Designlab UX Academy Review
It’s been a few years since I’ve been practicing UX Design, but the journey to get here was not all sunshine and rainbows. There were lots of trials and errors, and most importantly, lots of self-imposed learning.
Luckily, there is a myriad of UX courses that can get you job-ready. Of the many UX design courses I took, Designlab’s UX Academy was by far the most robust courses I followed through to be able to call myself a UX designer.
I thought it’d be useful to all of you to read about my first-hand experience taking the course, so you can make a more informed decision about whether this Bootcamp is worth it for you.
UX Academy Course Summary
What is Designlab?
Designlab is an education company founded by SF-based entrepreneurs Harish Venkatesan and Daniel Shapiro. Inspired by the book Creative Workshop, they started a company to put the tools of creativity in the hands of creators, minus the burden of crippling student debts and unsatisfying jobs.
Being an outcome-driven company, Designlab puts a great deal of emphasis on helping graduates land satisfying UX jobs. That’s why they offer up to 6 months of career services after students have completed all coursework.
Courses Offered by Designlab
The key difference between Designlab and their competitor CareerFoundry is their focus on UX Design. UX Academy is their main offering, with a few other short 4-week courses such as Design 101 (can be used towards UX Academy) and UI design.
This ensures that the team behind the course is 100% dedicated to creating and improving UX Design content up to the last industry standard.
UX Academy Course Review Summary
In my humble opinion, Designlab’s UX Academy is one of the best course to jumpstart your career in UX design for absolute beginners. I say this with confidence from my first-hand experience. Since I’ve taken the course, I was able to take on freelance work independently and have been offered full-time UX design jobs multiple times.
You will start your journey into UX with a 4-week Design 101 short course if you haven’t done much design before. This is to ensure that you understand the basics of design.
Afterward, you can take the UX Academy course either part-time for 28 weeks or full-time for 15 weeks to complete 4 capstone projects.
But this isn’t the end yet. After completing the coursework, you will start a guided job search. You can enroll in Career Services for up to 6 months and be paired with a career coach to work on landing that dream job.
Tuition of the entire course range from $6,349 if you are paying upfront or up to $8,243 if you set up a payment plan. It isn’t cheap but compared to University degree programs and similar boot camps, this is one of the most affordable intensive courses.
I recommend UX Academy to anyone looking for a comprehensive program that takes you from an absolute beginner to an entry-level UX designer. It will give you what you need to become a hirable UX Designer as long as you follow through with the program.
- Comprehensive course content covering every aspect of UX design
- Self-paced learning is great for a part-time commitment
- 1-on-1 sessions with highly qualified mentors who are willing to help you
- Very practical capstone projects that you can put in your portfolio
- Remote learning can be de-motivating and lonely at times since you won’t meet your classmates
- Lack of industry-recognized certification, although a portfolio is often all you need to get hired
- Course content is not great for the visual learner, I had to find a lot of video resources on my own
In-Depth Review of UX Academy
Course Curriculum & Learning Modules
User Experience Design is an all-encompassing discipline with many sub-topics. But the goal isn’t to master every subject within the UX design discipline. As a beginner, you should ask yourself: what do I need to learn to break into UX?
One thing that drew me towards Designlab’s UX academy is its curriculum set up. In Phase 1, you will learn the methodologies and get hands-on practice on all the fundamentals of UX design. In Phase 2, you will build out your portfolio with 4 capstone projects using the skills you’ve learned in Phase 1. You can find a PDF version of the entire curriculum here.
The course content in Phase 1 is broken down into a few key modules: foundations of UX design, user research, interaction design, prototyping & testing, visual design, and User Interface Design. With this structure, you will gain a systematic understanding of the entire UX discipline.
Each module then consists of units covering sub-topics. For instance, within the module “Interaction Design“, you will find units covering Usability Principles, Information Architecture, User Flows, Content Strategy, Wireframing, and Design Patterns.
This structure is very useful later on in your career because it follows the complete lifecycle of end-to-end product design. The breadth of content is extensive enough to cover all the skills you will need to start on UX design.
