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
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- 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 email@example.com.
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 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
- 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 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
115 reviews sorted by:
- More Than Just a Bootcamp- 4/10/2019Pranav Pradhan • Product Designer at Vectra.ai • Graduate • Course: UI Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
I heard about Designation through a friend of mine who had completed the program a few years ago. She only had good things to say to me about the program, and kept repeating the mantra "you get out what you put in". After having gone through the program myself, I can safely say that this is 100% true. The people are brilliant, the experiences are unforgettable—and you'll learn more than you thought possible, as long as you're willing to put in the effort. An amazing program that I highly recommend, Designation helped me find my first full time design role.
The full story
I transitioned into design about a year before I attended Designation—I had basic knowledge and internship experience as a UX designer going into the program, but I was largely self-taught and wanted a more structured environment to build my fundamentals. I debated between General Assembly and Designation, but ultimately chose Designation. While GA would have allowed me to remain in my hometown (San Francisco), I was really sold by the idea of a longer program with high quality instructors and the opportunity to work with real start-ups at Designation.
My Designation experience was fantastic. The Design Essentials phase was a great way to introduce
studentsdesigners (don't call yourself a student at Designation, seriously!) to the differences between UX and UI, and allow them to get a taste for both tracks before picking one. I picked UI because I already had some UX experience and thought it would be a great way to round out my skill-set. The workload for this phase was manageable, and I was able to balance it with my full-time internship.
The Virtual Phase took that initial knowledge that we gained during DE and expanded on it exponentially. This deep dive over the course of 6 weeks helped really nail down those fundamentals by focusing on the theory side of things—this would help us apply the theory in a practical sense once the in-person phase started in Chicago. The workload during this phase was much heavier—I continued my internship throughout it, but I really don't recommend that to anyone unless they enjoy getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night and no free time on the weekends!
The In-Person phase in Chicago was by far my favorite part of the program. Taking all the knowledge we'd learned and applying it to solving real life problems for actual start-ups was an absoutely incredible experience. It made for some amazing stories and learning moments as well—which was just as well, because the final phase of the program saw us craft our experiences into case studies to showcase on our portfolio.
I grew a ton over the course of Designation. I owe that all to the people I met and learned from along the way—and really, this is the coup de grace of Designation. More than the workshops, curriculum, or free coffee, it's the instructors, mentors, and fellow designers that make this program as great as it is. They really foster a culture of collaboration and community. At no point did I ever feel like I was competing with my peers, and even though the pace of the program was hectic, I felt like I could ask any question I wanted without the fear of feeling stupid. So many other bootcamps operate like a factory, looking to get people in one door and out the other—I never felt this at Designation. Everyone I met was genuine and took the time to get know me beyond a "student".
One area where I do feel like Designation could improve is in career services or job assistance. While the career phase itself was fantastic in helping me write my case studies and create my portfolio, post-graduation was a different story. I found that the Designation name does not carry as much weight in the SF Bay Area as it does in Chicago, and the alumni community here is also much smaller and less active. I felt like I had to really take the initiative to network with the design community, and my job search was longer and slower than I would have liked. At the end of the day, however, my experiences at Designation were a crucial element to me eventually receiving a job offer.
Designation is difficult—be prepared to work incredibly hard and immerse yourself completely in design. Despite the challenges, I thoroughly enjoyed the program because I was doing what I love to do and I felt at home.
- Great option for a career changer- 12/30/2018Josh Miller • Experience Designer at Slalom Build • Graduate • Course: UX Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
I started working as a web designer in higher education in the mid-2000s, and as my career moved along I gained experience in areas like project management, data analysis and reporting, operations, and product management. Thinking about the next phase of my career, I realized I wanted to focus more of my time building stuff. After reaching out to my network and researching online, I found that UX would be a great space for me to accomplish my goal of focusing on building while also being able to leverage my previous experiences.
A two-year HCI masters program didn’t seem appealing or worthwhile—given my time in higher education, I don’t see traditional universities and colleges as being well-positioned to keep up with the fast-paced change of the tech world, so I narrowed my search to focus on the bootcamp/intensive learning space. Designation had by far the strongest reviews, the most intensive and comprehensive curriculum, and it also featured real client projects—a huge differentiator for me. Perhaps most importantly, people in my network working in design and tech in Chicago spoke highly of Designation’s reputation, and the alumni I connected with uniformly had positive things to say about both the program itself and its outcomes. An in-person conversation about the program with then Designation President, Mike Joosse was the last step in convincing me that Designation was the right program for me.
