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 4.8
Recent Designation News
- 2018 End of Year Coding Bootcamp Podcast
- Campus Spotlight: Designation, WeWork Chicago
- November 2017 Coding Bootcamp News + Podcast
- Digital Marketing, Design, Product Management, Mobile, User Experience Design
In PersonPart Time20 Hours/week5 Weeks
Start Date Rolling Start Date Cost $1,000 Class size N/A Location OnlineLearn 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.
Deposit $1000 FinancingSkills Fund
Minimum Skill Level Beginner Placement Test No Interview No
- Digital Marketing, Design, Product Management, Mobile, User Experience Design
In PersonFull Time70 Hours/week
Start Date Rolling Start Date Cost $15,800 Class size N/A Location ChicagoThe 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.
Deposit N/A FinancingClimb, Pave, Skill Fund
Minimum Skill Level Design Essentials is a required pre-requisite for this course for students without prior professional design experience. Placement Test No Interview Yes
- Digital Marketing, Design, Product Management, Mobile, User Experience Design
In PersonFull Time70 Hours/week17 Weeks
Start Date None scheduled Cost $15,800 Class size 24 Location ChicagoTake 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.
Deposit N/A FinancingClimb, Pave, Skill Fund
Minimum Skill Level Design Essentials is a required pre-requisite for this course for students without prior professional design experience. Placement Test No Interview Yes
115 reviews sorted by:
- Life changing experience to a new career- 3/29/2018Corey Swimmer • UX Designer • Graduate • Course: UX Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
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!
- Intense, but Amazing Experience- 3/26/2018Nat • UX Designer • Graduate • Course: UX Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
Designation is a highly intense program that's not for those looking for a easy career transition. However, as many reviews on here have already stated...you get out of it as much as you put into it, and it will absolutely get you results if you put in the work and push yourself.
The curriculum is broken out into three sections of varying length, with the first two sections being through a virtual classroom and class session held through video chat. The third section is four months, working roughly 70+ hours a week onsite at Designation's location in Chicago; the last two weeks dedicated to preparing your portfolio. After the first section (which exposes you to both UI + UX), you are required to chose either the UX or UI path, and then spend the rest of the program specializing in your path.
The general experience is an extremely hands-on curriculum; it's all project based learning (with supplemental readings during the first two phases) so this is great news if you're a tactile learner (as I am). The instructors and online curriculum also provide alot of additional supplemental material if you are interested in exploring a certain topic more on your own. Do be warned that due to it's project-based structure, the entirety of the last two phases require that you work extremely close with a team of two-four people over several weeks. So if you're not a people-person, be prepared to either stretch that muscle or consider other bootcamp options. That being said, I made some very close friends during the program + my cohort lot's of good times together; so again, the experience is all that you make it :)
I did a ton of research on the pros and cons of different tech bootcamp and graduate school options before chosing Designation, so I'm pretty confident when I say that Designation was definitely the right choice. The top things that make Designation stand apart from other tech bootcamps, would be the 1) personalization, 2) client work, and 3) career assistance.
Personalization - by this I mean the amount of personal attention that you get during the program. The cohort class sizes are really small (there were 10 UX'ers and 8 UI'ers in my cohort) by the time you get to the in-person phase, which means a lot of one-on-one check-ins with instructors and feedback on how you can improve. This is also extremely helpful during the career phase when you get your case studies, resume, and entire portfolio reviewed (more than once) with feedback.
Client work - I believe that a few other bootcamps also use project based learning as a curriculum method, but I'm pretty sure that none have projects that involve working on products for real clients. During the in-person, on-site phase you work with start-ups or businesses to further develop their products. This is an invaluable experience that allows you get experience working with clients (adding them to the equation changes things more than you would realize), have tangible "real-world" products in your portfolio, and network with professionals.
Career assistance - the best part about Designation is hands down the career assistance and almuni network after you graduate. The career portion is also the most intense part of the program (you'll be building out your entire portfolio in two weeks), but also the most rewarding as you walk out of Designation ready to start applying for jobs. On top of being coached on how to build a portfolio, write your case studies, design a resume, and navigate the job hunting process in general, you also get continual support up until the moment you get your first job. Job hunting is intense, but Mike Joose (amazing resource and support system) and the Designation network give you countless resources.
One thing that I think the program could improve, would be to encourage better exposure to areas of tech + design that aren't in your chosen focus - i.e exposure to some basic UI skills for UX designers or UX skills for UI designers, and a general exposure to some coding basics for both. Since tech teams in the professional world blend together a lot of different team members with different role types, I think that it would have been useful to get a little bit of exposure/context to other roles outside of my UX discipline. However, this is easily supplemented if your motivated enough to ask for the right resources + put in some of your own time.