Do note that specialization is not offered in this course. I recommend that you do a follow-on course on your chosen specialty if needed.
Course Format & What to Expect
If I haven’t stressed it enough, UX Academy is entirely based online. It’s also self-paced so you can adjust the hours based on your availability.
Since I was traveling and working at the same time, it suited me very well to take a remote-based UX course. I got the same high-quality course content and mentorship as one would in the classroom. Plus, I traveled through 5 countries for the duration of the course!
A course format catered to remote learning is essential for an online Bootcamp. I benefited a lot from the course format that covers theory, practice as well as 1-one-1 mentorship. For each module, it follows the same course format that includes:
- Online Coursework: Every module starts with multi-media lessons about the topic. From here you will learn the foundational design concepts and technical know-how. There are also reading lists to help you expand your knowledge.
- Projects: the only sure way to become a UX designer is by doing the design work. After covering the theories during coursework, you will put knowledge into practice with projects. As an example, we worked on a fictional project called Instashop for the Interaction Design module. To deliver a design prototype for Instashop, I conducted user research, wireframing, and visual design as part of the project work.
- Feedback & Critique: Get ready to iterate on your projects quite often, as you will do later in real life. Designlab offers a slew of highly-qualified mentors who will review your course projects based on industry best practices. This is particularly helpful to improve your blind spots.
- Mentor Sessions: these 1-on-1 sessions offer a chance for students to pick the brains of experienced UX experts. I have learned a lot from my mentors because they aren’t theorists in the confines of the ivory tower – they are practicing UX professionals who bring a lot of practical insights from the field.
- Group Crits & Slack Community: here is where you get a virtual classroom experience by engaging with fellow students in your cohort online. Pretty helpful for seeing where everyone else is at if you ever feel a lack of motivation or moral support.
Online Course Dashboard
As an EduTech company teaching user experience design, Designlab’s course dashboard is user-friendly enough to practice what they preach.
I had enjoyed logging into the dashboard every day to learn new materials, submit my projects, and check on feedback.
Upon login, you will see an overview of the weekly modules, outlined in a vertical timeline. On the left-hand side, you will find navigation links to your own coursework, student submissions, group crits, etc. And on the right-hand side, you’ll find useful links to resources.
Once you clicked on the module, it will take you to an overview page of all the units under the module, with a progress bar at the top.
In the coursework page for each unit like below, you will find the lesson content along with related project work. I found the estimated hours to be very useful for planning your work in small chunks. As a freelance UX designer, I have found the ability to estimate hours per task to be a lifesaving skill.
In the project view, you will not only find a clearly defined list of deliverables for your project but also resources for completing your project. You can browse what past students have submitted for your inspiration. This is super helpful if you ever feel a lack of inspiration.
The dashboard is also where you will be able to schedule mentor calls, see other students’ work, and join group crits. I’ve found this course dashboard to be very intuitive and easy to use. An affirmative nod to what Designlab stands for in terms of good UX.
Post-graduate Career Support
When I took the UX Academy years ago, the new career services feature wasn’t live yet, so I can’t comment much on that. However, I did have a career coach who would have 1-one-1 calls with me each week to help me prepare for interviews and craft my cover letter.
It was extremely helpful because up to that point I never had professional eyes to look at my resume. Under the guidance of my career coach (who is a Design Director at a large agency in London), I spruced up my resume to be more polished and minimalist. You can find the resume and cover letter I used to land on UX job offers here on CreativeMarket.
Is UX Academy Worth it?
In hindsight, UX Academy was a driving force behind my year-long transition into a full-fledged UX career. I had taken many UX design courses here and there, but Designlab’s UX Academy was the one that culminated in a professional-grade portfolio that got me into the industry.
According to this report from UX Designer Salaries around the world, the global average salary for entry-level UX Designers is around $40K. That means if you land on a UX job after graduation, you will have earned the tuition back in 2 months.
Like Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” For me, UX Academy was one of the best investments I’ve made for myself. It was especially rewarding because I paid the tuition in full out of my savings, so I was extra motivated to work hard to earn it back.
Have you been considering this UX Academy course? What are your concerns and reservations? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below.