Online Phases (Design Essentials / Virtual)
Design Essentials is the “Design101” course that presents the foundations of user-centered design and the UX and UI processes. It’s a great overview and is packed with great information and materials. It’s a pretty intensive start to the program, and I found that I spent a bit more time than the weekly hours estimate on the site. That said, I was able to balance the workload while I was still working full-time. Coming out of DE, you decide between moving forward on the UX or UI track. Though I came into the program planning on doing UX, my conversations with James were incredibly valuable in solidifying that decision. The Virtual phase builds on DE, going more in-depth and expanding on many of the same topics, while introducing some new concepts and practices. Perhaps the most important element in Virtual is that you start working on teams and presenting your work, albeit in an online setting. I continued working part-time during this phase, and in retrospect I really wish I had been able to clear all of my time, as there is a tremendous amount of material to work through and absorb.
In-person Phases (Immersion / Client / Career)
The 12 weeks of in-person time is where the rubber really hits the road. The transition is, by its nature, kind of jarring—new surroundings, new people, long hours—and for most people there’s a lot at stake. The WeWork space was very comfortable (tasty free coffee is a nice perk), and it was fantastic to have another cohort there to be able to ask questions and learn from. I was initially a little skeptical about the inter-cohort mentorship program, but I ultimately found it really valuable both as a way to get insight on the program, as well as just to connect with the other cohort socially and expand your network. Though they’d only been in the program 8 weeks longer than we had, a ton happens in that time. Immersion acts as bridge between your virtual experience and the client phase to come. It’s less about absorbing new material, but instead more about application, teamwork, and presentation through storytelling. Two three-week client projects followed, where I was able to work with an accessibility-focused non-profit and a scaling startup. At this point in the program the training wheels are off, and I have no hesitation talking about and presenting these projects with colleagues and in interviews as being very much real. The in-person time wraps up with career phase, which is a significant shift from the previous weeks. Instead of team-focused work, you’re now almost entirely working solo to contextualize and document your experience, with a heavy emphasis on writing. The materials Mike has put together are incredibly well-wrought and comprehensive—quite literally all the tools you need to support your search and find a job. Beyond the tools, I was connected with a fantastic mentor external to Designation to act as a sounding board during my search. Then, of course, everybody has access to the 500+ designer alumni network, which is especially strong in Chicago. There is no promise that the job search will be easy, but the results that I’ve observed for myself and others absolutely speak for themselves.
Areas of Opportunity
Designation is very much still a startup. The program is scrappy, lean, and constantly iterating and improving. The transition between phases (especially between DE and Virtual) felt a bit disjointed, and there were times in the virtual phases where I didn’t get feedback as quickly as I might have liked. Also, as I mentioned, the Designation network is naturally especially strong in Chicago, but less so in other markets. Given the recent merger with WeWork/Flatiron, will be very interesting to see how this changes as Designation likely expands its footprint.
Designation has gone to great lengths to build a great design education product. Without a doubt, I think the program provides everything you need to set you up for success as a professional designer. As it is with so many intensive/bootcamp experiences, how much you get out of the program is highly dependent on the effort you’re willing to put it. I suppose it would be possible to skate by on minimal effort, but almost nobody does this (and why would you?). I think a huge reason that designers are so uniformly committed are the people that Designation has been smart enough to hire. If I was surprised by anything in my experience, it was at the exceptional quality of the people on staff. Full disclosure: I had the opportunity to work for Designation as a Designer in Residence for 12 weeks after I finished, which gave me somewhat of an insider’s view to the program’s operations and an opportunity to get to know everybody even better. Without exception, the staff members of the entire program are kind, talented, and extremely dedicated. James, Doug, Megan, Dan, and Mike all had a huge positive impact on my Designation experience and on my life. I recommend Designation without hesitation.
After a minimally painful job search, I signed on to be an experience designer at a national consultancy. I couldn’t be more excited for the next phase of my career in the new year!
- A great experience- 10/25/2018Megan Keach • UX Designer/Researcher • Graduate • Course: UX Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
I came to Designation for a career change. After many years in theatre and time as a stay-at-home mom, I wanted a career with growth potential in which I could utilzie my creative background. UX design seemed like a good fit, and I dove in.
I chose the program at Designation for its reputation and rigor, and I was not dissappointed. I recieved an education not only in UX design, but in soft skills, teamwork strategies, and critical thinking. The workload is sizable and the pace grueling, but the results are remarkable. In six months' time I reinvented my career. I added numerous technical skills to my liberal arts background, becomming a well-rounded and marketable UX designer. I approached my job hunt with confidence in the skills and education I received at Designation, landing a job in my new field with a salary nearly twice that of my previous career.
