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Designation

Chicago, Online

Designation

Avg Rating:4.8 ( 115 reviews )

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. 

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  • Design Essentials (Online, Part-time, begins every 6-8 weeks)

    Apply
    Digital Marketing, Design, Product Management, Mobile, User Experience Design
    In PersonPart Time20 Hours/week5 Weeks
    Start Date Rolling Start Date
    Cost$1,000
    Class sizeN/A
    LocationOnline
    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 will@designation.io.
    Financing
    Deposit$1000
    Financing
    Skills Fund
    Getting in
    Minimum Skill LevelBeginner
    Placement TestNo
    InterviewNo
  • UI Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks)

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    Start Date Rolling Start Date
    Cost$15,800
    Class sizeN/A
    LocationChicago
    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 will@designation.io.
    Financing
    DepositN/A
    Financing
    Climb, Pave, Skill Fund
    Getting in
    Minimum Skill LevelDesign Essentials is a required pre-requisite for this course for students without prior professional design experience.
    Placement TestNo
    InterviewYes
  • UX Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks)

    Apply
    Digital Marketing, Design, Product Management, Mobile, User Experience Design
    In PersonFull Time70 Hours/week17 Weeks
    Start Date None scheduled
    Cost$15,800
    Class size24
    LocationChicago
    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 will@designation.io.
    Financing
    DepositN/A
    Financing
    Climb, Pave, Skill Fund
    Getting in
    Minimum Skill LevelDesign Essentials is a required pre-requisite for this course for students without prior professional design experience.
    Placement TestNo
    InterviewYes
  • Kendra • Product Designer • Graduate
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    I would not be where I am today without Designation. I came to the program with 15 year's experience working in boutiques, mostly in sales. I wanted to make a career change, and I read everything I could about UX and the industry. I chatted with designers who had gone through the program, and they all said pretty much the same thing, “it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it’s 100% worth it once you get your first job.”

    Before starting the program, I’d done a good amount of research and informational interviews about UX and Designation, so I had a good idea that I had a passion for it. I enjoyed learning about the field and chatting with people in the industry. I can’t recommend enough spending that time up front learning on your own. Once I started the program it was fast moving and pretty trying at times. All those people I talked to and a lot of the reviewers here say it as well, the program is challenging. If someone’s not ready for it or sure it’s what they want to do, I don’t know how they’d get through it. For me, every phase took more time than the allotted time suggested on the website. I wish I'd known that before starting the program. I adjusted my life to fit around Designation, not the other way around, and I’m so glad I did. It was my entire life for 6 months. Finishing the program, I realized I got what I put into it. It’s important to be fully invested in Designation during the program (as well as before and after). The following resources that come with the program are amazing if you use them: 

    Staff: The staff is very knowledgeable and they all have different communication styles. From design essentials to career phase, I had great instructors, creative directors, and DIRs. Use them! Ask questions, schedule time one-on-one with them (it’s super easy), and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

    A big draw to the program was the career phase, and it’s one of the top reasons I feel comfortable starting my position as a product designer. As mentioned before, Designation isn’t always easy. Some of my toughest times came from the client phase. The projects are quick sprints and groups work with real clients. It’s as much real-world experience as you can get before starting a job. I had to fall back on my design process, learn to defend it, and humble myself when I was wrong. I learned so much about myself and how to be successful when working with a client. I wasn’t completely on an island: I had my cohort, team, and the creative directors, who were both great. Both creative directors acted as sounding boards for ideas, sometimes offering a conversation about the problem to help spark ideas or team conflict resolutions. 

    During career phase (the final phase of the program), Mike Joose, Designation’s president, leads with workshops, office/studio tours, and helps edit work as it’s prepared for portfolios. He was one of the best resources for me. As hard as it can be to let someone edit drafts of your work, do it! He’s amazing and very well connected in the industry. He and all the staff at Designation have vast networks and they want to help the cohort find the right job for them. Mike was supportive of me as I was interviewing for jobs and always asked for updates and offered advice. 

    2. Time: It’s longer than other programs, but that’s a good thing. The 24 weeks flew by and I needed every week to develop as a designer. The fact that I got to go through my design process a few times was very helpful in building confidence and learning hands-on with projects. With a shorter program, I don’t think I would have left as confident to start a career in this industry. 

    3. Materials/Coursework: I wish I had known just how challenging the virtual phase was going to be for me. It’s a lot of reading, watching lectors/talks, learning the terms and basics. It will take more time you expect. It took me about twice as long to get through all the coursework, plus the project I was working on. When it comes to the virtual phase of the program, I highly recommend not working if it’s possible. The materials and coursework are essential to having a good in-person experience and prepared me for immersion and client phase, but I read everything. There’s really important information there that builds on itself for the remainder of the program.  