Generally, the experience I gained through the program translated seamlessly when I started working in a professional design environment - I felt very prepared to handle a role as the primary designer on projects when I started work at a professional design agency.
Overall, Designation was one of the most intense and rewarding programs that I've ever experience. I left it with a completely new set of skills, a new career, and a few incredible new friends. This program is highly intense, but absolutely worth it at the end. You'll be pleasantly surprised and amazed at how far you've come :)
- Best decision of 2017!- 3/24/2018Mary B • UX Strategist • Graduate • Course: UX Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedInThe short and sweetDesignation is pretty fantastic. It’s probably not for you if you don’t know why you want to switch to a design career or are not ready for 6 months of intense, and sometimes grueling work. However, if you are ready to make the commitment, Designation will provide the resources and framework you need to successfully transition into a UX or UI career. You get out what you put into the program as many other reviewers have mentioned.My backgroundPrior to DES I worked in a variety of operations & marketing roles within the tech and e-commerce space for ~7 years. I had absolutely no training in any design field. I never thought I would embark on a career in the creative or design industry. After going through a minor quarter-life crisis and ALOT of research, I decided to pursue a career in UX. I realized I wanted to build products that delighted users instead of presentation decks for clients (I still do this a little bit but only to show what we’ve built!) I wanted to talk to real people about their frustrations and needs and find a solution for them.I chose Designation over other programs for a few different reasons:- At 6 months, Designation was the longest program so I thought I was getting the best value without making a two-year commitment.- It was based in Chicago and allowed me to move to a new city (I was previously in NJ and working in NYC.- The admissions staff was incredibly helpful. They also put me in touch with 2 alumni who I spoke with to confirm if the program was right for me.I started my journey in January 2017 and graduated from the Yucca cohort in July 2017. I had the opportunity to stay and work with Designation for 3 months after I graduated which helped reinforce everything I had learned up to that point. I have been happily employed as a UX Strategist at super cool mobile app agency in Chicago since October 2017. I continue to TA for Design Essentials, the introductory course into Designation to stay involved with the program and community of designers.A quick overview of each phaseDesign Essentials: DE is a great, thorough introduction to the basics of UX and UI design. I was able to make a confident decision that UX was the right choice for me after DE.Virtual Phase: My advice- do not work during virtual phase! The amount of work ramps up very quickly during Virtual and it’s difficult to manage if you continue to work.Immersion Phase: Immersion is exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. You hit the ground running VERY quickly when you get to the WeWork space in Chicago. It’s also the first time you meet your cohort mates in person which is awesome. It takes a bit of time getting used to the 70+ hr work week but you will survive and it is worth it.Client Phase: Client phase is a huge differentiator for Designation and sets it apart from other design programs. You put everything that you’ve learned into practice for real clients. I also appreciate that you get to work with mainly startups and non-profits in Chicago.It’s rewarding to know that you are making n positive impact in the community through your DES projects.Career Phase: Career phase goes by within a blink of an eye but it's incredibly important for your success once the program ends. The reality starts to hit that graduation is approaching and now it’s on you (with resources from DES) to find your first design job.Best parts of the programCareer Preparation: I don’t think you will find better resources to jumpstart your career than you will at Designation. Designers spend two intense weeks learning how to craft case studies, "design” a resume that’s not a Word doc., how to speak to and present your work, what to expect in interviews and how to build a portfolio. You name it, Designation covers its. It’s by far one of the most valuable aspects of the entire course and very difficult to learn on your own. Hiring managers are often impressed with the quality and thoroughness of Designation graduates’ portfolios due to the material we cover in this phase.Peer Network: The peers in your cohort are amazing for a number of different reasons. First, they are your support system throughout the whole process. You learn, teach and grow together. Second, once you graduate they become one of the strongest parts of your network as you embark on your job search. I’ve made lifelong friends through Designation.Cohort size: The size of each cohort is intentionally small so that the staff can focus on providing a quality experience for the designers. I truly appreciate the effort the team puts in to keep this mentality alive year after year.The staff: I love the staff at Designation. They genuinely care about helping every designer succeed. They bring their A-game every day. You may not always like what they have to say but it’s ultimately for your benefit. Each instructor has a unique perspective they bring to their teaching style and I have learned something valuable from every one of them.Opportunities for the improvementNo school or course is perfect. What I appreciate about Designation is that they are always iterating on the program to make improvements and keep up with trends in design. They also take feedback from graduates very seriously. That being said, I have a few suggestions for how they can continue to offer the best educational experience for designers.Collaboration with UI designers: In my current role, I collaborate with a visual designer every day. We sketch, solve problems together, define interactions and present to clients together. We are a very close-knit team. I would have liked the opportunity to work more closely with UI designers throughout the course of the program in a structured way to get more experience with this way of working.Opportunities for continuing education: I would love for Designation to expand to offer classes, workshops, other educational opportunities to alumni. I think it would be a great way to continue learning and growing as a designer.Final thoughtsIf you are serious about pursuing a career in UX/UI design and are looking for the best way to transition, I truly believe that Designation provides that opportunity for each cohort of designers. The program pushes you, sometimes beyond your comfort zone but it it is worth it in the end.I have achieved exactly what I wanted out of this program. I have my dream job as a UX Strategist (combination research, strategy, and UXD role). When I started my job at Eight Bit in October, my training and onboarding were pretty slim. I was thrown into a project and expected to run with it and figure it out. Designation teaches you how to do just that…figure it out. I had the toolkit to get through my first project successfully and with little oversight. I’m very grateful for the way I was set up for success.
