Designlab teaches in-demand UX/UI design skills through fun, part-time, online courses. Designlab courses consist primarily of hands-on projects and 1-on-1 mentorship from expert designers so that students can master the techniques needed to design stunning web and mobile products. The Designlab community of mentors gives students timely feedback on work and Skype with students regularly to help them improve. Mentors include top industry professionals from companies like Twitter, Airbnb, Dropbox, and more. Courses are self-paced, which means students can complete the readings/projects whenever their schedules permit. Designlab is ideal for a developer, product manager, entrepreneur, marketer, aspiring designer, or anyone working on web/mobile products.
Recent Designlab Reviews: Rating 4.77
Recent Designlab News
Branding & Identity Design
The Branding & Identity Design course will prepare students to design and establish visual identities and brand standards across a variety of mediums. The course will help the designer look beyond logo design and acquire a fundamental understanding of the aspects of designing a brand system that is scalable and replicable, regardless of application. In this 4-week online course, you'll design a logo and apply the logo across a variety of platforms and applications, create a business overview, looking at your market competition and customers, develop a brand standards guide, in which you’ll define typographic, color, design and voice standards, and hone your skills & build your branding portfolio with a series of hands-on projects. Work with your own expert mentor, with written feedback on all your work and 4 Skype sessions. You'll end the course with a certificate of completion, a portfolio of projects, and a strong foundational skill set in branding that you can use to work on branding and identity design projects.
- Minimum Skill Level
In this 4-week online course built for design beginners, you'll learn about the fundamentals of color theory, typography, and layout in web design, gain familiarity with the design tool of your choice (Photoshop, Sketch, or Illustrator), hone your skills & start building your portfolio with a series of hands-on projects, work with your own expert mentor, with written feedback on all your work and 4 Skype sessions. You'll end the course with a certificate of completion, a portfolio of projects, and a strong foundational skill set in design.
- Minimum Skill Level
In this 4-week online course you will: Learn basic typographic terminology, be able to distinguish differences between typefaces, be able to identify parts of letterforms, be equipped to decide which typeface to use, know how to set type for optimal legibility and clear hierarchy, and learn how to design and evaluate page layouts and control typographic aesthetics. You'll end the course with a certificate of completion, a portfolio of projects, and a strong foundational skill set in typography. There's a reason why they say that web design is 95% typography — considered type choices are an essential component of any layout. Learn the skills to make your designs stand out.
- Minimum Skill Level
In this 4-week online course you will develop a detailed "eye" for visual design, learn to decide which typefaces to use, become equipped to choose and create color palettes, learn about best practices for UI patterns and reusable design components, and learn how to create retina-ready designs that scale across different devices. You'll end the course with a certificate of completion, a portfolio of projects, and a strong skillset in UI design. This course is intended as a follow-up to our Design 101 course, or for anyone who has a basic understanding of visual design principles. Students are expected to be acquainted with a professional design tool before they begin this class.
UX Academy is an online design intensive, aimed at career-switchers looking to make the move into UX/UI/product design roles. You'll complete over 480 hours of coursework, develop a portfolio, and hone your skills through 1-on-1 mentorship, peer Group Critiques, and Career Services.
- Payment Plan
- 6 month internal payment plan and extended plans financed by Climb Credit
- Minimum Skill Level
- Design 101 or its equivalent (foundational skills in visual/graphic design); knowledge of at least one major design tool (Sketch, Photoshop, or Illustrator)
- Prep Work
- Application pre-requisites: https://help.trydesignlab.com/hc/en-us/articles/218228487-How-do-I-apply-to-UX-Academy-Are-there-any-prerequisites-for-the-program-
UX: Interaction Design
In this 4-week online course you’ll develop an eye for seeing, and a language for talking about, interaction design. You'll become familiar with human interface guidelines, principles of usability and fundamental interaction design details. You'll also practice evaluating if and how interactions can be improved. Finally, you'll develop a portfolio to demonstrate your interaction design prowess. As with all Designlab courses, you'll work 1-on-1 with an expert mentor, with feedback on all your work and weekly Skype sessions. By the end, you’ll have an interaction design toolkit for evaluating and improving the usability of your products. You’ll have examples of your process and work that you can speak to and draw on in related projects. This course is especially useful to anyone looking to develop better communication of and confidence in their interaction design work, and for folks looking to develop their ability to understand and work with product designers.
