If you’re currently enrolled in our UX Academy program, or are interested in signing up for a UX design bootcamp, you might be wondering how best to prepare. While very little is required to get started learning at Designlab, there are a variety of things we recommend to help you get started with your learning journey.
Here, we’ve provided a “back to school shopping list” of sorts, which includes everything from what computer you need to run the right software, to what notebook you should order, to the apps that will help you manage your time.
Read on for your pre-UX Academy checklist for success.
The Right Mindset
Changing careers is no easy feat. Throughout your career-changing journey, there will likely be times when you feel overwhelmed, or may even want to give up. It’s so important to start things off with the right mindset.
Keep Your Motivation Top of Mind
Take some time to understand why you want to be a student in UX Academy in the first place. Write it on a sticky note and keep it visible. Knowing your “why” will help pick you up if you start feeling defeated. Whatever your reason, let that energize you and fuel your determination whenever any doubt starts to creep in.
Build a Strong Support Network
A strong support network can have a positive influence on your physical and mental health. Research has shown that having a strong support system has many positive benefits, including higher levels of well-being, better coping skills, and a longer and healthier life. It helps to have people who won’t be afraid to tell you if you’re working too hard.
Students in UX Academy find support within the Designlab community Slack, where there are designated channels to discuss design resources, career talk, wins, networking, and more.
Strong Time Management Skills
Time management is an important skill which will be utilized heavily within the rigorous UX Academy program, so it’s important to start learning how to properly hone this skill as soon as possible. To prepare, try learning something new (maybe Figma, Sketch, or Adobe XD) and schedule time on your calendar to get it done. If you’re strict with yourself and stick to this initial timeline, that will be good practice for scheduling (and sticking to) study time when you’re in the program itself.
A number of studies have identified the positive impact of time management, including how it affects student learning and outcomes. Time management is important beyond coursework however, and research suggests a link between time management and physical health. Be sure to plan time for sleep, exercise, healthy food consumption, and downtime too (not just your studies!)
Read on to learn about our favorite time management apps in the Apps & Websites section.
A Learners Mindset
Above all else, it’s important to prepare for UX Academy by adopting a learners mindset. This involves keeping an open mind and a readiness to learn.
Aside from the right mindset, the only thing that you really need in order to complete UX Academy is a computer that can support the use of design programs. We often get asked the question, “Should I choose a Mac or PC for UX design purposes?”, but the truth is, it doesn’t matter. As long as your computer has a minimum of 16GB ram you’re good.
That being said, there are still many factors to consider when choosing a computer. While Mac computers aren’t necessary for everyone, they are seen as the industry standard for design. It’s also worth noting that Sketch only works on Macs.
“Any of the M1 chip Macs are blazingly fast and should last many years performance wise. They also happen to be cheap considering the performance.” -Patrick Multani, Lead Designer at Designlab & UX Academy Mentor
Software & Plugins
Before beginning UX Academy, we expect you to have a basic understanding of one of these three design softwares: Figma, Sketch, or Adobe XD. If you don’t have this knowledge yet, no fear, you can learn through our free 7-day email courses. You can also learn more in our UX Academy preparatory course, UX Academy Foundations.
Figma is browser-based, works on any computer, and is free for individual users. Sketch requires a Mac, and you need to buy a license-but you can get 50% off via our Perks page. (Note that you’ll only be able to access the perk once your course has started, so if you’re installing it ahead of time, get started with the trial version and upgrade later.)
One of our goals in UX Academy is to introduce you to a range of industry-standard tools that you’ll be using throughout the UX design process. We want you to be comfortable picking up new tools and understanding their workflow-this is part of life as a professional UX designer. By the end of the course, you will have a personal toolkit of software that will equip you to solve design problems in the wild.
Here’s some other software tools you might be interested in exploring during UX Academy:
- Prototyping tools like InVision, Marvel, and UXPin
- Wireframing tools like Balsamiq
- 3 must-have Figma Plugins: Autoflow, A11y — Color Contrast Checker and LottieFiles
- 3 must-have Sketch Plugins: Runner, Rename It, and Zeplin
- Collaborative flowcharts, wireframes, sticky notes, and mind maps: Whimsical
- Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes more advanced packages like Photoshop, Adobe XD, and Illustrator. (We also have a Photoshop 101 email course!)
You can check out all of the software discounts and special offers available to Designlab students on our Perks page.
While there are no required textbooks for UX Academy, it can only help you to further complete your knowledge of the UX design industry to do a bit of outside reading before and during the program.
These are the top 10 UX design books recommended by our team:
1. User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play
This book maps the hidden rules of the designed world and sheds light on how those rules have caused our world to change.
2. Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days
From three partners at Google Ventures, this book offers a unique five-day process for solving tough problems, proven at more than a hundred companies.
3. The Design of Everyday Things
The Design of Everyday Things shares these simple rules: make things visible, exploit natural relationships that couple function and control, and make intelligent use of constraints.
4. Don’t Make Me Think
“If you design, write, program, own, or manage Web sites, you must read this book.”- Jeffrey Zeldman, author of Designing with Web Standards
5. Hidden In Plain Sight
This book by Jan Chipchase, named by Fortune as “one of the 50 smartest people in tech,” illuminates exactly what drives consumers to make the choices they do
6. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
An inspiring guide to creativity in the digital age, Steal Like an Artist presents ten transformative principles that will help readers discover their artistic side and build a more creative life.
7. Articulating Design Decisions: Communicate with Stakeholders, Keep Your Sanity, and Deliver the Best User Experience
This practical book provides principles and actionable methods for talking about designs with stakeholders to ultimately win them over.
8. Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It
This book might make you angry. It should make you angry. But it will also give you the tools you need to make better decisions.
9. Writing for Designers
UX designers looking to build a solid writing foundation should read this book. Whether you’re new to writing or looking to hone your skills, Scott Kubie’s guide will empower you to get organized and get going.
10. 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (Voices That Matter)
This book combines real science and research with practical examples to increase the effectiveness, conversion rates, and usability of your design projects.
We like to stay up to date on the latest industry trends, news, and insights and recommend our students do the same. Some of our favorite places to find this information includes UX Planet, UX Collective, Sidebar, and Inside Design.
Here are a few articles that are helpful for those getting started in UX/UI design:
Apps & Websites
As a future UX designer, you’ll likely want to utilize all of the apps available today throughout your time in UX Academy. Good news: there are lots of apps that can help you be a better student, designer, and human in general!
Here are some of our favorite mobile and desktop apps for staying on track:
“For Phase 2 of UX Academy, I moved my time and project management to Notion because I found it easier to both project-plan (task management) and write down all my assignments. This makes it easier for you to create your case studies since everything is written down.”- Gina Medranda, UX Academy Alumni & Designlab Illustrator
Here are the desktop apps and websites that can help to amplify your creativity:
While the nature of UX design is primarily digital, it can be important for creativity to sometimes step away from the computer and work analog. Sticky notes are great for brainstorming, grid notebooks for wireframing, and there are all sorts of helpful UX design card decks these days.
While there are no physical tools required in UX Academy, here are a few that might be helpful:
We hope you’ve found this list of what you need to prepare for a UX/UI design bootcamp (like UX Academy) helpful. If you’re interested in learning more about our UX Academy program, reach out to [email protected]
How to Prepare for a UX Design Bootcamp was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.