- You get what you put in- 3/14/2018Yitong Zhang • Product Designer • Student • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
My personal experience at Designation was very intense. I always made it a point to stay later than everyone else during weekdays and took half of Sunday to practice coding. I took advantage of the instructors, my peers and the general Chicago design community to improve my craft as much as possible. As a result, I had a lot of success coming out of the program. I had a strong portfolio that was picked up by a few online galleries and forums, where my eventual first employer reached out to me and made me an offer.
You can coast through the program doing only what is required. But the reality is that there are enough bootcamp grads out there competing for jobs, that you will likely not find anything by just being good enough. No bootcamp will magically make you a designer, but good bootcamps like DESIGNATION will act as a multiplier for the effort you put in.
- I landed my dream job within a year- 3/12/2018Mythili • UX Designer • Graduate • Course: UX Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
As someone who really wanted to break into the UX consulting world, Designation played a crucial role in not only teaching me the hard technical skills that were needed on the job, but more importantly the soft skills that are needed in a client facing/collaborative environment. The work I did with real clients and the obstacles I faced along the way ultimately prepared me to deal with unexpected curveballs that get thrown my way on the job.
Prior to joining Designation, I worked as an account manager at a small real estate firm and had little to no experience in design. I had always been interested in UX, mainly due to the fact that I had the opportunity to observe other UX designers work at my last job.
It’s been a year since I started Designation and I couldn’t be happier with where I’m at with my career. I knew pretty early on when I started the program that I wanted to be in a UX consulting role and the knowledge and opportunities Designation provided helped me get there.
Working with real clients: This is by far the one thing that sets Designation apart from the rest of the UX/UI design programs out there. My experience interacting with real stakeholders on their digital products gave me a competitive edge during my interviews. Companies want to see how you work in a real life environment, where real life obstacles will be thrown your way. Whenever my team and I were hit with an unexpected hurdle from the client’s end, our creative director would always joke that this would make great interview material. She was 100% right. Interviewers were way more interested to hear what went wrong and how I worked with others to resolve the problem.
Career services: Mike Joosse is an excellent career coach because he doesn’t just give you general advice about job searching, but he also helps you hone in on what exactly you want out of your next career. (In-house vs. consultancy, big company vs. small company, etc.) After expressing that I wanted to be in a consulting role, I was matched with a Designation alum who was a UX Consultant so that I could get advice specific to that field. Mike truly cares about tailoring his career services to your goals.
A strong network: One of Designation’s greatest assets is its alumni. The job hunting process can be daunting, especially when you’re trying to transition into a new industry. Many of the Designation alumni have a strong “pay-it-forward” mentality which really helps pave the way for incoming designers in the program and helps you feel more at ease if you’re breaking into design. Of course, I still found it necessary to network, but it was a wonderful foundation to start with and made networking a whole lot easier.
Areas for improvement
More collaboration between UX and UI: After Design Essentials, I had to choose between the UX and UI track. I chose UX. During our client projects, I worked strictly with UX designers and was kind of isolated from the work the UI track was doing. At my current job, I work on a team with a diverse set of backgrounds (UI designers, art directors, content strategists, etc.) I only work with one other UX designer. I definitely think I would have been better prepared for my job if I had the opportunity to work with my fellow cohort members in the UI track on projects.
Focusing on the job searching process more: Although the career phase was incredibly valuable, it’s all crammed into two weeks which can be overwhelming. Mike does a great job at organizing a timeline of the things you need to get done and he also makes time for your post graduation if you need additional coaching. However, I think there is a much greater focus on the portfolio and not enough on applying and interviewing. I did find myself overwhelmed the first month because I didn’t feel entirely prepared to interview with companies.