Designation was a big risk, personally and financially. I can say with confidence that it was absoultely worth it.
- UI Designer- 10/18/2018Philip P • UI Designer • Graduate • Course: UI Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
I can only echo the thoughts of what so many other graduates of the program are saying. Designation is a lifechanger. By quite literally becoming your life for 6 months, it saturates you into the world of design and equips you with everything you need for your career in UX/UI — the most important of which is the learning mindset through which you can keep growing as a designer past your time in the program. Having come from working in assorted digital design roles, I came to Designation hoping to inject a little more meaning into the things I created and the problems I solved. Designation became the catalyst in my design career to refine my hard skills and build up the right soft skills to fuel my career.
Virtual (DE/Virtual Phase) – My virtual experience was unique in that at the time I had spent a few years living overseas and was managing an international move back to the States during DE and Virtual. The hours slowly ramped up through the phases but the coursework was definitely managable and meeting times worked out in the end. The coursework took me through the basics of UX/UI and after some valuable conversations with the instructors, it helped me get a solid feel for which track I felt was the best for me. Though I initially came into the program thinking I would go down the UX track, I opted towards the UI track because I enjoyed the visual design process and wanted to hone my skills in it. The virtual phases helped to not only prepare for the intense experience to come in the in-person experience, but really layout the groundwork for understanding your design process and personal workstyle.
In-Person (Immersion/Client) – Once you step foot in Chicago, or into WeWork if you're from Chicago, this is the portion of the program where you just have to concede that Designation, as well as the world of design will be your life. You are exposed to a network of designers, instructors who really are there to support you, and a community that breathes design. As so many other reviews say, you get out of this program what you put into it. Beyond the design itself, which will only get better with practice, this immersive phase becomes a place where you learn to talk about design, work with other designers, work with stakeholders, and manage the resources you have at hand. This was both the most challenging and most rewarding part of the program and despite the long hours, everything I learned in this phase helped me to shape my current process and work, and working with real clients places you in an environment with real stakes, real pivots and real problems to solve.
Post-Program - After the program was when I really felt that what you put into the program was what you get out of it. Designation equipped me with the network, the mentorship, the resources, the hard/soft skills and perspective to channel into stancing myself as a growing designer and I was able to find a job as a UI Designer about a month and a half into the job search as I kickstarted the career I had envisioned for 6 months.
Final Thoughts - The best advice I can give in this program is to not be discouraged and to stance yourself in a way that is ready to learn from your mistakes. Designation was an extremely intense experience of my life, but as great of an experience as it was in hindsight, it naturally came with frustrations ranging from teammates, to deadlines, to roadblocks in the work itself. It's curriculum is constantly being iterated to provide the most relevant design education and the instructors really seek to help you grow in the areas you most need to improve in. If you are serious about a career in UX/UI and are willing to put in the work, this is the program for you.
- Great opportunity to learn UX- 10/18/2018Kim T • UX Architect • Graduate • Course: UX Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
I read all the reviews and looked at other programs but what stood out about Designation was the opportunity to work with actual clients during the eight-month time frame. Although, the reviews for Designation were phenomenal I was not completely sold on the program until I reached out to a program graduate through LinkedIn. Our conversation reassured me that this program could be what I needed to refresh my skills before re-entering the workforce. Another concern of mine was that I had previous design experience and I was not sure if the Design Essentials phase would be as helpful. A Designation instructor told me that it would set the stage for the rest of the program, give me the necessary vocabulary used throughout the program and ensure that all cohort members start on the same page for the subsequent phases. I also thought Design Essential would give me the opportunity to try the program without a huge investment.
It turned out that I enjoyed Design Essentials, it was a mix of new and familiar material for me. I learned more about the UX process and designed a mobile app. I became familiar with Sketch and InVision and a few other programs. Working remotely concerned me but the way the program was set up made it easy to stay engaged. Design Essentials’ director James was awesome and I was able to ask him career questions and get advice to move forward. The only downside was choosing between the UX or UI track after the initial six weeks. Eventually, I chose the UX track but with great debate. I knew I wanted to build new skills and dig deeper into user behaviors and the UX track would help me achieve this.
