Designation is a 24-week program specializing in the fields of UX and UI design with the primary goal to turn you into a hireable candidate for innovative and tech-focused companies. Designation offers a hybrid of both online education and in-person immersion in Chicago. Throughout the 24 weeks of the program, students are treated to guest speakers, sponsored workshops, and lab sessions. While there is no formal grading, students are asked to create portfolio deliverables and to actively document their design process for the purpose of finding a job after graduation. No prior experience is required, though top applicants should be prepared to work a minimum of 60 hours per week during the 12 weeks of the in-person phase. Designation is looking for highly motivated individuals who demonstrate maturity, persistence in problem-solving and show a genuine interest in design.
Recent Designation Reviews: Rating 4.83
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- 2018 End of Year Coding Bootcamp Podcast
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- Digital Marketing, Design, Product Management, Mobile, User Experience Design
In PersonPart Time20 Hours/week5 Weeks
Learn the essence of user experience (UX), user interface (UI), interaction design (IxD) and more over six weeks of part-time learning that covers the core skills of design and product development. Join a small class of motivated people to learn from our special team of instructors and mentors. If you have any questions, or to discuss the course and whether it's right for you, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- Digital Marketing, Design, Product Management, Mobile, User Experience Design
In PersonFull Time70 Hours/week
The tools of the UI designer are many, and in this phase, you'll work with all of them. Learn about layouts, identity, preparing assets and interpreting UX research documents to make killer designs that are not only beautiful, but also intuitive and easy to use. If you have any questions, or to discuss the course and whether it's right for you, email email@example.com.
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- Climb, Pave, Skill Fund
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- Design Essentials is a required pre-requisite for this course for students without prior professional design experience.
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- Digital Marketing, Design, Product Management, Mobile, User Experience Design
In PersonFull Time70 Hours/week17 Weeks
Take a deep dive in to the strategy and structure behind the creation of digital products. Learn how to identify who your users are, and how to build products that solve a problem. then conduct usability testing to ensure what you built is both efficient and effective. If you have any questions, or to discuss the course and whether it's right for you, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- None scheduled
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- Climb, Pave, Skill Fund
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- Design Essentials is a required pre-requisite for this course for students without prior professional design experience.
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I heard about Designation through a friend of mine who had completed the program a few years ago. She only had good things to say to me about the program, and kept repeating the mantra "you get out what you put in". After having gone through the program myself, I can safely say that this is 100% true. The people are brilliant, the experiences are unforgettable—and you'll learn more than you thought possible, as long as you're willing to put in the effort. An amazing program that I highly recommend, Designation helped me find my first full time design role.
The full story
I transitioned into design about a year before I attended Designation—I had basic knowledge and internship experience as a UX designer going into the program, but I was largely self-taught and wanted a more structured environment to build my fundamentals. I debated between General Assembly and Designation, but ultimately chose Designation. While GA would have allowed me to remain in my hometown (San Francisco), I was really sold by the idea of a longer program with high quality instructors and the opportunity to work with real start-ups at Designation.
My Designation experience was fantastic. The Design Essentials phase was a great way to introduce
students designers (don't call yourself a student at Designation, seriously!) to the differences between UX and UI, and allow them to get a taste for both tracks before picking one. I picked UI because I already had some UX experience and thought it would be a great way to round out my skill-set. The workload for this phase was manageable, and I was able to balance it with my full-time internship.
The Virtual Phase took that initial knowledge that we gained during DE and expanded on it exponentially. This deep dive over the course of 6 weeks helped really nail down those fundamentals by focusing on the theory side of things—this would help us apply the theory in a practical sense once the in-person phase started in Chicago. The workload during this phase was much heavier—I continued my internship throughout it, but I really don't recommend that to anyone unless they enjoy getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night and no free time on the weekends!
The In-Person phase in Chicago was by far my favorite part of the program. Taking all the knowledge we'd learned and applying it to solving real life problems for actual start-ups was an absoutely incredible experience. It made for some amazing stories and learning moments as well—which was just as well, because the final phase of the program saw us craft our experiences into case studies to showcase on our portfolio.
I grew a ton over the course of Designation. I owe that all to the people I met and learned from along the way—and really, this is the coup de grace of Designation. More than the workshops, curriculum, or free coffee, it's the instructors, mentors, and fellow designers that make this program as great as it is. They really foster a culture of collaboration and community. At no point did I ever feel like I was competing with my peers, and even though the pace of the program was hectic, I felt like I could ask any question I wanted without the fear of feeling stupid. So many other bootcamps operate like a factory, looking to get people in one door and out the other—I never felt this at Designation. Everyone I met was genuine and took the time to get know me beyond a "student".
One area where I do feel like Designation could improve is in career services or job assistance. While the career phase itself was fantastic in helping me write my case studies and create my portfolio, post-graduation was a different story. I found that the Designation name does not carry as much weight in the SF Bay Area as it does in Chicago, and the alumni community here is also much smaller and less active. I felt like I had to really take the initiative to network with the design community, and my job search was longer and slower than I would have liked. At the end of the day, however, my experiences at Designation were a crucial element to me eventually receiving a job offer.
Designation is difficult—be prepared to work incredibly hard and immerse yourself completely in design. Despite the challenges, I thoroughly enjoyed the program because I was doing what I love to do and I felt at home.
I started working as a web designer in higher education in the mid-2000s, and as my career moved along I gained experience in areas like project management, data analysis and reporting, operations, and product management. Thinking about the next phase of my career, I realized I wanted to focus more of my time building stuff. After reaching out to my network and researching online, I found that UX would be a great space for me to accomplish my goal of focusing on building while also being able to leverage my previous experiences.
A two-year HCI masters program didn’t seem appealing or worthwhile—given my time in higher education, I don’t see traditional universities and colleges as being well-positioned to keep up with the fast-paced change of the tech world, so I narrowed my search to focus on the bootcamp/intensive learning space. Designation had by far the strongest reviews, the most intensive and comprehensive curriculum, and it also featured real client projects—a huge differentiator for me. Perhaps most importantly, people in my network working in design and tech in Chicago spoke highly of Designation’s reputation, and the alumni I connected with uniformly had positive things to say about both the program itself and its outcomes. An in-person conversation about the program with then Designation President, Mike Joosse was the last step in convincing me that Designation was the right program for me.
Online Phases (Design Essentials / Virtual)
Design Essentials is the “Design101” course that presents the foundations of user-centered design and the UX and UI processes. It’s a great overview and is packed with great information and materials. It’s a pretty intensive start to the program, and I found that I spent a bit more time than the weekly hours estimate on the site. That said, I was able to balance the workload while I was still working full-time. Coming out of DE, you decide between moving forward on the UX or UI track. Though I came into the program planning on doing UX, my conversations with James were incredibly valuable in solidifying that decision. The Virtual phase builds on DE, going more in-depth and expanding on many of the same topics, while introducing some new concepts and practices. Perhaps the most important element in Virtual is that you start working on teams and presenting your work, albeit in an online setting. I continued working part-time during this phase, and in retrospect I really wish I had been able to clear all of my time, as there is a tremendous amount of material to work through and absorb.
In-person Phases (Immersion / Client / Career)
The 12 weeks of in-person time is where the rubber really hits the road. The transition is, by its nature, kind of jarring—new surroundings, new people, long hours—and for most people there’s a lot at stake. The WeWork space was very comfortable (tasty free coffee is a nice perk), and it was fantastic to have another cohort there to be able to ask questions and learn from. I was initially a little skeptical about the inter-cohort mentorship program, but I ultimately found it really valuable both as a way to get insight on the program, as well as just to connect with the other cohort socially and expand your network. Though they’d only been in the program 8 weeks longer than we had, a ton happens in that time. Immersion acts as bridge between your virtual experience and the client phase to come. It’s less about absorbing new material, but instead more about application, teamwork, and presentation through storytelling. Two three-week client projects followed, where I was able to work with an accessibility-focused non-profit and a scaling startup. At this point in the program the training wheels are off, and I have no hesitation talking about and presenting these projects with colleagues and in interviews as being very much real. The in-person time wraps up with career phase, which is a significant shift from the previous weeks. Instead of team-focused work, you’re now almost entirely working solo to contextualize and document your experience, with a heavy emphasis on writing. The materials Mike has put together are incredibly well-wrought and comprehensive—quite literally all the tools you need to support your search and find a job. Beyond the tools, I was connected with a fantastic mentor external to Designation to act as a sounding board during my search. Then, of course, everybody has access to the 500+ designer alumni network, which is especially strong in Chicago. There is no promise that the job search will be easy, but the results that I’ve observed for myself and others absolutely speak for themselves.