Designation is not a one way ticket to a new career. To put it simply, once you join the program it will take over your life. If you truly want to get the most out of the program, be prepared to work 12 hour days, 5-6 days a week. As you can imagine, this does require you to put other aspects of your life on hold. However, I know had it not been for Designation’s immersive (sometimes intense) environment and the amount of hard work I put in, I certainly would not have landed my dream job. If you’re truly committed to building the foundation for a design career you’re passionate about, you’ll learn a ton, grow in unexpected ways, create lasting friendships, and it will definitely all be worth it.
- One of the most rewarding experiences- 3/9/2018Jane • User Experience Designer • Graduate • Course: UX Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
My timeline: I started Design Essentials in April 2017 and completed the Career Phase in October 2017. For a month after graduation, I did nothing but revise and complete my portfolio. After three months of active job hunting (A LOT of job applications, emails, networking, and interviews), I received an offer that I liked, and I began working at the end of February 2018. Now, I just finished my second week working as a User Experience Designer at a global consulting firm. This is my first position in my design career, and I couldn’t have done it without Designation.
My background: Prior to design, I was an art therapist and had worked for mostly not-for-profit organizations. After a few years of experience, I found myself burnt out and unfulfilled by the work.
How I decided on Designation: Design was a field I had always wanted to try but never got a chance to explore. Once I decided that I needed a career change, I looked into different types of design. As I learned more, I felt like UX/UI design would be a good fit where I’d be able to make use of both analytical and creative skills. To learn about design programs, I attended an info session that highlighted various tech boot camps including Designation. I had a friend who went through Designation already, and she had a lot of positive things to say about the program. I spoke with her extensively about her career change, read everything on Designation’s website, and read through each and every review I could find (on switchup, course report, quora). I made the decision after listening to and reading through first-hand accounts of designers’ experiences with Designation.
Phase 1: Design Essentials (6 weeks, ~20 hours a week)
This is a foundational course for those who has no experience with design. You have check-ins twice a week virtually to review design material and assignments. It’s a good introduction into UX and UI design, and at the end, you choose a track for the next phase of the program. Before starting this course, I was almost certain I would choose UI, but I found myself enjoying the UX material and assignments more. This course is a good way to dip your toes in design and to see if it’s something you want to explore further (you’re not committed to the whole boot camp at this point). Due to the small(er) time commitment, it’s definitely possible to complete this in addition to a full-time job, which was what I did.
The learning resources are varied—readings, videos, slide decks, podcasts, et cetera. When you submit assignments, graders review your work and give you feedback.
Pros: good introduction to UX/UI design, wealth of resources, critiques helpful (to begin developing an eye for good design)
Cons: my graders didn’t review my work in a timely manner (if you speak up about this, they’ll fix it)
Phase 2: Virtual Phase (6 weeks, ~40 hours a week)
Similar to Design Essentials, you have two virtual check-ins a week, but the material and assignments are specific to your track (UX or UI). You’re assigned a group and you work together on a project (from research and concepting to designing and validating). The assignments require more time and effort and groups often present to each other during check ins.
Pros: in-depth experience in your track, working in a group, going through an entire design thinking process
Cons: material wasn’t always the most organized, check ins weren’t always as detailed or deep as they could have been, expectations for assignments weren’t always clear
Phase 3: Project Phase (12 weeks, 70-80 hours a week / IN PERSON)
You finally get to interact with the staff and your cohort in person on site. While the other phases are more introductory and educational, the in-person phase is designing and working (as designers would work out in the field). It’s so much easier to work with teammates in person, and you’re fully immersed in the design process. There are guest speakers and workshops to supplement your experience. This phase is broken into sub phases: Immersion, First Client Phase, Second Client Phase, Career Phase.
Immersion (4 weeks)
You work on a new brief with your new teammates (they try to switch up groups to give you different work experiences). Immersion phase is the time get a more thorough understanding of the design steps and the processes. The Creative Director and Designers-in-Residence are heavily involved and give you a lot of helpful feedback. You’ll get a lot of practice with presentations.
First Client Phase (3 weeks) + Second Client Phase (3 weeks)
You work on real projects with real clients. This is one of the most valuable parts of the program because the stakes are higher and your designs can make a real difference. These phases are more self-directed; you and your teammates will have more ownership over the projects and designs. These are the projects you’ll talk about as your experience in your job interviews.
Career Phase (2 weeks)
This was one of my favorite parts of the program. While group work is an essential part of the other phases, in the career phase, you’re in charge of your own deliverables. You’ll get to synthesize on the work that you’ve done so far by writing case studies on your projects. You’re given direction, feedback, and support as you prepare various materials (portfolio, résumé, personal statement, et cetera) to start applying for jobs. You’ll also start to learn about the various ways UX/UI design could look like in different settings (hearing from past graduates and going on studio tours). It’s really exciting to tangibly see all the pieces come together; you’ll directly use everything in this phase for your job search. (Trust Mike!)
