Last September, I had a stroke of genius or so I thought for an entire 10 seconds, after which point I quickly realized someone must have done it before. The idea in question was to organize a sort of hackathon for the design team, and the name Designathon just popped into my head instantly, by “magic”, but as I mentioned it was a mere couple of seconds to realize the idea has been done before.
Inspired by hackathons, and realizing that a Designathon is not a Design Sprint per se, I came up with a plan that is still a work-in-progress as I keep iterating and asking for feedback from the UX/UI team here at Yuxi Global. So far we have done six Designathons and they have been received very well by the team and the company.
The main intention to come up with a monthly activity of this kind was to flex the team’s design muscles and come up with digital products we can use or learn from. We were aiming at designing apps, although we were not sure if they were ever going to be developed, we started pointing at feasible MVPs. We had many constraints: budget, time, willingness to participate, skepticism and organizing an activity that has never been done neither at the company nor by me, but it was a matter of “just do it” attitude and the effort paid off.
Against all odds, the designathon started as a monthly one full-day workshop for the design team, and with the approval from management, we assigned a small budget to be at a meeting room the whole day, free of distractions, including supplies, lunch, and snacks.
Designathons are workshops with a well-defined agenda and constraints. We used Design Thinking as the main methodology, but we also left it open once with results not being as good as having a well-defined methodology.
Constraints help to focus on what’s important and give people guidance so they don’t have to come up with a methodology or plan.
As a one full-day workshop the expectations have to be realistic. Pushing teams to do more than seems-to-be-possible, makes people become highly resourceful and to aim as far as they can: this way you get better results from everyone on the team by keeping them engaged and focused.
The idea or concept that teams will be working at each Designathon is given in the instructions and the purpose of this is to have comparable outputs and to encourage creative and critical thinking. Another reason for this is getting the design team to work on company needs or product ideas that might be interesting to explore. These ideas came from conversations with Product Managers, HR managers, the Digital Solutions Director and the Head of Frontend amongst others.
I purposely assigned VPs or other directors within the company for two main reasons: to make them participate in the activity and gain traction for what we were doing. It paid off as now we are starting to evolve into a dedicated Design and Technology Lab that everyone is excited and is starting to see the value.
Always give prices to the winner team
Ask the team to fill out a short exit survey. This is the best way to know if you need to change or improve something.
Designathon’s Main Objectives
- To flex design muscles: train your “design brain”.
- Tackle design problems as a team(s) and take upon challenges in a fast and creative way.
- Get to know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, also their personalities.
- Break the routine.
- Give the team a chance to work on something new and different.
- An opportunity to compete in a friendly way with your colleagues.
- Promote and boost creativity.
- Create visual assets for the company and push innovation as a human output more than a technological result.
- And as an afterthought: use design assets on bootcamps within our company.