UX Trade Schools

In the past couple of years, we have witnessed the rise in the UX Trade school. I am familiar with General Assembly and Tradecraft and have provided some mentoring to students. They typically cost updwards of $10k and last for a few months. Recently, I have heard senior designers lament that the graduates are not very good and are flooding the market with people giving UX a bad name.

Generally, when I look at a UX candidate, I don’t think much about their experience. Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think that the numbers of years worked correlates to UX talent. Especially if they have worked in dysfunctional software companies that kill the spirit of the designer. Years worked, in those cases, is actually a detriment.

One person that I have worked with has UX skill in spades and she was a junior in college when I met her. Another designer I have worked with started with nothing and I had him spend 3 years in an immersive apprenticeship situation under me. I worked with him on every single design for years.  Now, I consider him to be a solid designer.

How can 10 weeks accomplish the same thing as 3 years? Short answer, It can’t.

Some of the graduates will already be talented. Others will learn a few industry words like affordance and personas but not become good designers. Employers will be faced with many candidates and no good way to determine if they are difference-makers.

It’s not a simple or pleasant situation. Great designers are being lost in the shuffle and UX is being used as a term to mean everything and anything.  I see candidates who design web pages for small businesses and call it UX. I see candidates from the trade schools who are desperate for work and need mentoring and a chance, but there are just too many of them.

I don’t feel that HCI degrees from the university are any better. They certainly last longer and cost more. In my opinion, the best way to learn is to design things on your own and post them on your website. If nothing else, it is at least free.

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