Areas of Opportunity
Designation is very much still a startup. The program is scrappy, lean, and constantly iterating and improving. The transition between phases (especially between DE and Virtual) felt a bit disjointed, and there were times in the virtual phases where I didn’t get feedback as quickly as I might have liked. Also, as I mentioned, the Designation network is naturally especially strong in Chicago, but less so in other markets. Given the recent merger with WeWork/Flatiron, will be very interesting to see how this changes as Designation likely expands its footprint.
Designation has gone to great lengths to build a great design education product. Without a doubt, I think the program provides everything you need to set you up for success as a professional designer. As it is with so many intensive/bootcamp experiences, how much you get out of the program is highly dependent on the effort you’re willing to put it. I suppose it would be possible to skate by on minimal effort, but almost nobody does this (and why would you?). I think a huge reason that designers are so uniformly committed are the people that Designation has been smart enough to hire. If I was surprised by anything in my experience, it was at the exceptional quality of the people on staff. Full disclosure: I had the opportunity to work for Designation as a Designer in Residence for 12 weeks after I finished, which gave me somewhat of an insider’s view to the program’s operations and an opportunity to get to know everybody even better. Without exception, the staff members of the entire program are kind, talented, and extremely dedicated. James, Doug, Megan, Dan, and Mike all had a huge positive impact on my Designation experience and on my life. I recommend Designation without hesitation.
After a minimally painful job search, I signed on to be an experience designer at a national consultancy. I couldn’t be more excited for the next phase of my career in the new year!
I came to Designation for a career change. After many years in theatre and time as a stay-at-home mom, I wanted a career with growth potential in which I could utilzie my creative background. UX design seemed like a good fit, and I dove in.
I chose the program at Designation for its reputation and rigor, and I was not dissappointed. I recieved an education not only in UX design, but in soft skills, teamwork strategies, and critical thinking. The workload is sizable and the pace grueling, but the results are remarkable. In six months' time I reinvented my career. I added numerous technical skills to my liberal arts background, becomming a well-rounded and marketable UX designer. I approached my job hunt with confidence in the skills and education I received at Designation, landing a job in my new field with a salary nearly twice that of my previous career.
Designation was a big risk, personally and financially. I can say with confidence that it was absoultely worth it.
I can only echo the thoughts of what so many other graduates of the program are saying. Designation is a lifechanger. By quite literally becoming your life for 6 months, it saturates you into the world of design and equips you with everything you need for your career in UX/UI — the most important of which is the learning mindset through which you can keep growing as a designer past your time in the program. Having come from working in assorted digital design roles, I came to Designation hoping to inject a little more meaning into the things I created and the problems I solved. Designation became the catalyst in my design career to refine my hard skills and build up the right soft skills to fuel my career.
Virtual (DE/Virtual Phase) – My virtual experience was unique in that at the time I had spent a few years living overseas and was managing an international move back to the States during DE and Virtual. The hours slowly ramped up through the phases but the coursework was definitely managable and meeting times worked out in the end. The coursework took me through the basics of UX/UI and after some valuable conversations with the instructors, it helped me get a solid feel for which track I felt was the best for me. Though I initially came into the program thinking I would go down the UX track, I opted towards the UI track because I enjoyed the visual design process and wanted to hone my skills in it. The virtual phases helped to not only prepare for the intense experience to come in the in-person experience, but really layout the groundwork for understanding your design process and personal workstyle.
In-Person (Immersion/Client) – Once you step foot in Chicago, or into WeWork if you're from Chicago, this is the portion of the program where you just have to concede that Designation, as well as the world of design will be your life. You are exposed to a network of designers, instructors who really are there to support you, and a community that breathes design. As so many other reviews say, you get out of this program what you put into it. Beyond the design itself, which will only get better with practice, this immersive phase becomes a place where you learn to talk about design, work with other designers, work with stakeholders, and manage the resources you have at hand. This was both the most challenging and most rewarding part of the program and despite the long hours, everything I learned in this phase helped me to shape my current process and work, and working with real clients places you in an environment with real stakes, real pivots and real problems to solve.
Post-Program - After the program was when I really felt that what you put into the program was what you get out of it. Designation equipped me with the network, the mentorship, the resources, the hard/soft skills and perspective to channel into stancing myself as a growing designer and I was able to find a job as a UI Designer about a month and a half into the job search as I kickstarted the career I had envisioned for 6 months.
Final Thoughts - The best advice I can give in this program is to not be discouraged and to stance yourself in a way that is ready to learn from your mistakes. Designation was an extremely intense experience of my life, but as great of an experience as it was in hindsight, it naturally came with frustrations ranging from teammates, to deadlines, to roadblocks in the work itself. It's curriculum is constantly being iterated to provide the most relevant design education and the instructors really seek to help you grow in the areas you most need to improve in. If you are serious about a career in UX/UI and are willing to put in the work, this is the program for you.
I read all the reviews and looked at other programs but what stood out about Designation was the opportunity to work with actual clients during the eight-month time frame. Although, the reviews for Designation were phenomenal I was not completely sold on the program until I reached out to a program graduate through LinkedIn. Our conversation reassured me that this program could be what I needed to refresh my skills before re-entering the workforce. Another concern of mine was that I had previous design experience and I was not sure if the Design Essentials phase would be as helpful. A Designation instructor told me that it would set the stage for the rest of the program, give me the necessary vocabulary used throughout the program and ensure that all cohort members start on the same page for the subsequent phases. I also thought Design Essential would give me the opportunity to try the program without a huge investment.
It turned out that I enjoyed Design Essentials, it was a mix of new and familiar material for me. I learned more about the UX process and designed a mobile app. I became familiar with Sketch and InVision and a few other programs. Working remotely concerned me but the way the program was set up made it easy to stay engaged. Design Essentials’ director James was awesome and I was able to ask him career questions and get advice to move forward. The only downside was choosing between the UX or UI track after the initial six weeks. Eventually, I chose the UX track but with great debate. I knew I wanted to build new skills and dig deeper into user behaviors and the UX track would help me achieve this.
Because the UX track is very process driven I learned to trust the process and to use these steps as tools. My big take away was that I am now able to write about and explain my ideas and design decisions more effectively. Overall, I learned a lot at Designation but it is still a lot more for me to learn. I enjoy the camaraderie of fellow grads and I have grown my network of design professionals. This was one of my best decisions and I highly recommend Designation as a starting point to a new career.
Like others have said, you get what you put in. You'll work hard but learn the skills to be able to land a job after graduation. If you're looking to get into design but don't want to spend the time or money on a Master's degree, Designation is a great option.
Choosing a program:
I knew I wanted to be a product designer but didn't know how to get there. I looked into HCI programs but they seemed expensive and long. While Designation is less academic than an HCI degree, the work is far more practical. If your goal is to get a job, Designation will teach you the necessary skills to get an entry-level role. That said if you're someone who's very interested in theory, you won't get that at Designation. Since my goal was to get a designer job as fast as possible, Designation seemed like a better option.
I looked at other bootcamps but thought they lacked the rigor of Designation and wasn't confident that I'd be able to get a job after just 10 weeks. I liked that Designation was longer and much more in depth. I also spent a lot of time stalking past Designation grads on LinkedIn and noticed that they were mostly successful. I spoke with 4-5 folks to hear about their experience, which helped me feel confident about choosing Designation.
The program starts with a 6 week DE course to learn the basics of UX/UI. Expect to spend 20-30 hours a week on the work. I worked full-time while doing DE, which was rough but doable if you spend your evenings and weekends working. For me, DE was a good way to confirm that design was interesting to me. It's very high-level, but you get a sense for the work, learn about the differences between UX and UI, and start using some design software. The work is individual and online, so it can seem a bit like you're on an island. At the end of DE, you choose either the UX or UI course and the instructor helps guide you based on your work and strengths.
During Virtual, you work with a team on a mock project for 6 weeks. It's the same basic work as DE, but you'll go more in depth. You also get some exposure to the teamwork that you'll have during the in-person phase. For me, this was the lightest part of Designation in terms of work. I had a great team, which made things easier, but some folks can struggle with their teams. Again, the online part is a little tough since you're isolated, but you can manage to make it work.
This is the real point of Designation and where most of the learning happens. In-Person is split into 3 portions: Immersion, Client, and Career
Immersion: During Immersion, you continue with the same design process that you've learned in Virtual but take it to another level. The instructors will push you more and you'll do much deeper work. You also get to work on a real project, which completely changes things.
