In this Designlab 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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Table of Contents
Graphic design has always been my passion, and I’ve been doing it since I was a teenager. I graduated in Advertising & Media in 2018, and in the meantime, I had the chance to work in an advertising agency and as an in-house intern.
Shortly after graduating, I relocated to the UK, hoping that I would be able to get my foot in the door and land a full-time design role straight away. I sent out tons of job applications to lots of different local companies through LinkedIn and Indeed, however, the competition was massive and I didn’t have a good looking portfolio to increase my chances of being hired.
I started freelancing for clients on Upwork to get real-world experience and build a more cohesive portfolio. In the beginning, I started sending proposals for graphic design roles, but my clients very often asked me to work on projects like websites and apps. That’s when I got motivated to look a bit more into the UX field.
I did tons of research and even started looking at UX job boards to see how the job market was. I was impressed to see tons of new jobs being posted every day, and lots of different cool companies I could be working for.
My learning started with a free UX specialisation from CalArts on Coursera to get an idea of how the UX process looks like. After watching Youtube videos from other UX designers, I noticed that many of them were either self-learners or came from a boot camp design program.
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I looked up every remote UX programme available, their tuition fees and watched tons of different videos of other alumni to get some idea of what I’d gonna get. After lots of research, I choose Designlab mostly because of their great online reviews and student work examples, but also the pricing which was much more affordable than its competitors.
Hence I think I am the right person to write this Designlab review.
You can sign up here.
Pre-requisites to enrol in UX Academy
Before joining UX Academy, you need to complete their UX Foundations course or demonstrate your design experience by submitting your portfolio for approval. In my case, as I came from a graphic design background I started UX Academy straight away.
This will not only give you much more freedom with your designs but also will let you complete the projects much faster and create more polished visuals. Once the program starts you won’t have a lot of time to learn the tools and are expected to submit work according to the deadlines. Both tools have great tutorials available on YouTube and sample files you can play around a bit.
Pros and Cons of Designlab
What I liked about Designlab?
After you get enrolled, you receive a cool welcome pack (with t-shirt, notebook, pen, stickers) and you are invited to a Slack channel with tons of different channels where you can introduce yourself and connect with different people. I really felt a strong sense of community. I like that I was able to network with local designers and schedule weekly catchups with them. There are tons of webinars, events and challenges you can take part in, but of course, it all depends on your availability and how much free time you have during the week.
You also have access to their platform, and the deadlines you need to follow. The project briefs are super interesting and you can put into practice what you learned throughout the first modules. The reading is well presented, and after each subject, there’s a short exercise that you need to complete and submit for review. I like that in addition to working on these projects, you have the ability to submit questions and the type of feedback you’re looking for with the assignments, so you can fill any knowledge gaps.
The 1-1 mentorship sessions are also great. Designlab matches your availability and preferred style of teaching with other UX professionals around the world. You have the flexibility to schedule these video calls as you go through the projects. The mentor you get matched with is really important, as they will be with you from week one until you graduate. If you’re not happy, you can also ask for a rematch.
You also take part in weekly group crit sessions, where you have the chance to present your designs, give and get feedback from other students. This is also a great opportunity to learn how to present your work and argument design decisions.
Let me be honest in this Designlab review and share some downfalls.
What I didn’t like about Designlab?
Overall I had a great experience with DL, but one of the things I think that could be improved is the format of the reading materials. During the first couple of weeks, you start learning about each step of the design process and have to go through some articles and blog posts about the subjects you’re learning. It can be difficult at times to keep the focus on these reading materials, especially when reading long book chapters. I think that it could be more dynamic if they added more videos or podcasts to break it down a bit.
Moreover, the deadlines are very tight, and you can find yourself falling behind the coursework if you don’t plan accordingly. This directly impacts your reimbursement guarantee eligibility – if you’re interested – but in my case, I wasn’t eligible anyway as I didn’t live near their target cities.
Can one get a job with Designlab? My experience
In my opinion, it depends a lot on each and every one. Everybody has a different background and acquired a different set of skills throughout their career. Coming from a graphic design background helped me with my transition to UX, as I was very familiar with the UI aspect of it, and already knew how to use design tools such as Figma and Adobe Suite.
What I was really looking for with Designlab was to learn the UX process and having a mentor to help through this process of building a nice looking portfolio to showcase on the job interviews. Everyone is different but I strongly believe that if you dedicate yourself to the program, ask as many questions as possible to your mentor, network as much as possible and really immerse in the capstone projects, you can land a job at the end. The project briefs allow a lot of creativity and exploration, and it’s completely up to you how ambitious you want to be.
Thoughts on some Designlab features like
Every week you have access to a 1-hour call with your mentor via Zoom or Meet. If you’re on the part-time track, you meet once a week, and the full-time track, twice a week. My mentor was a freelance UX designer with years of experience working for corporative clients from around the world. She also studied with DL in the past, which allowed her to give me some direction and the best way to approach the capstone projects. I recommend that you come up with a list of questions you have for your mentor every week, so you can make the most of these sessions. You also can present your designs and ask for feedback.
As you work with the platform projects, you need to submit the projects and request your mentor approval. They can then approve it or request iterations so you meet the criteria. You can also check other students’ work and see what sort of feedback they’re getting from their mentors, which is great.