- Minimum Skill Level
UX Research & Strategy
In this 4-week online course, you'll learn the basics of UX, and user-centered design, explore the core research techniques professionals use to gain customer insight, and get experience by working on hands-on projects, develop your UX portfolio, creating deliverables like personas, storyboards, customer journey maps, & empathy maps, and work with your own expert mentor, with feedback on all your work and weekly Skype sessions. By the end of this course, you'll know all about user research, and have a toolkit of methods you can use throughout your career. You'll have a strong portfolio of work and crucial real experience to draw upon for interviews. Whether you want a career in UX/UI Design, or you just want to build better products, this course is the perfect next step.
- Minimum Skill Level
71 reviews sorted by:
- Only Applicants, Students, and Graduates are permitted to leave reviews on Course Report.
- Post clear, valuable, and honest information that will be useful and informative to future coding bootcampers. Think about what your bootcamp excelled at and what might have been better.
- Be nice to others; don't attack others.
- Use good grammar and check your spelling.
- Don't post reviews on behalf of other students or impersonate any person, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with a person or entity.
- Don't spam or post fake reviews intended to boost or lower ratings.
- Don't post or link to content that is sexually explicit.
- Don't post or link to content that is abusive or hateful or threatens or harasses others.
- Please do not submit duplicate or multiple reviews. These will be deleted. Email moderators to revise a review or click the link in the email you receive when submitting a review.
- Please note that we reserve the right to review and remove commentary that violates our policies.
I had a great run with this prerequisite course. I had no previous experience, and after only a month I already feel confident enough to create logos and a simple website design. I learned both important design history and skills in this course, as well as lots of practice and encouragement. I'd definitely recommend this course, and am looking to taking another DesignLab bootcamp!
UX Academy was a wonderful decision and I am so happy that I decided to take the leap. During my time at UXA, I was a student and became a student advocate to help guide and support new students. While a student and a student advocate, I worked with people from all different backgrounds and since finishing the program, we have all entered the UX design field. It does not matter what your experience is before UXA, if you follow the curriculum and give it your all, you will come out of the course as a UX Designer. I went into the program wanting to learning UX Design and now I am a UX Designer.
I would absolutely recommend UX Academy. In addition to the thorough coursework, the UX Academy has incredibly talented, supportive, and knowledgable mentors that guide students through learning UX principles. At the UX Academy, you will learn to be a UX Designer and will learn so many additional skills that will apply to your future careers.
Before UX Academy, I was a freelance graphic designer/stay at home mom. I wanted to rejoin the workforce full time and pursue a career in UX design. I liked Designlab's UX academy because they had a full curriculum laid out for me, a mentor, and I would graduate with a professional-level portfolio. The experience was very positive and I had a great outcome. The coursework was engaging and my mentor was always helpful in his feedback. The career mentor encouraged me in my job search after graduation, which definitely helped me from getting "job search burnout." About three months after graduating from UX Academy, I landed a full time job as a UX designer at a great company. My transition into my new career would not have been as smooth without Designlab.
My decision to pursue a career change with the help of DesignLab's UX academy was one of the best decision I have made in my life!
I felt that the course properly prepared me to take on an entry-level position in UX. The project-based coursework is solid, the readings insightful, and the mentors are world-class designers who are deeply interested in your growth as a UX designer.
I would not be where I am today if not for the UX Academy!
To be honest, the entry-level UX market is saturated, but if you work hard and take time to understand the fundamentals and can clearly explain the why behind your designs, you will be in a very good spot!
My advice to prospective students who are evaluating UX bootcamps, , write down a list of things you expect to get from the course and hunt down alumni on LinkedIn and ask them about their experience in relation to the things you are hoping to get from your education.
I joined UX Academy full time after years working around building digital products but with no formal experience in design. After three months I was able to create a portfolio, develop my own apps and now I have a job as a UX/UI Designer in a big company in The Netherlands where I now live (I'm from Mexico).