    I’ve been out of the program for about a month and I landed my first UX job 3 weeks after graduating. I was starting the interview process during my final week at Designation. Yes, Designation was difficult. There's no sugarcoating that, but for all the trying times and late nights, I laughed with my cohort every single day once we started working in teams. It’s hard, but I wasn’t in it alone. After completing the program, it did what I had hoped I would: I had an offer, a great offer, and now I get to start a career as a UX designer. I would not have been able to get any interviews, let alone an offer, without Designation. For that reason, plus the 3 reasons listed above, I highly recommend Designation if you know UX/UI design is what you want to do. 

  • Cassie • UX Architect • Graduate
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    My background

    Previously, I was a business analyst at a technology consulting firm and wanted to become UI/UX designer. I decided to join Designation because of the positive reviews I heard from coworkers who had gone through the program. I was familiar with design, technology, and business constraints, but many of my peers were not. One great thing about Designation is that people come from a wide variety of backgrounds and often provide unique and valuable perspectives. 

    Positives

    • Hands-on learning—Designation, like most boot camps, differs from a traditional educational environment because you learn by doing. I worked on 5 different projects and got many chances to practice the process and hone my skills. I found the opportunity to apply what we were learning, real-time, drove the process home. 
    • Client work—Working with real clients on real projects is a huge differentiator for Designation. I was able to practice balancing business needs and requirements with the creative process. I also got comfortable presenting to clients, outside of Designation, that didn't understand the design process.
    • Knowledgeable staff—I’ve had the opportunity to work for Designation after graduating and work more closely with the creative directors. This only affirmed my trust in their level of design knowledge and insight. 
    • Job search support—Designation prepares you well to develop case studies, a resume, and a portfolio. There are 2 weeks devoted to working on these deliverables and receiving feedback and direction. There is also an extensive network of designers to aid in the job search. I found my job through another Designation designer. 

    Considerations

    • Time commitment—Designation is 70-80 hours a week (in-person). This is well worth it to learn a lot quickly, but you should come in prepared to work hard. Collaboration is crucial and spending time in the Designation space is important for getting the most out of the experience. 
    • Hands-on learning—Hands-on learning is an incredible way to learn quickly and understand how to apply what you are learning. The downside of this style of learning is that it doesn’t work well for everyone. It doesn’t give you as much time to sit and think about ideas. Often it is more about taking action and figuring it out as you go. 
    • Highly collaborative—Designation is a very collaborative environment. During the in-person phase, you will be on a team and work closely together. It is a great opportunity to practice communicating ideas to others, but it can also be challenging. Be prepared to learn to have empathy for not only your user but your teammates.
    • Professional environment—The expectations for designers going through Designation are more like the professional environment than traditional education environments. The creative directors will not tell you exactly what to do, but rather expect designers to figure it out on their own. Like the professional environment, you will need to be more comfortability with ambiguity.

    Overall

    The designation was a great experience. I grew immensely as a designer and as a person. I learned to communicate more clearly, collaborate effectively, present frequently to clients, and think more creatively. I worked for Designation immediately following the program and was able to lineup a UX design job starting 2 weeks after that. Designation not only served its’ purpose as an opportunity to switch to a new career, but it also served as an opportunity to gain confidence and grow professionally. 

  • Upgrade You
    - 4/8/2018
    Tomi • Interaction/UX Designer
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    summary - designation brought me from a to b!
     
    a - working as a paralegal, doing good work with good people, but wasn’t sure what i wanted to do long-term. 
     
    b - interaction designer (contractor) at an agency, confidently presenting designs to a client my first week, excited about the future. 
     
    why designation 
     
    psych + tech = yay. as a comparative human development grad (basically psych and anthropology), i loved talking to people, learning how they make decisions, learning what makes them tick. this framework was helpful when teaching kids and working as a paralegal, where i listened to people’s problems, relayed them to their lawyer, and worked towards alleviating said problems. teaching kids how to make robots got me interested in tech, but i wasn’t sure at the time where i’d fit in. eventually i heard about ux through an edtech blog =)
     
    real life projects w real life clients. i think the opportunity to work with clients is what sets designation apart from other programs. i wanted to graduate with a portfolio of work to show potential employers, not just assignments. 
     
    cheaper and shorter than a masters degree. i figured id learn best on the job so i wanted to work asap but also didn’t think i could learn enough in 10 weeks...
     
    the phases
     
    design essentials - so like, what even is ux and do i wanna do this fr fr? a taste of design from user testing to high-fidelity prototypes. i worked full-time while doing this. i wouldn’t recommend doing that. by the end of this, you’ll have to choose to focus on ux or ui. 
     
    virtual - workin hard in yr jammies. start working on teams and delve into the design process. 
     
    immersion - lol this is your life now. long days and nights and sometimes weekends but so much fun working with other designers in-person. *pro tip: take walks together. 
     
    client phase - my fave. no handholding but the creative director’s there to advise and remind you of the deeper questions. 
     
    career phase - pretty clutch. mike’s amazing. he and your directors in residence (teaching assistants) will edit your case studies, resume, cover letters (basically whatever you get done in time to show them) and you'll get paired with a design professional who can give more feedback on your portfolio site and guide you as you begin to job hunt.  
     
    i do wish
     
    i work at an agency that does development and design so it's really important for me to understand how to communicate with developers. at designation, i learned to annotate wireframes for different audiences, including dev. but i do wish we heard from dev folx first-hand during the program. 
     