You'll also get to know your classmates better and really collaborate. You'll have to work on your team skills and presentation skills. While they might seem soft, they're actually very important and help a lot once you start your job search.
Client Phase: During Client Phase, you get exposure to actually working with clients and get a lot less handholding. Again, the process is the same but you have more agency and get to see how business challenges affect design (very important!).
Career Phase: By the time you get here, you'll be burnt out and will want to chill. Don't do it! Mike gives great feedback and you'll have a much easier time post-graduation if you keep up the pace here.
This is the hardest part but it's also why you came to Designation. When I first finished, I was still unsure about whether I'd get a job or what that job would look like. You're also alone again after spending 12 weeks with the same 20 people, so the transition can be a bit shocking. My advice is to be super-organized, make yourself a timeline for finishing your portfolio, and then start applying like crazy. While it's important to have a job you like, your first job will probably just be your starting point and not your dream job. Everyone has a different strategy (Meetups, networking, applying to a ton) so figure out what plays to your strengths.
During the interview process, you'll be surprised at how well you can speak to your work and do design challenges. This gave me more confidence since I felt that I could actually do the real work.
You'll definitely have low moments since applying is a grind, but if you work hard enough, you'll get there eventually. Depending on your skillset, it can take some people longer to find a job. There are a LOT of junior designers out there from other bootcamps but a lot of them suck. Designation is more rigorous than other programs, so you'll stand out if you put in a lot of effort to make your portfolio look good.
It took me about 6 weeks to make my portfolio and then another 6 weeks of interviewing before I got an offer. I managed to increase my salary from before Designation, which I wasn't necessarily expecting (but was exciting!)
The people: Designers tend to be pretty fun people so you'll have fun. While the cohorts vary, mine was pretty diverse (a mix of people right out of college to people going back to work after having kids). Since you spend so much time together, you'll get goofy as well. You'll probably also have moments where you're pissed at others, but that's natural when you spend that much time with a small group.
Real work: Having actual projects is essential to getting a job. Employers want to see how you navigated the client interactions and business side, so Designation will allow you to speak to that. It's also way more fun to work on real projects that can have an impact.
Presentation skills: You'll have to present every week, so you'll get good at making a pretty deck and articulating your ideas. Both are essential for a design career.
Quality of instruction: If you want to be pushed, the instructors will help you. They'll constantly give you feedback, help you think through problems, and actually learn.
The people: While most people are great, there are always a few difficult teammates or some people who aren't cut out for design. Designation tries to weed them out during DE or Virtual, but they also need to keep attendance rates high because it's a business. At times, teammates can bring the group down and make it hard to learn.
Virtual phases: While these are necessary so that you have a basic framework, the structure could be improved. Some of the lectures were tedious.
Post-grad: While Mike does a great job during career phase, you're kind of on your own after. You'll still check in with him but it's up to you to hustle to get a job. I did a lot of my own networking to get advice, which I'd recommend. You also don't get a lot of practice with design challenges, so that was a bit challenging.
UX vs. UI: Designation makes a pretty clear split between the two but a lot of jobs tend to focus on both. I found it rare for a job to be just UX. Since I wanted to do product design, I spent some additional time teaching myself some UI skills. Basically, I wish there was just a product design track!
Six months at Designation jumpstarted a career that I love. I came to Designation with no design experience, spending the years prior to the program working in finance. The most designing I'd ever done was in PowerPoint. I was initially skeptical of the program because it didn't provide a formal degree or certification. I'd also need to leave the comfort and security of my current job. Wanting to understand more about the industry and program, I sought out a Designation grad (which I highly recommend doing). She eased a lot of my concerns about the field and the expectations of the program.
As many of the other reviews have voiced, you'll only be successful at Designation if you're willing to put in the effort. The time commitment is significant, as is the amount learning you'll be doing in that time. The curriculum is structured in a way that allows designers to learn and grow through hands-on experience and repetition.
The first phase of the program is Design Essentials, which serves as the foundation of your future learning. You'll learn the basic principles of UI/UX design through lectures, group work, and assignments. This phase is part-time, so I continued to work my full-time job. The amount of time this phase takes up is dependent on your learning and working style. I think I personally invested 20/30 hours per week reading and completing the assignments.
The second phase is the virtual phase. At this point, you'll likely need to commit 40+ hours per week. Between Design Essentials and the virtual phase, Designation requires you to choose a concentration: UI or UX. The next six weeks will be a deep dive into the concentration you choose. I chose the UI path because I enjoyed the visual design process. There are lectures during this phase, but most my of learning came from actually designing a mock project. The most beneficial part of the virtual phase for me was the critique and feedback I received on my work. It's difficult to accept at first, but you'll quickly find that feedback is invaluable to your growth as a designer; you can't take it personally. I did wish this phase incorporated more learning around UX. In looking for jobs, I found that most positions were looking for candidates that had a solid understanding of both UI & UX.
The next phases are Immersion and Client phase. These are in-person at Designation in Chicago. This is when Designation becomes your life. You'll spend 60+ hours per week learning and actually doing real design work. This is an important part of the program; perhaps the most. I learned how to cohesively work in design teams and explain and present my designs to stakeholders. There are so many resources available to you, being in-person: creative directors, peers, guest speakers. Leveraging these resources will be crucial in your growth. I had the opportunity to design for two actual clients, so I learned firsthand how to communicate design to different types of people while designing for real business problems. This will be a challenging part of the program, but I learned the most during it and am able to apply the things I learned at my new job.
The last phase is the Career phase. You'll learn how to write case studies on your work, create your portfolio, and how to market yourself as a designer. Designation pairs you with a career mentor, which was really helpful for me as I crafted my story as a designer and reached out to prospective employers. Designation does not place you in a job after you graduate. You'll do all of the searching and applying on your own. However, there is a very active job board where the Designation community post listings for candidates. The creative directors are also more than willing to provide feedback on job listings and companies you may come across. Career phase continues post-graduation as well. You'll have access to Designation for six weeks to have any of your career materials reviewed.
Designation provides you with all of the resources you need to learn and become a UI/UX designer. The result of the program hinges on the effort and quality you put into the learning. If you leverage all of the tools provided to you, the people you meet and stay humble, I think anyone can become a quality designer through Designation. I'm currently the sole designer at my company and feel confident in my ability to create progressive and meaningful work.
Designation is a life changer. If you are on the edge of deciding whether or not to join Designation, hopefully this review persuades you to go for it. You get out of the program what you put into it and it when you graduate, you are prepared for a career in the field, even if you don't think you are.
Before starting Designation, I was working for a startup and saw the design side of things and wanted to be involved. I am so thankful that I chose this program, I grew as a designer and as a person in a matter of months.
The virtual experience
When you start in the virtual phases, you learn the basics that will carry you all the way through, it can be tough, but if you take the time to really learn the material you are prepared for entering the in-person phase.
The in-person experience
The in-person experience is intense and is designed to be ambiguous. As someone who recently started a career in the field, you're never going to be given a problem to solve that is black and white and as infuriating as it can be during the program, you will thank Designation in the long run. Having the opportunity to work with real clients is absolutely necessary and the staff is extremely involved and helpful.
The in-person phase is no joke. You will be working early mornings, late nights, and weekends, I cannot stress enough that you will get out of it what you put into it. It sounds intense, but if you do want a change in careers, it's the best route to go. You have continued support and will get to know your cohort and make lifelong friendships.
After the program
I was able to land a job within 3 weeks of finishing the program, though you should budget for about 3 months after the program to finding a job. If you use the tools the staff gives you, you will find something. Not only will you graduate with new skills and process, you will have formed a network that goes beyond your cohort and will get support from Mike, the career phase creative director, to help move your job search forward.
Advice to staff
I don't have enough kind words to say about the program, and being in-person for 3 months, I already saw multiple changes made to curriculum and the program, so the staff is continually iterating on how to make it better.
I would recommend having more material on user testing and different methods in the virtual phase for the UI track and having more opportunities for cross-track learning during the in-person phase. It was difficult for me to decide between both UX and UI and having the ability to learn more of the opposite side of things and having materials for portfolio on the UX side of things would have been ideal.
What I wish I would have done before starting
I wish I would have gone to more meetups and events in the field to start building up a network and learning different methods and approaches. Do as much learning on your own as you can, it will help you inform your career path and what you are interested in before starting, and as you go through the program you will have a more concrete idea of what to expect in a career.
Many props to the entire staff at Designation, it was a life changing experience and after 6 months, I have a completely different career that I am passionate about!
