ship John, Bridge & Burn, Black Star Bags, Wieden + Kennedy, famous as the original Nike ad agency, is local. All of the shoe brands have set up shop to compete for Nike’s local talent, so Adidas and Under Armour both have very cool (and growing) campuses in the city while Nike’s fiefdom sits a few miles outside of town.
Finally, do you have any digital branding tips for up and coming designers? How can they stand out in this digital world?
There are a lot of branding rules that you’ll read online but I always find that for each “rule” you read, you’ll be able to easily think of 3 famous brands that break it. Choose which rules you’re going to break with care!
Andrew, thanks for taking the time to shed some light on Top Level Design. I'm looking forward to what the future will bring with the .DESIGN TLD.
Looking for your own .DESIGN domain? Head over to HEXONET to register yours today.