Pros: working as a group in-person, being able to devote this chunk of your life to design, getting so many opportunities to practice presentations, learning from other designers in your cohort, learning about how to get a job
Cons: 70-80 hour work weeks get exhausting
Time investment: 6 months of intensive experience helps you feel confident as a designer.
Staff: Everyone really cares about your development as a designer and is invested in helping you succeed. They are amazing resources and fun/knowledgeable human beings.
People: I love my cohort, and I still talk to a lot of them regularly. I didn’t expect to make friends, but I’m so glad I did.
Program: Everyone at Designation is constantly reflecting and iterating on the program. They are always interested in feedback, and they use it to make the curriculum, projects, and overall experience better and stronger.
Hard skills: You’ll get a lot of practice using different types of design software (I mostly used Sketch and Axure; now at my job, I use Axure).
Soft skills: If you're on the UX track, you'll be doing group work 24/7. You'll get practice fostering and navigating through work relationships.
Time investment: 6+ months is great for learning, but it’s a long time not working/having an income.
Financial burden: It is a bit pricey, but they have different payment/loan options available. I do definitely think it was worth it, though.
Last words: As everyone else has mentioned, it’s not easy. The program got grueling at times, but Designation has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. At first, I was extremely hesitant when deciding on this boot camp (time and financial investment, risk, uncertainty of future). However, I will say that if you put in the time and the work, it’ll pay off. You can work to make the time, money, efforts—the sacrifices—all worth it. As far as the job hunt, no one will hand you a job; you’ll have to continue to put in a lot of work. As long as you keep putting in the effort and are patient, you’ll find a position.
When I started Designation, I just expected to learn some hard skills so that I could land a job that I wouldn’t hate. However, thankfully, I received so much more—I rediscovered what it was like to experience joy in work, I expanded my network, I created lasting friendships, and I had a lot of fun all while becoming a designer.
- Qui • UX Designer • Graduate • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
At Designation, you all are truly allowed to design their next career if you put forth the effort.
Before Designation, I was a Relationship Manager at Bank of America. I had significant experience in finance and banking, but I also worked in other industries including healthcare and food retail. I also have a degree in sociology. Throughout all my positions across industries, they were all people and client facing, so I knew I had a love for customer service and client experience.
I was looking for an opportunity to challenge myself in a new way and I wanted to get out of sales. UX would allow me an opportunity to use my people's skills, inquisitive nature, and curious mind. After a series of Google searches, I found a couple of bootcamps. I was undecided between Springboard, General Assembly, and Designation. I chose to attend Designation because of the client phase. The opportunity to work with real clients and design digital solutions for real problems for me was invaluable. I knew having client experience would afford me more opportunities later and make me stand out among other applicants during my job search. No other program offered client facing projects.
Unforgettable and transformative are two words to describe my experience there. The in-person phase called for 70-80 hours per week, and it was intensive. But I loved what I was doing. The work wasn't work for me. I had finally found something that invigorated my soul. At times, working on a team of people with different and sometimes challenging personalities was difficult. The team dynamic played a huge role in the quality of work. Making a team contract and understanding your teammates preferable working styles, what makes them tick, and how they prefer to communicate especially when solving conflict made it easier to solve a conflict if ever there was an issue.
All in all, I learned a crap ton at Designation. I truly felt prepared for a career in UX upon graduation. I didn’t have a technical background before Designation, but I found myself confident and reassured when looking for jobs because there’s no doubt they fully prepare prepared me. Long story short, I grew both professionally and personally and learning skills like how to work in teams or how to resolve conflict are skills I couldn’t have learned in an online program.
Designation tailored me for my new role as a UX Designer. It expanded my toolbox for everything I needed to begin my new career. My confidence soared and I am forever thankful and proud to call myself an alumna of Designation.
The only con is I wish I could've learned more UI to be interdisciplinary. Yet, I understand the industry is going in a direction of specialization, and I did get UI exposure, but I want to be a unicorn!!
- Pete Ziegel • Graduate • Course: UI Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
The in-person instruction, group collaboration, career counseling, and an opportunity to work with real clients attracted me to Designation. During my time there I acquired the experience that I have used to transition my career onto a more rewarding path. I also gained a valuable network of Designation peers, mentors, and friends.
Before Designation, I was working as a Graphic Designer doing mostly production work. I had a desire to move into a position where I could grow as a creative visual problem solver, but I lacked digital experience. In addition to my background in graphic design, I also had experience with illustration and fine art, so the UI track was a clear choice for me.