If you are a naturally curious person who wants to know what makes people tick and doesn’t want to be spoon-fed instructions, Designation is the place for you. I had 10 years experience in graphic design but was looking to make a change to a field that would be more meaningful on a day-to-day basis. I was looking for the right balance of time to soak in new knowledge, but not the extended length of a graduate program. This was the perfect split for me compared to some of the shorter 10-week programs I compared it too. One of the best parts of the program is that it lets you get a taste for either UX or UI track before committing to it fully. In my case, I was pretty sure I wanted to pursue the UX path, and Design Essentials helped confirm that it would be the most beneficial to me. It has been nine years since graduating from design school, but it was pretty easy to get back into a ‘student' mindset. Once you move from virtual in person, the program tries to drive you out of that mindset back to more of a professional setting, but the ambiguity can be mentally confusing at times, and it doesn’t click for everyone at the same time. This is especially true if you like to follow a syllabus and play by the rules. You eventually have to figure out what is the most valuable task to do to make the best product possible, not because it was handed down for you to do. This can lead to some frustration feeling like you are not learning enough pure technical skill (esp in UX), but you are learning the stuff that you can't learn from watching a YouTube tutorial. This has been most beneficial in the post-graduation world where for me it has become much more about what part of the process will bring the right insight to build the best product. The client phase is the real deal. I’ve worked live in design for a long time, and while you have some guardrails thanks to the tireless effort by your creative directors, the working process with the clients is as it has been at any point in my career. This should give you total confidence when putting together your portfolio that the work you have done is legit and enough to get you a job. Speaking of getting a job, the career phase is a perfect ender to the program. It teaches you all the things you would never learn in a graduate program about the in's and out’s of the interview process. Everyone in my cohort that put all their effort and trust into the career phase process has come out with great jobs and on an exciting new path forward. I cannot recommend it enough, and I know Designation is only going to keep iterating and improving from here!
I had been a designer for a good while. I was working at a large reputable ad agency as an Art Director for 5 years but the work I was doing was of a very narrow skill set and it was extremely difficult to advance or find many job opportunities elsewhere that really got me excited to apply. Even changing companies would only have afforded me minimal additional money or career advancement opportunity. I had been wanting to make the transition to digital work for a long time but it was difficult to break into it without the prior experience. I met with a couple mentors who told me that is was going to take a lot of self-education or going back to school but one of them mentioned a short but intense program that he knew produced some really solid designers. It was called Designation. He told me that he had even hired a designer out of Designation and was very impressed with him. That was a huge endorsement and the rest is history.
Designation was a game changer for me. It actually sounds fake to talk about all the positive things that it did for me. I landed a contract gig doing freelance UX design immediately after finishing Designation. I went on to work at a reputable startup in Chicago, getting a lot of praise for my work there. About a year into my UX career, the recruiters started to call and message. I've had many people contact me asking if I'd like to hear about new opportunities. I haven't had to actually seek out jobs in almost 2 years. The jobs come to me. And I'm on the cusp of doubling my salary. DOUBLE.
Designation did many things for me and my career but it was also just a great experience to go through. I made some great friends that I still keep in touch with over 2 years later. The program itself was no joke. It was challenging and consumed my life for over 4 months but the knowledge and experience gained was worth far more than the program costs and the program is not cheap. I feel it was every bit as valuable as 2 years of grad school would've been but grad school wouldve cost multiple times the tuition of Designation.
I can't say enough good things about Designation. It did incredible things for me that I still can't believe and I'm way grateful for it!
I have to echo what has been said in multiple reviews of Designation—you will get out what you put in to the program, the time and money are worth it, and it is a life changing experience… but let’s back up to how I got here.
In 2017, I was unhappy with my career in administration and operations and was looking for a change. I knew that I wanted to work in a creative, project driven environment and started exploring ways to move into a design career. I explored a number of bootcamps, but ultimately chose Designation for three main reasons:
- The 8-week Design Essentials was relatively low cost and allowed me to dip my foot in the waters to see if this field was the right fit for me before I committed to the longer program. Also, since DE gave me the full spectrum of UX &UI work, I was able to better decide which track I wanted to pursue.
- The big differentiator is the Career Phase that is offered at Designation. It was important to me that I have the experience of seeing how a design team works together in a real-world environment and that I walk away with a portfolio that included more than spec work.
- The last piece that drew me to Designation was the people. Through design meetups around town, reaching out to people online, and my interview at Designation, I got a good look at the culture at Designation. The staff and alumni of Designation is truly a village–kind, supportive, constructive and responsive individuals that want to see all members of the community succeed and be their best selves.
With the decision made, I embarked on my journey at Designation in October 2017 with Design Essentials.
Pros: James is a great instructor and breaks down the process into easily digestible pieces. You will learn not only the “what” of UX/UI, but more importantly the “why.” You will also get introduced to design crit and feedback, which is extremely important to both growth as a designer and learning to become a great team member.
Cons: The time estimate for DE is 15-20 hours a week, but I easily spent 30-35 hours in DE. The work can be done in less time, but to get the most out of DE it really pays to do the extra reading and to start spending time getting to know the tools better.
Tips: (1) Don’t think you can wait until the weekend to get the work done. Work a little everyday–before or after work if you are still working. (2) If you have time before DE starts, take some online courses to get to know Sketch and the UX process. Lynda.com is great for this. (3) Make the effort to get to know your cohort. Online is awkward and everyone is new, but you will eventually be spending 70+ hours with these people. Take advantage of the slack channels that James sets up for you and do some Google Hangouts with your group.
After DE, I chose to take the UI track for the rest of the program. This is because I am more interested in visual and interactive design, and knew I wanted a job in that space rather than research, concept, information architecture or other more UX focused areas.
Virtual- UI Track
Pros: The UI track starts by building on the visual design principles (color, layout, hierarchy, etc.) that you learn in DE, progresses through learning the tools of the trade (Illustrator, Sketch, Photoshop), and then builds web and mobile UI practices on top of this foundation. Jancy is a great creative director in this phase. She strengthens your design feedback and crit skills having everyone participate in the feedback for each designer’s project deliverables.
Cons: The first couple of weeks can feel overwhelming–there are many deliverables during this time and the course materials are also heavy towards the beginning.
Tips: (1) Try to bond with others on your track, share tips you’ve learned with the tools and interact around the coursework throughout the week (2) Do the extra credit–you’ll thank yourself for learning those skills when you get to Immersion.
Immersion- UI Track
Pros: This is where you will feel like the training wheels have come off. Doug will challenge you start taking ownership of your design process and by the end of Immersion you will be amazed by how much you grow in a few short weeks. It is here, too, where you will polish up your presentation skills and learn how to communicate design to stakeholders. This will be invaluable in Client Phase.
Cons: Week one was a bit overwhelming with your first deliverables due at the end of week one. However, design is an iterative process and Designations curriculum is no exception and I understand that this is no longer the case.
Tips: (1) Actively solicit feedback from your cohort mates–from both tracks–you will learn so much. (2) You will have mentors and a Designer-in-Residence–they have been through the program, understand what you’re going through and are there to help.
Pros: So far you’ve built your skills as a designer using a linear design process, but client phase is where you meet the real world and it gets interesting. You’ll be jumping into a project for real clients, so expect some pivots and to start flexing your design skills. Megan and Dan, the creative directors for this phase, will push your team to continue taking more ownership as designers but are also there as a great support and sounding board.
Cons: It is hard to judge what kind of work will come in the door for each cohort, but ideally it would be useful for each designer to have a mobile and a web project.
Tips: (1) You should know your team members pretty well by now, leverage each other’s strengths. (2) Build a good relationship with your clients, you may want to use them for recommendations in the future.
Pros: Designation has had over 500 grads, and Mike uses the feedback he gets from alums to build a great career phase that gives you the blueprint you need to build your portfolio and find a job.
Cons: I wish there was more of an emphasis on practice interviewing with creative leads in the industry.
Tips: (1) Try to get all of your writing finished for your first case study before graduation. Building your portfolio site is fun, but you won’t really know what you want or need until your case study is written. (2) Take advantage of the time Mike offers all graduates for the 4 weeks after graduation.
You get out what you put in–do the extra reading and projects, make connections with your cohort, creative directors, alumni, and guest lecturers, and give 110% every day. You will leave Designation will the skills, portfolio, and confidence to launch a new career in design. It truly is life changing.
Designation is a life changer….if you want it to be. The program itself provides you with the necessary resources, knowledge, and integration that will help you become a successful designer. Here are some pros, insights, and tips.
