Mike Joosse

Partner and Community Director at DESIGNATION

Mike Joosse

Partner and Community Director at DESIGNATION Episode 46 Part One

Episode Notes

Episode Transcript

Gary:
Hello, and welcome to Episode Forty Six part one of Design Edu Today, the podcast series discussing what is necessary to be a successful designer in a contemporary, screen-based, interactive world. I am your host, Gary Rozanc, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

In both part one and part two of this episode we will be discussing the ins and outs of UX and UI bootcamps, how bootcamps compare to traditional four year graphic design programs, and the similar struggles that both bootcamps and traditional design programs face when training emerging designers.

Today’s guest is Mike Joosse. Since 2001, Mike has devoted his career to nurturing and leading design communities. Currently, he serves as Partner and Community Director at DESIGNATION, the leading UX/UI design bootcamp, where he helps prepare students to become conscientious, skilled design leaders of tomorrow. Mike has lectured across the country on community and careers in design, at the DSVC National Student Show and Conference, Frontier: AIGA Design Educators Conference, the Hike Conference, Design Exchange Boston, Phoenix Design Week, Brooks Institute, and to a host of organizations. He does occasional projects under the name Listening and Speaking. He lives in Chicago and no longer fears snow.

All right. Welcome Mike.

Mike:
Hi Gary, thanks for having me today.
Gary:
Great. Before I get started into the questions, do you want to explain just a little bit about DESIGNATION and what it is, to kind of set up the context for our conversation?
Mike:
Yeah, absolutely. So, DESIGNATION is a UX/UI design bootcamp. We are based in Chicago in the Merchandise Mart which was at one time the largest building in the world. We’re actually in 1871 which is a pretty famous, well know start-up incubator and there’s about a thousand start-ups that are here; that information comes in handy a little bit later. Our program is twenty four weeks end to end and that is I think if not the largest, one of the longest, if not the longest, one of the longest bootcamp programs in the world. The first six weeks are the design essentials program which can be standalone for some people who only want the basics of UX and UI. It’s part time and it’s virtual, about ten hours a week. After that, if you want to continue into the main part of the program, the eighteen weeks of the program, people pick their track: they pick UX or UI and they move into the virtual phase which is remote but it’s pretty much full-time. After six weeks of the virtual phase they come to Chicago and start the immersion phase, which is a four week mock project. They get the brief on day one and at the end of the four weeks they present to a panel of guest critics.

Then comes six weeks of the client phase in which all designers work with real world clients; that’s why we’re really happy to be in 1871 because we source those clients from start-ups here in 1871 from incubators; actually all over the world we work with start-ups, in Brazil and Panama and Hawaii; there are a lot of start-ups and small product companies and they look for UX work; sometimes that’s research, sometimes it’s design UI work, sometimes it’s branding, and those are actually two three-week projects built up over the course of those six weeks and again, you’re split between UX and UI so UX track folks do a UX project and UI track folks do a UI project and often we work with clients who actually come back for multiple projects with us, which is really cool, so an older cohort will do some UX research and then they’ll pass it up to the next cohort to do UX design and then the next cohort after that will do UI, high fidelity screens. After the client phase comes the final two weeks of the program which is the career phase and that’s where designers learn how to create their portfolio and that’s case-studies, résumés, cover letters and everything else and then after that is four weeks of post-graduate support as they really put their portfolios online and start their job search.

