30th April 2020 3 minute read

EUvsVirus - Inside the World’s Largest EVER Hackathon

Ciaran Harris

Principal UX Designer

Last week we heard about the EUvsVirus Hackathon organised by the European Commission. We checked it out, it sounded awesome - a pan-European Hackathon to combat the effects of COVID-19. So we gathered a team of four, and we applied. There were a few things we didn’t know at the time... 

We didn’t have an idea - luckily we’ve been flat out on client work, so the first time we thought “what’ll we do?" and “what have we got ourselves into?" was after the opening ceremony - but too late to back out now, we threw ourselves at the challenge.

We also didn’t know we were entering the largest Hackathon EVER! There were over 20,000 participants from across the EU and beyond. We were competing with over 2,160 teams.

We did not know that we would be chosen as finalists! Only 117 solutions out of the 2,160 submitted got shortlisted as finalists. 6 overall domain winners were announced. We came second in our challenge, and we were the highest ranking Irish-only entry. A testament to the talented team we have at Each&Other, and to the power of great UX Design.

What did we do?

Under the umbrella of
 Social & Political Cohesion our brief was to protect isolated & at risk groups from psychological distress. It was a far cry from the typical client work we do, but something that really resonated with our team.

We had a great team: Aoife has graphic design superpowers and a calming presence; Emma is a great UX designer with a hidden talent for video editing; Ciara, a UX designer who came through our graduate program, kept the social aspects front and central; and myself, Ciarán, I product managed and cajoled the team into achieving great things.

 

team

 

First of all, a shout out to our mentor, Roger. He's a lovely person, but we treated our catchups with him as we would a client - in each collaboration session we wanted to communicate our thinking and problem solving, demonstrate progress, gauge his impressions, gather his feedback. He also gave us a good steer on the academic research. Thank you Roger!

From Friday evening we employed all our UX Design and Design Thinking tricks of the trade, to drive through the weekend and come out the other side with a cracking concept. We brainstormed, card-sorted, researched, surveyed,  wire-framed, rapid-prototyped, graphic designed. We used our tools of the trade - Sketch, InVision, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and KeyNote.  Remote working didn’t hold us back, we used great collaboration tools - Slack, Miro, Google Drive, Google Hangouts.

We treated this Hackathon as if it was one of our Design Jams - a concentrated sprint of design work where we get to really practical outputs in a compressed timeframe. Just like we would on client work, we got to the nub of a real-life problem, and through user centred design methodologies we created a beautiful solution. We mercilessly critted and iterated, and by Sunday afternoon we had our concept in great shape.

But that was only the start! We had to communicate our work, the thinking that went into it, the concept & benefits. This is something we have a lots of experience with from partnering with clients, communicating our work clearly. By divvying up the tasks, we powered through presentation deck creation and video edit after video edit, right into the early hours of Monday morning when we submitted 3-hours ahead of the deadline. Over the weekend our team effectively worked 12-person days, and outputted a lovely gem of an idea to a professionally high standard.

So what did we design, that so caught the attention of the jurors? We took a blank canvas, added a spark of creativity, and using UX Design and Design Thinking our talented team did what they do day-in day-out with clients, we brought the concept to life - executed efficiently, crafted beautifully. Introducing Each&Other's Cards of Kindness which lets you send a real postcard to front-line heroes, who in turn can spread delight to their loved ones: watch the spread of joy online–a very different form of contagion!

 

What’s next?

We’ve been nominated by the European Commission to attend the next Hackathon - the Matchathon -  which aims to turn ideas into reality. We’ve also been looking at R&D supports to bring this lovely concept into the world as quick as we can.  We'd love to hear what our readers think, should we drive this from concept to reality? Who'd like to get involved? To unleash unexpected moments of joy and moments of relief to our front line heroes during times of incredible emotional strain.

In the meantime we’re back to being flat out - helping our clients in these challenging times.

Stay safe!

Read more about the project on our DevPost page.