1. The Designation staff is excellent. They’re super knowledgeable and they know what they’re talking about. They’re really supportive and are willing to help you out every step of the way. You're never gonna feel like you're in this alone. Besides the great staff, you have your own team members for support as well.
2. What's great about Designation is the opportunity for real client experience. That is one of the main reasons I chose this program over GA and others. You’re able to work for and interact with 2 clients during your time with the program. This definitely helps you stand out once the program finishes and you start looking for a job.
3. Designation does an amazing job of fostering a great positive community within the Designation and the Chicago design community. It’s awesome to see Designation alumni come back to the program as either guest speakers or DIR’s (Designer-in-Residence) to help out. Towards the end of the program, you’ll even go on company/agency tours in Chicago. When I was there, we got to go on a tour at Allstate and meet some of the designers that are currently working there. It’s cool to see how well Designation is connected with not just companies and agencies in Chicago, but all around the world.
4. Designation provides career assistance through their Career Phase. They even give you some assistance after you graduate from the program as well. I do wish the program added a couple more weeks into the Career Phase, it felt a little rushed. With the extra weeks, I would hope to gain more in-depth knowledge on how interviews/design challenge/networking work specifically for designers. Just being around Designation staff and cohort members can make such a huge difference when it comes to support and staying motivated, especially because there’s still a lot of work to do even after graduating.
TIPS AND ADVICE
1. I would like to remind people that this is a “bootcamp” program, meaning you will eat, drink, and sleep design for the next 6 months. They don’t call it a bootcamp for nothing. There will be a lot of early mornings and late nights put into your work. You’ll spend 6-7 days out of the week working with your team in order to get work done for your project and client. Yes, that means Saturday and Sunday. It is a very intensive program that is built to help you learn a lot of stuff in order to best prepare you to be a great designer. Basically, people should join this program expecting to be working 24/7. I don’t want to scare anyone away from the program, I just don’t want people joining this program w/ the wrong expectation and giving themselves a bad experience. But at the end of the day, every early morning, late night, and Saturdays I spent for Designation, IT WAS WORTH IT.
2. As you can tell from almost every review that you read on here, it’s important to know that “you get what you put in,” no matter how cliche it sounds. It can be very easy to join this program and really leave without feeling like you actually learned something. Be interactive and curious, and really try to soak in as much as you can. Ask questions, ALWAYS find ways for improvement.
3. No matter how old you are or how long you’ve been working in whatever industry you were working in…please come into the program with a “student” mindset. Drop your egos and be humble. Learn to grow with other “soon-to-be-designers” from other walks of life and help each other out. This program isn’t a competition to see who is the best designer. Thankfully Designation doesn’t have that kind of vibe, nor does it encourage it. Again, it builds a great positive community where you will probably call your cohort “a family” and stay connected with them even after the program ends.
Designation has helped me to finally be in a career where I can be passionate about my work as a creative. I was able to build confidence that I’ve never had before in my previous work experience and take great pride and ownership of my skills and works. I can honestly say I'm finally in a career field that I know will make me happy and put me in a position to always CREATE.
If you have any questions about the program, please feel free to reach out!
I won't lie and say this program was fun the entire time. I struggled through it. Some days, it felt really overwhelming. I was pushed beyond my comfort zone, I lost sleep and sometimes it felt like I failed pretty hard but ultimately, I learned a ton about myself, my skills and what I actually wanted out of a career. I made great friends, I acquired years worth of knowledge in a short time and I can actually see my new skills in action with every new job/project I take on. I felt the curriculum itself needed a bit more fine-tuning, and I hear it continues to be updated, which is great!! Its probably already better now than when I went through the program. Don't get me wrong though, I felt I learned SO much and I wouldn't trade this experience. The knowledge they share is robust and ahead of the curve. I loved the staff at Designation. Everyone has their own style of teaching and leading. Working with different staff members was an added bonus for prepping to be a designer in the real world. I also loved the client work that makes up part of this program. I personally feel this is what separates Designation from other design bootcamps. Working with real clients allowed me to talk about my actual design experience in job interviews versus just fictional projects. I also was lucky to be able to continue to work with one of the clients beyond the program, giving me even more experience than I could've hoped for. If you're thinking about attending Designation, I can tell you from my experience, it was worth it! I'm on the verge of starting my first design focused job and I can't wait to see where my career goes from here.
It was the end of 2016 and I had been looking for a job for close to a year with no luck. The jobs I was looking at during that time were not very desirable. I was not in a good place, but one day I stumbled upon a post about bootcamps as a way to jumpstart a new career. A year after graduating I'm now employed as a UX Designer and couldn't be happier. Designation is a great place to change your career if you are willing to put in the work.
In my case, I had no design experience coming into the program and really appreciated how they started slow and introduced new concepts and ideas before ramping up the difficulty later on.
The Client phase gets you exposure to what working for clients is like. I loved that I got to work with actual clients and get some really solid projects for my portfolio. This is something that most bootcamps are missing.
The Career phase is another thing unique to Designation. You learn how to write case studies, resumes, cover letters and portfolios to help you land a job after the program.
Designation's staff is full of the most hardworking and dedicated people I've ever met. They really care about the program and providing the best experience for people wanting to learn UX/UI.
Despite how thorough career phase is, there is a lack of focus on interviews. I would have loved a couple mock interviews or design challenges.
I would have liked for interaction between the UX and UI side of the program. For the most part, you don't work with the UI side if you are UX very much. Working alongside a UI designer would have been a great experience.
Things to consider before you decide
During the in-person phase of the program, I was putting in 70-80 hour weeks on projects. If you are not willing to put in the work you won't get a lot out of the program.
The program is also quite a bit longer than most. You have to commit to 6 months to complete the program. It is worth it, but you might want to look elsewhere if you want a quicker program.
From the amazing friendships I've made to the great job I have now it is safe to say attending Designation was the best decision, I've ever made. It was a lot of work, but worth every late night and early morning to get where I am now. If you are serious about starting a new career in UX and are willing to put in the work Designation is the best program out there for you.
In short Designation teaches you a process that gives you confidence in tackling the unknown. I came from an engineering background and was used to building things, and working through problems. The skills that I picked up during my enrollment in Designation have made how I build things, and how I solve problems more purposeful. To be more specific Designation explicitly taught me the process of how to create mobile and web applications, but they also teach you how that process can be applied successfully to nearly everything. Since then I've used the same process to confidently do anything from leading the art direction and writing the script for marketing videos, to developing key performance indicators that will monitor the health of a mobile application through a beta launch (both completely new experiences for me).
The programs immersive nature gives you opportunity to apply what you're learning in real time, with real people, and real problems - which is an invaluable. Now that I'm graduated, I find myself the member of an active Designation community, who continually help each other, whether it be through asking and answering questions, or provide leads and connections to new opportunities. It's really a wonderful community to be apart of.
If you are looking for a program to help you break into the UX/UI world, you cannot go wrong with Designation.
After working as a content writer in Chicago for a few years and hearing from my department's UX team that Designation was the way to go to learn UX, I decided to give it a try. Designation is broken into different phases, beginning with Design Essentials, a 6 week virtual introduction to UX and UI. The idea is that you pay a deposit for DE, take the course online (15-20 hours/week), then talk with your TA about whether the rest of Designation (which spans almost 6 months) is the right fit for you.
A few things to keep in mind: PLEASE do not take Designation Essentials UNLESS you are working <40 hours/week at your current job or your job is truly just so boring/easy that you can lock yourself in a conference room for hours during the day to complete your assignments. Further, you'll need a Macbook, access to a few softwares, and a lot of flexibility to get through these 6 weeks. I love user experience design, had been working with a UX team, was familiar with some of the concepts and work - and yet, it still took me FULL DAYS most weekends to complete the assignments, which build on one another, so if you mess up early on, you're playing catchup for the duration of your time in DE. Assignments are due multiple times a week, so if you work 9-5 and can't pull out your Macbook to very obviously work on design homework, you're probably SOL and won't be able to submit assignments on time. (I am a person who is always 3 days ahead of a deadline for anything, and yet, I was always behind at Designation.)
The good news: you will learn a TON in six weeks, including but not limited to doing user research, conducting a competitive analysis, creating wireframes, loading early hand-drawn prototypes into various prototyping tools (InVision, Marvel), creating style tiles (basically branding your app), plus more. Most of this is learned through hours and hours and HOURS of online videos from across the web, from real designers and researchers as well as YouTube designers.
