UI/UX Designathon? Why bother?

A Designathon is a hackathon in a design format where participants have to ideate, collaborate, and bring their vision to life within a set timeframe.

UI/UX Designathon? Why bother?
Tech Triathlon

You probably have heard about hackathons, designathons, ideathons, and other such events in the tech geek world. But if you are wondering what a designathon is and why you must even bother about it in the first place, read on because I will be sharing with you how you can benefit from these competitions, whether you are in the UI/UX domain or not! Let's step in and see what's in store!

But first, what is a designathon?

(skip this section if you already know what it is!)

Sandul in action

Well, to understand what a designathon is, let's first take a look at what a hackathon is. In a basic sense, a hackathon is a competition format where the participants have to come up with a solution for a given problem within a limited time period, where more often than not, the end output is a software product. Nowadays, Hackathons are a more generic term and cover a wide range of competitions, not just in the software domain but even in baking, short films and more.

A Designathon, in essence, is a hackathon but in a design format, where the participants have to ideate, collaborate, and bring their visions to life within a set timeframe. Similar to how hackathons are mostly software solutions-based, a designathon is more commonly used in the UI/UX domain, where you have to come up with wireframes, prototypes and more for a real-world problem within the given period.

But why should I bother?

You don't, especially if your aim is not to improve your skills, build a solid portfolio, gain industry recognition, and stay ahead and relevant in the ever-evolving landscape of UI/UX design. You don't need to worry about designathons if you simply consider them to be just another hackathon where you have to compete with others because why should you compete when you are the best?? It's not like you can learn anything new and get inspired by the other participants anyway, right??

Nevertheless, do read on because I will relate the benefits of participating in a designathon with my personal experiences in this regard.

Taking your skills to the next level!

Learning and Engaging

We have all heard the saying, "Practice makes perfect", which is relevant in the UI/UX domain as well. By participating in a designathon, you will be pushed to the extreme due to the limited timeframe available; hence, you will be pushed to prioritize and execute tasks efficiently. I personally got the opportunity to engage in the full user journey, starting from understanding the problem, understanding the user's pain points, preparing user personas, creating a style kit, preparing low-fidelity and high-fidelity wireframes, creating user flows, implementing a prototype, and presenting my solution to the judges, which helped me improve my skills even further.

What's more?? Did I mention that this is a team event? (apologies if I didn't) You will learn to work collaboratively with your teammates during the competition, which will enhance your collaboration and communication skills, which are invaluable in a professional setting. From my perspective, I learned a lot from my fellow peers and got inspiration on the areas that I could focus on in the future through the competitors' presentations as well. There really is a huge potential for you to learn and take your skills to the next level by participating in a designathon!

Gaining Expert Insights and Feedback

Judge Panel

Generally, the designathons are held with workshops where you can learn and prepare for the competition. Some of the designathons also provide you with mentors to assist you through the competition, where you will be able to get their support and feedback on your solution. Even if you do not have mentors, you will still receive feedback and suggestions from the judging panel, which will help you understand the industry expectations. As I mentioned before, you can also learn from your competitors and the suggestions and feedback provided to them by the judges as well.

I honestly learned a lot about UI/UX through these workshops; in fact, I actually heard about Figma and its amazing capabilities (back when AdobeXD was more popular), which eventually enabled me to utilize it for everything related to design. I personally did not have mentors in any designathons that I participated in, but I did learn and got some quality feedback and insights from the judges, which helped me down the line.

a pair of virtual glasses on a pink and yellow background
VR Headset

Designathons usually provide you with problems that are relevant in the current context to be tackled, and sometimes, even require you to craft designs for the latest technologies that are available. For example, there was a designathon recently where the participants were required to create their designs for Apple Vision Pro. By participating in designathons in general, you will be able to learn and stay relevant to the industry trends and innovation, as you will have to adapt your deliverables accordingly so that you can win.

On a side note, I actually learnt about the 8-point grid system by participating in designathons. As I mentioned above, I got to learn a lot from the workshops as well with regard to trends and innovation.

Building a portfolio that speaks volumes

Bēhance Portfolio

If you are a designer, something that you must have is a portfolio to showcase your work and innovation so that you can stand out and demonstrate your skills more easily. What better way to build your portfolio than the designs you made in a designathon, regardless of whether you win the designathon or not! Participating in UI/UX Designathons will, in essence, lead you to have many projects to include in your portfolio, showcasing your ability to deliver results in challenging scenarios.

And if you're a student with less experience working on real-world projects, who is looking to impress potential employers, or if you're a budding freelancer aiming to attract clients, you can build a well-curated portfolio using the designathon submissions., along with some other personal projects. To be honest, most of the projects that I have listed in my Bēhance profile are what I built in designathons!

Abdullah Jasmin on Behance
Tech Trek Champions - Vetstoria (2023) Tech-Triathlon Champions - Rootcode (2023) Real Hack 4.0 Champions - SESA & IEEE SB of UoK (2023) RevolUX Champions - AIESEC In CC & IEEE SB of UCSC (2021)

Stepping into the industry with a spotlight

Winners of Tech Triathlon

Winning a UI/UX Designathon or even being a participant can draw attention to your work from industry experts because the designathons are often sponsored by companies in this industry and judged by professionals with extensive experience in the field. Recognition from such figures can open doors to mentorship, job opportunities, or collaboration on future projects, providing a significant boost to your professional profile.

By participating in designathons, I was promised internships, mentorship, and support from some organizations (albeit they didn't follow through, which is a different story). This recognition, however, is something you can capitalize on when growing your career in the UI/UX journey.

Have fun and enjoy the process.

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Suraif handing snacks to the competitors

Although the primary focus of a designathon is on skill development and professional growth, there still is room for fun, especially in a physical setting. Some designathons are 24 hours, so you will have games and activities that you can engage in to keep up the morale. You are also free to sleep; however, you have to note that every second you waste is time you could spend perfecting your solution. Nevertheless, the fellowship among participants, the shared passion for design, and the collective pursuit of creative solutions make these events not just educational but also highly enjoyable.

UI/UX designathons are a tool that helps you become a better version of yourself and aids you in building confidence that you are talented. In case you have never tried a designathon before, check out this article, where I have shared my experience taking part as a fresher in a popular UI/UX Designathon.

RevolUX 2021: A David vs Goliath story
This article shares our experience winning RevolUX 2021 in our freshman year amidst all odds, similar to the David and Goliath story.

I invite you today to try out Designathons, not just for the competition, but to learn and have fun in the process. So, the next time you come across a UI/UX Designathon, seize the opportunity; because who knows, it might just be the catalyst for your next breakthrough in the design world.