     
  • Amanda • Product Designer • Graduate
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    For me, Designation was a fantastic way to change my career path in six months. The staff and curriculum gave me the tools I needed to succeed. The program is challenging, be prepared to hustle! I chose to attend Designation because it offered the most design experience (including real client projects) for the money, it was located in Chicago, and 94% of their graduates were employed. I figured Designation was doing something right, so I signed up for the prerequisite course, Design Essentials.

    Design Essentials
    Over six weeks, Design Essentials gave me a deeper understanding of UX/UI. I liked being able to complete the course while working, and I found the time commitment to be around 20 hours a week. I'd recommend DE for anyone who is interested in UX/UI and looking for a test run. DE gave me the confidence to sign up for the virtual and immersion phases of Designation. 

    Virtual Phase
    The virtual phase of the program is full-time. I spent around 40-50 hours a week splitting my time between readings and project work with my teammate. Fortunately, my teammate and I were both located in Chicago. We found it helpful to meet up together to interview users. I chose not to have a full-time job during virtual. I wanted to focus on the new material to set myself up for the in-person phases.

    Immersion Phase
    The immersion phase was one of the most challenging phases in my experience at Designation. It took everything I did in virtual throughout six weeks and condensed it into four 70+ hour weeks on-site with three other teammates. During immersion, my team received tons of valuable feedback. My team got used to presenting our work on a weekly basis and learned from our mistakes. We made countless iterations to deliverables and pushed our boundaries. I felt I learned the most during immersion and it prepared me for the client phases. 

    Client Phases
    The client phases of Designation are a game changer. I found it so valuable to apply everything I learned to a real client project. The client phase allowed my team to showcase and practice our skills as user advocates. My team also learned how to work within business constraints and communicate with clients. The client projects served as great conversation pieces during interviews.  

    Career Phase
    The career phase at Designation goes by fast! The President of Designation, Mike runs the career phase. He conducts daily workshops that help designers create quality portfolios, resumes, cover letters, etc. Mike gives fantastic feedback, and he spent a lot of time reviewing my case studies. The career phase took a lot of hard work and dedication. I received many compliments on my website during interviews post-graduation. My case studies wouldn't be half as good if it weren't for the career phase and Mike's feedback. 

    Post-Graduation
    Six weeks after graduation I landed my first gig as a contract Product Designer. Designation will give designers all the skills they need to land a job, but it will not hand designers a job. It takes a lot of work, networking, and right timing to secure a position. It can be hard to stand out from the competition at times. From my experience, Designation has an excellent reputation in Chicago which is very helpful when job-searching. At the end of it all, I'm glad I chose Designation, its given me a new career that is challenging and rewarding. It took a lot of hard work to get here, but its worth it! 

     

  • Rachael • Product Designer • Graduate
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    TLDR

    Designation is a worthy investment if

    1. You are serious about changing careers into UX or UI
    2. You are willing to put in the work 

    Designation is not for the faint of heart. It will absolutely dominate your world for about 6 months. You’ll have to sacrifice income, time with friends, binging on Netflix, etc. BUT it's 100% worth it in the end. And you’ll meet some pretty awesome people along the way. 

    My Background

    I graduated college with degrees in business and public health promotion. After working for 2.5 years for a health insurance company I was ready to make a change. My last title before starting Designation was IT Project Manager and I had zero experience in design. After researching UX and trying DE, I decided UX was the right career for me.

    My Overall Experience

    I joined Designation as a part of the Amethyst Cohort in March 2017. After completing DE and Virtual I decided to move to Chicago to complete the in-person portion of Designation. My goal was to land a full-time job and stay in Chicago after graduating.

    The end result was that, after graduating, I was asked to stay on as a DIR (more on that below) with Designation for 3 months. After that, I received and accepted an offer for a full-time Product Designer role at a Fortune 100 company.

    Design Essentials

    I completed DE while abroad. It was a little challenging because I was 16 hours ahead of my teammates. But luckily the teamwork was concentrated towards the first couple weeks and then individual work started in the third or fourth week. I had some challenges getting stuff turned in on time because I was working and then moving back to the states. The instructor, James, was really understanding and flexible. Also, he was always available to answer questions or give feedback.

    DE was immensely helpful in helping me confirm that I wanted to do UX instead of UI. It also confirmed that I wanted to continue on with the rest of Designation. At the end of DE, I met with the instructor, James, for about a half hour to review my performance in the course (he does this with everyone) and he also confirmed that he thought my skillset would be better suited towards UX. However, the nice thing about Designation is they leave this decision up to you so, while James confirmed what I was already leaning towards, the decision was still 100% my own. Also I loved that I got to make the small investment in trying DE before making the larger investment to complete all of Designation. This is what sold me on trying Designation over other bootcamps.

