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Event Design

HackMIT 2017

Designing a futuristic sci-fi theme for MIT's largest annual undergraduate hackathon

Building life-sized HACK letters, nicknamed the "physical hack", is an annual HackMIT tradition.

Every September, HackMIT brings over 1000 college students from around the world to MIT campus for a weekend of workshops, talks, activities, and building innovative projects.

HackMIT is organized by a team of about 20 MIT students who are passionate about empowering students in technology and innovation. As a member of the HackMIT Marketing committee, I helped shape the event's branding and 2017 theme: Hack to the Future, inspired by the Back to the Future movie trilogy.

Below is a summary of our work, including HackMIT 2017's branding, website, social media, merchandise, physical hack, and more.


HackMIT Logo

While the event's colors and fonts change every year, HackMIT has developed a strong identity through the "HACK" block letters in its logo. In 2017, we chose to use a motif of red and blue.

2014 HackMIT Logo 2015 HackMIT Logo 2016 HackMIT Logo 2017 HackMIT Logo

HackMIT logos, 2014-2017.

Brand Guide

After a hunt for futuristic fonts and colors, we summarized our choices in a brand guide for HackMIT 2017.

HackMIT 2017 Branding

HackMIT 2017 Branding.


We modeled our event website after the futuristic interfaces in sci-fi films. The outer ring of the center spinner counts the days remaining, and the circular buttons on the right open modules with more information about the event.

2017 Splash Page

Mockup created by Jessica Tang

On your first visit to the website, you'll also see an opening animation I made, in which the HackMIT logo glitches in, and a loading bar "connects" you to the page.

Opening animation

HackMIT 2017 website opening animation, created in After Effects.

View Live Website

Social Media

To keep hackers in the loop, we posted frequently on HackMIT's social media, including announcements, reminders, hype, and more.


Decisions are out

1 day left to apply Last day to confirm your spot

Announcement posts I created, inspired by Back to the Future quotes.


Countdown H Countdown A Countdown C Countdown K

Artwork by Jierui Fang.

Facebook Cover Photo and Filter

Facebook cover

Facebook cover I created to build hype.

Facebook filter

Facebook filter I designed for HackMIT team members.


A hackathon isn't complete without awesome swag. We provided hackers, mentors, and organizers with color-coded crewnecks. Hackers wore navy crewnecks; mentors and organizers wore purple and white, respectively, so that they could be easily located around the event venue.

Organizer crewnecks Mentor crewnecks

Crewneck designs by Hiram Moncivais.

Day-of Booklet

I designed a day-of booklet with detailed information about the weekend's speakers, schedule, and logistics. Each hacker received a copy with their swag bag at check-in.

Day-of booklet cover Day-of booklet content

Day-of booklet cover and content.


Hackers also received pairs of red-cyan 3D glasses, which they could use to view event banners in 3D!

Signage Signage Signage Signage Signage Signage

3D signage, designed by Jessica Tang.

Faction Cup

I proposed the idea of a Faction Cup—a mini-tournament (inspired by the Harry Potter Triwizard Cup) that would aim to add more fun to the hackathon experience and encourage more hackers to attend events throughout the weekend. With joint efforts from the Marketing, Development, and Logistics committees, we brought the Faction Cup to life!

Hackers at a mini-event

A group of hackers at a mini-event.

During registration, we asked every hacker to pick a faction: red or blue. Over the weekend, hackers scored points for their factions by attending workshops, tech talks, fireside chats, and mini red-blue battles (including a lightsaber fight!) A live leaderboard in the hacking arena kept track of the current faction scores.

At the end of the hackathon, all members of the winning faction took home a special prize: Hack to the Future magnets.

Blue faction wins Faction cup magnets

The Blue Faction won the prize, Hack to the Future magnets.

Physical Hack

A HackMIT tradition is building the "HACK" letters as a life-size installation, which becomes a popular photo op among hackers at the event.

In the week leading up to HackMIT, we traced and cut the letters from large sheets of foam core board, assembled and hot glued them together, and then spray painted them. This year, we also lined the edges of letters with LEDs.

Carrying foam boards H progress

left: carrying foam boards down Mass Ave, right: cutting the front of the H

To build hype on campus, we released one letter a day in front of the student center.

View this post on Instagram

A is for Are you ready?? Only 3 days left!! 😱😳💃🏻

A post shared by HackMIT (@hackmit) on


Working with the HackMIT organizing team has been an incredibly rewarding experience. It takes months of hard work to plan an event like HackMIT, and nothing compares to seeing it all come together in the big weekend — hackers taking pictures with the HACK letters, scoring points for their factions, and building innovative projects. I'm proud to have been part of the team that made HackMIT 2017 happen!

Hand under LEDs Talking onstage

Opening ceremony

Team with letters

Photo Credit: Alex Laiman, Chantal Acacio
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