Part 1: Online

Design Essentials, Virtual Phase
Duration: 12 weeks

Design Essentials

Design Essentials (DE) was purposefully created to meet the needs of those coming to the program at any level of design experience, including people with no design background. It introduces the design process quickly, while uncovering the foundations of UX research, UX design, interaction design, visual design, UI design, and user testing.

By the end of these first 6 weeks, you'll decide which track you'll focus on—either UX or UI. Successful completion of DE is required to move on to the remaining 18 weeks of the program.


What to expect

What to expect

  • Learn the fundamentals of UX, IxD, IA and UI design
  • Complete weekly assignments, online meetings, readings, and quizzes on time
  • 15-20 hour per week commitment
  • Attend performance reviews and demonstrate growth in thought, communication, and process throughout the phase
Stephanie Gough

“DE was a great introduction to both the UX and UI field. You are given access to an incredible amount of online resources and the ability to learn and discuss various topics with your cohort and instructor multiple times a week.”

Stephanie GoughUser Experience Architect, Critical Mass

Virtual Phase

Virtual Phase starts immediately after Design Essentials (DE), and is 6-weeks long. The main objective of this phase is for designers to take on a more intense, thorough look at their track of choice while becoming proficient in industry-standard software and best practices. As intensity begins to ramp up in this phase, designers are required to meet with their assigned TA each week for regular critique and dialogue. Both UX and UI tracks feature instructors and TA's who work as professional designers and creative directors, and who provide extensive feedback and field questions.

What to expect

  • Weekly assignments, lectures, readings, and quizzes
  • Virtual check-ins, presentations and feedback with Designation instructors and TA's
  • A 40 hour-per-week time commitment
  • Learn how to put team-based design into practice
What to expect
Anne Levy

“My favorite part of the [Virtual Phase] was the interactions with people in my cohort. We would have regular meetings with everyone once a week, and we also had smaller groups of four people with whom we would check in, work on projects, and ask each other questions. It felt like we already knew each other when we arrived in person.”

Anne LevyUX Analyst, United Airlines

Looking for more detail?

Download our program roadmap, which provides a weekly breakdown of each phase of the program.

Frequently asked questions about our online phases

  • What qualities does a strong Designation participant possess?

    There are a lot of qualities practiced frequently, if not perpetually, by designers in the program. Having a growth mindset is the number-one quality, and which best prepares all designers in the industry for a successful career. Iterative learning, problem-solving, measuring self-growth, asking intuitive questions, dealing with failure, adapting to change and pivots, analyzing insights, and synthesizing data are all practiced heavily. Experience on teams, in customer service, with creative thinking, with time and project management, and with constructive criticism are very valuable. Good communication—interpersonal, verbal, presentational, and written—is a necessary part of success at Designation. And showing up on time, being open to new ideas, staying healthy, and keeping a sense of humor are just as important.

  • Can an applicant skip or test out of Design Essentials?

    DE is an extremely important phase of the program and provides not just an incredible amount of foundational information and skills, but many opportunities for interpersonal communication and bond-building between designers in a cohort. Thus, as of 2018, we no longer allow designers to skip DE. Those designers who enter the program with a clear, existing understanding of UX or UI principles and practices will be encouraged to take on leadership roles within their cohorts, and help to strengthen others around them. 

  • How do UX designers in the program gain UI skills, or vice versa, after Design Essentials?

    A surprising amount of knowledge about the other track is gained through the process of file handoff. This happens in the professional design world every day, as specialist designers in different areas work together on the same team, so it happens on every project at Designation. UX designers are taught how to hand off their deliverables—especially wireframes—to UI designers, who often pick up their work and continue it. In doing so, they learn how to prepare for the UI design stage. Similarly, when UI designers receive a handed-off wireframe from which to design, they learn a lot about the UX design process.

    In addition, designers from both tracks meet weekly for a peer feedback session where they provide objective, thoughtful critique of others’ work, regardless of their track. This activity helps them analyze design work at a deeper level and improve their own in various ways. Finally, graduates are given the opportunity to study the other track’s curriculum after they finish their own portfolios; this encourages them to more actively become a design generalist and be competitive for a wider range of careers.

  • Does Designation offer the full curriculum as an online-only program?

    No. The first half of the program—Design Essentials and the Virtual Phase; 12 weeks total—are virtual, meaning designers work from wherever they live and use collaboration tools like Hangouts, Zoom, Canvas, and Slack to communicate with each other and their creative directors. The rest of the program can only be completed in person, at our campus in Chicago. Working in a studio environment alongside colleagues is a big part of what most professional designers around the world experience. So it’s a truly vital part of the Designation experience too.

Take the leap

Join an upcoming cohort and make the best change of your career.