Gary:
OK, so first thing is, personally, I don’t like the term bootcamp when it comes to this idea of voluntarily gaining new knowledge; to me it sounds negative because literally, in the most literal definition, army bootcamp lasts anywhere from ten to sixteen weeks, depending on what you’re training for and assumes you know absolutely nothing. So, based on the army bootcamp context, is bootcamp even the right word to use for programs like yours, and is there a better term to use?
Mike:
Do you know, funnily enough, we don’t like the term bootcamp either, and I find it strange to see that word proliferate through culture. People talk about cross-fit bootcamp or those Maury Povich type, you know, my teen is out of control, we’d better send them to bootcamp so that they can be a functional human being. When we started, which was three years ago last week, we were just a little bit ahead of the curve in terms of these short-term programs and I think the idea was at that time, well they can’t be called Schools, so we need to find a word that means rapid learning and rapid compounding of skills with much faster working speeds. It probably has to do with the fact that there is no accreditation program for design bootcamps and to use the same analogy, fitness bootcamps are all over the place now and they kind of live and die by the success of their participants; people who’ve finished that program and can report results. So, that lack of accreditation means that you have programs that are kind of snake-oil salesmen sometimes and they can make pretty insane claims about their placement rates. I think one of the things that we’ve been really fortunate to do and work really hard to do is put a bigger emphasis on the soft skills, not just the hard skills of design and combined with work that we do with live clients, I think that any program that teaches anything outside the hard skills of design probably doesn’t like the word bootcamp either and they try to explore some alternate words. We’ve actually worked really hard to steer clear of those words that are associated with bootcamps and the biggest of that is student, which we just see as a really negative word. You probably will hear me say the word “designer” a lot when other folks would say the word “student” and I’m going to go back and forth whereas we talk about traditional university programs versus a program like ours.

We find that when we use words like “student” and “teacher” and “major”, you know, UX or UI major, that it reinforces some of the negative behaviors and I think it causes some regression; I think people, when they’re called students, when they’re in their twenties and thirties and forties and fifties in the program, then tend to regress to some of those bad behaviors that you see at undergrad. I think we’ve reached a point in popular culture where these types of programs are approaching a saturation point and even non-designers are starting to become aware of design bootcamps. And because they refer to them with that word bootcamp, it sort of feels like a wave that’s carried all of us along: we are part of that group, no matter how much we chafe against using that word “bootcamp”, we are part of that group. We do have an ongoing experiment with using other words. I say program a lot but it’s a less tangible word. We’ve also talked about nouns like “immersion” or “experience” and again, those are less tangible than a word that I think everybody has sort of collectively decided is bootcamp, so it’s really a challenge to use those words around applicants or when we have info nights, for example, when I meet somebody on the street and talk about what we do, that word “bootcamp” makes a lot of sense to them but one of these other words maybe sounds a little cult-ish.

Gary:
No, and universities wrestle with that same problem, but with a different set of terms, like a lot of design programs want to be known as visual communications because it says that we do more than just create graphic design but the common vocabulary out there is graphic design and when it comes to recruitment, what’s visual communication? I want to be a graphic designer, so I feel your pain! Just on a different level because, with naming things, the better it is to run with what’s in popular culture, even though it may not be an accurate description.
Mike:
So, OK, and again, the student part makes sense too because literally as you were saying that, I was like, oh yeah, I could see somebody who’s older not wanting to be called a student because they’re just a learner, they’re not a student and they may just look at that as…well I should’ve already been a student and gotten that over with. So, who do you think the ideal…I’m going to use the term “learner”. So, who do you think the ideal learner for designation, and other bootcamps is. Would it be comeone coming out of high school? Would they do just as well as someone who’s already gone to college, who’s looking to perhaps change careers?
Mike:
I think it’s probably no surprise that we’ve found that the very best participants in the program are people with a traditional design background and they know so much about the rules of design already that they’re able to pick up a whole lot very easily. And we find those traditional designers, and again, those can be people in their twenties. We’ve had people all the way, twenty five years into their career; one guy was a design director and creative director for the Girl Scouts and Disney and Mattel and he came because he didn’t known UX and he wanted to be much more of a full stack designer. So, these traditional designers tend to become stand-outs in their cohorts and even leaders and we call them, the term we have for them is career advancers, because they really are pushing an existing design career forward. And they already know how to work hard and more importantly, they understand that design involves a whole lot of ambiguity and when you’re comfortable understanding that there are no right answers to many questions and comfortable understanding that you have to work for the answer and you have to weigh the options in front of you and understand what the various objectives and values and functions are at stake for that problem, the experience becomes a lot easier. Barring design experience, the next most ideal person is someone with experiences that are pretty translatable to the experience of being at designation, so people who’ve worked with clients, they’ve managed teams or budgets, they’ve been a strategist or a writer or a coder; those are really great skills to have and even people, we get a lot of people because it’s Chicago, who have an improv background, which I find super-fascinating.

