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2020 was a year like no other. It was a hard year for many; and we, (like most) are glad it’s over. While we look forward to 2021 with hope, we also wanted to take the opportunity to reflect and look back on 2020 to see what it taught us. One thing we’re super grateful for is that we managed to grow as a team, and help a record-setting number of students grow into UI/UX designers 🍎

Read on to learn more about how 2020 (with all its challenges and opportunities) shaped the Designlab community, and what we’re looking forward to in 2021.

Creating a Worthwhile Impact that Echoes

The main thing we were grateful for in 2020, was our community. It brought stability and support to people across our student and mentor base, our alumni network, and the internal Designlab team, at a time when we needed it most. We want to thank everyone involved in our community for making it such a positive, uplifting, and inclusive place to be and we look forward to continuing to support one another and see what we can achieve moving forward.

To continue towards our mission to make design more accessible and inclusive, we launched two scholarships which we’re especially proud of.

Our Diversify Design Scholarship

Since March 2020, we've been running our Diversify Design Scholarship with the intent of building equity by promoting diversity to achieve a more inclusive representation in the design community.
Our aim is to provide support to aspiring designers from groups who are largely underrepresented in the design industry; this includes Black, Indigenous, non-Black people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and members of other historically underrepresented groups.

Each month, we offer one scholarship worth 50% of UX Academy tuition and three scholarships worth $1,000, as well as full scholarships wherever possible. We’ve awarded over $85,000 in scholarships since we’ve launched this program, and there’s more to come as we continue this program to serve underrepresented communities.

Climb Credit Women in Tech scholarship

We also worked with our finance partners, Climb Credit, to create a Women in Tech scholarship that is going to support 5 budding designers with their UX Academy journey in 2021. Thanks so much to them for working with us to provide this scholarship! 

Fostering Community Through Virtual Interaction

Aside from scholarships, we made a conscious effort to lean in to our remote roots this year (Designlab has always been an entirely online learning platform) and create more opportunities for students to network and learn in a virtual setting.

We held frequent virtual happy hours so that students could get to know fellow cohort members and mentors. Platforms like Instagram Live and YouTube Live also helped us to foster interaction between students, mentors, and partners.

Cohort Happy Hours 2020

Students loved getting together for virtual happy hours in 2020.

In 2020 we held our first ever mini virtual conference, in partnership with Adobe XD, where attendees got to both learn and network. Our first ever public design challenge followed 🚀

Looking Back at Learning with Designlab in 2020

Explore the infographic below to see some of our key wins from 2020.

2020 Infographic

New Short Course: UX Academy Foundations

In December 2020, we launched a brand new course: UX Academy Foundations. The course will benefit those who are looking to kick-start their career in UI/UX design, by helping them build a solid foundation in visual and user interface (UI) design, as well as design software like Figma and Sketch. (Speaking of design software, in 2020 we also launched a new, free 7-day email course Adobe XD 101.)

We released our first beta cohort of UX Academy Foundations at the beginning of 2020, and have continued to monitor student feedback every step of the way. Now, after over 700 beta students and thousands of pieces of user feedback, we are excited to have the first public cohort of UX Academy Foundations underway (as of January 11, 2021) and completely maxed out with 200 enrolled students 🎉

The release of Foundations was a huge moment for us and our students—it’s a rigorous, short course with new learning formats, interactive video and audio content, Group Crits, and a better community experience—and the student results already speak for themselves.

Ongoing Platform Improvements Based on Student Feedback

We shipped a number of updates to the custom Designlab course platform—including an events calendar, updates to the submissions interface, better UI indicators of your course and submission progress, and automated mentor matching that connects you with the best fit mentor based on your learning style.

Course Progress UI

New banners for module status, unit status, and project status.

We’ve been steadily improving UX Academy coursework and overhauled our internal feedback and prioritization systems to prepare for some even bigger changes ahead in 2021. Stay tuned for more on that 🤩

Exciting Real-World Partnerships

In 2020, we hosted educational webinars for our community in partnership with brands and organizations including SAP, Maze, Creative Circle, Adobe XD, and All Black Creatives.

We also connected dozens of UX Academy students with real-world clients for UI/UX design project work through a partnership with Paperstreet. We’re excited to share more about our partnership with Paperstreet in 2021.

Pairi Paperstreet

Pairi contracted UX Academy student, Chetana Kestikar, to improve their platform user experience to grow their business and build trust with their customers.

Students Landed Jobs Across the Industry

Despite the rollercoaster that 2020 was, our students persevered, and many of our UX Academy graduates landed fulfilling jobs in the industry. Our students were hired at a variety of companies, including (but not limited to):

Expansion of the Designlab Team & Mentor Roster

Landmark Designlab Team Growth

We feel incredibly lucky to say that 2020 gave us the opportunity to expand our team, and we’re really glad to have been able to support the job market in that way during what was a tough year for many in that regard.

The Designlab internal team is now the largest it’s ever been—growing in parallel to our student and mentor population. As of January 2021, we have 27 team members at Designlab to date (working in product, admissions, support, operations, and more). 

We’re working to bridge the gap between students and staff by introducing our team members through spotlights on the blog and a new meet the team webinar series. If you’d like to get to know us better, shoot us an email or reach out on the Designlab community Slack, we’re always happy to have a virtual coffee ☕️ 

500+ Mentors & a New Mentor Lead Team

We onboarded 200+ new UI/UX design mentors in 2020, giving us a total of 500+ Designlab mentors from companies like Airbnb, Amazon, Facebook, HubSpot, Walmart, Etsy, Google, and many more. Our mentors are diverse in regards to location, timezone, gender, teaching style, age, and experience. One thing they all have in common, however, is a deep investment in helping their mentees learn! You can read more about our mentors in the mentor spotlights on our blog. 

As a result of our exponential mentor roster growth, we developed a new Mentor Lead Team to act as the guardians of mentor experience. This new team will primarily focus on advocating for the mentor experience to ensure our mentors are happy and fulfilled in their work, and monitoring mentor quality to ensure our mentors are consistently adhering to our high standards.

What to Look Forward to in 2021 with Designlab

A Higher Quality Learning Platform

We’re investing more heavily in improvements to the core learning experience students experience with Designlab—helping students to better navigate coursework, connect more effectively with their mentor and community, and master UI/UX design skills.

New & Improved Coursework 

As always, we’re working on a series of updates to UX Academy, including the introduction of lots of new audio/video learning materials.

Stay tuned for some new short courses coming in 2021… 🤫

More Pathways to Employment

Upgrades are coming to our Career Services program, including an emphasis on more employer partnerships, and new content (webinars, networking sessions, and more) with industry experts.

More Virtual Events to Network & Learn

We’ve got lots of compelling content and communications efforts planned for 2021. Get excited for our upcoming Industry Voices webinar series, as well as our design challenges and prizes, and virtual networking opportunities.

It’s set to be a great year for learning at Designlab in 2021. If you’re interested in joining our community of aspiring UI/UX designers, reach out to our Admissions Reps by emailing admissions@trydesignlab.com. 

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Team Designlab

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