As a career transitioner, I was allowed to submit a portfolio for review and opt out of the first virtual phase of the program. I quit my job and joined my cohort in the second virtual part of the program. This part of the program is around 40 hours a week but there is a lot of material, and you could quickly add 10-15 hours to the work week by completing the supplemental reading and extra credit work. My instructor for this phase had a lot of industry experience and conducted beneficial feedback sessions and lectures.
The program ramps up in intensity for the next two in-person phases. There is a lot of team collaboration although UI designers do create individual design systems which will be critical for your portfolio and interviewing during the job search. There is also a substantial emphasis and instruction on conducting client presentations, and they were part of weekly sprints.
Some of the things specific to the UI track such as typography and color theory are hard to gain more than a necessary level of experience. That said, I saw many people in my cohort with no design background metamorphize into effective UI Designers.
The Designation staff makes an honest effort to improve the program and themselves from cohort to cohort. They conduct objective exit interviews with the designers and implement changes based on that feedback, sometimes immediately. The staff is very caring, and the small cohort sizes create a very close working relationship.
During the hunt for a job, I received positive responses to my new portfolio and resume. When writing cover letters and interviewing I utilized skills that I gained in the Career Phase. In the end, I found a good fit at a company who does exciting work and has values that align with mine.
It is a boot camp environment, and it can get intense, but I highly recommend the program if you have an honest interest in design and a strong work ethic. It's a commitment, but you will get out of it what you put in, and it can be life-changing.
- If you want a new career choose Designation- 11/7/2017Natasa • UI designer • Graduate • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
First little bit of my background. I'm coming from another country with the background in banking and accounting. I always had a passion for design, and in one moment in my life, I decided to work in a more creative world. I opened flower shop and gallery and learned how to make beautiful flower arrangement and that way make my customers happy and satisfied. When I moved to the USA, I continued to follow my passion but this time in the digital design. I spent a lot of months researching and learning about new trends in digital design, schools, and boot camps and finally found Designation.
Designation is a place where you can learn or improve your UI or UX skills in such a short time frame. For some people, seven months (twelve weeks virtual, ten weeks in-person and two weeks career phase) could sound as long time, but when you see yourself at the end of the program, you'll be impressed how many things you've learned for that time. During the Designation time flies, and every single day you can notice an improvement.
Whenever you're in doubt about your work, process, or struggling to finish something, there are your instructors or creative directors to help you. Their advice, feedback, and support are invaluable.
Designation is unique because there isn't another place where you can have and work for a real client. You'll have a chance to put your knowledge and effort to help someone to grow their business.
Once you start to build your portfolio and see how long way you've passed, how much improvement you've made, you'll be proud of yourself every day, every moment. This pleasure and indescribable pride the only Designation can provide.
Designation is a big family, and during this program, you'll make lifetime friendships. Your cohort peers will be your most significant support and resources.
I didn't have situation yet that I've mentioned Designation in front of someone from design world that haven't heard about Designation. Everyone admire Designation's program concept, and Designation's graduates are more than welcome in the design world.
Designation is a place where I changed my life. My journey through Designation was hard and very challenging due to my language barrier, but if someone asks me to do it all over again, I definitely would say yes.
- Literally. Changed. My. Life.- 11/5/2017Joshua • UX/UI Designer • Graduate • Course: UI Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
I'm going to preface this review with the fact that I am a) usually an optimist and try seeing everything as a learning opportunity, b) still processing the entire experience seven months out of the program, and c) had literally no design experience prior to Designation, so I won't be able to compare the workload/experience/lessons to anything (job or boot camp-wise) "in the industry." I'm about a month into my new job, so my feelings about it can and will obviously change the more I go deeper into this field.
- For someone who had no previous UX/UI OR design experience, this program is great at introducing you to ideas, methodologies, techniques, approaches, etc. I can genuinely say I learned more about UX and UI (I focused on UI while there).
- Working in 1871 immerses you in Chicago's tech industry. If you've never been part of this field, you get a super focused view of what the startup and tech world is like, and you're usually working just feet away from another boot camp member or a techie or a startup. Everyone is more than likely excited to talk about what they're doing in 1871.
- You get actual client experience. Client phase was my favorite primarily because you apply everything you've learned to real businesses looking for design work. Interviewers will most likely look for this kind of experience and what you were able to create and learn from these sprints.
- Each cohort is a diverse cast with differing work styles and strengths and weaknesses. You'll work with a good number of your classmates, and you'll work well with some, and not well with others. If you remind yourself that this is what the real working world is like and that there's something to learn from everyone, you'll be more level-headed throughout the experience and your career.