Because the UX track is very process driven I learned to trust the process and to use these steps as tools. My big take away was that I am now able to write about and explain my ideas and design decisions more effectively. Overall, I learned a lot at Designation but it is still a lot more for me to learn. I enjoy the camaraderie of fellow grads and I have grown my network of design professionals. This was one of my best decisions and I highly recommend Designation as a starting point to a new career.
- Definitely worth it!- 10/10/2018Hillary Pollak • Product Designer • Student • Course: UX Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
Like others have said, you get what you put in. You'll work hard but learn the skills to be able to land a job after graduation. If you're looking to get into design but don't want to spend the time or money on a Master's degree, Designation is a great option.
Choosing a program:
I knew I wanted to be a product designer but didn't know how to get there. I looked into HCI programs but they seemed expensive and long. While Designation is less academic than an HCI degree, the work is far more practical. If your goal is to get a job, Designation will teach you the necessary skills to get an entry-level role. That said if you're someone who's very interested in theory, you won't get that at Designation. Since my goal was to get a designer job as fast as possible, Designation seemed like a better option.
I looked at other bootcamps but thought they lacked the rigor of Designation and wasn't confident that I'd be able to get a job after just 10 weeks. I liked that Designation was longer and much more in depth. I also spent a lot of time stalking past Designation grads on LinkedIn and noticed that they were mostly successful. I spoke with 4-5 folks to hear about their experience, which helped me feel confident about choosing Designation.
The program starts with a 6 week DE course to learn the basics of UX/UI. Expect to spend 20-30 hours a week on the work. I worked full-time while doing DE, which was rough but doable if you spend your evenings and weekends working. For me, DE was a good way to confirm that design was interesting to me. It's very high-level, but you get a sense for the work, learn about the differences between UX and UI, and start using some design software. The work is individual and online, so it can seem a bit like you're on an island. At the end of DE, you choose either the UX or UI course and the instructor helps guide you based on your work and strengths.
During Virtual, you work with a team on a mock project for 6 weeks. It's the same basic work as DE, but you'll go more in depth. You also get some exposure to the teamwork that you'll have during the in-person phase. For me, this was the lightest part of Designation in terms of work. I had a great team, which made things easier, but some folks can struggle with their teams. Again, the online part is a little tough since you're isolated, but you can manage to make it work.
This is the real point of Designation and where most of the learning happens. In-Person is split into 3 portions: Immersion, Client, and Career
Immersion: During Immersion, you continue with the same design process that you've learned in Virtual but take it to another level. The instructors will push you more and you'll do much deeper work. You also get to work on a real project, which completely changes things.
You'll also get to know your classmates better and really collaborate. You'll have to work on your team skills and presentation skills. While they might seem soft, they're actually very important and help a lot once you start your job search.
Client Phase: During Client Phase, you get exposure to actually working with clients and get a lot less handholding. Again, the process is the same but you have more agency and get to see how business challenges affect design (very important!).
Career Phase: By the time you get here, you'll be burnt out and will want to chill. Don't do it! Mike gives great feedback and you'll have a much easier time post-graduation if you keep up the pace here.
This is the hardest part but it's also why you came to Designation. When I first finished, I was still unsure about whether I'd get a job or what that job would look like. You're also alone again after spending 12 weeks with the same 20 people, so the transition can be a bit shocking. My advice is to be super-organized, make yourself a timeline for finishing your portfolio, and then start applying like crazy. While it's important to have a job you like, your first job will probably just be your starting point and not your dream job. Everyone has a different strategy (Meetups, networking, applying to a ton) so figure out what plays to your strengths.
During the interview process, you'll be surprised at how well you can speak to your work and do design challenges. This gave me more confidence since I felt that I could actually do the real work.
You'll definitely have low moments since applying is a grind, but if you work hard enough, you'll get there eventually. Depending on your skillset, it can take some people longer to find a job. There are a LOT of junior designers out there from other bootcamps but a lot of them suck. Designation is more rigorous than other programs, so you'll stand out if you put in a lot of effort to make your portfolio look good.
It took me about 6 weeks to make my portfolio and then another 6 weeks of interviewing before I got an offer. I managed to increase my salary from before Designation, which I wasn't necessarily expecting (but was exciting!)
The people: Designers tend to be pretty fun people so you'll have fun. While the cohorts vary, mine was pretty diverse (a mix of people right out of college to people going back to work after having kids). Since you spend so much time together, you'll get goofy as well. You'll probably also have moments where you're pissed at others, but that's natural when you spend that much time with a small group.
Real work: Having actual projects is essential to getting a job. Employers want to see how you navigated the client interactions and business side, so Designation will allow you to speak to that. It's also way more fun to work on real projects that can have an impact.