I know what you're thinking, "but is this worth the money?" Yes. "Couldn't I just find all of that stuff on my own and teach myself?" No. Because when you're looking to jump into a new career, you don't have time to find all of this content, let ALONE learn it. I never had time during my 6 weeks to read every article or watch every video, but I have access to them all even after leaving the program. Your TAs and staff at Designation are truly passionate about helping people launch a career in ux/ui design, which means they answer Slacks and emails quickly and with flexibility.
I loved this program, and even though I ultimately determined the full 6 month course wasn't right for me at the time (I had just started a new job), I fully encourage people to sign up for Designation's DE and just give it a try. I am not a rich person, and yes it was an investment, but it felt like it was worth the money. I have never before taken an online class that didn't just feel like a joke. Designation is no joke.
2017, one year into my life as a Junior Architectural Designer, I was feeling extremely unsatisfied with the work I was doing. I felt as if I wasn’t making an impact on peoples lives and the work I was doing did not quench the itch I had to design conceptually, create, and problem solve. I had been mulling over transitioning out of Architecture for some time at this point, and after months of research plus some intro courses at a few boot camps, I made the pivot of a lifetime and couldn't be happier with where I am now. I owe an enormous debt to Designation, and could not have changed my life without them.
Why I Chose Designation
I discovered Designation through months of research and even took some intro courses at different programs to really test the waters before making a decision. Ultimately, the genuinely immersive program length and Designation's unique Client Phase—no other program pushed designers to work with real clients/startups— were key deciding factors that prompted me to take the leap. My potential program also needed to have a true studio culture and the energy and melting pot of knowledge that comes it. I believed that Designation was one of the few programs where I would find this, and needless to say, I was not disappointed!
The Staff: The staff at Designation is unbeatable. Passionate, caring, un-imaginably talented and hard-working, the leadership consistently worked to build the next generation of great designers. Throughout the entire program, there was a keen sense of care for each cohort member. Each teacher pushed us as a team and individual to be better than the day before.
Client Phase: By far the most significant differentiator compared to other boot camps. The experience gained by working with real startups, stakeholders and investors not only showed me the true power of design but helped prepared me for the professional world of UX/UI Design. Client Phase gave me a huge competitive edge during my interviews, and no amount of academic work can replicate the constraints, pivots, and hurdles of real-world projects—which become fantastic talking points during interviews!
Career Phase: This phase was the culmination of the entire program, and Mike Joosse—president of Designation—runs Career Phase at a level that pushes everyone to do better and be better. An incredible career coach and mentor, he works one on one with each cohort member to craft resumes, case studies, elevator pitches and portfolios that ultimately set you up for the highest amount of success. Mike cares about each and every designer that comes through Designation, and I couldn't speak more highly of him and the way he has structured Career Phase.
Network: Ever buzzing with the latest design news, job opportunities, and helpful hints and smiles, Designation's postgraduate network is always readily available to assist in any capacity. While not the only key to success, Designation's Alumni are a force to be reconned with and provide new grads with a great foundation that makes networking and job hunting that much less daunting.
Not enough focus on the interview process: While Career Phase and Mike do an incredible job of pushing designers to develop industry ready portfolios and case studies in a short period of time, there's a noticeable lack of interview prep. I was often blindsided by interview requirements such as whiteboard challenges and take home design challenges. There's so much focus on the portfolio, and just not enough on mock interviews and interview best practices and technique.
Not a high enough barrier to entry: While Design Essentials and the application interviews with staff are excellent filters, inevitably, your cohort might have a few people just not cut out for the design industry. Be it their inability to work with other people, attitude or lack of good design talent, there was someone who the entire cohort dreaded working with. I understand Designation is a business at the end of the day, but I wish there were a more extensive filter at the beginning of the program to ensure that people who see design an "easy way out" (to money or happiness) don't make it through.
At the end of the day, Designation was an incredible part of my life. The staff, my cohort, and the environment helped me grow as a designer and as a person, and there is no better way to transition into the UX/UI world. I learned an unbelievable amount and formed relationships to last a lifetime. I would recommend the program to anyone!
Designation was absolutely crucial to me getting my foot in the door. After the program, I got 4 interviews out of ~20 applications and my first offer as a UI/UX designer about 2 months out. It's a very thorough program that is focused on developing one's design process and gaining hands-on experience working with clients. It never felt like I was being pushed to just make artifacts for the sake of making pretty things to show in a portfolio. Every deliverable I made added to my portfolio's narrative and demonstrated my own design process. The 24 weeks was worth it in helping me create a design portfolio from scratch and having the language necessary for UI/UX job interviews
During the on-site experience, especially the really tough immersion project, it was a 70 hour work week with a few all-nighters. All the instructors were great at being guard rails against failure, but they often felt hands-off unless asked to. During the client projects, my team was given a lot of freedom to dictate the flow of the project. I think that was the most important aspect I talked about in my interviews: not so much about any particular design concept, but about working with clients, facilitating discussions, managing expectations, and developing your design process. The client projects ended up being the real meat of the experience, and they gave me enough confidence to do freelance projects apart from the program.
Designation has ups and downs. Their network is mostly in Chicago. I was looking for a position on the east coast, so it felt more difficult for me to access that network once I was out of the program. For me personally, the job assistance felt rather lacking. Also, one thing that helped me get my offer was doing a personal project outside of the program. This was necessary to demonstrate my passion for design beyond the program. Designation currently does not officially offer any assistance in helping designers find valuable side-projects, but once I had one, my mentors were very supportive. So yeah, expect long hours, a kinda lackluster job assistance experience if you're looking outside of Chicago, and the possible need to take personal initiative to do a side-project in addition to the main program.
As an indicator of my satisfaction with my experience, since the couple months I've been out, I have felt comfortable enough to mentor a new designer in doing a side-project and developing their own portfolio.
Overall, I would definitely recommend Designation to friends as a great place to get your foot in the door for design and meet and work with wonderful people. They do a damn fine job if you're able to handle a 70 hour/week workload and be okay with not having everything handed to you. My only real suggestion for the program would be to work on developing a network outside of Chicago.
Overview. Like all things you do in life, Designation is what you make it of it. If you put in the work and use the resources provided, this program can change your life. It is intense, challenging, and satisfying. I came out of this program a different professional person and a more reflective human. I loved my time in the program, most of the people I met, and everyone that works at Designation.
* In-depth curriculum and working knowledge of design prepares you for application in a job setting
* Well versed and supportive staff members that really care about designers success
* Client projects that give you real portfolio pieces
* Work-like style of in-person phase
If you are serious about making a career change and are ready to work your ass off and embrace loving it, then Designation IS for you. You will lose most of your social life, but if you care about design, you’ll likely fall in love with working as hard as you do during your time here and it can be a valuable experience. I couldn’t be happier with my choice to attend. I was able to change careers, grow as a human being, and made a lot of life-long friends in the process.
Choosing a Program. I choose Designation because as a career switcher if I was going to make the jump I wanted to do it at 150%. Designation is the longest and most specialized I looked at and gave real client experience in a small community setting. I couldn’t be happier with my choice to attend and feel confident in my decision.
Overall Curriculum. Designation is 24 weeks long, a mix of virtual and in-person, which I thought was beneficial to learning and then focusing on applying skills. They have great curriculum online if you take the time to read it. The in-time focuses on applying your skills and soft-skill development where you will work closely in teams and with real clients. You end the program with an in-depth career phase to help you set yourself up for success. They are constantly improving and looking for feedback on how things can be better, which I found to be a strength of the program.
UX vs. UI. You have to choose UX or UI after 6 weeks, which I had a very hard time with. I felt pressure to choose UX based on the advertising and curriculum but ended up choosing UI. A lot of people told me I would be better served to do UX, but I actually don’t think this is true now for where I came from and what I want to do. UI forced me to learn in a completely different way and really pushed me out of my comfort zone to learn something (visual design) that I think would have been much harder to do on my own. I knew that I wanted to do Product Design, which has elements of both UX and UI. My background was all in research and jobs that required critical thinking, so I felt more comfortable with the UX, which is why I choose UI. I think visual design is harder to learn, or it was for me personally, and I feel confident it would have been harder for me to get the job I did having chosen UX.
Also, due to the way in which the design process works, if you do UI, you are inherently involved with some UX changes in all of your projects, which allows you to have a little bit of both UX/UI in your portfolio. I feel as though I got a little more experience on both sides of UX and UI due to this.
