Designing Waterloop: Canada’s Hyperloop

I was interviewed to join Waterloop at 10am on a Sunday. The week earlier I was working on a website UI along with a success-driven first year and a third year hustler, looking to start a cryptocurrency hedge fund. Let’s be real, what else were tech junkie students talking about in the second half of 2017?

Our daily routine consisted of waking, working, and sleeping. We were living the workaholic dream, developing what we saw as the ultimate side project, a great start to my freshman year of university.

Earphones in, eyes on our laptops, hoods up, coffee empty, and hidden in the depths of DC.

Over the previous week I had been exploring potential extracurriculars, and when this came to his attention, my colleague reached for my laptop and opened a new tab. He said: “I know a guy”.

Next thing I knew I was filling in a form applying to Waterloop, our school’s and Canada’s only Hyperloop student design team.

Being just a first year designer, I was overwhelmed. The idea of even being considered to joining a prestigious club was unimaginable. I didn’t have the experience to be working at such a large scale! I’d never worked with a team before. How would I adapt? This wasn’t doable. My excitement to explore such an opportunity took the best of me.

Being a blank slate with nothing to lose, I pressed the ‘submit’ button.

Some background

My entire life I’ve been hungry to expose myself to abstract information. I’d spend what seemed like hours copying Mandarin script into notebooks, scribbling number from astrology books, and researching how flying cars could change the world. I even made what are now embarrassing YouTube videos using Windows Movie Maker so I could understand how cameras worked. I strive to follow what I’m passionate about, to always learn more. I didn’t care what people said. I knew that no matter what path I took, if I loved what I was doing I’d be able to do a great job at it. That just happened to be Waterloop’s culture, following a passion to revolutionize transport. I got in.

Being a student design team, Waterloop’s roster gets a major revamp every semester. Students on co-op semesters travel to different locations, some graduate, some are simply flooded with schoolwork. This means that the team depends on all of it’s new members to quickly absorb and execute whatever is thrown their way.

The Waterloop team is made of (as you can imagine) mostly Engineering and Mathematics students representing almost 75% of our team, and a slim 10% being Arts students. Don’t be fooled, these arts students consist of administration positions such as sponsorship and marketing. I was the only designer.

My task was to redefine the visual identity of Waterloop, as well as create wireframes to an in-house made website that would be developed later on in the semester. You can visit the end result here!

Designing for an audience

To create a whole new brand, I had to take into consideration the mission of the team, which isn’t only competing and winning the SpaceX Hyperloop competition, but to add value to the Canadian community as we grow as a team; inspiring and cultivating young innovators from all backgrounds. This vision gave birth to my first design: a sticker for the third iteration of our pod, Goose 3.

The design that began Waterloop’s rebranding

After having it receiving a considerable amount of hype from the team, I pursued the style. Using the colours of the University of Waterloo and a seemingly aerodynamic aesthetic, the design turned into an entire branding identity letting us stand out from the crowd.

And stand out we did. After a couple social media campaigns driven by design and photographic content, in just over two months our Facebook follower base grew from 3,000 to 4,220! This trend was also perceived from our Twitter and Instagram platforms, and is continuously growing.

Waterloop page follower count (Facebook)

Designing for developers

Creating and assisting in the development of a website can be a tedious process, and worthwhile of a case study of it’s own. I spent hours on end in Communitech’s DataHub prototyping and iterating wireframes; discussing countless possible layouts to present current sponsors, sending pages of hex-codes, and providing an outline of design details taught me more than I ever could have imagined.

Through this experience I learned that designing with developers is a whole other skill than simply coming up with spicy UI for my Dribbble account. It’s creating a consistent guideline for developers to easily follow — to develop an interface easily accessible to your entire target audience whether they be on mobile, tablet, or desktop. Although the project took longer to finalize than predicted, along with the incredible help of Aditya Arora, Ruslan Nikolaev, and the dev team, we managed to wrap up an in-house made website.

Original sketches of the Waterloop rebrand

Future prospects

Because work has started to build up along with the momentum of our social media growth, I now manage a small team of four graphic artists and a videographer. Our skills range from sketching and digital illustration to photography, videography, 3d renders, and visual layouts!

It’s amazing what you can do when in a team, and I look forward to support Waterloop’s growth as we enter Fall ’18.

See you next competition!

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