I'd recommend this program to anybody looking to make a carreer change or become a UX Designer, you'll learn all the basics to research, wireframe, prototype and test a digital product, even the worflow itself!
As a tip, choose the time format you are able to comit to, since the program can be very demanding and in order to get the best out of it, you need to spend time actually working on your designs and sharing feedback with your fellow students.
I took this course in preparation for Designlab’s UX Academy. I had no formal visual or graphic design background or training. This course was an amazing and eye-opening introduction to design and teaches you all the fundamentals. It was both challenging and rewarding. The pace of the course is fast and you learn a tremendous amount of information in a short amount of time through readings and hands-on projects. The mentoring is also great so you don’t feel alone when you get stuck or you get to bounce ideas off a design professional. They keep you accountable for your work. I feel very prepared to begin Designlab’s UX Academy next month. I highly recommend this course!
I have been interested in getting into UI design so I opted to take the Design 101 course to get my feet wet. Let’s just say that was the best decision I made! DesignLabs course format is the ideal blend for online learning. The resources and articles combined with projects and mentorship really allows you to constantly learn and retain what you have learned. I’ve done video courses through Lynda and it doesn’t compare to the experience I had here. The mentorship helps you fast track your learning. My mentor understood I was new to design and helped me with anything I needed. Our weekly meetings were super insightful and she helped me with anything I need while also challenging me to think about certain things a designer would think about. One thing I appreciated was her approach, although I was new she still kept a high standard to my work which was good. Because I would hate to have a mentor tell me bad design was good just to make me feel like I’m learning. All feedback was critical to my learning. If you are looking to improve your skills or understand anything new I highly recommend DesignLab for any courses. Due to my experience with them I will be enrolling in the UX Academy as I had such a positive experience and I feel as if transitioning into UI design will be the right career choice for me.
I loved this course because of the balance of freedom and structure. I had the freedom to do the coursework when I had time during the week but still made sure to finish the projects before my next session with my mentor. It made me take my interest in learning design more seriously. Talking to someone who actually works in the industry was also a great help. She gave me so many great resources I might have taken a lot longer to find otherwise.
February 2018 I participated in the UX Research course and It was an amazing experience. At my company we are working with Scrum for years, but I was always missing something. This course gave me the context in which human friendly products and product-features are "born". The course materials and the interaction with my mentor helped me structure the product design process and become more efficient at my job. Now I understand the importance of involving the users in the product development and what is even more important: now I know how and when to involve the users in this process.
For me it is clear that having a good user experience is not something that can eventually be added in the product, if there are enough resources for that. A good user experience starts with a research and it is essential for the products, which want to have a future.
This course is such an eye-opener for those who have never pursued a formal education in design. The materials and exercises are engaging and interesting, and the mentorship is high-quality and very valuable. The combination of those two factors leads to a really enriching experience and I complete the course with a much better idea of what design is, and a grounding in the practical skills needed to be a designer.
- Friendly mentors
- Global and remote
- Slack community where students can network with each other
- Work at your own time, 20 hrs/week or 40 hrs/week
- Group crits with other students where you get to do show and tell once every week through Google Hangout
- Assignment submissions online where mentor can give feedback (although it's also public to other students)
- 3 portfolio pieces to complete under the guidance of a mentor
- Can change mentor if doesn't work out
- Design perks which include discounts for selected design tools like Sketch, Flinto, etc.
- 6 months guaranteed a job or a refund (only applicable under certain conditions)
- No real clients to work with on portfolio pieces
- Slides, videos, and articles based on linked sources for most lessons (some lengthy reading)
- Lack of job assistance because they will still require students to look for jobs on their own after graduation
I have no working background in design or tech, nor have connections who can offer my a role in the Bay Area. I was in the process of transitioning into the tech field after quitting my last office job. As a rookie who doesn't have exposure working with a team, I think it's difficult to land a role in the Bay Area unless I have extensive experience in graphic design, research, marketing, etc. In the end I've went through about 7 months until I was contacted through Angel List for an internship. What elevated my chances was pushing myself to improve my portfolio over the months.