    Virtual

    By the time virtual started I moved back to the states so it was much easier to meet with my three teammates. We were all located in different cities, though, so we would meet about every other day over Hangouts for a few hours. These meetings had all the usual challenges of meeting virtually with strangers. It’s hard to gauge how people are truly feeling about the decisions and sometimes people are hesitant to take action. But overall, I was able to learn the basics of the design process and we were successful in completing our project.

    We also had twice weekly check-ins (the entire cohort) with the Virtual instructors. These check-ins were sometimes frustrating because we’d go over material that was different than what was in the assigned readings. Or sometimes instructors didn’t feel as engaged as they could have been because they were both working full-time. However, Designation has collected a lot of feedback on this and they’re making adjustments to Virtual so it may be completely different now than it was then.

    Also, I didn’t work during Virtual. I spent on average 40 hours per week working with my team, working individually, or going through the course material. I felt it was important that I dedicated my attention to learning the material during that time and I think it served me well later during the in-person portion of the program.

    Immersion/Client Phase

    The in-person portions of the program are where, in my opinion, I got the most value. Immersion taught me more about working in a team in-person (at least for the UXers, UI works more individually) and further solidified what I learned in Virtual. During all of Designation, you get out what you put in, but this is especially true during the in-person phases. Projects will be much more successful if the entire team is dedicated to putting in at least 60-70 hours per week. While that sounds crazy, I got used to it and, again, since my teammates were equally as dedicated it made it easier and more fun to work late hours.

    During client phase I learned to work within business constraints. I learned how to communicate decisions to stakeholders. I learned how to work quick! Each client project is only 3 weeks long. And I continued to learn to work on a team and make design decisions. Overall, I felt client projects gave me experiences to talk about in job interview and proved to companies that I knew what I was doing. Clients may not always use your work but, regardless, it’s a great learning experience and, at the very least, I got to help the client better understand their users. Also, these projects will helped me create case studies for my portfolio.

    Also, the Creative Directors are awesome. Each one has a different style so working with them will teach you again about working with different types of stakeholders. They will also help shape your approach to challenges and, in general, they’re a great sounding board for ideas and decisions.

    Career Phase

    I was really impressed by career phase. Mike Joosse, the leader of this phase, puts a ton of time and effort in to creating workshops that help designers create their portfolio, resume, cover letters, personal statements, LinkedIn pages, case studies, etc. He gave me every tool I needed to take the job search on full force. In my opinion, what makes the difference between someone who finds a job quickly and someone who doesn’t is how closely they follow Mike’s advice. It takes hard work and dedication, but if you follow the general guidelines set in this phase then you’ll likely be successful in landing your first role. And probably many more roles down the line.

    End Result

    After graduating from Designation, I stayed on as a Designer-in-Residence (DIR). A DIR essentially serves as a mentor to a younger cohort, support to Creative Directors, and pseudo-project manager to help designers get through their Immersion and Client projects. Not everyone gets the opportunity to do this and I found that it did make a difference in job interviews because I was able to more confidently speak about my design experience.

    During my time as a DIR I interviewed with companies and was lucky enough to land a few offers. A lot of this happened because I followed the advice Mike gave during career phase. I approached the job search with the same dedication I approched Designation, putting in long hours and spending most of my weekend working on my portfolio. Looking back, I think that helped me to be successful in getting offers. I accepted a full-time position as a Product Designer for a company in downtown Chicago and have been working there a little over two weeks. 

    Doing Designation was a great decision for me. I can now call myself a designer and have improved in both hard and soft skills. I would have never been able to get the job I have now without completing Designation and I'm very happy to be starting down a career path I love!

  • Pedro • UX designer • Graduate
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    Before Designation, I was an English high school teacher. I never had any formal Design education or experience.

    I researched several UX design programs (bootcamps), but decided on Designation because of the real client work experience. Being able to get a job was a main concern for me. I was not a recent graduate living at home, looking to explore an industry. I am an adult with a career, bills, rent, and other responsibilities. This career pivot was a big risk as I had a lot riding on it.

    Designation offers a UX or UI specialization, not both. Before applying, I already knew I wanted to be a UX designer. Since discovering the profession, I had been learning as much as possible on my own.

    Because of those bills and responsibilities I mentioned, I decided to align the program’s schedule with my teaching schedule to try and maintain my income as long as possible. I tried to align it with my summer break. Working full time and attending the program is possible during the part-time phase of the program. I wouldn’t recommend working full time during the other phases. I worked full time for most of the full-time virtual phase and it was challenging at times. It depends on your stress threshold and personality.

     

    Some thoughts on the different phases of the program:

     

    Design Essentials -

    This is a high level introduction to UX and UI. Even if you already know what you want to specialize in, like I did, this is a great way to understand the entire design process. If you don’t know what you want to specialize in, it’s a good way to explore both. By the time this phase kicked off for me, I had already read a bunch of UX literature, so I was familiar with most of the material covered. While it helps to know the concepts, putting those concepts into practice is a very different thing. For most, this is the first opportunity to put these concepts into practice.