Time Commitment. The in-person phase is very intense. They say 10-12 hours a day, but I put in closer to 15-18. I believe this allowed me to make a real change and improve in the way that I personally needed to as a designer. I don’t necessarily advise other people to do this, but I moved from another city for the program so I didn’t have any other asks on my time. I will say that I think it paid off afterward and showed me that if you can work that hard towards something, be exhausted, but still be happy to get up the next morning, then you’ve probably made the right choice. You can do anything for 12 weeks, but if this type of intensity (at least 10 hours a day), then I might look elsewhere.
People. As a growing startup, they cannot be as selective in who they let in. They work to help people of ALL backgrounds move into design, which is a strength, but with this can come people with differing levels of commitment and work ethic. You may have people in your cohort who are difficult to work with or simply burn out, and to ensure it doesn’t negatively impact your work, you may have to carry their weight. I was also lucky enough to work with some incredibly hard working people too and made a lot of life-long friends. It goes both ways.
Networking. Take advantage of the networking. I moved back to SF and thankfully had a large network here, which helped me immensely in my job search. Utilize the network you gain access to during the program as well as the guest speakers, and if you are moving elsewhere, start reaching out to people in those cities during the program.
Getting a job. It took me 3 months to get a job, while I continued to work at Designation as a DIR. That is another thing that Designation doesn’t really hype up, but if you work hard and are a good communicator/collaborator, there is a chance you’ll be asked to stay on for 3 months in a paid position. It was a good fit for me, as a previous teacher, and I really enjoyed giving back to the program, learning more about UX/UI, and working with all of the staff for three months. It also gave me a nice window to work on my portfolio without stress. I think this is another huge advantage for Designation. I interviewed at three companies before landing my job and felt very prepared from all of my time at Designation. I will say that I was rejected without interview from probably another 10 or so jobs, so that is why the networking is so important—it helps get someone to actually look at your resume and consider you.
My Background: Prior to Designation I worked as a Project Manager in a completely non-related field to design, which is to say that I'm a career switcher and I was quite hesitant to do so in the beginning since I had to quit my job and take a leap of faith.
The Program: The structure of the bootcamp is setup so that you’re initially exposed to the entire process of designing a digital product to get a sense of what UX and UI (separately). You're expected to pick either one to move forward in the curriculum after the introductory virtual course.
I personally struggled with the decision between UX or UI and would've liked to be a multidisciplinary designer (or maybe a major and minor kinda thing) but chose to move forward with UX since it was a better fit for my background and knew my odds of getting a job as a UX Designer would be better. Also, as you proceed in the program, there isn't any exchange of knowledge between UX and UI folks and it's something that I personally would've liked.
Looking back at the entire experience, I think it helps if you know what kind of work environment and prospects you're seeking i.e. small vs. big (company), startup vs. enterprise, hybrid vs. specialized (role). I would say talk to as many people in the field as you can to figure out what works best for you.
The one aspect that I can't stress enough about is the importance of networking! Designation does a good job of bringing in guest speakers from the industry (some of whom are former Designation grads) to share their experience but the onus is on the individuals to go to meetup events and industry events outside of the curriculum. It definitely helps knowing designers in the field once you've completed the program and are looking for jobs. Designation also has a strong alumni network and quite a few people that I've spoken with have gotten jobs because they were referred to by other grads of the bootcamp. (speaks to the strength of the program)
The in-person phase of the program was definitely the most challenging since most of us aren't used to working 10-12 hours a day but I got accustomed to it after the first week and it was definitely the best part of the program. You get a chance to work directly with entrepreneurs and you’ll be presenting your work in weekly Sprints; I definitely got a lot better at presentations and public speaking through these. Designation does a good job of vetting the clients but they were a couple instances where the clients either weren’t as serious about their project and it was a slight bummer since all the designers wanted feedback from their clients to move the project forward.
Most of the people in the program that get to the in-person phase are absolutely committed to the cause, however there are some who slip through the cracks that just want to do the bare minimum and it's ultimately up to you to either drive the process or bring it to your creative lead's attention for the sake of the project.
The most challenging part of the curriculum for me was the career phase. You're expected to finish a lot of work in a very constrained time frame and I know that none of the people from my cohort were able to get most of the work done within this timeframe. You do have access to Mike who’s a valuable resource in not only providing you with feedback about your portfolio and resume but will also help you navigate the job market by putting you in touch with the right people!
It took me roughly 6 months to get a job after the program and it was quite challenging to get interviews in the first few months after the program. Even though the program says that it takes 3-6 months on average to get your first job, be prepared for the worst case scenario. I feel like it is a combination of a lot of factors that leads to anyone eventually getting an offer; I know some designers from my cohort that got a job a month after and some that still don’t have anything solid. Try to take on freelancing and contracting gigs in the meantime since this will be your ammunition when you go into interviews. In my experience a lot of employers/recruiters want to hear about what you’ve been doing after the program.
In the end, I will say that Designation is a solid program and I was able to switch careers to do something I find challenging and fun! Be real with yourself and assess your strengths and weaknesses before the program...just going through the program is not going to magically present you with a job. Be prepared to say goodbye to your social life for the duration of the program since you’ll be putting in 10-12 hours of work daily. Everyone in the faculty will absolutely help you get to the point where you have the best shot at becoming a designer and finding a job and you will also make some really great friends along the way!
One year ago, I was feeling super unmotivated and defeated at my current position at a family business. It had been two years since finishing undergrad with a degree in Psychology, and I knew I was meant for more. I didn’t think it was possible to find a career that would align my passions for psychology, art, and helping people until a friend encouraged me to look into UX/UI. I did as much research as I could on UX/UI as well as numerous programs, and it was clear that Designation was the best choice because of everything it offered.
A year ago, I had no idea what UX/UI even was. Now, I’m a UI Visual Designer at a great company, and I’m confident I could not have reached this point without Designation and the people I met along the way.
Why I Chose Designation
I believed Designation was the right choice for me after doing extensive research on other UX/UI programs and weighing out what they offered. What drew me to Designation was the immersion and client phases it offered to gain real-life design experience with real clients and collaborating with others. What also helped me choose Designation was the loan programs they offered through Climb Credit, which made it an easy to apply and take out a loan.
For the first 3 months during the virtual phase, I was able to juggle a full-time job with the design workload I had because of the flexibility of working for a family business. Design Essentials and the Virtual phase really set up and prepare you for what to expect in the Immersion phase. Instructors will teach the basics of how to use design tools, but it is really up to you to self-teach and master them.
The Immersion phase consists of a mock project and two client projects with small groups, which require a LOT of work. You will learn your own design process while honing both soft and hard skills. No, it’s not easy, but it is so worth it. The creative directors, designers-in-residence (DIR), instructors, speakers, and cohort mates truly make it one of the best and unique experiences you will ever have. They are some of the best people I’ve ever met!
Career Phase/Post Graduation
During this phase, you will work with Mike Joose, who is the president of Designation and also handles the career phase. He will help you write and edit resumes, Linkedin profiles, case studies, cover letters, portfolios, etc., but most importantly, he will help connect you with clients and companies if you continue to stay in contact with him and show effort in the job searching process. He helped me get a short contract position right after graduating and continued to send my portfolio and contact information over to companies and recruiters until I found the best job match. He is the best resource you will have coming out of Designation.
Designation was one of the most rewarding, fun, and best learning experiences I’ve ever had. There is truly no other program like it, and that is why it draws people in from all over the world. You learn to work harder than you ever have before and meet the best people along the way. If you want to get into the UX/UI field, I highly recommend it!
Long story short: If I can change careers, you can too. Designation is worth it, and you get what you put into it. It was easily the best career move I've ever made, hands-down.
I won't go into crazy detail about the curriculum, but I can touch on my personal experience and why I chose Designation. I was in logistics sales for 2.5 years, not crazy about it, and wanted to do something more creative. Obviously, I didn't have the skillset to make it in design, so I did my research and found that Designation was highly-recommended by family and friends in the industry.
Holy cow, was it a lot of work but 150% worth it. The early phases worked with my work schedule. These virtual phases were excellent for grasping the broader concepts of UX, and the instructors were incredible. They taught me that all feedback is useful, and the in's and out's of the design process.
For me, the best part of Designation was the in-person phases. Meeting the creative individuals I had only known virtually was a lot of fun, and everyone was extremely passionate. Collaborating with these different designers was really fun, and really drove me to think outside the box. This was also where I got the most hands-on experience with my technical skills, which I drastically lacked. We worked with real clients, designing real products, and I built out a solid portfolio. Yeah, late nights and some weekends, but so what? I was completely changing the direction of my professional career in less than 6 months!