Presentation skills: You'll have to present every week, so you'll get good at making a pretty deck and articulating your ideas. Both are essential for a design career.
Quality of instruction: If you want to be pushed, the instructors will help you. They'll constantly give you feedback, help you think through problems, and actually learn.
The people: While most people are great, there are always a few difficult teammates or some people who aren't cut out for design. Designation tries to weed them out during DE or Virtual, but they also need to keep attendance rates high because it's a business. At times, teammates can bring the group down and make it hard to learn.
Virtual phases: While these are necessary so that you have a basic framework, the structure could be improved. Some of the lectures were tedious.
Post-grad: While Mike does a great job during career phase, you're kind of on your own after. You'll still check in with him but it's up to you to hustle to get a job. I did a lot of my own networking to get advice, which I'd recommend. You also don't get a lot of practice with design challenges, so that was a bit challenging.
UX vs. UI: Designation makes a pretty clear split between the two but a lot of jobs tend to focus on both. I found it rare for a job to be just UX. Since I wanted to do product design, I spent some additional time teaching myself some UI skills. Basically, I wish there was just a product design track!
- Six months of hard work for a new life!- 10/8/2018Andrew K • Product Designer • Graduate • Course: UI Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
Six months at Designation jumpstarted a career that I love. I came to Designation with no design experience, spending the years prior to the program working in finance. The most designing I'd ever done was in PowerPoint. I was initially skeptical of the program because it didn't provide a formal degree or certification. I'd also need to leave the comfort and security of my current job. Wanting to understand more about the industry and program, I sought out a Designation grad (which I highly recommend doing). She eased a lot of my concerns about the field and the expectations of the program.
As many of the other reviews have voiced, you'll only be successful at Designation if you're willing to put in the effort. The time commitment is significant, as is the amount learning you'll be doing in that time. The curriculum is structured in a way that allows designers to learn and grow through hands-on experience and repetition.
The first phase of the program is Design Essentials, which serves as the foundation of your future learning. You'll learn the basic principles of UI/UX design through lectures, group work, and assignments. This phase is part-time, so I continued to work my full-time job. The amount of time this phase takes up is dependent on your learning and working style. I think I personally invested 20/30 hours per week reading and completing the assignments.
The second phase is the virtual phase. At this point, you'll likely need to commit 40+ hours per week. Between Design Essentials and the virtual phase, Designation requires you to choose a concentration: UI or UX. The next six weeks will be a deep dive into the concentration you choose. I chose the UI path because I enjoyed the visual design process. There are lectures during this phase, but most my of learning came from actually designing a mock project. The most beneficial part of the virtual phase for me was the critique and feedback I received on my work. It's difficult to accept at first, but you'll quickly find that feedback is invaluable to your growth as a designer; you can't take it personally. I did wish this phase incorporated more learning around UX. In looking for jobs, I found that most positions were looking for candidates that had a solid understanding of both UI & UX.
The next phases are Immersion and Client phase. These are in-person at Designation in Chicago. This is when Designation becomes your life. You'll spend 60+ hours per week learning and actually doing real design work. This is an important part of the program; perhaps the most. I learned how to cohesively work in design teams and explain and present my designs to stakeholders. There are so many resources available to you, being in-person: creative directors, peers, guest speakers. Leveraging these resources will be crucial in your growth. I had the opportunity to design for two actual clients, so I learned firsthand how to communicate design to different types of people while designing for real business problems. This will be a challenging part of the program, but I learned the most during it and am able to apply the things I learned at my new job.
The last phase is the Career phase. You'll learn how to write case studies on your work, create your portfolio, and how to market yourself as a designer. Designation pairs you with a career mentor, which was really helpful for me as I crafted my story as a designer and reached out to prospective employers. Designation does not place you in a job after you graduate. You'll do all of the searching and applying on your own. However, there is a very active job board where the Designation community post listings for candidates. The creative directors are also more than willing to provide feedback on job listings and companies you may come across. Career phase continues post-graduation as well. You'll have access to Designation for six weeks to have any of your career materials reviewed.
Designation provides you with all of the resources you need to learn and become a UI/UX designer. The result of the program hinges on the effort and quality you put into the learning. If you leverage all of the tools provided to you, the people you meet and stay humble, I think anyone can become a quality designer through Designation. I'm currently the sole designer at my company and feel confident in my ability to create progressive and meaningful work.
