If you’re interested in brainstorming with designers to create excellent design solutions, then a design hackathon might be the event for you. A design hackathon is a perfect opportunity to network, learn, create, and (of course) design. 

In a design hackathon is a collaborative event in which designers get together to work on a project. If you need a crash course on hosting your own design hackathon, a selection of excellent design hackathon ideas, or simply need to learn what a design hackathon is, read on!

What Is a Design Hackathon?

A hackathon is an event where programmers, project managers, students, and domain experts come together to solve a specific problem. 

A design hackathon is an event where design students and professionals come together to create novel solutions to various design problems and challenges in the design industry. These events are usually short-term, taking place over a day or two.

The Benefits of Hosting a Design Hackathon

Good design hackathons are win-win situations. These events can be significant for everyone involved! Whether you’re looking to find a design hackathon to attend or you’re planning to host one, it is essential to keep the benefits of these events in mind: 

Design Hackathons Lead to Design Solutions

Hackathons are dedicated to problem-solving, so taking on a hackathon design project is a natural way to get practical work done. If you’ve got a design problem and a room full of intelligent designers, chances are they’ll get the ball rolling on a great solution. 

Design Hackathons Are Skill-Building

Hackathons of all kinds push their participants to work hard and think hard. In a way, a design hackathon is a little bit like a designer bootcamp. A good design hackathon will improve its participants’ skillsets substantially over a short period. Design thinking hackathons are especially good for this purpose! 

Hosting a Hackathon Creates Networking Opportunities

When you host a hackathon, talented experts and enthusiasts with diverse skill sets come together to pursue the same goal. There, they can learn, network, and brainstorm with like-minded colleagues.

Hackathons Are Fun

If you love to geek out about design, you will have fun at a design hackathon. These events target people who are eager to learn and experiment with design thinking and practice. Design hackathons aren’t just productive. They’re great big puzzles just waiting to be solved!

Hackathons Are Excellent Team-Building Exercises

If you’re looking for a fun and productive activity for your design team to tackle, a hackathon might be worth your time. A design hackathon is a great, low-pressure way for your team to get better acquainted with each other while doing some wonderful skill-building at the same time!

Hosting a Design Hackathon Sparks Innovation

Hackathons of all kinds encourage creativity and innovation! When you’ve got a group of dedicated designers working together in one space, they will do one thing above all others: create!

How to Run a Good Design Hackathon: A Full 6-Step Guide

Now you know what a design hackathon is, but are you ready for a crash course in hackathon design? 

Whether you’re planning a UX design hackathon, a design thinking hackathon, a web design hackathon, or a bio-design hackathon, this step-by-step guide will help you bring your design hackathon ideas to life.

1. Have a Specific Goal in Mind

Now that you know you want your hackathon to tackle issues around design, narrow your goal down further: what kind of design will you and your hackers be working on? What problems will these designs solve? Make sure you have your design hackathon ideas ironed out before you start planning the logistics.

2. Pick the Right Venue and Time Frame

A day-long virtual hackathon hosted through webinar software will look different from a weekend-spanning event hosted on a college campus. Depending on the size of your event, the logistics of running your hackathon will vary. Make sure you’ve got enough time and space for what you want to accomplish.

3. Find Participants

The way you go about recruiting hackers will depend on the parameters of the hackathon itself. College-level hackathons can reach out to potential participants by putting up flyers around campus or tapping professors to invite their students. Likewise, if you manage a team of designers at work, filling up your hackathon registrar could be as simple as announcing a weekly meeting.

4. Think About Your Hackers’ Wants and Needs

Who do you want to host at your design hackathon? Is this event for student designers seeking mentorship, young professionals looking to network, or seasoned experts seeking a challenge? Do your design hackathon ideas cater to their needs? What materials will you need to provide? Depending on the length and location of the event, you may want to consider arranging for catering, lodgings, and other accommodations.

5. Recruit Sponsors

Let’s face it: high-quality events cost money, and your hackathon design is no exception. Finding a commercial sponsor is an excellent way to help pay for everything you’ll need to make your event a success. They can help pay for amenities, venue space, necessary materials, and prizes for your hackers. However, it is essential to note that sponsorships are mutually beneficial, and your sponsor will want a return on their investment, such as an advertisement.

6. Clearly Establish Your Hackathon’s Rules and Prizes

Knowledge is power! If you do not give your hackers clear parameters and goals to work with, they will not be able to do the things you expect of them— and that means they probably won’t learn as much, create as much, or have as much fun as you are hoping they will.

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Organizing Design Hackathons

Hang on! Hackathon design can be a complicated enterprise, and even the greatest design hackathon ideas will go to waste if not implemented with care. 

Before you dive head-first into organizing your legendary design thinking hackathon or your amazing UX design hackathon, take a moment to strategize. Here are a few common hackathon design mistakes to watch out for and ways to work through them. 

