17 design activities for team building & upping UX skills
We’ve all heard how teamwork makes the dream work.
But what happens when the UX design team gets caught up in the work and design meetings and forgets to have fun? They lose sight of the bigger goal—to create enjoyable experiences for your users—and start viewing their job as a never ending series of deadlines.
So, why not give your team a breather from the daily grind?
Fun UX team activities can be a great way to upskill your team while boosting team morale and improving productivity. These design team activities create engaging team-bonding opportunities and encourage participants to foster their leadership qualities and step outside of their design comfort zone.
In this guide, you’ll discover 17 design challenge ideas your team can use for discovery workshops, design thinking exercises, and generating ideas.
1. No-consequence design challenges
UX design challenges are a great way to engage your team around a common design challenge that has nothing to do with your product. UX design is often influenced by key outcomes and time constraints—both of which influence a designer's ability to create as they’d like to.
Design challenges help designers create without the constraints of briefs or deadlines. They provide a real-world design scenario that has no real ramifications—other than providing an opportunity for UX designers to take bigger design risks than they typically would. It’s an opportunity for designers to try the ideas they can’t apply to your product—and a way to get the team to discuss different design decisions.
2. App design critique
This is a common design interview framework that asks candidates to analyze the design decisions behind an app. In the context of team UX activities, these workshops let teams openly discuss and identify relationships between design choices and product experiences.
While there are no right or wrong answers, this activity helps a UX designer to think beyond the surface. Also, it's a great way to fine-tune your team's feedback-sharing skills.
This example shows how to evaluate apps based on their visual elements, interaction design, and product strategy. Also, consider evaluating copywriting and motion design during these team-building exercises.
3. Tarot Cards of Tech
The Tarot Cards of Tech, developed by the Artefact Group, inspire designers, developers, and creators to think outside the box while evaluating a company's product. These cards feature provocations and prompts to help participants think about product design.
When used in a UX workshop setting, these cards enable designers to have fruitful discussions about the impact of a product—ones they typically wouldn’t have during their day to day. The card prompts allow product teams and designers to dive deep into product usage, equity, and access issues.
The whole workshop group can use sticky notes to leave their thoughts around each card. Then, the team shares key takeaways or discusses what they've learned during the exercise.
4. Good and bad designs
The good design/bad design exercise is great for getting the team to discover new perspectives (or have a few good laughs) as they look at good (and bad) designs.
Start by gathering three product features or designs your team loves, or doesn't, for this exercise. Once you've got the examples, it's time to use time boxing and chat about these designs.
This kind of design workshop:
- Helps designers revisit successful UX design traits across industries.
- Enables the team to dive deep into what can go wrong in the absence of research insights.
The comfortable sharing of thoughts during this exercise helps your team bond and collaborate better.
5. A magic wand for bold thinking
Bold thinking is a perfect exercise for teams suffering from creative blocks. This exercise is also for teams looking to finalize an idea for a project.
The idea is to give the team a magic wand and see what they can create with unlimited resources. As a UX manager, you can ask them to explore two ideas:
- What will they change in the existing product?
- What would they want more and less of in the product design?
Depending on their innovation skills, the team can come up with attainable or impractical ideas. Your job as a manager is to facilitate a prioritization exercise to convert these ideas into realistic concepts. Consider discussing ways to scale down original ideas with your team to get their buy-in and arrive at a single idea that works for the company.
6. Trending product analysis
Analyzing trending products and apps is another fun team-building activity that’s great for gaining buyer persona insights.
Start by choosing a product that's trending in the market. Then, ask your team to brainstorm how the trending product has successfully catered to user habits and pain points. Capturing the broader themes using Post-it notes will help your team discover and analyze user experience trends.
7. Design interview task creation
No matter how many design articles you read or examples you gather, a design interview task is always tough to put together. You probably ask yourself what kind of task to create, what scope it should have, and how to assess design skills. One way to solve this problem is to get the team together and let them brainstorm on a design exercise for new hires—one they know is applicable to joining your UX design team.
Let's look at a quick task example. You can ask teams to complete a whiteboarding design exercise—for example, an interactive prototyping task that you can use to develop prototyping skills.
The idea here is to develop knowledge around information architecture and different approaches and perspectives. Different team members have different preferences and experiences, and this activity enables your team to share ideas and processes with each other.
8. Modeling clay UX design
It’s what your designers do best, but with a completely different set of tools—more reminiscent of those found in an art school. Give your team some modeling clay or dough and get them to design something—maybe a sign-up page or 404 page.
