A team of School of Information master’s students was victorious in the 2016 CMYK Designathon. MIMS students Michelle Carney, Safei Gu, Liz Lee, Yifei Liu, Pratik Nadagouda, and Sandeep Pal represented the I School, winning the competition.
The CMYK Designathon is an annual one-day design competion for UC Berkeley students; this year’s contest challenged participants to transform the brand of a local business: community stalwart Games of Berkeley. After three decades in downtown Berkeley, the game store is moving to a new location closer to the Cal campus, and is seeking marketing strategies to attract new customers while keeping old ones. In particular, the store wants to position itself as community hangout, with a gathering space and a full range of gaming events.
The team’s winning design targeted Cal students as the primary user group. “We created personas and storyboards to brainstorm what Cal students would need and value,” explaied Yifei Liu.
They started with a deeper understanding of the store’s values and how they fit in with those of the surrounding community. “We focused on what is the essence of the Berkeley experience,” they explained in their final presentation. “Through user interviews we discovered what makes Berkeley actually Berkeley. This is not a rebrand of Games of Berkeley, because after our research, we realized that the core values of the store — of that little quirky, weird, expressive vibe — are actually very representative of the Berkeley that we know as Cal students.”
“After doing multiple hackathons over the last year, I've learned that hackathons are all about understanding the users and customers,” explained Pratik Nadagouda. “The presentations at the end require us to tell an empathetic story that captures the interest and hearts of the audience.”
“The classes I’ve taken at the I School are designed to make us successful in exactly these things,” observed Nadagouda. “The ‘design thinking’ mentality with which we approach our class projects is very conducive to succeeding in hackathons and other competitions.”
The team focused on the shared “stay and play” experience, targeting the student community in the store’s new neighborhood. They designed three different marketing pieces for the campaign.
They designed a pair of one-page posters that could be distributed around campus, with games or crossword puzzles to make them interactive. Solving the crossword puzzle would reveal a promocode to UberEATS, valid only for delivery to the new Games of Berkeley address. Emphasizing partnerships with local food business could encourage students to stay longer and make the shop a “stay-and-play” hangout spot.
They also created a prototype of a whimsical folded-paper “fortune-teller” with a variety of reasons that people should visit the new store. Finally, they designed a Games of Berkeley–themed deck of playing cards with icons representating the variety of games and activities at Games of Berkeley, along with store’s new address.
Other team members were first-timers, though. One hackathon newbie was Liz Lee, who found it a great first experience. “To be honest, I initially signed up for the hackathon just to gain experience,” she said. She saw that CMYK was hosting workshops to teach basic skills in Adobe Illustrator and Empathy Mapping, and she mainly wanted to take advantage of the learning opportunity. “However, as I saw students working fiercely on delivering their final products at the end of the day (and my teammates brainstorming on producing our own), I really got fired up! I was even able to create one of the final products by combining my previous expertise with my new knowledge of Adobe Illustrator.”
“My teammates were seriously my mentors during this challenge, guiding me through the process of the hackathon, allowing me to be creative and believing in my ability to contribute to the final product,” said Lee.
The CMYK Designathon was hosted by UC Berkeley’s Jacob Institute for Design Innovation and sponsored by the student group Innovative Design. In addition to the competition, the day included talks, workshops, and coaching from leading designers from Google, Frog, Twitch, Playground, and Walmart Labs.
After several design presentations, the competition kicked off at 11 am when the three challenges were revealed. Teams worked on their designs throughout the afternoon, with coaching from the design professionals, before presenting their projects to the judging panel at 5:00 pm.
The I School team — codenamed “Team Littlest Bear” in honor of South Hall’s ursine mascot — was awarded the first-place prize, along with the “Illustration Wizard” award for the best-quality designs. Team members each received a pair of laser-cut plaques, stationary, and a free board game in honor of their victory.
Berkeley residents might see the students’ work in the wild over the next few months, as the game store takes advantage of the winning designs to market its new location.