Making the University of Washington’s largest tech RSO a little more friendly.

The old and the new.

Background

DubsTech is a registered student organization at the University of Washington. We organize a variety of open-to-all workshops, competitions, talks, and more. Our focus is on introducing students to user experience design, data science, security, and web development. All of our events are open to all skill levels, free of charge, and run by passionate students.

Team: Shane Martin, Zoshua Colah
Design Tools: Figma
Duration: 2 months (September — October 2019)

Consistency?

The Problem

Poster design felt like too much of an involved process. Every new event would vaguely follow a similar design language, but the consistency wasn’t there. Some events followed a template, especially within a series. But we had no standardized font, colors, or process to follow when working on designs for new events. More time was spent designing event posters than actually nailing down an event plan.

On top of that, I felt like everything was too dark. While I’m a huge fan of the new trend for dark design, there is a time and a place — and our events were not that place.

Oh, and our logo symbol was impossible to read on small screens. That wasn’t great.

The Goals

We had two main goals here. First, make it consistent without making it boring. Following a design language doesn’t mean copying the same template and throwing in a new picture each time. It means developing standards, and working creatively off of those standards. Second, make it friendlier. Dark designs work well for our events in data science and security, because, well, developers dig that stuff. The rest of our events, as well as our brand as whole, didn’t need to reflect this.

So we started working.

Iterate!

Trying some things out.

The first aspect we wanted to work on was our logo. It had both traits we were looking to move away from — it was inconsistent, and it wasn’t “friendly”. Surprisingly, we didn’t really have an “official” logo to follow. This meant there was variation with the thickness of the symbol, the placement, colors, and font. Not great. It also was always countered with a dark grey/blue background, which wasn’t following the direction we wanted to move forward with. And like I mentioned earlier, the symbol was too thin to see on small screens.

So we started trying some things out. Take out some lines, make things thicker, cut out some shapes, even remove the entire symbol. Then we did user testing — we put together a collection of our favorites and the originals and tried to see what people liked.

Facebook polls are the best way to do user testing, right?

We reached out to students who had attended our events, students who hadn’t ever heard of us, our members, and more. Well, it turns out no one liked our designs. There was a strong consensus towards one design… the original. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe we’re bad at designing. Maybe it’s Maybelline. Either way, we needed to try again.

Those all look pretty similar…

So we went back to the basics, and we tried again. We bumped up the thickness of the lines, cut down some shapes, and moved some lines around. It was at this point that I suddenly realized that our logo was a representation of our initials (“dt”). Hey, better late than never. We also moved to a bolder font, with Montserrat.

We went through the same research process and asked for feedback with more students, educators, and club officers. Success! With a few suggestions from these participants, we made tweaks and had a design that was much more well received.

Now that we had that nailed down, we were confident to continue defining our brand language.

Posters — Iterate More!

We love iteration.

Our earlier posters had a serious identity crisis. Some followed templates, some were one-off pieces, others were frankensteined mixes of everything we had ever made. We wanted to make this consistent, and easy to make.

Speed was a really important aspect here. We didn’t want poster design to be a main focus, when we could better allocate time to improving the workshop content. This limited our creativity to some extent, but we still found ways to keep our designs varied and interesting.

So we established a few things. Stick with Montserrat, keep the titles bold, and follow a color scheme. We picked different colors for different teams — orange for UX, green for data and security, and blue for dev. Keep the category up top, title in the middle, and dates/info below. Throw an image in the background, maybe make a custom illustration, or insert few graphics. Put the logo in the corner — or maybe on an umbrella. Sure!

Not bad!

It’s not perfect, but it has a sense of consistency to it. We gave ourselves some freedom to mess around with it, but if we want to have a poster done in five minutes, we can. Our students can quickly recognize the category, and figure out all of the necessary information they want right up front.

Since we’ve implemented this new design language we’ve seen a considerable increase in signups — it’s something hard to measure, but our attendance is staying strong with significantly less marketing push as compared to our past. Time saved, all around!

Let’s keep designing — see you all at the Protothon!