It’s a fun activity that gets your designers building with their hands. The nature of clay modeling forces them to do more with less and pushes them to really think about the exact placement, angles, and curvature of objects on a page. Plus, it’s a fun alternative to what they usually spend time doing and a strong visual representation for capturing ideas imperfectly.
9. Random design prompts
Designercize is a great resource for UX design team activities. The website generates random prompts for designers to work on.
Tasks are best completed on a whiteboard—timed by the in-app, adjustable timer. You can select a difficulty level and regenerate prompts to your heart's desire. We suggest having multiple teams working on different prompts and then coming together to discuss each towards the end of the session.
10. Design article reading
Chances are you often come across design insights from online articles or podcasts. Bouncing these findings off your team encourages healthy discussion where team members get to reflect on what's working for others.
This type of workshop starts with you sharing one or two articles that you've read in the past week. Give your team time to engage with the materials and ask them to share their thoughts—either generally, or on a specific concept you consider to be important.. The goal here is to do a reflection exercise for learning new things and moving forward together.
For example, you can start off by discussing an episode from these design podcasts. Exercises like this enable designers to take pause, untangle, observe, and come back stronger. You can even use sticky notes to jot down ideas for consideration when working on a design.
11. Designer top trumps
Did you ever play top trumps as a kid? Maybe it was Pokémon cards you dealt in? The concept with these UX designer cards is similar—except the goal isn’t the game but creating the cards themselves.
This activity involves giving your team card templates to fill out with a doodle of themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and some fun facts. Designers get to relax and have some fun whilst also giving insights into how they view themselves as designers. It’s a fun activity that helps your team connect with themselves and each other.
12. Gamification design
We all know the power of gamification and how it turns tedious tasks into fun activities for users. Design teams can have fun too while creating these gamification experiences.
Gamification design exercises involve the design and product team brainstorming how to make the user experience more fun with gamification mechanisms. Ask your team to discuss gamification they love from other products—and even encourage them to talk about what they love about the games they play.
For example, can you introduce badges, achievements, or characters to increase user engagement? These exercises are ideal for teams looking to improve retention by rewarding users.
13. Arcade games
Another way you can add a little fun to your design team is with online UX arcade games. These games help add a sprinkle of competition to your team and can help them improve their UX skills.
For example, this game from Uxcel’s Arcade challenges designers to spot alignment errors using fun shapes and jazzy colors. Designers can compete against each other for Pixels—points that earn them their place on a leaderboard.
14. Illustration design challenge
UX designers spend a lot of time designing buttons, scrollbars, and other product interactions—so much so that they often miss out on the chance to flex their creative muscles to the max.
An illustration design challenge gives them a break from the day-to-day designs they’re used to creating, and enables them to design something more exciting. Give them a prompt—for example, ‘draw a giraffe landing on the moon’—and a space in which to design—either online or on paper—and watch the creativity start to flow.
You can conclude this activity with a discussion about each drawing/illustration and what you like about each one.
15. Thirty circles exercise
If you're looking to warm up the team's creative muscles, this is for you. This exercise asks every team member to turn 30 circles into recognizable, daily-life objects in about 15 minutes.
You can use a Figma frame or create 30 blank circles on a piece of paper for this exercise. Once everyone finishes turning circles into objects, you can compare the results for fluency or ideas or who completed the most. This fun game doesn’t only help you gain insights into team members’ design styles but also helps improve their creative confidence.
16. Design video watch party
The goal of this type of design activity is to get the team to watch design-related interviews, videos, or even UX research sessions together.
17. Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking
The last one on this list is a fun activity where you nudge the team to think differently. Created by Ellis Paul Torrance, the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking is a creativity test that evaluates individuals' problem-solving skills.
The first step is to provide your team with incomplete figures. Then, they have to sketch and create new visualizations from these figures. The goal here is to push designers' creativity and if they can come up with meaningful or original ideas. Plus, you end up with some pretty alternative designs.
Build a design-first organization with Uxcel
All these exercises bring your team together to learn from one another, solve issues, or create something new. Some activities may be more beneficial to your team, whereas others might not interest them. Regardless, designers learn best through collaboration, and that's the beginning of building design-first organizations.
Uxcel Teams is the perfect tool to start building a design-first company. The platform helps designers upskill with courses, challenges, lessons, and more. Plus, managers get an overall idea of everyone's skills and can pick the best learning path for them.
Help your team collaborate better with a 14-day free trial today!