- Make the move!- 9/19/2018Rob Jurewicz • Product Designer • Graduate • Course: UX Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
If you are a naturally curious person who wants to know what makes people tick and doesn’t want to be spoon-fed instructions, Designation is the place for you. I had 10 years experience in graphic design but was looking to make a change to a field that would be more meaningful on a day-to-day basis. I was looking for the right balance of time to soak in new knowledge, but not the extended length of a graduate program. This was the perfect split for me compared to some of the shorter 10-week programs I compared it too. One of the best parts of the program is that it lets you get a taste for either UX or UI track before committing to it fully. In my case, I was pretty sure I wanted to pursue the UX path, and Design Essentials helped confirm that it would be the most beneficial to me. It has been nine years since graduating from design school, but it was pretty easy to get back into a ‘student' mindset. Once you move from virtual in person, the program tries to drive you out of that mindset back to more of a professional setting, but the ambiguity can be mentally confusing at times, and it doesn’t click for everyone at the same time. This is especially true if you like to follow a syllabus and play by the rules. You eventually have to figure out what is the most valuable task to do to make the best product possible, not because it was handed down for you to do. This can lead to some frustration feeling like you are not learning enough pure technical skill (esp in UX), but you are learning the stuff that you can't learn from watching a YouTube tutorial. This has been most beneficial in the post-graduation world where for me it has become much more about what part of the process will bring the right insight to build the best product. The client phase is the real deal. I’ve worked live in design for a long time, and while you have some guardrails thanks to the tireless effort by your creative directors, the working process with the clients is as it has been at any point in my career. This should give you total confidence when putting together your portfolio that the work you have done is legit and enough to get you a job. Speaking of getting a job, the career phase is a perfect ender to the program. It teaches you all the things you would never learn in a graduate program about the in's and out’s of the interview process. Everyone in my cohort that put all their effort and trust into the career phase process has come out with great jobs and on an exciting new path forward. I cannot recommend it enough, and I know Designation is only going to keep iterating and improving from here!
- Jacob H. • Product Designer • Graduate • Course: Quartz Cohort • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
I had been a designer for a good while. I was working at a large reputable ad agency as an Art Director for 5 years but the work I was doing was of a very narrow skill set and it was extremely difficult to advance or find many job opportunities elsewhere that really got me excited to apply. Even changing companies would only have afforded me minimal additional money or career advancement opportunity. I had been wanting to make the transition to digital work for a long time but it was difficult to break into it without the prior experience. I met with a couple mentors who told me that is was going to take a lot of self-education or going back to school but one of them mentioned a short but intense program that he knew produced some really solid designers. It was called Designation. He told me that he had even hired a designer out of Designation and was very impressed with him. That was a huge endorsement and the rest is history.
Designation was a game changer for me. It actually sounds fake to talk about all the positive things that it did for me. I landed a contract gig doing freelance UX design immediately after finishing Designation. I went on to work at a reputable startup in Chicago, getting a lot of praise for my work there. About a year into my UX career, the recruiters started to call and message. I've had many people contact me asking if I'd like to hear about new opportunities. I haven't had to actually seek out jobs in almost 2 years. The jobs come to me. And I'm on the cusp of doubling my salary. DOUBLE.
Designation did many things for me and my career but it was also just a great experience to go through. I made some great friends that I still keep in touch with over 2 years later. The program itself was no joke. It was challenging and consumed my life for over 4 months but the knowledge and experience gained was worth far more than the program costs and the program is not cheap. I feel it was every bit as valuable as 2 years of grad school would've been but grad school wouldve cost multiple times the tuition of Designation.
I can't say enough good things about Designation. It did incredible things for me that I still can't believe and I'm way grateful for it!
- Designation- hard work & rewarding experience- 8/15/2018Tiffany Kuhn • Associate Designer • Graduate • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
I have to echo what has been said in multiple reviews of Designation—you will get out what you put in to the program, the time and money are worth it, and it is a life changing experience… but let’s back up to how I got here.
In 2017, I was unhappy with my career in administration and operations and was looking for a change. I knew that I wanted to work in a creative, project driven environment and started exploring ways to move into a design career. I explored a number of bootcamps, but ultimately chose Designation for three main reasons:
- The 8-week Design Essentials was relatively low cost and allowed me to dip my foot in the waters to see if this field was the right fit for me before I committed to the longer program. Also, since DE gave me the full spectrum of UX &UI work, I was able to better decide which track I wanted to pursue.
- The big differentiator is the Career Phase that is offered at Designation. It was important to me that I have the experience of seeing how a design team works together in a real-world environment and that I walk away with a portfolio that included more than spec work.
