Jack Dorsey’s Awesome Town Square Speech


TechCrunch published an article about a “TownSquare” speech that Jack Dorsey (@jack), CEO of Square, gave to the company back in November 2010.  The article, “Jack Dorsey & The Golden Gate Bridge (Exclusive Video)” provides a video of the speech, along with the full transcript. As I read the transcript, I drew some parallels to virtual events.

Design is as Much Functional as Visual

To quote Dorsey’s speech, “Design is not just visual, design is efficiency. Design is making something simple. Design is epic. Design is making it easy for a user to get from point A to point B.”

Love it.

Dorsey’s point reminds me of a great book I read, “Design Is How It Works” by Jay Greene. Design can be “visually beautiful,” in the same way the Golden Gate Bridge is beautiful (as Dorsey describes in his speech). But the Golden Gate is also functional – it’s a bridge that Dorsey wants to cross and it’s an experience to do so (unlike other bridges, which are neither cross-able nor great experiences).

This is where we stand today with virtual events. In the beginning, we “designed” virtual events around a visual experience. We tried to make things look like a trade show, with a 2.5D lobby, lounge, auditorium and exhibit hall. These environments were not easy to navigate. We often failed to get the user from point A to point B with ease.

If early stage virtual events were a search engine, we created bells and whistles on top of your search, whereas users just wanted a Google experience, delivering them directly from search query to results page.

Everyone is a Designer

To quote Dorsey, “Every engineer in this room, every operator in this room, every customer service agent in this room, is a designer.”

Everyone involved in a virtual event (e.g. producers, speakers, exhibitors, support staff, AV staff, web developers, graphics designers, etc.) is a designer, because each person plays a part (some more than others) in the resulting attendee experience.

Another quote from Dorsey, which he relayed from colleague “Brian” – “support and feedback is what our customers are telling us, and product is what we’re telling our customers.”

In a virtual event, the attendee experience is the product.  Virtual event designers need to think of attendees as a form of customer – we must build such a good “product” that customers would part with their money for – and, we must create happy customers who will return and “purchase” again.

Building the Brand

Dorsey likes to read The Economist. To quote Dorsey, “The other thing to notice about this is that there are no bylines at all, there are no names in here, not event the editor has a name. It’s The Economist, they’re building The Economist, they’re writing articles for The Economist.”

As I read this quote, I wondered whether an event could take the route of The Economist. I’d find it odd if an event did not list the speakers, their titles and company affiliations. But then I considered that if an event were to do this, the event brand would truly rule the roost. The event that comes closest to this today are the TED conferences.


Dorsey’s speech was both fascinating and inspiring. While Dorsey’s speech focused on building a great product, many parallels can be drawn between great products and great events.

Related Links

  1. TechCrunch article, “Jack Dorsey & The Golden Gate Bridge (Exclusive Video)”
  2. Video of Dorsey’s speech on TechCrunch TV

2 Responses to Jack Dorsey’s Awesome Town Square Speech

  1. Event Design says:

    Thanks for this. I imagine that design can mean different things to different people! I agree with Dorsey about everyone being a designer as at many points in your life you will use design!

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