Designation is a UX/UI bootcamp that has been building up the Chicago design community since 2013, and recently moved into a new WeWork classroom. We asked the Designation team to share their reasons behind the move, how students will fit into the larger WeWork community, and why Chicago is a great city to work in UX Design. Plus, we hear about Designation’s future plans to collaborate with WeWork in other cities around the world!
Why did Designation decide to move from 1871 (another coworking space), to a WeWork?
A lot of people don’t know that 1871 wasn’t our first location. We moved there in 2014 from our original space in the Lincoln Park neighborhood when Designation had been open for 1 year. The move happened because we were creating a new iteration of Designation; there were changes in our curriculum, experience, and team, and we needed our learning space to reflect those changes. That was a huge move for us.
In 2017 when we looked at how much we’d accomplished after 2.5 years at 1871, we realized we were preparing for another big iteration of the program. So we started to figure out what that would look like in terms of space. We ultimately made the choice to move based on what we believed our designers needed most: to have the best possible experience – and the most professional experience possible of any program like ours.
When we found WeWork, we knew that being in a WeWork reflected how far we’d come. In the same way that we’re more than a design bootcamp, WeWork is more than just a coworking space. We found the company to be an intriguing evolution of a coworking space – one that created a truly welcoming environment for companies at every stage of their growth. And we knew that as members, we could tap into the worldwide (160,000-member!) WeWork network as clients, hiring partners, strategic partners, and allies.
WeWork has a number of locations in Chicago. Why did Designation choose the State Street location?
We like saying that we’re near the direct center of downtown Chicago. When applicants think about coming to Chicago for our program, State Street We Work is an actualization of the vision they have of the experience. The building borders the Financial District and the Theater District, and is where the famous Chicago Macy’s is, as well as historic buildings, companies, and shops. It’s also close to public transport.
What is it about being in this new location that will make Designation stand out amongst the competition in Chicago?
Designation is all about gaining the professional experience you need to be an effective and employable designer. WeWork has a community team on site that works as an extension of our team, making sure our designers have a great experience.
In addition to the experience, WeWork will be able to functionally enhance our program as well. WeWork is home to so many interesting and growing companies. Since a major part of our program is working with these types of companies, it gives us a great pipeline of portfolio projects for our designers.
In general, what makes Chicago a great city to be teaching/learning UX design?
Chicago is an unbelievably welcoming city for designers. There are many tremendous organizations here that champion design and encourage designers to come together, from AIGA Chicago and the Chicago Design Museum, to Meetups like ChiDUXX and &UX. It’s a city that encourages cross-pollination and growth. Designers here often work together to build products at events like at Chi Hack Night and Startup Weekend, or learn beyond UX and into accessibility, content strategy, service design, front-end development, and many other areas.
The professional ecosystem here is also stellar; there’s a remarkable mix of product companies, startups, agencies, consultancies, and in-house teams between the city and the suburbs – all of which need skilled, thoughtful designers.
What is the Designation teaching space like at WeWork?
We have our own private campus, just off the main lobby, near the public coworking space. It’s one large room that’s subdivided by team pods and whiteboards. We also have two offices we use for interviews, testing, and meetings, and we just installed standing desks at the windows. We’ve found that our designers respond best when they have access to varied working environments – whether that’s at a desk, standing up in our space, on couches, or in a WeWork conference room. That variety is a reflection of the multiple types of environments found in professional design offices, whose teams know that one working style doesn’t work for everyone at the company.
We can accommodate up to 54 people in the workroom; currently, we have about 30, which allows us a lot of freedom to experiment with the room layout and see how it affects noise level, productivity, teamwork, active listening, and other everyday features of the program.
What sort of amenities and benefits are Designation students entitled to as WeWork members?
The list is huge, and so big none of us have made our way through it. WeWork does a fantastic job of creating a professional environment for everyone with tons of amenities, including tea, coffee, fridges, microwaves, phone booths, a ping pong table, and events. That was a big draw for us, because we appreciated how much WeWork had done on members’ behalf to make sure they could take advantage of all the resources at hand. There are also member discounts on software, hardware, lifestyle brands, utilities, and more.
How will Designation make the most of being in a co-working environment like WeWork?
Two of the things that drew us to WeWork was the size of our workroom and the level of activity in the building. We knew our workroom was big enough to hold many types of events such as guest speakers for our cohorts, information nights for potential applicants, and other events for the community. It’s a requirement that all events we hold here are open to all WeWork members, which will be a great way to meet everyone else in the building. We’re genuinely thrilled to have access to a new network, both locally and globally, of potential clients, hiring partners, and even applicants to the program.
And around the building, there’s an insane number of events happening here each month. Because we’re members, we’re free to join in them too. As long as they don’t get scheduled while we have an important workshop or presentation happening, we encourage our designers to take part in those events too. Just like at 1871, we know those random conversations have the potential to lead to something great – or at least spread the word about how great Designation is.
Would Designation consider expanding to other WeWork locations either in Chicago or in other cities?
We would like to in some way, shape or form. WeWork’s multi-city presence provides us with the ability to extend our presence to many other design communities through their many locations. We believe it is imperative, to be an effective designer, to acquire in-person experience collaborating on projects with clients and other designers. With more than 70% of our designers coming into the program from outside Chicago, WeWork gives us the potential to have a physical presence in numerous locations across the world. As we look towards late 2018, we will be able to create a blended experience of both virtual and in-person education.
Is there anything else future students need to know about the new WeWork campus?
It’s going to be a different experience next month and next year than it is today. In our short time here so far, every week has had unique events and activities, and those events will change over time. We can’t predict what WeWork will be like in a few months or years from now; we can only say that that variety is a great asset for us, and will help ensure that everyone who goes through Designation will have an interesting, special experience.
Oh, and there are dogs! WeWork is dog-friendly, so Designation became dog-friendly the day we moved in. Staff members occasionally bring dogs into the space, but even without our own dogs, just knowing there are dogs elsewhere in the building is a big draw for our team and our designers. We really look forward to dogs becoming a more important and regular part of the experience of coming here.