And people with significant customer service skills; people who have been baristas or waiters or bar-tenders. Having that experience actually makes you do really well in the program especially for UX because you have to know how to interview people; you have to know how to work with the people around you and often work on a non-existent budget, literally in our case, and a compressed timeline and be really creative with solving problems. These types of people we call career switchers because they’re really making a big shift into design and those are usually people who had an idea that they wanted to be in design even before they started whatever career they got into but for whatever reason never pursued it until now. So, they’re a couple of years, or many years into a career that never really filled them. One of the things I really like is that pretty much every single former teacher, somebody who’s had teaching experience either in a public school, private school, here they’ve done Teach for America, taught English in Korea, Japan. We have a considerable number of those people on every cohort, which I find really, really cool. But almost every single person that has that teaching background has been a strong designer in the program. Going back to the sort of switcher experience, one of my favorite examples of that was a designer in the program who taught herself Photoshop when she was fifteen and for whatever reason was told, you can’t pursue a career in that and so she went to dental school and she became a dental assistant, I believe, a dental technician and she kind of woke up one day when she was twenty seven and said, this is not fulfilling me. I want to go back and I want to become a designer. And the fact that she could make that happen in six months or less was pretty amazing, I thought, and she’s been working at WalMart, global e-commerce for about a year now and she’s making six figures and I don’t know how that relates to her salary as a dental assistant but it’s pretty amazing for your first job out of a program like this. So, we really like seeing people who make that big switch into design. We also have a significant number of people who are zero to two years out of college and maybe they never started a career. These people, we find, are tougher to motivate because they’re sometimes not really sure what they’re doing here or what UX or UI can do as a profession. I think anybody…we’ve all been there, who’s been through the experience of trying to start a career from scratch, knows how difficult it can be and you have to really have a pretty big drive to make sure that happens for yourself. I remember one designer two years ago, I think she literally graduated with an undergraduate degree in psychology on a Friday and started our program on a Monday, so she was part of a summer cohort that just was able to get right in; we had some under-grads who were taking this as part of their summer, between their junior and senior or whatever but she was somebody who had graduated in psychology and started the program. And it broke my heart a little bit to learn that because she was somebody who realized the last four years of her life was building towards something that was not going to be fulfilling for her and I appreciate that better late then never idea of coming to DESIGNATION and wanting to pursue UX as a career but that would have hurt me, I think, emotionally to be in a situation where my degree that I’d worked so hard to get was not going to be something that was ultimately very fulfilling.

