UX Boot Camps (Bloc vs Designlab vs Springboard vs CareerFoundry)

When the list was made IxDF didn’t have any bootcamps. They are launching them this year. I will have to update the list now that they have bootcamps.

Hi @jdebari and everyone,
While ago I posted a question regarding DL vs CF. I decided to take both Design 101(DL) and Intro to UX (CF) at the same time and see which one I would like to continue. I don’t really recommend doing this to anyone if you work full-time in a busy place. Luckily my professional work was slow, so I was able to catch up with assignments over the holiday. Although only for short courses, I thought I would share my experience.

Although from the outside it looked very similar in descriptions, they package these courses very differently.

Both are intro courses and not intended to go into depth. But they have two different goals in their mind when they designed the program. It’s kind of like comparing an apple to orange almost.

DL’s goal is to create a good portfolio. Design 101 focuses more on some UI development and a certain aesthetic standard through bits of small assignments. You would learn from looking at other’s work shown in the dashboard as well as having conversations with a mentor and working on your own. It helps if you know Illustrator or Photoshop to catch up with the pace. Coming from a design background, I initially felt discouraged to create color wheels and all that, but in the end, it was a good ego booster. I had a fantastic mentor that is more relaxed and gave me freedom for creativity. I was able to focus more on the actual project.

There are readings but I didn’t have to read in-depth in order to finish the assignments since I was already familiar with a lot of theories. That may change in the following UX Academy course. I prefer something that is light enough to skim through. It did not bother me that not all contents are in-house because the linked articles would open up other threads of interesting stuff. Design 101 does not really deal with user testing, persona development etc. That stuff comes after in the main program UX Academy. But you won’t be able to take the course if your work is deemed subpar/incomplete. It seems that they are leaning towards a slightly more competitive environment to maintain a certain quality of portfolio coming out. I had plenty of career-related discussions with my mentor and how I should tailor my assignments to suit my career goal.

CF’s goal is to teach the basics of UX to everyone equally regardless of their design aptitude. It’s about going through every step and less about making pretty pictures. It starts with the competitor analysis, persona development, prototype on paper, user testing, etc. You can literally go through using just PowerPoint and pen & paper in the Intro. Using other software is only critical in the immersion course. They have a specific project brief you were asked to follow. It’s very difficult to deviate from what they prescribed. I didn’t want to spend too much time on the paper prototype so I asked if I could use XD or Figma to create the prototype, but was told no by the tutor. She didn’t even like the fact that I used iPad instead of paper. It may have helped if I could actually talk to my tutor to flesh things out before I endeavor a massive amount of work, but the platform only allows DM to my tutor.

In CF, the tutor is the one who approves the assignments. The mentor, on the other hand, is the one you can set an appointment to talk to on videocall to discuss industry experience etc. But mentors have no obligation to discuss the progress of assignments or make weekly appointments. Some students got lucky and getting more out of mentors, but I cannot blame the ones that only doing what their job descriptions ask them to. This division of labor is puzzling. Why can’t I talk to the one who approves the assignment? As for the reading materials, it won’t be fair to compare the content since CF’s Intro is more about UX and less about the visual design which I am more familiar with. I googled videos from youtube and IDF to supplement.

I may sound harsher on CF, but it taught me what is missing from the project I did in DL’s Design 101. DL and CF is doing things almost the opposite direction: UI/visual design first or deal with it later.

Nonetheless, what makes the difference is who you get as a mentor or tutor in either program. Some got unlucky in DL too. It’s important that if you are having issues you need to talk to coordinators. I heard about complaints in both communities.

I learned something important about my learning style I was not fully aware of (or didn’t want to admit…). I constantly need to talk to someone whom I reflect my thoughts on to develop a project. I actually need a little bit of weekly nagging/reminder/stressor to finish projects, as well as some freedom to break rules if I believe it would improve the quality of the outcome. I am also inpatient, need more encouragement and less structure. For those who have the discipline to set your own pace, stay focused on each task in isolation without any deviations, able to learn more from research and theory, CF may be better. To sum up in stereotype, CF is more German and DL is more American :laughing:

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This is very helpful, thank you @workskiclimb!

I liked your last sentence between Germans and Americans. :grinning:

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Great insight thanks for sharing. I was actually thinking of using an iPad Pro as well for drawing instead of paper, seems like a forward-thinking concept, better for dealing with mistakes and digitizing to archive or show in portfolio.

To be honest, I find it a bit troubling if tutors have the final say on what you can do, supposedly they have far less experience than mentors, one would think the mentors should be the ones having the guidance and final approval.

I’m curious which bootcamp did you continue with (if any)?

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@mdami I know quite a few designers that sketch using the iPad Pro. It is certainly not frowned upon in the industry.

I don’t understand the split between mentors and tutors either. It seems like making something complex for the sake of it. I know Bloc and Thinkful do the same thing.