     

    Virtual -

    You have to choose UX or UI before the start of this phase. Essentially, this is another opportunity to work on a UX or UI project from start to finish. This phase goes a bit more in depth with the process. In my experience, some components of this phase were lacking. A few lectures/discussions were not as useful in terms of learning new knowledge or building on what we learned in the Design Essentials. Some of the assignments were not designed to best make use of our time. Lastly, my biggest point of criticism for this phase was the lack of feedback from the instructors. As students of design, we need feedback to validate or disprove our design decisions. This is how one learns. That said, Designation is excellent about listening to feedback regarding the program and making changes accordingly.

     

    Immersion -

    This is when things get a bit crazy. Time gets a little whacky in this phase. It’s the first time you get to work with your cohort in person. You and your team work on a mock project from start to finish with the guidance of the the creative director. There is a gradual release of responsibility throughout the entire program. There is less hand-holding from the directors at this phase. You should already be familiar with the process and different methodologies to employ. This is also when you really get to work on your soft skills.

     

    Client Phase -

    There is even less hand-holding at this phase. The program does a great job of letting you and your design team run the show. You are essentially working as a designer at this point. You make all of the decisions on strategy, methods, client meetings, etc. The directors are available as resources, but it’s up to you to ask the right questions. These client projects are the ones that will make it to your portfolio.

     

    Career phase -

    This can be the most difficult phase. You have two weeks to work on all of your career materials such as your resume, portfolio, and case studies. The career phase instructor, Mike Joose, is an invaluable resource. He is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. Much like the rest of the program, you really need to put the work in.   

     

    Final thoughts -

    It works if you do. This is not high school or even college where you can just show up to class and get by, This is not even school. In fact, if you think of it as school, I would recommend changing your mentality. I always referred to it as work. This is not for a certificate or a degree; It’s for a career. As most reviewers have said, you get out of this program what you put into it.

    If you plan on applying simply to explore, I would advise against it. Do some research. Figure out if you really want to be a designer and most importantly WHY. Think deeply about what your intentions are for getting into Design in the first place. What are those reasons? I say this because it comes with a tremendous responsibility. The power of design is incredible. It can bring so much good to our world, but it can also make things really bad. The world needs good designers, and not just people that can make things look good, or create something just for the sake of creating it.

    This was the best career decision i’ve ever made. I landed a job as an associate designer at an agency within a couple weeks of graduating. It’s not very common to get a job that quickly, but it happens. Designation does an excellent job of preparing you enough to hit the ground running at your first job.

  • Wojciech Peliks • Graduate
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    I'd highly recommend Designation if you're interested in pursuing UX or UI design. The curriculum is Very thorough and I found it rigorous, which was something I was looking for. 

    The program divides UX and UI into separate classes, but they are not fully exclusive. I went through the UI program. First everyone had a mock project of designing an app from scratch (UX and UI process) and depending on what part of it you liked best that's the direction you focused on for the rest of the program (UX: research, ideation, interviews - UI: visual conecpting). Next, for the UI program, came the "virtual phase" where over 4 weeks I worked on another fake app idea, but now started from given wireframes and crafted the visual style, prototype, logo, and animation. During this part we met once a week over video hangout with an instructor and the other classmates and had a lot of internet reading material assigned. The last portion of the program took place in person in Chicago. The last phase was divided into 3 projects. Another fake app design, but this time carried out in 3 weeks instead of 4 with simultaneous workshops and classes. The 2nd project was for a real client who wanted a website redesign. And the 3rd project was for another real startup working out their financial software product design. The biggest difference designing for real clients during the last phase was that we tested our designs each week with real users and iterated based on their (and clients') feedback. That said, the program is committed to improving every cycle and so small changes to the process may take place. 

    After the collective 6 design projects we had 2 weeks of a "career phase" during which we worked on our resumes, portfolios, linkedins, interviews, job hunting skills, etc.

    Overall the creative directors and everyone working in the program was phenomenal and extremely helpful and knowledgeable. The program is intense and there is a ton of material provided to learn from. Since completing the program I have landed a job within 3 months. However, I have worked in tech for several years before and have had connections across many companies which was extremely helpful in getting interviews. For those choosing betwen a bootcamp and a 1-2yr Masters program I would probably recommend the bootcamp (faster, cheaper) if you've worked in tech before or want to start out at an agency or similar setting (not a product company like Google, Facebook, Lyft, etc), although I'm not saying that's impossible, I just think it may be hard without previous experience in this industry based on the interviews I've had (and didn't have). If you don't have previous experience in tech or design and would want to work in one of the Silicon Valley product companies I'd probably recommend the 1-2yr Masters at Carnegie Mellon or UW or another college, these are the 2 good ones I have friends at or know people from. From friends who have done those programs I've heard that they've had an easier time finding jobs as companies seem to have more "faith" in the traditional degree. Obviously the process is longer and more expensive, but you still work with real clients for projects, and you have the advantage of doing internships which companies generally (again not always) refuse to nontraditional bootcamp graduates.

