UCL Art Futures


Hackathon blueprints: Glen Byrne on designing for innovation

In this Q&A Glen Byrne, Legal Designer at Simmons & Simmons, discusses how the hackathon blueprints were designed to support interdisciplinary collaboration.

How did you get in to ‘legal design,’ and what does it mean to you?

I studied law in Dublin, but while doing so, I was involved in many design and communications activities. I worked in a communications role for a year after university, too. This gave me some experience in design thinking, graphic design and communications. After this role, I trained as a solicitor and qualified into international tax law. As you can imagine, this is an area with a lot of dense, complicated terminology, even to others within the legal profession.

The combination of skills from these experiences has been incredibly useful in legal design, but the most important thing is to be able to take the perspective of someone who’s not familiar with legal terminology. This requires empathy, the most valuable asset in legal design. In the Simmons & Simmons legal design team, we’re working on making law more accessible, engaging and intuitive. So, someone who is able to empathise with the user experience will be able to innovate and design the best solutions.

The hackathon and bringing the CreaTech glossary to life was an excellent opportunity to combine my skillset and experiences, role model for future lawyers and business leaders, and collaborate to empower creatives with the knowledge and confidence to navigate legal terminology.

How did you develop and test the questions for the blueprints?

The blueprint comprised of eight steps, each of which had been designed to develop and build on the students’ collaborative work. It was created to help the students think about each term from a range of perspectives and in an iterative manner, with each step being a key part in the developmental process.

To achieve this, the blueprints asked questions about the legal term and how the term related to a representative scenario. We crafted the questions so that students could reflect on their own interactions with these legal terms, for example, where they might have encountered ‘copyright’ in their day-to-day life. To support the blueprints, and help contextualise the terms being considered, we created a video that helped visualise how people might encounter these legal terms in a story format. These decisions were made after testing and iterating the questions, terms and scenario.

The questions in each step of the blueprints brought the students to a level of understanding of the terminology such that they were able to apply the term to the problem scenario. Different steps allowed them access to different resources – for example, for some steps they could consult with legal ‘experts’ in attendance, for other steps they had access to the internet (but were encouraged to be critical of the information’s sources).

We developed the material through testing. Iteration is an important part of the legal design process, and in this case we iterated the questions, terms and scenario through testing it within our team, but also, importantly, people who do not practice law. In this way, we could tailor the material to the right level of understanding for the students.

We also gave the students a pre-exercise and post-exercise chart at the beginning and at the end of the hackathon, which asked the student to map their understanding of the legal terms they were given. By mapping their understanding at the beginning and end, students could see how their understanding and their confidence in their understanding had grown over the course of the hackathon. 

What was the idea behind the design of the Art Futures hackathon blueprints?

A few different ideas went into the graphic design for the Art Futures hackathon. The graphic design we used across the blueprints and presentation slides was cohesive, but separate and distinct from the brand design of either UCL or Simmons & Simmons. The students were encouraged to think independently, so the design of the hackathon was, reflectively, independent.

We went with the design of pastel yellow boxes and black frames. On the blueprints, students could write or draw around, inside, or outside of the boxes. This was intentional, to reflect how the student were encouraged to think ‘outside of the box’. For a similar reason, we did not include lines to write on — students were free to write or draw their ideas on to the page, however they felt was most suitable.

We chose yellow as the colour scheme, because the yellow boxes reflected sticky notes, often used in design-thinking processes, and also often used by students. The yellow also echoes the yellow writing pads used in the legal profession. The ‘frames’ were also a reflection of the nature of the problem we were framing for the students, one that focused on the art world and creative industries.

We chose to print the blueprints as large A3 pages that the teams of students would all work on. This promoted more collaboration because the students were all working off the same page, rather than individually.

What are your reflections on the CreaTech glossary co-creation process?

The hackathon gave students from a variety of different disciplines the opportunity to collaborate and discuss legal problems that can affect any person in any industry. While we had a focus on the creative industry, many of the lessons of the event can be applied across all disciplines.

Often, we find that when teams in businesses work together across disciplines, the work and output is more innovative. With the hackathon, we found the same with the students’ work. Because they had come from different disciplines, the students were able to bring different perspectives, so the outputs from the teams were not legalistic or esoteric, but were instead designed to be understandable and easily communicable.

I think the students’ enthusiasm could be seen in what they produced by the end of the hackathon. There were really innovative solutions and they had found different ways of translating legal jargon into something anyone could understand. It could also be seen in the before and after mapping of their understanding that, over the course of the hackathon, they had not only learned more about the relevant legal terminology, but their confidence in being able to understand legal terminology had also improved.

The CreaTech glossary will take what the students have learned and devised in the hackathon and apply that knowledge to a resource that will be widely available for the wider student body. In this way, the students involved in the hackathon are instrumental to making the CreaTech resource as relevant and usable as possible.