- The last piece that drew me to Designation was the people. Through design meetups around town, reaching out to people online, and my interview at Designation, I got a good look at the culture at Designation. The staff and alumni of Designation is truly a village–kind, supportive, constructive and responsive individuals that want to see all members of the community succeed and be their best selves.
With the decision made, I embarked on my journey at Designation in October 2017 with Design Essentials.
Pros: James is a great instructor and breaks down the process into easily digestible pieces. You will learn not only the “what” of UX/UI, but more importantly the “why.” You will also get introduced to design crit and feedback, which is extremely important to both growth as a designer and learning to become a great team member.
Cons: The time estimate for DE is 15-20 hours a week, but I easily spent 30-35 hours in DE. The work can be done in less time, but to get the most out of DE it really pays to do the extra reading and to start spending time getting to know the tools better.
Tips: (1) Don’t think you can wait until the weekend to get the work done. Work a little everyday–before or after work if you are still working. (2) If you have time before DE starts, take some online courses to get to know Sketch and the UX process. Lynda.com is great for this. (3) Make the effort to get to know your cohort. Online is awkward and everyone is new, but you will eventually be spending 70+ hours with these people. Take advantage of the slack channels that James sets up for you and do some Google Hangouts with your group.
After DE, I chose to take the UI track for the rest of the program. This is because I am more interested in visual and interactive design, and knew I wanted a job in that space rather than research, concept, information architecture or other more UX focused areas.
Virtual- UI Track
Pros: The UI track starts by building on the visual design principles (color, layout, hierarchy, etc.) that you learn in DE, progresses through learning the tools of the trade (Illustrator, Sketch, Photoshop), and then builds web and mobile UI practices on top of this foundation. Jancy is a great creative director in this phase. She strengthens your design feedback and crit skills having everyone participate in the feedback for each designer’s project deliverables.
Cons: The first couple of weeks can feel overwhelming–there are many deliverables during this time and the course materials are also heavy towards the beginning.
Tips: (1) Try to bond with others on your track, share tips you’ve learned with the tools and interact around the coursework throughout the week (2) Do the extra credit–you’ll thank yourself for learning those skills when you get to Immersion.
Immersion- UI Track
Pros: This is where you will feel like the training wheels have come off. Doug will challenge you start taking ownership of your design process and by the end of Immersion you will be amazed by how much you grow in a few short weeks. It is here, too, where you will polish up your presentation skills and learn how to communicate design to stakeholders. This will be invaluable in Client Phase.
Cons: Week one was a bit overwhelming with your first deliverables due at the end of week one. However, design is an iterative process and Designations curriculum is no exception and I understand that this is no longer the case.
Tips: (1) Actively solicit feedback from your cohort mates–from both tracks–you will learn so much. (2) You will have mentors and a Designer-in-Residence–they have been through the program, understand what you’re going through and are there to help.
Pros: So far you’ve built your skills as a designer using a linear design process, but client phase is where you meet the real world and it gets interesting. You’ll be jumping into a project for real clients, so expect some pivots and to start flexing your design skills. Megan and Dan, the creative directors for this phase, will push your team to continue taking more ownership as designers but are also there as a great support and sounding board.
Cons: It is hard to judge what kind of work will come in the door for each cohort, but ideally it would be useful for each designer to have a mobile and a web project.
Tips: (1) You should know your team members pretty well by now, leverage each other’s strengths. (2) Build a good relationship with your clients, you may want to use them for recommendations in the future.
Pros: Designation has had over 500 grads, and Mike uses the feedback he gets from alums to build a great career phase that gives you the blueprint you need to build your portfolio and find a job.
Cons: I wish there was more of an emphasis on practice interviewing with creative leads in the industry.
Tips: (1) Try to get all of your writing finished for your first case study before graduation. Building your portfolio site is fun, but you won’t really know what you want or need until your case study is written. (2) Take advantage of the time Mike offers all graduates for the 4 weeks after graduation.
You get out what you put in–do the extra reading and projects, make connections with your cohort, creative directors, alumni, and guest lecturers, and give 110% every day. You will leave Designation will the skills, portfolio, and confidence to launch a new career in design. It truly is life changing.
- Designation is WORTH IT!- 8/4/2018Wesley H. • Junior UX Designer • Graduate • Course: UX Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
Designation is a life changer….if you want it to be. The program itself provides you with the necessary resources, knowledge, and integration that will help you become a successful designer. Here are some pros, insights, and tips.
