Where are you now working, and what is your job title?
I am working for Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide in Northbrook, Illinois as a digital designer.
Tell us a little bit about your new job!
Currently, I am executing banner ads for Procter & Gamble, which are based on print creative. Also, I am assisting the internal web development team as we concept out the new Blue Chip web site.
How would you describe the DESIGNATION experience?
Exhausting. Thrilling. Educational. Humbling. Insightful. Rewarding. These six words wrap up my experience at DESIGNATION. Initially, I was thrilled to get back into education mode and found the transition into the program, from virtual prep to the immersive 4 weeks, to be of great service to my success. What I wasn’t prepared for the pure exhaustion that kicked in after week 2, but once I built up some endurance, the ride was worth it. When I completed the program, I felt rewarded by the study, the projects and support I received along the way.
“Exhausting. Thrilling. Educational. Humbling. Insightful. Rewarding. These six words wrap up my experience at DESIGNATION.”
What was the most interesting or useful thing you learned during the cohort?
The most insightful thing I learned was how to play to user empathy. It’s the most useful tool one can have in their toolkit. It doesn’t come with an application, such as Photoshop, but arrives after deep dives and understanding who your audience is and who you want to reach.
What are the people at DESIGNATION like (including staff, instructor and fellow students)?
They are all great. What I loved about my cohort is that we came from all walks of life. Some of us had graphic design / photographic experience and others arrived from the corporate world, but the one thing we had in common was we were all tossed into this salad of what makes a UX/UI designer.
DESIGNATION is all about the instructors because they’re the backbone to the boot camp and know their stuff. I appreciated that DESIGNATION makes sure that they have dedicated educators to teach the curriculum and who are current with trends in the field. The staff rounds out the experience, making sure you are supported, as a student, by assisting one in with understanding the fundamentals of UX as well as assisting with problem solving design/code issues. The long-term support of the staff is key. Once one graduates, the DESIGNATION relationship continues, as employment is the end goal.
What were you doing before you came to DESIGNATION?
I was freelancing as a designer, working part-time retail and did a stint as a construction worker, all of which kept me employed to make ends meet, waiting for the economy to settle.
How did you hear about DESIGNATION, and why did you decide to come?
A RedEye cover article about web boot camps inspired me and it piqued my interest. The article spotlighted all the UX/UI bootcamps in Chicago, which assisted in my research of the field. During my exploration, an old comrade from my agency days, a UX/UI designer himself, assisted me in the decision process because the bootcamps were not cheap. He himself is a DePaul University HCI graduate and knew a fair amount about the market and advised me to look into DESIGNATION because he knew someone who knew someone about the curriculum. I took his word and interviewed with DESIGNATION. On the same day that I interviewed DESIGNATION, I met with the other players in the UX/UI bootcamp world in Chicago and asked questions about what I had learned visa vie DESIGNATION. They all fell flat. I called Will three days later and accepted his invitation into the program.
How did DESIGNATION help prepare you for your new role?
My current role is very production focused, making sure that we are staying on top of the client’s creative needs. However, being a DESIGNATION grad with UX/UI education underneath me put me over the top with my current employer. When I am not executing banner ads, I have been brought into our web site redesign and concept meetings, figuring out how to tell our story to prospective clients.
What was your favorite part of the DESIGNATION experience?
To be honest, the laughter. We had a very rambunctious and talented cohort that laughed together through the pain of learning new languages of code as well as concepts. Being thrust into an intense experience with like-minded individuals that brought different life experiences to the table made the experience at DESIGNATION very memorable.
What advice would you give to someone who was trying to break into the industry?
The best advice I can give someone is to reach out to those in the industry and be curious. Connect with others through LinkedIn and ask for 5 minutes to discuss the profession over coffee. People like to talk about what they do and are willing to give advice. In response, be honest in return. The old school way was to ask an informational interviewer who else they should meet with in the industry and the same holds true today. Build the network brick by brick so that you have a solid foundation of people you can speak with. The secret to networking is not what you can do for me but what can I do for you.
The second piece of advice is to stay in touch with an ever-changing industry. Follow the thought leaders on Twitter and look at what people in the industry are posting on LinkedIn. Plug into a podcast called 99% Invisible. Although not about UX/UI, 99% tells stories about problem solving and that is what we do: problem solve client’s needs while making the user experience seamless.
“We had a very rambunctious cohort that laughed together through the pain of learning new languages of code as well as concepts.”