If anything, I think the bootcamp would be much better if they can pair students up with real clients to work on projects. That way, students who struggle with networking or does not have relevant work experience can at least list these real client projects on their resume.
In the end, I think this bootcamp is great for those who want a certificate or have some exposure in design. Although it's not something students should totally rely on to get a job. If you're unmotivated or needed guidance because you have no idea on how to start, then bootcamp might be good for you.
In all honesty, it really depends on how much much effort you're willing to put into this. As long as you're motivated to succeed, you can find all the sources you need FREE online. Build your portfolio, ask some friends or coworkers to look it over for you, and go to meetups to network.
I took the UX Research and Strategy short course which was excellent. The price was good and my mentor was a great resource. Based on this, I enrolled in UX Academy and the experience couldn't have been more different. It was like two different schools.
I've worked in Graphic Design for years, so wasn't sure if the bootcamp was for me. I scheduled a phone call with a Student Advisor. When we spoke he was running late from his last call that went long and had to rush off quickly to make his next call on time. So the difference was being up through my allotted time. Given that I was about to spend thousands of dollars and commit hundreds of hours to this course, barely getting 20 minutes with an advisor should have been a red flag.
I explained that I wasn't sure what I wanted my next career move to be. I work with my own clients and want to offer more services to them, but I also like the idea of working with a design team, and that I was curious about how the career coaching worked for people with design experience. I was told that no matter what stage you're at in your career, the career coaches work with you to find you a suitable role. I could get this much from their landing page, what I was asking for was specifics but I never got them.
Given my initial positive experience I trusted them (another red flag) and enrolled anyway. Almost immediately I regretted it. Buried in the Student Agreement it states that you must apply for a minimum of 5 jobs a week and this includes internships. This seems like important information the advisor could have mentioned. Or information that they could state somewhere on their site. Surely getting a surprise while reading the fine print is the type of user experience we all try to avoid no? I signed up anyway, ignoring yet another red flag, knowing I could get my money back if it wasn't right. I sent off an email for further clarification.
A few days went by and no reply. The course started and I sent off another email. Still no reply. I sent a third. No reply. I sent and a fourth and a fifth email, this time via their website contact form. Still no reply. At this point it was 7 days later, I'd finished the first 40+ hour week, and still hadn't received a reply. Now I was starting to think I'd been scammed.
I DM'd the student liaison on Slack, who told me she would reach out on my behalf (kudos to her for being responsive, while being down with the flu no less, because she was the only one who was). A couple more days passed – 9 days after my initial email – before I finally received a reply from DesignLab asking to arrange another Student Advisor call. They also told me how student focused they are (c'mon, seriously?!).
If it weren't so unnerving handing over thousands of dollars only to have them go dark on me, it would be funny that a company that teaches user experience and empathy could have so little of it. To my huge relief, they processed my refund promptly, but I'd warn potential students to be cautious.
A few final thoughts.
The curriculum is fine. They rely heavily on what is already out there for free though.
If you're new to the industry, blasting your resume to a quote of job postings per week makes sense (we all did when starting out). If you're already in the industry, I can't see the benefit to this approach unless you don't care where you're going.
Make sure you get a good mentor. My first one was excellent. My second one though – I have to qualify this next point with the fact that I withdrew form the course before meeting with him 1-on-1 so am basing this on our written communication only – was very much about his style of teaching, his schedule, and what worked for him. I felt like I didn't factor in to it at all. Had things panned out differently and I'd continued with the program, I'd definitely have asked to change mentors.
So their short course was great. UX Academy was a disaster. And I still have no clue how their career coaching actually works.
I had a great experience with Design101 and Design Lab. So much so that I will be continuing with their UX Academy. I am pretty much brand new to the world of design and tech so it was important that I take this introductory course to learn the basics and now I feel well set up to begin UX Academy. The mentorship piece of Design Lab courses is key. I had an awesome mentor who helped to set me up for success and gave me a lot of feedback and insight to help me grow. I would definitely recommend the program to friends who are interested in UX/UI Design.
I joined UX Academy as a Graphic designer hoping to learn UX/UI design. And UX Academy delivered more than I expected!