- There's a large emphasis on presentations. As someone who is naturally anxious in presenting, I've gotten super comfortable with talking and defending my designs.
- You have access to a growing network of alumni, future and current students, and mentors. There's always someone to connect you to the right person, be it a user tester, potential employer, or professional connection.
Areas of improvement:
- Each phase tends to weed out more students; by the time you get to Immersion phase, the students who are in it are the ones who are (I believe) the most committed to making a career out of UX/UI. The earlier phases tend to be full of a hodgepodge of people who are figuring out if this is for them (which is great) and people who are just not committed to it. The program could be more selective to ensure committed students work with committed students.
- You sadly have to choose to focus on either UX or UI for the majority of the program. I understand the idea behind investing in one field to really learn that process, but there are a lot of opportunities to integrate UX designers with UI designers throughout the program instead of feeling like there are two classes who happen to work in the same office space.
- Career phase could be a six-week experience that emphasizes collaboration from outside of Designation. You'll spend a lot of time typing and assembling your previous work as coherent case studies, which is itself super satisfying. I admittedly didn't take advantage of the career phase resources (huge shoutout to Mike Joosse) post-graduation, I do feel like I learned a lot about the application process and case study creation/design from people and mentors outside of the Designation bubble that tend to get lost in those final two weeks.
Overall: You get what you put into it. I cannot emphasize this enough. As someone without prior design experience (I worked in customer support for four years and desperately needed a career change), I wanted to fully commit to learning as much as possible in the time I had with the program. This meant quitting my job for Virtual phase, and I have absolutely no regrets. I know other students who held their job through Virtual until Immersion phase. Know that you need to figure out what you want to get out of it, when you want to get it, and your financial situation. I'm the kind of person who'll fully invest time to understand and learn something thoroughly, and that meant a lot of social and financial sacrifices to make sure I read and understood and designed as much as I possibly could. I still am learning a ton, but I'm pretty sure that I'd be way behind in my job if I didn't fully commit to this program at every phase. This tends to show in your work, how you generate ideas, and how you present it.
As someone said in another review, this program is NOT EASY. It's a big time commitment, but you learn a lot about time management and being an efficient designer more than a detail-obsessed one.
Is Designation worth the experience? For me, yes. I'm doing something I absolutely love every day, which is miles away from what I was doing before. In the end, it really does depend on who you ask and what they took from the program. I tend to see that the most successful grads tend to be the more appreciative ones who were willing to learn something from everyone and realize the overall experience is just the start; you shouldn't expect to know everything once you graduate. You should keep learning more in your job and from people outside of the program.
THANK YOU DESIGNATION.
I came to Designation after working for 6 years in the advertising agency as a video editor and animator. After a few clients told me that I “think too much for this job”, I started looking for a job that encourages me to ask questions and really think about all aspects of the work. In less than 3 months after finishing Designation, I had several exciting job offers from very reputable companies (all of which paid significantly more than what I was making in advertising.) I recently took a job at a well-known consumer electronics company trying to revamp its entire approach to software/apps and I couldn’t be more excited to tackle this challenge.
Why Designation over General Assembly?
The genius of this program is that you work on REAL WORLD PROJECTS. At the end of the program, Mike Joose (our mentor during the career phase) told us to put Designation in the work experience section of our resume and not in education. During my interviews, I never used the word boot camp once. When asked about Designation, I pitched it as a “start-up that gave aspiring UX designers like myself a chance to cut their teeth on real-world projects and gave small cash-strapped start-ups the quality design help they needed but couldn’t pay for.” I can say hands down that pitching Designation in this way is what got me a senior level job that I have never heard of anyone getting right out of a boot camp like General Assembly. My piece of advice for Designation who be to lose the word “boot camp” entirely from their branding materials and instead use words like “apprenticeship” or “UX incubator” because that’s really what this program is (and calling it a boot camp actually makes it confusing for some recruiters).
If you want to have well-made presentations and more “academic” course materials, GA is definitely the way to go (or do a masters program). To be honest, a lot of the learning at designation is “click this link, read this article, watch this keynote, then do this exercise.” But if you want to get a non-entry level job, having the ability to say “this was a real project and you can go to the site right now” is crucial. For that reason alone, I think Designation is worth the investment.
Designation is a good fit for…
Individuals who have worked in a high-pressure work environment for at least a few years (especially if that’s in a project-based or creative field). There were a number of us who had worked in marketing, advertising, media, or just project management in general. As a whole, I found that this group really got the most out of Designation mainly because they were used to working very long hours and holding themselves accountable to hitting extremely tight deadlines.
