nwHacks 2016

Branding and graphic design for Western Canada's largest hackathon


In February 2016, Western Canada's largest hackathon, nwHacks, took place at the University of British Columbia. I had the pleasure of being the event's sole graphic designer.

Working alongside the nwHacks organizing committee, my job was to create all of the graphic material for promoting and hosting the event in a very short period of time, with a new, unified visual brand.

The Process

Although I was given the marketing material from the previous year's nwHacks event to work off of, I quickly realized that the visual language was not unified. Multiple logos were being used, and there were no common visual principles guiding the design. The hackathon's identity was fragmented and confused, an issue I needed to address.

nwHacks 2015's two logos on the left, and competing visual styles on the right.

Left: Multiple logos were being used, creating confusion as to which one really represented nwHacks. Right: Competing visual styles, colors, and fonts exacerbated the issue. Brand-wise, what did the real nwHacks look like?

Instead of reinventing a new logo, I studied the design context. This was a high-tech, creative event held in the ambitious, playful, nature-loving city of Vancouver. This was the identity of the hackathon, and I needed the brand to adhere to these principles.

Equation explaining how Vancouver's playfulness and nature plus a hackathon's creativity and technology represent nwHacks.

The nwHacks hackathon was defined and differentiated by Vancouver's playfulness and natural beauty.

Given this focused design context, I decided that with some fine-tuning, one of the existing logos and its bright green represented the event well. The bright green signified energy and natural beauty, and was supported by playful tones of the three primary colours, representing the creative and technological breadth of the event.

Four treatments of the nwHacks logo - green on white, white on green, each with and without the nwHacks logotype underneath.

Various nwHacks logo treatments.

The nwHacks colour palette - the primary green, with secondary blue, yellow, and red.

The colour palette is playful and supports the identity of the hackathon.

Next came the question of brand imagery. A quick look back at the design context gave me the answer: nature. Vancouver is known for its oceanside views, lush mountain ranges, and beautiful forests alongside its traditional urban skyline. I introduced simple graphics for these different elements of Vancouver into the visual language of the brand to reinforce the hackathon's Vancouver roots.

The nwHacks imagery, containing mountains, the skyline, and the ocean.

I wanted nwHacks' visual language to reference some of the sights that make Vancouver distinct - its grand mountains, skyline, and ocean views.

With the brand's identity firmly in place, I set to work creating all of nwHacks' graphic materials, including the website, posters, event maps and schedules, sponsorship packages, banners, t-shirts, a Snapchat geofilter, and even restroom signs.

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The event was a success, and my work was consistently praised by members of the nwHacks organizing committee. In fact, even though I wasn't able to stay on as a designer for 2017's hackathon, the committee asked if they could reuse my assets from the previous year. They really loved the brand!

Feel free to take a look at some of the materials that came out of the event below!

Animated version of the nwHacks logo.
The front and back of the nwHacks 2016 t-shirts.
The two nwHacks 2016 posters.
The sponsor banner for nwHacks 2016.
The day-of map and schedule for nwHacks 2016.
Information package for nwHacks 2016.
Restroom, reserved room, and restricted room signs for nwHacks 2016.
The nwHacks Snapchat Geofilter on an iPhone 6 screen.
The nwHacks website on an iMac screen.
Front and back mockups of the soon-to-be-produced Carnarvon Cougars t-shirts. Branding components of the Carnarvon Cougar, including the logo, font, and colours.

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