The curriculum - Well rounded. They covered all stages of the UX design process from User Research and Strategy to Visual Design. The course was structured well, so as to not be overwhelming. Pockets of theory were paired with practical exercises that helped me understand and remember what I'd learnt.
Mentorship - One of the best parts of UX Academy was being paired with a mentor – a veteran UX designer who knew the ins and outs of the UX design industry. He was an indispensable source of guidance, advice and support (especially for a UX newcomer like me)
Job Search - Rounding out the course was the 'Portfolio and Job Search' phase. Designlab has created an excellent framework of short exercises and activities for this. They helped me get through the daunting phase of making a portfolio, practicing for interviews and learning to present my work. It definitely helped me get where I am today. :)
DesignLab UX Academy is a great start to changing your career! I had very little experience going into the program, and was doing a complete career change. The mentorship aspect, and weekly group crits really made the online program feel like a school you attend in person, with a community of design support. The capstone projects could be demanding at times, with such tight deadlines, so I would have liked more time to make these portfolio pieces better, but I was able to clean these up after the program ended. The Academy goes through the full spectrum of UX/UI, but I would have liked a few more courses/focus on UI/visual design mainly because I did not have any graphic design background, and the students that do seem to be a step ahead (I think they may have added more UI courses since I finished). Yet, I learned A LOT from DesignLab, probably just as much, if not more, as other more expensive in-person schools. I landed an internship after the program ended, then a freelance design gig, and shortly after that a full-time position in UX/UI. I'm thrilled to have a new career I love, and have DesignLab UX Academy to thank for that.
Long story short: I embarked on my UX Academy journey nearly a year ago in full-time track, graduated on mid-February, started my first ever UX designer job in April, and now I'm already at my second designer job.
If you're looking for a place to kickstart your career in UX design, I can say that this course delivers. UX Academy gives you the tools, the platform and the expertise to help you change your career to UX design. But you need to take the charge and really commit. Otherwise you won't get the full advantage. I really enjoyed the curriculum, got professional feedback from my mentor and my peers. The community is awesome and I learned the most from my fellows there.
Like I said, I'm already at my second work place and not even year has passed from my time at UX Academy. The first job I got was a traineeship, and after that I got a better offer from another company, where I work now. I feel that UX Academy gave me a great starting point and kick-off for my UX designer career. Recommended 100%.
I absolutely love DesignLab, I just finished my month studying design 101 and already signed up to start the typography class. The interface is great, you are given all the tools you need to do great work, having a mentor who is an actual professional is such a great asset too. I already learned so much in the span of a month and I can't wait to keep going on my design journey with the help of DesignLab.
I have taken two courses this year - Design 101 and Branding - and both have been packed with excellent material and attentive mentors. This course in Branding is "short and broad"; a lot of material is covered in just four weeks, but it gives you enough of a foundation to keep going on your own after they are over, and a completed project to put in your portfolio. You will not become an expert overnight, but you will know the process to creating a brand very well by the time it's over.
Regarding the course material itself. I have found the Branding course to be a very big leap in expectation from Design 101 in terms of pre-requisite knowledge and time commitment. I recommend asking someone before taking the course if the brand you want to create matches your current skill and career level, emphasis on the combination of those two together. For example, I discovered that creating my own brand before I had an audience or portfolio to market myself to was not a good grounding for success. The lecture material, at time of writing, is a bit sparse, but my mentor filled in the gaps for me quite well. The focus is very heavily skewed towards understanding marketing, and the actual visual design does not come until after the mid-point of the course. I felt unprepared to tackle this course with my current skill level, and wished I had access to someone to ask questions more frequently than once a week, and for fuller lecture material to fill in those gaps. In the end, however, it still worked out favorably because my mentor was able to teach me during our sessions. Recognizing that no learning path is ever perfectly straight and comfortable, the end result of this course is still a solid grounding in the activities that go into creating a brand, and it definitely delivers well if that is your goal.
Overall this is an excellent value for someone who already knows what branding is and wants to get their first brand portfolio piece, or who does not know what branding is and wants to get a grasp of what goes into creating one.
