What makes Designation different from a grad program?

Designation Team Feb 21, 2018 Design Tips, Resources

libraryWe frequently hear the following question from people considering applying to Designation:

“What do you offer in comparison to post-graduate design programs?”

The answer is nuanced, but nuance always drives big decisions, especially in design. So we wanted to share our answer, with the hope that it’s useful to anyone out there considering both options. The areas of comparison are based on our differentiators, which we believe strongly in: professional experience, repetition, curriculum, cost, and time spent in the program

1. Professional experience

A grad program is likely to be more theoretical and based on concepts; the work is, by nature, more academic. There are programs out there that offer a studio-like experience, but they’re not found everywhere, and that’s probably a big reason for the emergence of design bootcamps and programs like ours. The projects offered by most grad programs are mock exercises, and usually, feature well-known brand names and realistic parameters, but they’re not fundamentally “real” projects. That means the experience is often inert and bloodless—it’s good experience, but it’s not quite a reflection of what it’s like to be a professional designer.

At Designation, a significant part of our curriculum is intentionally designed to develop someone into a professional designer much more quickly, so our Immersion Phase project works with a non-profit or other organization and uses real parameters, then builds to the Client Phase where our designers work with live clients. Clients are human and complex, and they put their products in the hands of our designers. This introduces elements of unpredictability into a project that don’t always help the design team, but when our designers learn to deal with unpredictability, they come out of it sharper and more nimble.


2. Repetition

No question, a grad program has the length of program going for it. It’s 2x to 4x longer than Designation, and because of that, it includes more repetition of concepts. Repetition provides a greater chance for facts or concepts to be absorbed when practiced over and over and over. A program like ours doesn’t compete with that length. It’s one reason why we’re a six-month program, compared to almost all our competitors, especially those that promise a successful career in only 10 weeks.

We do offer repetition and build-up—what’s learned as facts in Design Essentials turns into projects in the Virtual, Immersion, and Client Phases, with increasingly shorter timelines and more complex deliverables. We see that repetition as hugely vital but, of course, it’s impossible to achieve that same level of repetition as a two-year grad program.

3. Time spent in the program

The flipside of that length is being able to get into the professional design industry quickly. When we think about the industry two years ago, we’re astounded: Design for augmented and virtual reality barely existed, design for the “Internet of Things” was just starting, service design was fairly unknown, the creation of in-house innovation lab teams was just getting off the ground, the numbers of startups and startup incubators were much smaller, and the industry was still mostly using Illustrator instead of Sketch as its main design tool. When someone’s out of the design industry for two years, there’s a significant amount of change to deal with, and the rate of change in professional design has only gotten faster and faster. A bootcamp offers the ability to get into the field and acclimate much more quickly.

affinity mapping

4. Curriculum

We update our curriculum with every cohort. Sometimes that results in big changes, sometimes small, but updates are always done to stay current with the professional world. A grad program is usually unable to change their curriculum within a school year, because of all the decision-makers involved. School is, by nature, much slower-moving than programs like ours. There is fewer than 10 curriculum-facing staff at Designation, and we meet twice a week to discuss every designer, every team, every cohort, and every project. When we see a change needed, we implement it and the difference is seen in the next cohort. We take full advantage of that pace to continuously improve the Designation experience. That means when a person signs up for a cohort, their experience will be even better than the one our current cohorts have.


5. Cost

Finally, on a more practical note, higher education has become remarkably expensive in recent years, and without scholarships, it can be very difficult to afford or pay off. Designation’s cost is $15,800, which is an easier financial burden, and we offer financing plans through partners like Skills Fund and Climb Credit, which were built pretty specifically for participants like ours. That cost is excellent for a 24-week program, which is why we publish a cost comparison chart on our site. It’s not cheap, but we put our experience, curriculum, and people behind it every day to make sure it’s incredibly rewarding.

There are many more reasons why we believe Designation is an excellent choice over a grad program, but we always urge anyone considering both paths to carefully consider as many pieces of both as possible to make an informed decision because it’s their career at stake. For those who decide to take the leap with Designation, we make sure the decision is worth it, in so many ways.

👉Apply to an upcoming cohort here.

👉Schedule an informational call with our admissions team and get all your questions answered.

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