Any views expressed within media held on this service are those of the contributors, should not be taken as approved or endorsed by the University, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University in respect of any particular issue.

Design System’s inaugural Designathon

On Monday 4 April, the Design System product team ran our very first Community Designathon (a collaborative, co-design workshop). This marked a very important milestone for the Design System product team, in terms of its development and the journey that it has been on.

Working with our Design System community

Since the Design System’s inception, over the last year or so, our focus has been heavily weighted toward building our Storefront (the front end environment that will house everything contained within the Design System) and getting our governance and processes mapped out. However, the importance of building and nurturing a community around the Design System has never been too far away from our thoughts.

Multi-branding is a recurring widespread issue

Our community have been fantastic in letting us know what is important to them and what would make a difference to the way they work. One of the topics that has repeatedly resurfaced within user interviews, conversations with our Design System community and more recently, Emma Horrell’s work scoping requirements for research sites as part of the Web Publishing Platform project, was that of multi-branding. Being able to get a deep understanding of design and technical challenges associated with representing multiple brands on University digital media, whilst retaining the integrity of our University of Edinburgh brand, is of primary importance to us.

Our University of Edinburgh brand forms a crucial part of the Design System. It is a core aspect in unifying what we say and how we sound with how we look, which in turn enables us to create consistent and exemplary digital experiences across all our platforms.


Structure of the Designathon

For this inaugural Designathon, 37 participants from our design, development, communications and marketing, research and academic community, came together to explore the problems and issues associated with multi-branding.

The session, (which was run virtually on Zoom) saw participants involved in a range of co-design activities aimed at surfacing their personal experiences and challenges of multi-branding as a participant mentions,

It’s so important to consult with a wide range of people – when it comes to websites and branding, there can be as many views as there are people to ask.  Managing the process of coming to consensus is really key to a successful outcome!

Identifying problems and common themes

The methods Brainstorming and Affinity Mapping were used to firstly get participants to expose all the problems and ideas around this topic, and secondly group them under themes. Participants were then asked to assign themselves to a particular theme, so that they could continue working collaboratively with others, who had also selected the same theme.



In total there were 5 themes identified which included:

  • Communications, tools and instructions
  • Aesthetics
  • Giving equal weight to multiple brands
  • Guidance and hierarchies
  • Governance and technical considerations.

Exploring chosen themes in small groups

Participants worked on their chosen themes in breakout rooms, which gave them the space and freedom to explore one another’s experiences, share insight and talk about what may be needed to help improve things. They captured their discussion within Miro, which was then shared back to the whole group at the end of the session. Participants found this a useful tool stating, “Miro boards are a great way of letting participants really feel part of an online collaborative workshop , and for capturing views.”

Themes image

Miro board showing themes

Positive feedback from participants

The session proved hugely rewarding for those involved as we were able to start addressing, what is a complex aspect of brand, as a community, as was highlighted by this participant, “It was very insightful to hear from different voices and perspectives about how to maintain a strong University brand, whilst also allowing individual units and external partners to be clearly represented, and also to think about the governance structures that are needed to ensure that multi-branding is fairly and robustly managed.”

Next steps and future sessions

The Design System team will be reviewing the outputs and outcomes from the session within our next Sprint as well as discussing these with our close colleagues and partners in Communications and Marketing to establish the next steps and a future follow-up session. With many thoughts and ideas presented around ways to tackle this topic, it highlighted the importance of working together as a community, to share our experiences and find a collective way forward as this participant mentions,

It managed to focus the hive-mind and deliver a range of ideas with the potential to deliver a workable solution to the multi-brand conundrum in an enjoyable and creative way.

2 replies to “Design System’s inaugural Designathon”

  1. Chris Copner says:

    A really great event, thank you for organising

    1. Sonia Virdi says:

      Thanks Chris. It was great to have you along and facilitating. Hope you can join us for the follow up.

Leave a reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


Report this page

To report inappropriate content on this page, please use the form below. Upon receiving your report, we will be in touch as per the Take Down Policy of the service.

Please note that personal data collected through this form is used and stored for the purposes of processing this report and communication with you.

If you are unable to report a concern about content via this form please contact the Service Owner.

Please enter an email address you wish to be contacted on. Please describe the unacceptable content in sufficient detail to allow us to locate it, and why you consider it to be unacceptable.
By submitting this report, you accept that it is accurate and that fraudulent or nuisance complaints may result in action by the University.