  • Best Decision
    - 3/15/2018
    Colleen Pellissier • UX Designer • Graduate
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    Here's the tldr: Deciding to attend Designation was one of my best life decisions. This program helped me make a pretty big career pivot into UX design from journalism. I was well supported, well educated, given all the tools and resources I needed to navigate myself into a UX career.

    I think if you are trying to make a decision between boot camps/intensive programs Designation is a great choice. You will have real experiences and time with actual clients, you will have access to a cohort of folks who will become one your best cheerleaders and career support systems, it's in CHICAGO which is amazing, and the program leadership is very smart, aware of the pulse of the industry and always striving to improve. 

    In addition to looking at other boot camp type programs, I also considered grad school. I ultimately decided on Designation because of the real-life experience but also the quickness of getting me to the job market. I've found in the design industry it's not about the school you go to (which is refreshing) it's about the work you've done. All of that said and the folks at Designation will tell you the same thing... what you put in is what you get out. Success is also dependent on your ability to continue education and growing skills after the program this might be through an internship or a mentorship or freelance design work before landing that first job. I also believe and saw with my own eyes that the instructors, mentors, and leadership at Designation truly care. They are invested in helping to grow, shape and give you the tools to help you be successful.   

    I'd also like to stress I did not come to Designation with any design experience. I was worked as a reporter and producer for public radio and while in the program you will learn how to talk about your previous work experience in a way that supports your job search effort. You will also learn to identify the skills you used in your previous professional life and how they can be integrated and capitalized on during your job search and in your design career. You will be exposed to a number of professional speakers and talks all of these are ways to grow your professional network and get a better understanding of the design industry. 
     

  • Stephanie • UX Designer • Graduate
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    Before Designation, I was working as a Visual Designer for an Architecture firm. I wasn’t completely content with what I was doing because I was siloed and craved collaboration. A friend mentioned I’d be a great fit for UX because I was always asking “why” and could carry a conversation with anyone. After doing my research, I chose Designation to transform my career path. And, after putting in countless hours of hard work, I landed a few very exciting job offers. I recently started working as a UX Designer at a global user experience agency where I get to work on all types of industries like healthcare and more!

     

    Here’s a breakdown of the phases of the program:

     

    DE Essentials:

    DE was a great introduction to both the UX and UI field. You are given access to an incredible amount of online resources and the ability to learn and discuss various topics with your cohort and instructor multiple times a week. The instructor, James was AMAZING. He really challenged the cohort to think critically and encouraged discussion instead of lecturing the whole time. Since this part of the program is virtual, you need to be able to stay self-disciplined and structure your days so you get the most out of this phase. This was really difficult for me at first because I was working full-time BUT if you push through, it’s completely doable.

     

    Virtual Phase:

    Going to be honest, was not my favorite phase BUT I think with a few changes, it could be vastly improved. I will also say, the staff conducts objective feedback interviews to find out how they can improve the program (and they actually listen and try to implement our feedback).

    Anyway, here’s why: You meet together twice a week to discuss assignments and listen to a lecture about a new topic and/or go through a design tutorial. I found some of the lectures dry and not as informative as I would have liked. I’ve also found it difficult to encourage designers to participate in group discussions when it’s remote (perhaps it was the cohort I was in). Other than that, it’s great practice who designers who want to/have to work remote.

     

    Immersion:

    Immersion is all about applying the skills you learned in DE+Virtual. It is also VERY different than the first 2 phases. You are working in-person with designers on small teams 40+ hours a week. After a week + 1/2 into it, you’ll start to get used to the hours and then it’s no big deal at all. After all, it’ll be what you sign up for and trust me, it’ll be worth it in the end!

    Working in small teams comes with ups and downs. You don’t get to pick your teams but the staff tries to pair you based on skillset and personalities. So, you might get paired up with someone you don’t jive with. If this happens, learn a productive way to work through it and learn from it because that could happen in your future workplace. Also, If you like to work solo, UX is not the tract for you. You must collaborate and communicate and you’ll do great.

    The instructor, Doug, is one of the nicest humans you’ll ever meet. He’s very supportive of you learning as a new designer and always wants you to push yourself just a little further. You’ll get really good practice working in small teams and improving your presentation skills (you’ll be giving a lot of those)!

     

    Client Phase:

    This phase was one of the main reasons why I chose Designation because you get the work with REAL WORLD CLIENTS. By the time I got to this point, I was confident I knew the process and could easily adapt it to any project I was given. I got to work with an AMAZING client and a so-so client. The staff really tries to pair you with different types of clients and designers to work with. It’s not always perfect but it definitely prepares you for future engagements. Megan and Dan were the creative directors for this phase and they, along with the rest of the staff are also AMAZING. Always pushing you to think critically through every design decision and to make sure you have research to back it up. They are also super fun to work with!

