A header image with lots of UI designs and the title “The Wonderful Weekly Workshop”

Introducing the Wonderful Weekly Workshop

A long time ago in an office far, far away, a conversation during our weekly design chat turned to how we could work on developing our UI skills. Then, an idea struck…

Rachel Brockbank
Jun 9, 2020 · 8 min read

At Inktrap our design philosophy has always been to make sure everything we create has a purpose, that it is useful and looks great too. Although this is something that we all believe, it’s easy for visual creativity or the artistic element of design to take a back seat where we become so focused on function. As designers, we get excited by bold colours and interesting shapes and sometimes within product design we don’t get to flex our artistic muscles as much as we would sometimes like to. We believe design should always be about the user but there are times we want to design for ourselves just for the sake of trying things out and experimenting to see what might happen.

Freedom to fail is really important to us. Even though we have clients who are open to being challenged and pushed in new ways there will always be an element of caution in the work. Most of our clients are either starting a new business venture or only a few years in, so it makes sense to not take huge risks with their UI styles.

When we remove the client or real users from our work we’re provided with space where we can experiment for the sake of it. It gives us the opportunity to ask ourselves ‘what would we create if we had no one to impress’ and this is a great challenge as a designer because we then start tipping into becoming an artist.

Getting us out of our comfort zones

Challenge our quick design skills, and decision making

A UI mood board with a colour palette, icon set, images, font styles and mockups.
What we usually do for UI experimentation — a mood board with some quick mockups.

Get us more comfortable talking about our own work

Get us more comfortable reviewing other people’s work

Generate a rough idea that might spark new ideas in our client work

Once we defined the benefits of conducting the workshops we set about creating their structure. Though we loved the idea of having open briefs we realised we needed to set some restrictions to keep us focused, so we made a set of rules. These rules weren’t concrete but were there to give us guidance as we got comfortable with undergoing a challenge like this. The rules were…

  1. We have 30 mins to design. Rough and ready, nothing needs to be neat or polished.
  2. All design work ends up in Figma. You could do something on a sheet of paper or in Illustrator, Photoshop etc. if you wish, but bring it back into Figma for ease of presenting.
  3. We will each have 1 min to present our designs, then 5 mins for us all to discuss the work and provide feedback.
  4. Everyone must keep it fun!

And we followed those rules! As with everything, our on-paper-plan was different from the reality of these workshops. Some weeks were more frustrating than fun and once we got into the flow of things, we didn’t need a rigid one minute for presenting and five minutes of discussion.

Putting an idea into practice

It was excellent!

It was a real test of our design skills and a challenge to get us thinking in a completely different way. It was interesting to see how some designers stuck with a modern UI but added flavours of the renaissance style — colours, curves, and fonts — and how other designers completely re-thought the application of Facebook to a renaissance setting, using portraits instead of statuses.

A set of six redesigns of Facebook in a style inspired by the renaissance. Some are modest and some are bold and silly.
Our Facebook redesigns! You can see the variety in peoples’ inspiration.

After creating our designs, we reviewed the work we had done. The design team found the art style of renaissance particularly hard to apply in a modern web design setting but still had fun giving it a go. We really enjoyed it as a break from the week that was both fun and beneficial. There were, naturally, some initial reservations on how actually useful this was going to be for our design skills but everyone was open to continuing it.

We discussed what could be improved in future workshops. The main thing we learned was that the purpose of these workshops needed to be clear. The goal wasn’t to create a beautiful, perfect piece of work, but to test ourselves and push the limits of our comfort zone. We also found it hard to talk about the work we did and vocalise our reasonings for certain design decisions, so we decided the facilitator should ask some questions to jump-start the discussions about our own work.

A weekly affair

The design team enjoyed it so much and spoke about the workshops in meetings, making other members of the team want to get involved, so we expanded the workshops to a company-wide challenge.

Different things we’ve made so far;

  • Facebook & Renaissance
  • McDonald's & Art Nouveau
  • Mobile OS & 90s Websites
  • Twitter & Neumorphism
  • A Cash Machine & De Stijl
  • Poster & Swiss Style
  • Google & Post-Modern
  • Notes App & For Toddlers
  • Festival Poster & Deliberately Inaccessible
  • Art Deco & e-commerce site
  • A merch shirt for your favourite place & using only your favourite colour
A set of our redesigns including the McDonald’s logo in an Art Nouveau style, Google in a Post-Modern style and more.
Some highlights of our creations so far.

What did we learn

Sharing it with the world

We starting off with just the generator and a ‘new prompt’ button, but we realised that if we wanted to share our workshop idea and prompt generator with the world it would need a bit more context.

We set about making a little website to house our generator — check it out for yourself!

Wonderful Weekly Workshop

Introducing the Wonderful Weekly Workshop prompt generator — a screenshot of the site.
Introducing…

We love these workshops, and we’d love for you to love them too! You can do them with your whole team or just on your own to test your design skills. If you do give it a go, please do let us know and share your wonderful designs with us!

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