How Designation is bringing the bootcamp model to design

by Sam Dewey
September 15, 2015


Photo via Designation Labs

By the numbers, DESIGNATION — a UX/UI design bootcamp based out of 1871 — has a pretty good thing going.

In less than two years, they’ve graduated over a hundred students and have a staggering 95 percent success rate when it comes to placing jobs for recent alumni. They’ve cranked out 10 classes (that average 15 students a pop) in an intense, 12-week program that often leads to 70-hour work weeks.

And remarkably — in a male-dominated industry — two-thirds of their graduates are women.

Those numbers, which have caught the attention of applicants, might remind you of the explosive rate at which coding bootcamps caught on in popularity. As one of the few options to quickly learn UI/UX in Chicago, DESIGNATION is leaning on the bootcamp structure to establish itself as the leader of the pack.

DESIGNATION co-founder and CEO Aaron Fazulak said that more than anything else, that structure helps set them apart. Here’s how it works:

After six weeks of virtual prep to make sure each student has a foundational understanding of design, participants arrive in Chicago and hit the ground running. During their first six weeks on site, students sprint to master their design chops, from HTML and CSS to front-end development. Thanks to a partnership with 1871, DESIGNATION pairs students with real-life clients during the last half of the program, giving them hands-on experience with live client work.

“Instead of the fake grocery store or the fake online coffee shop that you might have created in college, you’re actually working with real users with real problems,” Fazulak said. “In turn, the startup community is further supported because they don’t have to front $5,000 to $10,000 in cash. Instead they’re getting pro-bono, professional level work for free.”

An on-staff creative director and project manager work to ensure that outcomes are strong and meet client expectations.

The bootcamp, whose inaugural classes came primarily from the Chicagoland area, has seen a reversal in student demographics as word has spread. During the first year, as much as 70 percent of students came from the Chicagoland area, whereas today, that number is down to 30 percent.

Fazulak said students have come from countries like Ireland, Germany, the Philippines, and Australia.

“There’s something unique about our curriculum, our track record, and the diversity we offer that’s making the commute to Chicago for three months worth it,” he said.

Won You, a partner and curriculum director at DESIGNATION, said they re-assess the program's efficacy in order to offer the most up-to-date curriculum as possible. 
"Every six weeks, we aggregate feedback from the students and designers in the community and benchmark it against our curriculum and make the necessary changes," he said. "We can be nimble with the structure of our program and maintain the most relevant curriculum. We are always innovating and improving our program to teach the world's next generation of designers."

Designation cohorts start every six weeks, and they are currently accepting applications.


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