With Design 101 you're paying for the amalgamation of free online resources and time with your mentor, both of which are worth the price. Mentor sessions is where this program really shines because they provide feedback on your work and answer any and all questions you have about how to progress in a design career. However, this course only focuses on web design which is a determinent to individuals (like me) who are just starting out because I wanted a more well-rounded experience. Your mentor does provide outside sources if you ask for them, which are great, and you can take the initiative to find other material, but the course should really be renamed to a Web Design 101 since you don't learn anything about print or mobile design for that matter.
This course is great if you have zero knowledge of design and want to gauge your interest. Other reviews have mentioned the rigorous course structure and it does require a fair amount of time during the week, especially if you're completing iterations of a design. But don't expect to walk away with a portfolio piece. This really is the very first step.
I am a software engineer and I was wanting to learn to learn the principles of UI design. This course was perfect. They give you good content to read and assign you very helpful projects. The real value is in the advice and feedback you get from your mentor. You are gaurnteed 4 one hour skype session plus they leave you feedback on each version of each project. I couldn's for more at the price of $400.
I took up the course as part business owner and part designer.
My main objectives for joining the course were all met - how to layout sites to make them visually appealing, how to use font and colour to make the UI and UX interesting and engaging
The projects were relevant and flexible allowing me to work on both 'fixed' formats as well as flexible - choose your own subject ones. Its was very useful as this mix ensured learning and relevance.
The mentor was outstanding - he ensured that I not only got the relevant and timely feedback and support, but also explained things that were not very clear due to my non-photoshop background.
Finally, The designlab team's responses were always prompt and holistic - a rarity in today's online world!
Previously I had web design and coding experience as well, these are definitely should be mentioned as triggers.
I'm not a shy person, but I had some concerns before like how I'll get a job (is this really enough as a preparation), how the whole group learning will work out, if I get nice and helpful mentors, and so on. Altogether does this really worth it or am I just wasting my time.
At the beginning it was really shocking amount of hours we put inside the projects and everybody struggled to finish the projects in time. But later we got the rhythm together, and helped each other so we started to enjoy.
Personally I liked every single bit of it, we got an equally balanced knowledge of theoretical and practical part of UX. I think the whole course is a big challenge to tackle in the end, if you are doing it good. I think I was competing with myself along the way to deliver better and better outcomes of each modules so I could proudly present to the others.
At first I was worried about mentorship and group critiques since I've never involved anything like these before, but actually it turned out that these elements in the course helped the lot if not the most. Special thanks for my mentors Chrissy and Vibhas who helped me in the different phases and making my work better.
My favorite part was the group hangout during the weekends (Saturday or Sunday), when everybody prepared his / her work for showcasing and explaining the different design decisions to the others. I think we learnt a lot from each other in many different ways. Sometimes we stayed even after the dedicated time just to finish a story or to share thoughts about a problem we were facing. I would recommend everyone to GO HARD! Approach the units with a never ending willingness to experience something new whether is it a new tool or a tutorial video. I think it's also important to be open-minded and stay active on the slack groups with the others so you always feel you are a part of something evolving. I got the job offer just before I started my second capstone to be a UI designer in Amsterdam for the global team of UX design.
Our latest on Designlab
Did you know that by leaving a Verified review of your coding bootcamp experience on Course Report, you’re entered to win a $500 Amazon Giftcard? This time, our lucky winner was Gretchen, who graduated from online bootcamp Designlab in April 2017! We caught up with Gretchen to find out about her coding bootcamp experience and why she decided to attend Designlab.
Want to be our next Reviews Sweepstakes Winner? Review your Coding Bootcamp experience here!
What did you do before Designlab?
Before Designlab, I was a stay-at-home mom and did part-time freelance graphic design and branding for small businesses.
Why did you choose to attend Designlab?
When I decided to go back to a full-time career, I wanted to deepen my skill set to improve my competitiveness in the job market. That's when a friend of mine told me about Designlab's UX Academy. Before this, I had not considered UX design as a career path, but it seemed like the perfect balance of in-demand tech skills and design skills for me. I liked that I could follow a proven curriculum online and I would have a mentor to guide me.
What is your job title today?
Today I work as a UX/UI designer for Rx Savings Solutions, a healthcare tech company in Overland Park, KS.
What's your advice for someone considering Designlab or another design/coding bootcamp?