     

    Career Phase:

    I was lucky enough to go through this phase twice! Once as a designer and the next time as a Designer in Residence (DIR). Get ready for a rollercoaster of emotions this phase! This was probably the most challenging and exciting phase for me. You have 2 weeks to work on a LOT of material that will set you up for your job hunt. By the time you get to this point, you'll feel overworked, exhausted and "ready to start applying for jobs already." Just remind yourself, you can't apply for a job without these materials. So, buckle down and push through it. It can be very overwhelming in the beginning but Mike Joose does a great job organizing those 2 weeks so that you can feel at ease while you tackle one task at a time. Mike gives you his undivided attention for those two weeks. He's there to review your materials, provide feedback, answer any questions you have and most importantly, help you find a job (if YOU give him the tools to do so). He even managed to help set me up with a contract job the Monday after I graduated from the program. Don't slack off during this phase and you'll finish feeling super prepared for entering the job market!

    Trust the process and the program. If you put in the hard work, push yourself, and stay passionate about design, you’ll be so happy you chose Designation.

  • Mariana Garcia Robles • UI/UX Designer • Graduate
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    A year ago, I started DESIGNATION, I was in the UI track of the Yucca Cohort.

    A bit about my background. I moved to the United States from Mexico about 1 year before starting DESIGNATION. I came with a degree and a few years’ experience in Graphic Design but was having a difficult time getting interviews in the United States. I quickly realized that lacking skills in Digital, not having connections, and no prior ‘working’ experience in the United States was probably holding me back. When I came across DESIGNATION I realized it could give me all of that, in an immersive and accelerated way.

    Starting out I was nervous, I was afraid of how my language barrier would affect my progress in the program. 

    DESIGNATION not only taught me new skills and trends in design, it also helped me to be more confident in myself; You give presentations each week to share your work, in front of real clients. in the begging I was so afraid to present/talk to people that I just met, but as the time passed I felt more confident and secure in what I was doing.

    Designation is really a full-time program once you hit immersion phase, you are not going to have time to think about anything else except design, design and design. If you work hard and complete all work, at the end for sure you’re going to feel satisfied. 

    One of the most important parts of the program is the portfolio, it is where you’re going to show all the work you created in DESIGNATION. Without it, it can be really difficult to sell yourself to companies.

    I got a job offer 2 months after completing DESIGNATION, now I’m working in a full time UI position. I definitely could not have done this without the help from all of the DESIGNATION team together. It was through DESIGNATIONs network of designers that I got the opportunity and the coaching that got me through the interviews.

    Now I can say without a doubt it was one of the best experiences I have ever had, I met a lot of new people and some of them are still close friends today.

  • Kyle • Graduate
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    Designation will serve as the starting point for your career in design if you're willing to put in the effort. You will not come out of the program a senior designer or with the same knowledge as a graduate program/portfolio school (obviously), but it's absolutely possible to land entry-level/associate positions within 2 months. The instructors and staff genuinely care about your success and are invested in your growth throughout the 24 weeks, as well as during your job search post graduation. You'll learn how to think critically and dive deeper than simple surface level solutions, skills that in turn make working with startup clients a rewarding experience for both parties.

    Background/advice for current designers:

    I'll preface this review with a bit of background in order to provide some context. I came into Designation with a degree in graphic design and years of freelance/in-house experience, so the UI curriculum wasn't particularly beneficial to me. When I initially applied to the program it was advertised as "full-stack", a distinction that has since been removed from the description. That said, it's important to know what you want before coming into the program and to think about your career goals. If you have a design background already, I strongly suggest that you consider the UX path of the program in order to round out your abilities. There's way, way more value in the program if you steer towards being a product designer or hybrid UX/UI (that has real, practical UX experience combined with your graphic design skills) than a pure UI designer. Again, this is strictly for those who have design experience.

    Pros

    As I mentioned earlier, the staff at Designation is dedicated to your development as a designer and your experience in the program. The enormous emotional and financial cost is not lost on them, and they work hard to improve the experience for the designers daily. They care about strengthening your skillset and are active members in the design community. Mike Joosse and the career phase that he leads could be a paid service in and of itself; his industry knowledge and actionable advice will guide you through creating a strong portfolio and interviewing for jobs with full confidence.

    There's a stronger emphasis on thinking/presenting than technical ability. I'll address the flipside to this in a minute, but Designation definitely errs on the side of teaching soft skills. From my experience, being able to think the right away and communicate your designs is far more important than being a wizard in Sketch of Photoshop. Anybody can make some pretty gradient crap on Dribbble working without constraints, seriously. You'll leave Designation with the confidence to speak through your thought process regardless of your prior working experience, and you'll learn to ask the right questions to get you there. That's what'll get you hired at the right places when you're interviewing, anyways.