Upon completing UX Academy you have access to 30-minute weekly sessions with a career expert. I had the chance to have someone look over my CV, cover letter and overall tips for interview, and which jobs to apply for. In my case, I got matched with another UX designer that worked with tons of big companies, and have been a hiring manager herself. You still need to complete Career Services coursework and attend these sessions to remain eligible for the tuition reimbursement. You’ll also set up a Huntr board with your career coach, where you can keep track of your job applications, interviews, rejections and hopefully your job offers.
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How much did I paid?
In 2021, I paid $7149 for the tuition fees, spread across a 10-month payment plan. They also offer scholarships and different payment plans for US students. You also get a very good discount if you pay in full. It’s a big investment, but the pricing it’s fair, considering the number of sessions you have available to schedule with your mentor. In addition to it, you also have the career coach and group crit sessions available. In the end, the total cost it’s just a fraction of what you would pay in traditional university education. The Reimbursement Guarantee program is also a plus. If you meet the criteria listed, you can get your full tuition back if don’t get a job within 6 months of graduation.
The UX Academy program takes 15 weeks full-time to complete and 28 weeks part-time. I started the full-time track in February and graduated in July 2021 (It was initially planned to be in June). The timelines are super tight and you really need to plan your schedule accordingly so you don’t fall behind a lot with the coursework.
Is Designlab Worth It?
I definitely recommend Designlab to anyone who’s looking to make a transition to UX, or just wants to add UX skills to the repertoire. I had a positive experience not only with my mentor but with the Designlab community in general. I’m really happy with how my portfolio looks, which helped a lot with getting job interviews for UX/UI/product design roles, but it also helped me boost my confidence to talk through my thinking and my process of design.
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Designlab UX Academy Review By Julia
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, so I began searching for roles in the Seattle area.
I struggled to find jobs in Mechanical Engineering that matched my 3D design skills. But in my keyword searches, I started noticing many UX and Product Design roles mixed in.
After reading their job descriptions, I realized these were the types of roles I was interested in.
After consulting with several people in the UX industry, I decided to pivot. I researched all different courses but ultimately chose Designlab.
An additional bonus was having to take their Design 101 course before enrolling in the full-time Bootcamp, and this allowed me to test and validate that it 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 primary path they recommend for anyone new to design.
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. 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.
Getting a mentor assigned is a significant benefit of Designlab. He who would check all of the work you submitted. Also, give you feedback and require revisions if it wasn’t up to a high enough standard.
I started the course full-time (40hr/week) for 2.5 months. Later I decided to switch to part-time (20hr/week), and I was working ten additional hours a week while on the full-time track. The course work took me longer to complete than the 40hr.
Many people in the course came from a graphic design or marketing background, and they had a lot more experience and visual know-how, which sped up the UI design part of the course.
The 20hr/week was more manageable, and I felt I could absorb more of the information and spend more time on additional resources.
Syllabus of Designlab’s UX Academy
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. The content is mostly based on blog posts and articles widely available on the internet.
However, I genuinely felt the structure offered was good. The ability to submit the projects for review made it much easier to absorb the learnings. There are no live lessons on the platform so that you can study 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 phase and additional 26 sessions with the Career Services mentor until you land a job.
During Week 1 to Week 4, you 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. Designlab gives lots of options of project briefs to choose from. 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 completing the first project, you’ll have another two weeks to start working on your personal brand. This is a really nice exercise that reflects on who you are as a designer.
From weeks 9 to 14, expect it to be super fast-paced as it’s the most challenging 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 two weeks (4 weeks if you’re on the part-time track). The first capstone is a responsive design project. The second is implementing a feature on an existing product, and the third is an end to end app project. You get to plan how you’re going to work on each capstone as you want. You can opt to work on Designlab’ briefs or create your own, as well as work 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. You’ll get extra sessions with your mentor to rework some of the deliverables if needed.
Did I Got Placed ?
To graduate from UX Academy, you have to pass a portfolio review. Here they review your website and all the capstone projects you completed.
Having a website has been instrumental to my job search.
As I write this, I am still searching for employment. But I think Designlab leaves you quite well prepared and with many 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 require 2-3 years of experience.
Why I Chose Designlab’s UX Academy?
Mentorship was a big reason I chose Designlab over other courses.
Having someone who continuously checks your work and gives you feedback is paramount. My mentor ensured that I got what I needed out of the course, and he pushed me to aim for higher standards.
I was excited to see the work and guidance available through career services. But it quickly became an exhausting experience and was more distracting than helpful.
In theory, you have somewhere between 10-15 hours of work every week for six months after graduating from UX Academy. You must complete to still qualify for the tuition reimbursement.
When I got interviews in the first couple of weeks, I focused on preparing for those instead of the coursework, and this automatically disqualified me.
I think this is a bit sneaky of them. The amount of work wasn’t well emphasized for this portion when I enrolled.
However, a big benefit I’ve found of this section is the mentor you are assigned.
Mine helped connect me to some people in the Seattle area. It 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 think the structure they established is difficult to follow if you want to qualify for the tuition reimbursement.
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The way the course is structured to 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. It made the course more interesting 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 thinking about the UX.
Do I recommend the UX Academy by Designlab?
Yes, I recommend Designlab UX Academy to everyone brand new to 2D design and has 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.
Innovative Mechanical Engineer and UX Designer with an aptitude for learning and a demonstrated ability to autonomously drive projects and design and deliver solutions that integrate fabrication, mechatronics, rapid prototyping, and coding.