When considering Designlab or another bootcamp program, I encourage prospective students to learn as much as they can about the field they're interested in. Go to local design/coding meetups, follow gurus on Twitter, read UX blogs. Learn to speak the lingo. Be passionate about the subject. A good designer is always hungry to learn more and become better at the craft. I think to be successful during a bootcamp program, you have to be willing to be proactive. A bootcamp alone will not guarantee success. Rather, I look at it as a great foundation upon which to build your new skill set and career.
Want to be our next Reviews Sweepstakes Winner?
It’s that time again! A time to reflect on the year that is coming to an end, and a time to plan for what the New Year has in store. While it may be easy to beat yourself up about certain unmet goals, one thing is for sure: you made it through another year! And we bet you accomplished more than you think. Maybe you finished your first Codecademy class, made a 30-day Github commit streak, or maybe you even took a bootcamp prep course – so let’s cheers to that! But if learning to code is still at the top of your Resolutions List, then taking the plunge into a coding bootcamp may be the best way to officially cross it off. We’ve compiled a list of stellar schools offering full-time, part-time, and online courses with start dates at the top of the year. Five of these bootcamps even have scholarship money ready to dish out to aspiring coders like you.Continue Reading →
Dalton Mitchell works as an IT Manager, but struggled with the more aesthetic side of design. Without quitting his job or taking on the financial burden of full-time bootcamps, Dalton decided to join Designlab, a part-time, mentor-driven, online learning platform. Having completed the Design 101 course, Dalton tells us about finding a career path that he loves and how Designlab helped him develop his skills while fitting his learning style, schedule, and price range.
What were you up to before you decided to take the Design 101 Designlab course?
I graduated in 2002 with an Associate degree. I took one semester in website design in a general computer technology program. I love coding and building websites and connecting over the web. The aesthetic and design aspects of coding were really difficult for me, though. I liked print design, but it was difficult for me to translate that into something that I could actually produce on the web- I really needed the foundations in web design.
Did you work full-time while you took the Designlab course?
Yes. I work as a developer and the “IT guy” at a very small plant that builds steel framing for construction buildings. The company has an intranet application for all employees, which started as a PHP app, so I came in to build that. After the Designlab class, because I now have more design skills and front end skills, I’m trying to focus on the interface and UX of the intranet.
Where are you currently based?
I live in the Sacramento area.
Why did you decide on an online program? Did you ever consider doing an in-person bootcamp in San Francisco?
Price was a really big factor. For a couple of years I tried to freelance on my own. It was a good learning experience but financially it really put me in a hole and that made it more difficult to afford a bootcamp.
Designlab was a nice alternative because I got project-based and mentored learning, but they were really nice with me and even let me pay weekly.
Was there an application process at Designlab?
When I did Designlab, it was still pretty new. I was skeptical because money was tight so I wanted to make sure it was going to be worth my while. Designlab has a couple of simple projects before signing up. I did those and I got familiar with their whole interface before signing up. It was really what I was looking for.
How did you get matched with a mentor?
At that time, Designlab had you fill out a small profile, then they assigned you with someone. My case was a little bit unique because my mentor got a really good job and his schedule got kind of hectic. We had some issues getting our schedules to connect, so they matched me with another mentor, Hope.
Who was Hope and what was she like as a mentor?
Hope had just left her design job at Visa and she now works at a startup in San Francisco called Quettra.
She realized that I had some experience and I had some big gaps. She started with some basic feedback but she realized that I had a lot of specific questions.
I wanted to see what it was like to work as a designer and I wanted to learn the the day-to-day workflow as much as I could in 4 weeks. I wanted a little more critical feedback because I wanted to prove myself, so she was really good about pointing out things I didn’t think about. She understood really quickly what I was looking for and tailored her feedback to that.
How did you and Hope communicate during mentor sessions?
At the time, I had a really old laptop and I’m in a rural area so Wi-Fi can be spotty sometimes. Google Hangouts ended up working best for us. She was willing to work with me.
How many times do you meet with your mentor during the 4 weeks?
You end up meeting once a week, usually for about an hour.
How do you work through the Designlab curriculum?
