Getting into UX: Designathons 🚀

Intro ✨

  1. How to get the most out of your designathon experience
  2. Summary and tips
  3. How to get involved with designathons

Get a bird’s eye view 🕊️

Before you jump into designing, it’s valuable to get a good sense of what’s available to you during the event. While a big part of the designathon is the designing itself, there are also a lot of other resources offered to students that can be useful for both your designathon project and for your other design learnings. During this stage, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are there opportunities to meet other designers (ex. through a meet-up or speed-friending activity)?
  • Is there time to connect with sponsors and network with people in the industry?
  • Are there fun activities that will allow me to take a break from designing?

Have a game plan 🏈

Since designathons typically span a couple or days, it’s important to know what you want to prioritize from your experience. For example, some goals you can set for yourself are:

  • I want to master Figma’s Auto Layout Feature by the end of the designathon
  • I want to come out of this designathon with a project for my portfolio
  • I plan to attend as many sponsor booths and networking sessions at the event as I can

Always ask for help 🚁

Designathons are filled with industry professionals and mentors who are there to support you along the way. If your team is blocked on a part of the design process, or you want to get another pair of eyes on a design, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help! While you may not have a lot of time to iterate, it’s always valuable to get feedback from others and find room for improvement. Throughout the design process, it’s also important to lean on your teammates to gather opinions and insights on the problem at hand — designathons aren’t easy and they are not meant to be tackled single-handedly!

Use existing processes and frameworks ✏️

At any designathon, time may be one of your worst enemies. The good news? You can leverage existing design thinking processes and frameworks to speed up your workflow! Using a definitive framework allows you to more easily budget your time as you have concrete steps for your project workflow. Here’s one that we’d recommend you to use:

  1. Define: Define the problem statement and the goals of the project
  2. Ideate: Identify new solutions and alternative ways of viewing the problem
  3. Prototype: Create and identify the best possible solution
  4. (Note: for a designathon, this is usually a high-fidelity mockup or interactive digital prototype.)
  5. Test: Test the solutions and measure their success on achieving project goals

Have an open mind 🧠

Be ready to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and be open to new knowledge, skills, and development. At designathons, so much learning and growth can happen in such a short amount of time, so welcome new situations that are different from those you’re familiar with, and keep an open mind! When you’re exposed to so many different topics, opinions, and situations at a designathon, look at all of them as learning experiences to help shape you into a better designer!

Summary 📌

While this may be a challenging time to gain professional experience, designathons are a great place to start — whether it’s to learn, develop, or apply your skills as a designer.

  • Have a game plan: Set goals for what you want to take away from the weekend and prioritize the opportunities that align with them — this could be creating your first functional prototype or meeting as many other designers as possible!
  • Always ask for help: Designathons aren’t easily done single-handedly. Lean on mentors, sponsors, and your team members when you have questions or need help.
  • Use existing processes and frameworks: To speed up your workflow, choose an existing design process to follow (Ex. The Five Stages of Design Thinking). Having defined steps in a collaborative environment can be integral when working against the clock.
  • Have an open mind: While it’s great to be able to come out of a designathon with a case study in hand, the most important opportunity is the potential to learn and grow over the span of the weekend. Keep an open mind to new challenges, people, and perspectives.

Connect with us! 🤝

UW/UX is a student organization committed to growing the user experience and product design community at the University of Waterloo. Our mission is to empower designers to educate and inspire each other through events, workshops, and mentorship opportunities. Whether you’re looking for career advice or just a welcoming community to hang out with, UW/UX is here for you!

UW/UX is a student organization committed to growing the user experience and product design community at the University of Waterloo.

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