The final phase preps you for the job-hunt, and what to expect when looking for jobs in design. This was also extremely useful for someone like me who had to explain why I changed careers, and why that company should hire someone with only a bootcamp under their belt. Fortunately for me now, I have a substantial amount of technical skills and professional experience, all thanks to my time in Designation.
All in all, I went from a Joe Schmo who could only operate Microsoft Paint, and now I have a job as a visual designer at a major pharmacy company. The time, effort, and enthusiasm I put into Designation definitely paid off.
When I first heard about Designation, I was a mechanical engineer without a background in design. I wasn’t sure if I had the skill or creativity to be successful in UX design, but once I decided to switch careers and pursue a career in technology and design, I knew Designation was the best option for me. They provide the most education for their price (24 weeks is a long time!) and offer real client experience, which is crucial when getting your first UX/UI design job.
I used their 6-week prerequisite course, Design Essentials, as a litmus test to determine whether I’d actually enjoy the Designation and UX design. I fell in love with the process during this phase, and I was excited to go through the rest of the program.
After completing Designation, I spent about a month working on my portfolio. I was hired as a short-term contractor about 1.5 months after graduation. Two months later, I started my full-time role as a UX designer for another company.
What I liked about Designation:
The staff are incredible and do as much as they can to help designers succeed. They truly believe in educating the next generation of effective, workplace-ready professionals. They not only teach us how to iterate, but also look for improvements in their own curriculum. This willingness to change and try new ideas helps this program stay ahead of its competitors.
Perhaps the biggest stigma against bootcamp graduates is that they only have academic projects that don’t reflect working experience. Designation directly combats this stigma with not only one, but TWO client projects. I regularly discussed these projects with prospective employers, who were generally glad to know I’d worked with real businesses.
A lot of interview questions ask you about your working style and any problems you’ve overcome working in groups. Each Designation cohort is fairly small (mine was 16 people), so there’s a lot of room for collaboration. With each project, I learned to effectively work with others, and I learned a lot about my own working style as well. This program cultivates an environment that’ll develop your soft skills, yet another factor that prepares you for a great career in design.
Designation ends with two weeks of career material. Mike, the President and career counselor of Designation, walks you through everything you need to know about the UX/UI design job hunt. He often reiterates that it’s not enough to be good at design—you also need to be good at selling it. He’s the greatest career resource, and with his help, I created a portfolio that received a lot of positive feedback throughout my job hunt. He also keeps Designation graduates accountable until they find a job. You won’t find career support like this anywhere else.
At the end of the day, you get out of this program what you put in. The staff at Designation make sure all their designers understand that. As you can guess from other reviews, the program is tough, but if you work hard and check your ego at the door, you’ll find it incredibly rewarding as well
There are plenty of reviews here that go into detail about the Designation curriculum and experience, so I don't want to go too deeply into those topics. What you're signing up for is an opportunity for a new, kickass career and a set of tools.
Designation will provide you with all the learning resources you need to get started as a designer, an incredibly knowledgeable and friendly community, and a chance to apply what you learn in a safe environment (it's seriously hard to screw up and you might need to do some self examination on whether this is the thing for you if you do). What you get out of it is ultimately up to you.
The only drawback was the lack of repetition on using certain programs like Axure, which is more related to the nature of tight timeframes in a bootcamp.
The most valuable part of Designation is the client phase projects where you get to work with real clients (which is critical for creating a portfolio that stands out. Make sure you take thorough notes during the client phase for your portfolio case studies. This will save you time and help you as you begin preparing for the job hunting process.) and the career phase where you get to work with Mike, who is an incredibly helpful individual. That man will fight for you.
For me, Designation was hands down one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life. It widened my perspective on things that go way beyond just UX and design. I made life long friendships, leveled up professionally, and was able to better envision what it is I need to do to become a strong designer.
What that means is I was exposed to a variety of scenarios and able to closely collaborate with all sorts of people in a short amount of time, which allowed me to fully understand and confirm my own professional strengths and weaknesses. That in turn was key to presenting and branding myself to companies as I job hunted.
Many people are nervous about that job hunting portion but if you understand what you're good at and not so good at, it saves a lot of headache in terms of your optimizing your strategy and maximizing your chances of getting the right job for yourself. Mike Joosee will help you a lot with this in the career phase.
So my biggest piece of advice to get the full value out of Designation is:
1. Decide why you want to join a UX bootcamp
2. Familiarize yourself with the curriculum and what they are presenting to you
3. Create clear objectives for what you want to get out of each phase
4. Work HARD
5. Take advantage of all the networking opportunities and get to know your fellow designers as the cool people they are
Bottom line: Take an active approach. Do not be passive. You're here to make a career transition into a profession that you actually like. Use Designation as a practice round and confidence builder.
From self-taught designer to UX design career with Designation. With passion, a lot of hard work and genuine curiosity; designation can help you transition too.
Since I have a non-traditional education path I want to preface this review for others who may have a similar path.
Growing up I self-learned design tools and always had a passion for solving problems. As I started pursuing a BA in Graphic Design I realized it wasn’t what I was searching for. I soon dropped out and working as a Production Designer. Four years later I discovered a place for my passions with UX and debated on how to pursue a career. I looked at HCI programs, CS programs, and bootcamps. After a long debate, speaking to some grads and visiting both Designation and another bootcamp program I decide to go with Designation and I can now say am happy I did.
Is a bootcamp program right for you?
Coming from a non-traditional education path this was my biggest question before starting Designation. The short answer is: if you are dedicated, passionate, and have a genuine curiosity for design and UX this program can get you to where you need to be to land a job. With that said, before I started Designation I tried to teach myself UX as must as I could, read a few books, went to a workshop, listened to podcasts and I would suggest you do the same. As Designation is a big commitment in many ways(financial, time, life), this insures you are passionate about the industry before diving in. A career isn’t handed to you at the end of the program, this program is tough. It takes commitment and you will have to put in long days and drop your social and personal life for months. You get what you put into Designation and this program isn't for everyone.
As some of the reviews may mention the barrier entry can be seen as low, I believe this is due in part to the fact that if a student has a true passion for UX and design they will succeed. Sometimes that passion is hard to see externally, but if you have the passion, don’t be scared to take it to the next level with Designation.
Program Structure and curriculum
One of the factors that caused me to chose Designation was the length of the program. As it is longer than most other bootcamps added to the fact that UX and UI are split, allows you to cover more content and repeat the process enough times that you can start to form your own views and toolkit. Having phases online before the in-person portion of the program begins allows you to do the bulk of the learning of processes and deliverables before diving in. This allows you to take full advantage of the valuable three months in person applying the design process over and over. This is what I think was most valuable to me at Designation as by the time we reached client phase of the program not only does it teach you how to interface with real stakeholders and refine your soft skills but client phases also gave you and your team the autonomy to make your own decisions about the best processes and deliverables to address the business problems. During this time in person you also learn many soft skills crucial to being a successful designer. From presenting and telling compelling stories to employing empathy towards your team, client and of course the user.
Job placement and career readiness
In career phase of the program, you are assisted in creating all your career materials such as resume, portfolio, cover letters, and more. Here you also learn tips on finding a job and different types of companies and roles. Some have an easier time than others finding a job, as it can all come down to time and place. For me it took about 5 months, during this time I was refining my portfolio, keeping my mind sharp by learning every day, going to events and meeting with people for coffee. You will most likely need to network, meet people, get referrals. Reach out to other designers, people you saw present at Designation, alum, take advantage of programs like AIGA’s mentorship program(how I made my connection to my job) and just meet people. The design community is welcoming and most people are happy to help as many helped them too. Due to when my cohort finished the program, towards the end of the year, the beginning of my search was a little slow but as soon as one interview came 3 more followed soon after and I was soon employed as a UX Designer.
In my current role, I feel confident and capable to handle the projects I have been given. As the field is large and every job is different it's no surprise that Designation can't teach you everything you will ever need in your career. But that is also the beauty of the industry, stuff keeps changing and we keep learning. What Designation does give you are the fundamentals to be successful in the industry.
Staff and cohort members
All the staff at Designation are awesome. Everyone is super approachable and willing to help. If you show effort they will show you respect. The creative directors especially in the client phase they are awesome resources to bounce ideas off of and truly feel part of the team.
Your cohort will become like your family for a few months. But also being stuck around with people 10 hrs a day tension can also build and everyone might not get along, you learn to work through these situations too. At the end of the day a room full of like-minded individuals all taking the same leap as you, you will grow close with some. I can truly say I made a few lifelong friends.
Feel free to contact me if you would like to chat with an Alum or have a similar background and want to learn more about my experience!