    The sense of camaraderie amongst your cohort is a very unique experience that you won't quickly forget. It's impossible to spend 80+ hours a week with a group of people and not come away with some life-long friends. Additionally, you'll become a member of the Designation community, which might just provide you with a referral or interview.

    Working with real clients is a gamechanger, and sets Designation apart from any other bootcamp. Hiring managers want to see practical experience, and you get that here. The quality of the client can be hit or miss, but that's no different from the working world. Having a client set real constraints and working with scrappy startups is much more rewarding than doing mock projects.

    Cons

    It's been mentioned in other reviews, but the barrier to entry isn't very high. It's hard to blame a business for wanting to grow, but there needs to be a stronger application process. It's clearly a delicate balance. I do know that there's been some change in leadership recently, however, and that this issue is on their radar. It's a shame to have one bad apple spoil the lot, so hopefully there will be some guidelines or language drafted to hold people accountable for their lack of effort and actions.

    Technical workshops would add a lot to the curriculum. It's the one main weakness of the program, especially during the first 4 weeks of the in-person phase. Often times, designers in the program get anxious about bringing their concepts to life because they don't have the confidence in their industry knowledge or technical ability. Hard skills are something that can be learned independently, yes, but imposter syndrome leaves a lot of people anxious and unwilling to even try. Additional workshops on best practices, industry standards and emerging technologies would benefit the designers' growth and their relationships with the clients.

    Summary

    It helped me take the next step in my career, and it can do the same for you. Don't expect to walk into the room and be handed a guidebook on how this thing will shake out, it's not a traditional education model. Keep an open mind, cultivate enthusiasm for what you're learning and you'll be a working designer a few months after you graduate.

  • Cindy • UX Researcher. Formerly a copywriter at a life sciences advertising agency. • Graduate
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    TL;DR 

    Designation is an amazing program that speeds up the process of starting a career in UX. However, you need to be prepared to put in the work (like a good 90+ hours/week) and put the rest of your life on hold. If you have the resources and you love design, it's a small sacrifice to make for the massive difference it'll make to your career.

    Thoughts on the Program

    Pros

    - Client phase. Over the course of two client projects, I learned how to apply and tailor various design thinking concepts and technical skills to real-world problems. Thanks to this portion of the program, I had a portfolio to show at the end of 18 weeks and enough experience to discuss with potential employers.

    - Mike Joosse. Our community director was an amazing resource during Career Phase. He knows his stuff and the feedback he gives on your case studies, resume, and cover letters is always on-point.

    - The instructors. Everyone I worked with was extremely passionate about design, incredibly sharp, and super dedicated to making Designation the best it could be. What surprised me most was how much they were personally invested in me and my cohort. Nobody is there just to collect your tuition and make a profit. As corny as it sounds, they genuinely care about helping each designer reach his/her potential and find a fulfilling career. 

    Areas for improvement

    - More instruction on technical skills. When I went through the program, there wasn't a huge emphasis on Axure, which is a difficult tool to learn on your own since there aren't many online tutorials for it. Aside from one workshop during Virtual Phase, we pretty much had to muddle our way through it on our own. The upside is that the information sticks when you do it yourself. The downside is that you have no idea if you're doing it correctly or following best practices in the industry. The staff is actively trying to implement additional workshops and recruit designers with more expertise to give lectures, so it's definitely something they are aware of and working to fix. 

    - Better integration of UI and UX concepts. Designation makes you choose between UI and UX after the introductory Design Essentials course. It was an easy choice for me, but most members of my cohort had a strong interest in both. It's nearly impossible to gain a strong foundation in UI and UX over the course of just 3 months, but I think Designation could do a better job of linking the two. During my program, I felt like I was in a UX bubble. I only had a very vague understanding of how a UX designer should collaborate with and handoff projects to a UI designer.

    - Stronger vetting processes. Although Designation tries its best to only admit strong candidates to the program, occasionally someone who may not have the appropriate work ethic or temperament does get through to the in-person phases. Since UX is extremely collaborative, the rest of the team's experience will suffer as a result of that individual. I was extremely lucky to have had wonderful, hardworking teammates for each of my client phase projects, but I know this was not the case with everyone. 

    Finding a Job

    I will preface this by saying that I experienced an easier job search than most, since I was employed by Designation as a Designer-in-Residence (a TA/PM kind of role) after the program ended. As I had a steady source of income and a job where I could continue learning about design, it gave me more practice, extra time to work on my portfolio, and the luxury to be choosier with the roles I considered. The staff do make introductions occasionally, but it's largely up to you to network, reach out to recruiters, finish your portfolio quickly, etc. Help is readily available, but you have to be proactive about reaching out for it. Designation can't help you if they don't know you need it.

    If you don't have a design background, it's less likely you'll end up in a senior-level position. However, the work you've done at Designation (if you've put in the effort) and the preparation you've gone through during Career Phase should be enough for most entry & associate-level roles. I started interviewing as soon as my program ended and I received an offer after about two months, which is close to the average time it takes for most people (around 3-6 months).

     

Thanks!