Hope that helps!

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Thoughts on self-learn/teaching vs bootcamp? After more research there’s a lot of courses online that will teach you the same things as bootcoomp for much much cheaper. I’m stuck between going self route where it would be a lot less money and bootcamp where there would be a much more structured learning/everything in front of me.

Wowww, this page is amazing. Thank you for all the inputs! I literally read through all the posts.

@jdebari I’m debating between DL, CF, and Springboard. I’m a last year university student doing fine arts and have basic knowledge in design. I want to get myself ready for jobs soon after graduation, which leaves me 2 choices:
1. start a part-time bootcamp during school (school ends in April)
2. start a full-time after graduation (after April)

For full time, I’m leaning more towards DL & Springboard, but I’m wondering if I can handle the time and its intensity. I heard full time is pretty intense and stressful even if you quit from work. I do still want some break time. For part-time, I’m leaning towards CF since the time seems more doable in school. From what I’ve read above, doing DL part-time is far more than the 20hrs work they stated, so it might be too hard for me to balance while I’m still in school. I have the third choice to do a part-time after graduation, but my concern is that it takes too long before I’m ready for the job market, and I want to work sooner after graduation. @jdebari What would you recommend?

@bbxin, self-study can work as long as you get regular feedback. I think I have a general outline on my blog of the order to study things.
The IxDF (Interaction Design Foundation) is releasing its first bootcamp on Monday. It’s $2000. It might be worth checking out, UX Fundamentals | Online UX Design Bootcamp.

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Welcome to the community @courtney!

For me personally, I would wait until school is over because I like to focus on just one thing at a time. If you do go the part-time route, I recommend CF. For full-time and being job-ready, I recommend DL.

Hope that helps! Reach out with any other questions.

Thoughts on both bootcamp + self study? Would this combo be beneficial in learning or redundant?

@mdami The very day I wrote this review, I got laid off from my full-time work :laughing: It must be the sign. So that made me decide to go for Designlab full-time. The only reason I was considering CF was because of the self-paced program that can be done part-time. Designlab has part-time, but base on my earlier experience in Design 101 (now called Foundation ?). I was spending way over the estimated time. Again, if you are good at working alone setting your own time and schedule, CF is not a bad choice. Designlab requires a weekly mentor session for part-time, twice for full-time, plus you are required to show up in group crit sessions. These sessions eat up a lot of time and you will be working under a lot of pressure, much like in the art/design school studio environment. If you do not want to deal with that CF is better.

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@bbxin, you should definitely do more than a bootcamp on its own. Self-study is something you’ll have to do your entire career as a UX Designer. Learning how to learn is important.
Which Bootcamp you choose depends upon what time you can commit to the learning.

Hello,
This has been a very helpful thread! I was hoping for some guidance. I’m in the SF Bay Area, looking to switch careers to UX/UI. I have an English degree, many years experience as a buyer for a catalog, as a magazine assistant editor, copy writing, and most recently a decade of bookkeeping. Now that I’ve learned what UX/UI does, this feels like the career I have been looking for all my life, and I feel very confident about my ability to learn and succeed… but I’m also determined to give myself the best education/ portfolio/ chance at getting a good job when I’m done and since I’m unemployed since the pandemic started, I’m trying to get the best value for my money.

From an earlier comment, you say that CF won’t cut it on the west coast, and until this thread it had been in my top two. My concern with DL is the pressure and the fact that they have very few videos (per their own webinar, they say they’ll be adding more this year, but I’m hoping to start studying next month!), and for learning the programs, I feel like that’s important, though I’m very comfortable with text for broader concepts and such.

One odd question: a close college friend of mine with a background in newspaper design suggested a UX pro friend of his, who offers 1:1 weekly mentoring, a discord channel with daily check-ins to keep you accountable (you still set the pace, by stating what you hope to accomplish/ get done that day) and journaling… oh and live video crits every weekday. Apparently his students have gone on to work for places like Vox, Amazon, Microsoft and others, but it’s clear he’s not a brand name, but he’s half what CF would cost me (per month), lets me set my own pace, but still gives support.

It sounds like it might be a perfect fit for me, but my concern is: how much does it matter if I get that certificate from a school employers have heard of? As long as I know what I’m doing and have a good portfolio, is that enough with someone with my background to get a job in the Bay Area? Or are employers looking for something like CF or DL?

Thanks in advance for your help!

Welcome to the community @Heather_Shaw!

I’d love to know the name of the UX pro in case other people might want to do that.

Where you go doesn’t really matter. In the SF Bay Area, your portfolio matters more than anything. It’s a totally different beast looking for a UX job here than anywhere else in the world.

Whether you go to CF, DL, or this other person, expect to take around 6 months to find a job.

Hope that helps! Reach out with any other questions.