Designation is not a good fit for…
For those people who hate their jobs and are just looking for a way out. In order to succeed in this program, you should already love UX/UI. As a rule, those who did well after this program were the ones who had been “studying” really good examples of product design just for fun way before they even started Designation. If you aren’t sure what you want to do and are just looking for possible careers, I would say start by chatting with some designers currently working in the field and make some practice products for fun just to see if this is really something you want. This program goes by incredibly fast, so the best thing you can do is come into it with an idea of what you want so you can take advantage of every second.
UX vs. UI track
If you’re unsure whether or not you want to go into the UX or UI track, I would suggest you choose the UX track for two reasons. First off, I would argue that graphic design skills and the various visual design tools like illustrator are relatively easy to pick up just by watching some videos on online and doing some practice challenges. Second, I think the demand for UX designers (with basic visual design skills) is greater than UI designers (at least in Boston in 2017). When I was looking for a job, pretty much every job post was for a “senior UX designer” because what a lot of companies need right now is for someone to teach their design department about user-centered design and really restructure their product design process. These UX design positions, at least in my experience, pay at least 20%-30% more than the straight-up UI positions. And if you’re like me and are looking to have a more strategic role in making major decisions that shape the product beyond just what it looks like, UX is for you.
In addition to what I’ve already discussed, here are some real highlights of the program:
Pretty solid alumni network
There are a lot of very successful designers out there who’ve graduated from Designation. You can’t just email them and say “can you get me a job.” But if you take the time to get to know some of them and really connect with someone, then I think you’ll find it’s a pretty supportive community.
Active slack network
The Designation slack community is a great resource for professional development, with channels for design trends, community events, and more.
The staff at Designation actually care about you and your success
No one is perfect. And it can get a little crazy at times. But at least the staff at Designation really does put their heart and soul into what they do. Unlike bigger boot camps or online programs, Designation is personal. And if you put in the effort to talk with Mike and your creative directors, they will reciprocate.
While I was ultimately happy with what I got out of Designation, there were some issues that you should be aware of:
You might get stuck with someone who has no business being there
Let me start by saying that I was by no means the world’s best teammate - I think was too intense and strong headed at times. I didn’t always give my teammates the respect they deserved. But at least I listened and I made an effort to right my wrongs and improve myself as a teammate.
But with every cohort, there is always at least one person who no one wants to work with. The kind of person who doesn't listen to anyone, who doesn’t contribute, and who is a liability when working with clients. The kind of person who negatively affected the outcome of the project they were a part of. And I wasn’t the only one who felt this way - the entire cohort trembled in fear just at the thought of working with them. And when everyone feels that way, my belief is that this person should be kicked out. But Designation is ultimately a business and the potential lost tuition is more important to their bottom line than the general morale and group dynamics of the cohort. That’s why when someone would ask me if I recommend this program, I always tell them “It’s a great program, but it ultimately comes down to luck of the draw. You could potentially get stuck with someone who will derail your project and it’s totally on you to deal with that.”
Poor project management
When it comes to user research, it’s really important to have the ability to talk to the right kinds of users. This is something that your creative directors and your clients are responsible for setting up before each project. Unfortunately, this didn’t always happen. When all of your interview subjects are coached friends of the client who don’t fit the demographic, it makes it nearly impossible to get the insights you need to make a really compelling case study.
They forgot to teach us about “best practices”
There is no universal “right” or “wrong” way of doing things when it comes to design. The process depends on the project and Designation does a really good job of teaching you the kinds of questions you should be asking. However, there are some things that designers in general just don’t do or that you really don’t see anymore. There were several moments during our client phase in which a developer or client said, “you’ve clearly never made an app before. No one does that anymore” and they were right. So I would have really liked a few weeks of just studying some common practices in modern-day sites and apps to avoid any rookie mistakes.
Is this program perfect? No. Is it worth it? That depends on who you are and what you want. But for someone like me who was looking for a way to build on the skills he already had and transition into a more strategic role, it was totally worth it.
- Practical, Hands On Education- 10/1/2017Alex Gavriutin • UX/UI Designer at WebToMed • Graduate • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
I did a lot of research into many schools before I chose Designation, and I know now that I made the best choice in choosing Designation. The hands on experience that I received in working with actual clients was extremely valuable, because I could describe real life scenarios at the work place when I went on interviews. The mentors at Designation really care about each individual student and their personality. The mentors, spend a lot of one on one time with each student to help them reach their highest potential. Once the education process is complete, Designation puts a high priority on job placement and resume writing. Also, you get paired with someone who currently works in the field to get guidance and network connections in the design industry. When I was looking for jobs, Designation supported me, beyond my expectations. I highly recommend Designation to anyone who is serious about a career in the UX/UI Design industry.