Being Disorganized

You have limited time with your hackers— don’t waste it. Are you planning on hosting other events at this hackathon, like a skill-building workshop or a networking social? Prioritize the most critical aspects of your hackathon and make sure you’ve got ample space and time for everything you want to accomplish. Come up with a schedule and adhere to it.

Forgetting To Create a Detailed Schedule

An effective hackathon is efficient and well managed! This is an especially important detail if you are planning a big event with many guests. Many people forget this aspect of designing a hackathon. Make sure to headline more exciting features for emphasis on the important work days.

Being Too Vague 

If your hackathon’s goal isn’t specific and achievable, you won’t be able to meet it. Iron out your hackathon design! You must have a complete vision for your hackathon if you want it to run smoothly. A good way to avoid this is by outlining every detail of the hackathon event including the time, members invited, place, and specialty of the project. 

Forgetting To Set Your Target Goals Early

Think about the subgenre of design you are working in and what kind of hackathon you want to host. Are you trying to workshop a long-term project, or are your hackers working on a hypothetical design problem for fun and practice?  Set goals early on so everyone knows what you’re working towards.

Expect a Finished Product From the Event 

Hackathons are relatively short events. Even with a room full of world-class designers, you aren’t going to get a finished product at the end of a one or two-day long gathering. If you’re looking for a finished product, you’ll want to plan less events and focus everyone’s attention on the project that needs to be finished.

An Unbalanced Vision

If you are organizing this hackathon with the hopes of launching a larger project, understand that this is only one step in its development. The hackathon may produce an excellent prototype to work from because it is a product of the constraints built into the hackathon. Keep your eyes on the first phase and plan another event for future efforts.


You and your hackers have finite resources to make this event a success. You need to understand what your hackers can and cannot do, and they need to know what you can and can’t provide to them. Be open about this from the get-go. 

For example: if you’re hosting a hackathon for beginning designers, don’t expect professional design solutions! By that same token, if you can’t afford to send your hackathon winners on an all-expenses paid cruise, don’t offer one as a prize. 

Not Knowing Your Limits 

Consider your guests’ skill levels, your timeframe, and the amount of funding you have at your disposal. These details will be essential when setting your goals and picking your prizes. 

5 Best Design Hackathon Ideas

The world of design is diverse. As such, there are a variety of design hackathons to choose from! If you’re on the hunt for exciting design hackathon ideas, then hunt no more! Here are 5 of our favorite design hackathon ideas:

UX Design Hackathon

Attending a UX design hackathon is a great way to sharpen your user experience skills. A user experience design hackathon will present exciting challenges and may even introduce web developers to new colleagues in the tech community.

Bio Design Hackathon

Bio design involves designing objects meant to interact with living bodies in a hackathon interactive design, such as clothing and furniture. A bio design hackathon is a great way for architects and fashion designers to ply their skills!

Coding Competition

Despite the name, a hackathon is usually less technology-driven than a coding competition. While hackathons tend to focus on business elements like pitches and demonstrations, a coding competition is all about finding technological solutions to problems. If you want to host, for example, a web design hackathon, then you may want to consider organizing a coding competition!

Virtual Design Hackathon

A virtual hackathon is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a hackathon that’s hosted online, through a virtual meeting platform. Likewise, a virtual design hackathon is a design hackathon that’s hosted online! 

Virtual hackathons are much safer than their in-person counterparts with regards to COVID-19. Virtual events are also usually much less expensive than in-person events, and they are more accessible to people in other locations.

Design Thinking Hackathon

A design thinking hackathon is a great idea for a hackathon aimed at students and beginners. Design thinking is the process of understanding a product’s intended user. 

Design thinking hackathons aren’t just for students though; design thinking hackathons are for anyone who wants to sharpen their design skills! 

What’s more, you can apply the principles of a design thinking hackathon to any subgenre of design work. A design thinking hackathon is set up to encourage out of the box thinking, problem solving skills, and ingenuity in design. 

Looking for the Right Platform to Organize Your Hackathon for Design? Try Hackathon.com

Planning a hackathon can be a big undertaking with a lot of moving parts. We would know, we specialize in hackathon design! 

From design thinking hackathons to food hackathons and environmental hackathons to smart city hackathons, our dedicated team of experts are ready to make any event a roaring success. 

You have great design hackathon ideas, and we can bring them to life. Great hackathon design is our business! 

Final Points

A design hackathon is an event where dedicated experts, students, and enthusiasts come together to create functional design solutions, ply their skills, and get excited about innovative design. Planning and hosting a hackathon requires careful consideration, and the process varies wildly depending on the type of hackathon design you want.

The benefits of events like these are numerous for both the organizers and the participants. Whether you are hosting a fun design thinking hackathon for your coworkers or you are working on developing a prototype, these events are both professionally and creatively enriching!