At Designation, we are big believers in the immersive model of design education.
But, while it’s one thing to rapidly learn software, tools, and methods in a bootcamp setting, it’s another thing entirely to have the opportunity to put into practice the professional skills needed to manage a successful client engagement.
One of the key goals at Designation is to develop professional designers who stand out from the crowd as outstanding teammates and communicators. One of the ways we accomplish that goal is through unique client projects, where designers are immersed in client-facing work—solving real UX and UI design problems, with real deliverables, for real business stakeholders.
Designation’s 450+ graduates would agree that the in-person client projects represent one of the key differentiators as a leading UX/UI design program and a fundamental part of the in-person experience. It’s the opportunity to leverage both hard and soft skills accumulated during the first half of the program in a way that allows for live implementation of tools and methods and fosters collaboration during the second half of the program.
The client phase consists of several immersive UX or UI client projects—depending on each designer’s discipline of choice. Designation staff work tirelessly to source, vet and scope out compelling client opportunities for designers, while experienced creative directors and project managers oversee their day-to-day work to ensure quality and comprehensiveness of execution. Since Designation’s very first cohort in 2014, we’ve worked on over 250 digital design projects with over 150 different clients drawn from entrepreneurial communities in Chicago and throughout the world.
Designers have worked on such interfaces as mobile apps, SaaS platforms, touch screen kiosks, a smart home controller, an interactive smart mirror, and smart watches. They’ve built an assortment of tools solving problems for a vast array of target users, including but not limited to: middle schoolers, DCFS field investigators, cancer patients, brides, military veterans, home buyers, cannabis farmers, M&A analysts, physical therapists, musicians , high school teachers, retirees, industrial procurement managers, and hundreds of others.
Working in rigorous and aggressive design sprints, our design teams tackle everything from user research and usability testing, to user experience strategy and interaction design, to fully branded visual mockups of mobile apps, web SaaS platforms, and other digital interfaces. Designing for usability, desirability and business innovation, the ultimate goal in every case is to help their clients ensure that their digital products meet the needs of their users.
At the same time that this immersive phase provides valuable, pro-bono design services to growing businesses, it compels our designers to refine their real-world professional skills through collaboration, communication, and alignment with stakeholders. At this point in the program, designers are expected to work autonomously and to think critically about how to make the design process their own.
“It becomes less about following a pre-defined design process and more about creating a process that’s tailored to the constraints of each client,” said Megan Mueller, creative director at Designation.
Simultaneously, they’re able to build personal portfolios comprised of case studies that turn their client projects into compelling stories of growth, change, and insight—not just for clients, but for themselves too. And those stories are enormously valuable for hiring managers, who want to know designers can handle all manner of experiences. It provides them a leg up on graduates from other programs, who aren’t as able to discuss the real-world challenges and consequences of creating work for others.
“Client projects at Designation are about more than just cranking out wireframes and mockups in Illustrator and Sketch. This work is about empowering our designers as thoughtful professionals prepared to solve problems beyond the boundaries of their 24 weeks with us,” said Dan Hopewell, creative director at Designation.
Through client projects, Designation not only prepares great designers, but industry-ready design professionals.
Click here to learn more about Designation’s 24-week digital design program.