1. The Designation staff is excellent. They’re super knowledgeable and they know what they’re talking about. They’re really supportive and are willing to help you out every step of the way. You're never gonna feel like you're in this alone. Besides the great staff, you have your own team members for support as well.
2. What's great about Designation is the opportunity for real client experience. That is one of the main reasons I chose this program over GA and others. You’re able to work for and interact with 2 clients during your time with the program. This definitely helps you stand out once the program finishes and you start looking for a job.
3. Designation does an amazing job of fostering a great positive community within the Designation and the Chicago design community. It’s awesome to see Designation alumni come back to the program as either guest speakers or DIR’s (Designer-in-Residence) to help out. Towards the end of the program, you’ll even go on company/agency tours in Chicago. When I was there, we got to go on a tour at Allstate and meet some of the designers that are currently working there. It’s cool to see how well Designation is connected with not just companies and agencies in Chicago, but all around the world.
4. Designation provides career assistance through their Career Phase. They even give you some assistance after you graduate from the program as well. I do wish the program added a couple more weeks into the Career Phase, it felt a little rushed. With the extra weeks, I would hope to gain more in-depth knowledge on how interviews/design challenge/networking work specifically for designers. Just being around Designation staff and cohort members can make such a huge difference when it comes to support and staying motivated, especially because there’s still a lot of work to do even after graduating.
TIPS AND ADVICE
1. I would like to remind people that this is a “bootcamp” program, meaning you will eat, drink, and sleep design for the next 6 months. They don’t call it a bootcamp for nothing. There will be a lot of early mornings and late nights put into your work. You’ll spend 6-7 days out of the week working with your team in order to get work done for your project and client. Yes, that means Saturday and Sunday. It is a very intensive program that is built to help you learn a lot of stuff in order to best prepare you to be a great designer. Basically, people should join this program expecting to be working 24/7. I don’t want to scare anyone away from the program, I just don’t want people joining this program w/ the wrong expectation and giving themselves a bad experience. But at the end of the day, every early morning, late night, and Saturdays I spent for Designation, IT WAS WORTH IT.
2. As you can tell from almost every review that you read on here, it’s important to know that “you get what you put in,” no matter how cliche it sounds. It can be very easy to join this program and really leave without feeling like you actually learned something. Be interactive and curious, and really try to soak in as much as you can. Ask questions, ALWAYS find ways for improvement.
3. No matter how old you are or how long you’ve been working in whatever industry you were working in…please come into the program with a “student” mindset. Drop your egos and be humble. Learn to grow with other “soon-to-be-designers” from other walks of life and help each other out. This program isn’t a competition to see who is the best designer. Thankfully Designation doesn’t have that kind of vibe, nor does it encourage it. Again, it builds a great positive community where you will probably call your cohort “a family” and stay connected with them even after the program ends.
Designation has helped me to finally be in a career where I can be passionate about my work as a creative. I was able to build confidence that I’ve never had before in my previous work experience and take great pride and ownership of my skills and works. I can honestly say I'm finally in a career field that I know will make me happy and put me in a position to always CREATE.
If you have any questions about the program, please feel free to reach out!
- Cristina Bichara • Graduate • Course: UI Design Intensive (begins every 6-8 weeks) • Campus: Chicago • Verified via LinkedIn
I won't lie and say this program was fun the entire time. I struggled through it. Some days, it felt really overwhelming. I was pushed beyond my comfort zone, I lost sleep and sometimes it felt like I failed pretty hard but ultimately, I learned a ton about myself, my skills and what I actually wanted out of a career. I made great friends, I acquired years worth of knowledge in a short time and I can actually see my new skills in action with every new job/project I take on. I felt the curriculum itself needed a bit more fine-tuning, and I hear it continues to be updated, which is great!! Its probably already better now than when I went through the program. Don't get me wrong though, I felt I learned SO much and I wouldn't trade this experience. The knowledge they share is robust and ahead of the curve. I loved the staff at Designation. Everyone has their own style of teaching and leading. Working with different staff members was an added bonus for prepping to be a designer in the real world. I also loved the client work that makes up part of this program. I personally feel this is what separates Designation from other design bootcamps. Working with real clients allowed me to talk about my actual design experience in job interviews versus just fictional projects. I also was lucky to be able to continue to work with one of the clients beyond the program, giving me even more experience than I could've hoped for. If you're thinking about attending Designation, I can tell you from my experience, it was worth it! I'm on the verge of starting my first design focused job and I can't wait to see where my career goes from here.