Designlab gives us a curriculum and I worked through the curriculum on my own. Hope and I did communicate throughout the week. I would send her emails as I was working on things to just ask questions, get some feedback and get direction on what I was doing.
Then in the hour long session we would discuss any real glaring questions I had. She would also leave feedback through the Designlab platform as I submitted projects.
Did you ever interact with other students in the program?
The Designlab interface is set up like a little social network where you can comment on other students’ submissions. Seeing what everybody else is working on is motivating.
I liked that we learned from our mentors but also learned from seeing everyone else’s work and other mentors’ feedback. I would spend a couple of hours every week going through to see what everyone else was working on and the feedback they got. It wasn’t the same type of communication we would experience sitting in the same room, but we still got a chance to interact with other students.
Can you tell us about one of the projects that you worked on at Designlab?
The first week, you start off with a really simple project building a landing/marketing page for a fictional product through Designlab’s platform. That platform is a stripped-down, web-based version of a program like Sketch or Photoshop; but it’s built in the web.
I chose a fictional application. Some other people chose projects that they wanted to make in the future.
We spent the rest of the course defining the brand and thinking about color choices, layout, our mission statement and how to reflect the mission statement in the landing page. We took each steps incrementally so you really see the process that leads to a final design. The final project is to actually mock up that landing page using everything you’ve learned.
Since your skill set was in back-end development, this seems very complementary.
It was perfect for me because I had some experience using Photoshop and Illustrator, but I didn't have those fundamentals that you might pick up in art or design school. I could make buttons all day long and they would still not look right because I did not understand hierarchy or how to use white space effectively. When you pick it up on your own, it’s easy to skip those fundamentals.
How many hours a week were spent on Designlab?
I would probably read for at least an hour every day. Towards the end of the week I would start getting into the software and start building things.
What did you create for your final project?
I made a landing page for a fictional Windows phone app because it was new. I had a sample phone asset so I built a mockup of the application to use as the phone image.
We were told that if we really want to be a designer, we should think about the details. I thought through what the app would look like on the actual phone, then mocked it up so I could have screenshots. I spent probably 10 hours throughout the week working on that- I did a little bit more because I really wanted my final project to be something I was proud of.
How have you been able to incorporate your Designlab skills into your fulltime job now?
I do mostly development at my job, but a couple of weeks ago I got to spend a whole week doing design work. A lot of what I learned at Designlab was design thinking and that helped my development style. Now I’m able to plan out my ideas on the whiteboard first, even if I’m just working with data. It makes my code cleaner and made me more focused.
I knew I wanted to start on the design career path, but I didn’t really know where to start. I didn’t know where to apply for jobs, how my skills would be evaluated, and what to improve on. Now I know what areas I need to work on, what areas I’m comfortable showing potential employers, and what kinds of jobs I actually want to work in.
Are you now ready to start applying for designer jobs?
I’m getting there. I reached out to a designer I really like from a podcast called Design Details, which is done by Bryn Jackson and Brian Lovin. I met with Brian, showed him some of the apps that I’d been working on at work, got some feedback on where I am, where I need to be, and some motivation to keep going. He encouraged me to do more side projects, which I have done. It’s important to have live projects that you can show employers. Side projects also reveal how much hard work design really takes. I understand that now, but I’ve also learned that I’ve got what it takes and I don’t need to be afraid of it and back down.
Would you take another class with Designlab?
Yes, I’m currently taking their Branding & Identity Design course. One of the things that’s helped me get better at design is finding constraints. Branding is something I’m passionate about because you have to find a company’s identity; you really have to take a whole company and all of their stakeholders, their history and competition and consider all of it. I know it’s difficult but I really like that challenge. I’m comfortable with my design skills now overall but I’d like to find something that I can specialize in.
Good luck on the new design career path!
From talking with mentors at Designlab and the designers I’ve reached out to, I understand that I need to be patient and focus and that there are tons of positions out there. I just need to wait for the right opportunity.
Before I took the course and started to pursue this in a serious way, I thought I would just be making things pretty and making logos. Now I know where I want to be and I know the position I’m going to be happy in. I’m going to find a position that I love and until then I’ll keep learning.