While working as a Support Engineer for Atlassian for the last eight years, Jesse Yowell had an urge to pivot his career from engineering to user experience. After talking to designers at Atlassian and reading books about UX, Jesse knew it was time to enroll in a course to start building his skills and his portfolio. “I found the Design 101 course on Designlab, which seemed like the perfect starting point,” he says. Here’s Jesse first-hand account of his experience as a Designlab student!
What were your expectations for the course?
When I saw the student examples, I was super excited--I wanted to dive into visual design right away. My first challenge was to find a course that would help me learn design principles and give me feedback so I could have a solid foundation. Design 101 was just what I needed.
What were your previous experiences with online courses? How was Designlab different?
I've done quite a few online courses but they suffered from the same basic problems: not enough good critique, or the feeling that you're the only one doing the course. Designlab has this wonderful set-up where you can easily share your projects and coursework with other students and get their feedback or get some great ideas if you're stuck. Not only do you get peer feedback, you're also paired up with a mentor who works in the design industry that gives great feedback and 1:1 sessions throughout the course. This puts Designlab on another next level as far as online courses go.
What was your favorite project?
My favorite project was probably the typography project - editing a blog for better readability. I remember going into the unit and being like, "Oh, I'm just editing fonts/paragraphs. This will be easy," and then realizing how much work it takes to make something readable and easy on the eyes. I remember spending a good 2+ hours going over the fonts and colors to choose. It definitely opens your eyes and makes you think how much work it takes when you're working with web content.
What surprised you the most about the course?
I never really expected to see the collaboration and help amongst the students. It actually felt like a real classroom where everyone was submitting ideas, offering tips and tools they use, and giving feedback on each other's work. This really made the Design 101 course stand out to me.
What was your experience with your mentor like?
The mentor experience was wonderful. At first you'd go through a few projects to gauge your design prowess, and you'll have have a 1:1 session with your mentor for about an hour. The initial session consists of what you want to get out of the course and maybe some tips and tricks, then feedback on the beginning projects. As you submit coursework and projects, you get really great feedback over the duration of the course. You change some stuff, iterate, and get more feedback...it made the course extremely effective for learning.
How have you integrated what you learned through the course into your career or personal interests? Any success stories?
The course got me ready to tackle some new projects at work and with some personal stuff. At work, I can sit with the design team and give way better feedback about a feature. I've started taking on some smaller projects to improve customer user experience on the site. They've recently wanted to include me on some design sparring sessions, which is very exciting. In my personal time I'm working on designing a user interface for a text-based Nintendo 3DS game that a friend is working on. It's a pretty big challenge for me, but I don't think I would've attempted it without finishing this course!
Do you have any advice for other students thinking about taking a Designlab course?
What are you waiting for? Do it! Whether or not you're interested in a complete career change, or you just want to be able to communicate better with the design team, this course goes over all the principles and has all the resources you'll need to start. Maybe you just want start designing freelance websites -- this course is one very important step in helping you design wonderful, clean-looking websites. Go into it with an open mind and a lot of questions, and you'll do very well.
Thanks for sharing your experience with Designlab, Jesse! If you’re interested in becoming a Designlab student, check out the enrollment deadlines for our upcoming courses. You might even see Jesse in one of your classes. He says, “Designlab is adding even more courses soon...I can't wait. Maybe you'll see me in the Typography course coming next year!”