In this Designlab UX Academy review, I will share my experience with Designlab’s UX Academy. It is an Intensive online program for learning important UI/UX skills.
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Hello everyone, I am Julia Sakalus. I graduated in May of 2020 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering.. straight into the pandemic.
Though I was lucky to have a job in an Aerospace startup, the location and scope of the work didn’t suit me and so I began searching for roles in the Seattle area.
I was struggling to find jobs in Mechanical Engineering that matched my 3D design or human factors or Industrial Engineering interests, but in my keyword searches, I started noticing many UX and Product Design roles mixed in.
After reading the job descriptions for these, I realized these were the types of roles I was really interested in.
After consulting with several people in the UX industry (and learning that many had also transitioned from engineering) I decided to pivot towards this.
I researched all different courses, but ultimately chose Designlab for the price point, what was provided in the course, and reviews.
An additional bonus was having to take their Design 101 course before being able to enroll in the full-time Bootcamp because this allowed me to test and validate that it really was of interest to me before I fully committed. This Designlab UX Academy review will help you understand more insights about the course.
There are no specific prerequisites that I want to share in this Designlab UX Academy Review. However, you need to take their Design 101 course. Ya, there may be other exceptions but this is the main path they recommend for anyone who is new to design as I was.
Designlab UX Academy Cost
I remember I paid somewhere around $6000, which included the short course in the beginning.
Designlab offers some payment plans but it is obviously cheaper to pay up-front if that’s an option for you. Comparing price with other similar courses, they come out to be one of the cheaper courses but still have a comparable offer to the more expensive ones.
The big benefit of Designlab in my eyes was getting a mentor assigned to you who would check all of the work you submitted along the way and give you feedback and require revisions if it wasn’t up to a high enough standard.
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DesignLab UX Academy course timeline
I would like to say that I started the course full-time (40hr/week) for 2.5 months and then decided to switch to part-time (20hr/week).
I was working 10 additional hours a week while on the full-time track and often found that the course work took me longer to complete than the 40hr.
Part of this was that I noticed a lot of people in the course came from graphic design or marketing backgrounds so they had a lot more experience and visual know-how which sped up the UI design part of the course for them.
The 20hr/week was more manageable, and I felt I could spread out the work much more this way and absorb more of the information and spend more time on additional resources.
Your thoughts on the syllabus
The modules are interesting, and it provides the foundation you need to complete the activities and projects successfully. At the end of every module, there are also lots of additional reading links that you can do if you have time. I think it’s important to mention that the content provided is mostly based on blog posts and articles widely available on the internet, so don’t feel like you wouldn’t find it anywhere else. However, I genuinely the structure offered is good, and the ability to submit the projects for review as you learn made it much easier for me to absorb what I learned. There are no live lessons on the learning platform, so you can follow at your own pace.
The program is structured in Phase 1, Phase 2 and Career Services. You have access to 26 sessions with your mentor during the first phases, and an additional 26 sessions with the Career Services mentor until you land a job.
During Week 1 to Week 4, you get to learn about the intro of UX, Research, Information Architecture and Interaction Design. In Week 2 you’ll already choose a brief to work on, talk to users and conduct different research methodologies based on this project. Designlab gives lots of options of project briefs to choose from, and you’re always able to make a few changes as you want to.
From Week 5 till 6, you’ll also start working on the UI part, sketching wireframes and working to the final clickable prototypes and testing.
After you complete the first project, you’ll have another two weeks to start working on your personal brand and setting up your portfolio, which is a really nice exercise to reflect on who you are as a designer and which jobs you’re looking to get after the program.
From weeks 9 to 14, expect it to be super fast-paced as it’s the most difficult part of the program. You’ll be working on full design briefs, conducting research, designing, testing your projects and presenting the process to your mentor. You’ll also be writing and adding each capstone project to your portfolio website. Each capstone project takes 2 weeks (4 weeks if you’re on the part-time track). The first capstone is a responsive design project, the second is an implementation of a feature on an existing product and the third is an end to end app project. You get to plan how you’re gonna work on each capstone as you want. You can opt to work on Designlab’ briefs or create your own, as well as working with real clients if you wish.
In Week 15, you’ll polish every case study you added to your portfolio, resubmit them to your mentor for approval and if all goes well, submit it for approval to the Designlab team so you can get your certificate. It took me roughly a week to get their approval, and they were very detailed with their feedback. If you don’t pass the first time, you can resubmit your portfolio for approval many times, and you’ll get extra sessions with your mentor if needed to rework some of the deliverables.
Also Read: My experience with Designlab
Can I get a job with Designlab UX Academy?
To graduate from UX Academy you have to pass a portfolio review, where they review your website and all the capstone projects you completed throughout.
Having a website at all has been instrumental to my job search.
As I write this I am still searching for employment, but I do think Designlab leaves you quite well prepared and with a lot of resources to help with the career search process.
That said, I’m learning there’s a fair amount of controversy surrounding the skillset of people graduating from online boot camps, and most “entry-level” jobs are requiring 2-3 years of experience.
My thoughts on Designlab features:
After the course timeline, pricing, pre-requisites of the Designlab UX Academy course, let’s have a look at the Designlab features in this Designlab UX Academy Review.
This was a big reason I chose Designlab over other courses, and I believe this is instrumental for learning.
Having someone who continuously checks your work and gives you feedback on it ensured that I was getting what I needed out of the course and was pushed to aim for higher standards.
I address group crits below — did not like them. Most of the valuable feedback I got was from my mentor and from people I tested my designs with.
Though I was at first excited to see the amount of work and guidance available through career services, it quickly became an exhausting amount and was more distracting than helpful for my career search.
In theory, you have somewhere between 10-15 hours of work every week for six months after graduating UX Academy that you must complete to still qualify for the tuition reimbursement.
When I got interviews in the first couple of weeks, I chose to focus on preparing for those instead of the course work for that week which automatically disqualified me.
I think this is a bit sneaky of them, and the amount of work wasn’t well emphasized for this portion when I enrolled.
A big benefit I’ve found of this section though is the mentor you are assigned.
Mine helped connect me to a number of people in the Seattle area which has been great for expanding my network and setting up some interviews.
The resources they provide in the coursework are also helpful (like lists of interview questions), I just think the structure they established is difficult to follow if you want to qualify for the tuition reimbursement.
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Pros and Cons of Designlab UX Academy:
The way the course is structured so that you build a portfolio as you go is very clever. I greatly appreciated this when I finished the course and had a polished portfolio at the end of it.
This will depend on the type of person you are and who your mentor is, but I chose not to follow the recommended capstones for the Designlab and instead came up with my own briefs.
I think this helps differentiate my portfolio from the rest and made the course more interesting for me since I worked on projects more relevant to my own interests.
I really disliked the group crits.
I found these to be very unproductive sessions for the most part where people nit-picked each others’ designs without addressing the actual feedback that was asked for.
These sessions were mostly UI-focused with very little time spent on thinking about the UX.
Yes, I recommend Designlab UX Academy to everyone who is brand new to 2D design and had no previous experience with any UX tools before.
I learned a tremendous amount and feel prepared to take on the entry-level positions in UX I am seeing.