Gary:
Hey, but at least with the psychology, that can definitely be applied to UX!
Mike:
That is very, very true. Again, that was one of those translatable skills that we found was pretty interesting. I did want to address your original question about high school students coming to the program. We’ve actually had two that have come to the program who skipped college; they were eighteen I think when they came through DESIGNATION. They knew that college wasn’t going to be for them. One came to Chicago from New Jersey and he lived alone; he came to the city, he was able to live here by himself and he did really well in the program. He worked for us for about eight months after graduation; he’s now at Active Campaign which is a pretty great email marketing firm. The other student was from Chicago and he lived with his parents while he was doing the program. He did not do well and he is one of the small handful we probably have, eighteen or twenty out of the almost four hundred that we’ve graduated, that we’ve never heard from again after graduation.
Gary:
That makes sense.
Mike:
Yeah; I think it has a lot to do with emotional maturity. High school does not prepare you for ambiguity; it teaches you that there’s a right answer for everything and you need to learn that answer and give it upon request. So that first graduate came from years of coding and design work on his own and he was really prepared to learn from the people around him; these people were in their twenties and thirties, whoever they were in his cohort. The second had some of those hard skills of design figured out, but he had never really worked with clients before, he’d never presented his work to a creative director, he’d never been part of a team and had to make decisions on a team, so he may have been prepared for design but we found that he was totally unprepared for being a designer. So, we saw those two designers in the program as being really useful experiments and when we get those applications from people who are pre-college, we have to probe a lot deeper to see whether they understand what this experience really entails. I think the other side of that is the very slow diversification of post-high school education opportunities for parents; parents don’t really like…normally they don’t really like the idea of their child skipping college or taking a gap year; I think those things are still pretty rare but they have to come from a trust that the child is capable of excelling in a non-college environment and that’s a whole other conversation; I don’t think I’m the right person to talk about that. We could go on for days on that topic.
Gary:
Yep! I’m one of them because I tried community college at the age of eighteen and it did not go very well and I didn’t…I wasn’t ready for college until about my mid to late twenties, so I’m all for taking time off. One term…before I get back on the track…you mentioned the term “full stack designer”. I’ve never really…I’ve personally never used it and I haven’t even really heard it up until about maybe the past couple of weeks, used a couple of times. So, what is a “full stack designer”?
Mike:
That term has some different definitions depending on who you ask. I think the original idea for that was doing everything…the original concept behind the word “full stack designer” was doing everything up to back end coding, so you would understand UX research, conduct all the interviews and do the research yourself; you would move into wireframes, you would be able to convert those wireframes to high fidelity screens and then code those screens on the front end, so be able to really understand how the research feeds into the design, feeds into the coding and then if that requires any back end work, that that is then handed off to a back end…there are full stack developers who are able to do everything from the front end of HTML, CSS, JavaScript all the way to those really deep database, really deep programs and applications that are out there for dev. So that was I think the original concept was, UX, UI and front end dev. And I think we’ve seen that there is a greater need for designers who know UX and UI together and maybe not necessarily are able to practice it but are able to speak it. I think we see that with UX designers: we want to produce UX designers who understand how their work gets handed off to a UI designer. We want them to understand how UI works and the principles of UI but not necessarily have to get into developing style-guides or doing anything where there’s some high fidelity design work, because they’re not expected to know that but they’re expected to understand some of the principals behind it and we see the same for UI: we want UI designers to be able to understand, we actually do a workshop with them on day two of the in person phase where they have some work handed off to them and some UX work, some wireframes handed off to them and they’re able to know very quickly how and understand how to work with those files to be able to convert them to UI and be able to produce high fidelity screens so we don’t want them necessarily practicing UX but we want them aware of it. And that I think is how we define more of a full stack designer today which is understanding how your work translates before you get it and after you get it and so there’s a little bit of fluidity there I think, depending on who you ask, but that’s how we tend to define it ourselves.
Gary:
OK, that makes sense. So, my next question is, and again…anyway…a common concern I hear about bootcamps that teach UI from those hiring UI designers is, how can students develop the same level of a visual design skill that a student would get at a 4 year university? And they also use the same argument about two year community colleges, saying that there’s a noticeable difference in the quality of the portfolio. So I guess, does the compressed schedule…I actually sat down and did the math…nine hundred hours over eighteen weeks, that’s a generalization of the bootcamps, the more common ones and then whereas at a four year university, you’ve got fourteen to sixteen hundred hours over four years. So, do you think the compressed times lead to UI generalists who don’t have a sense of where they might want to specialize or a strong enough portfolio?
Mike:
This is something we frequently debate internally on staff. One of the great things about having a curriculum like ours is that it’s iterative and so we are producing a new version of our curriculum with every cohort. We’re now on the twenty-fourth cohort; in our in-person phase we’re doing the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth cohorts, in our virtual phases right now, so we’ve had twenty-six different iterations of our curriculum, so we’re able to review it very thoroughly and make changes that we’re able to implement with the next cohort, so very, very quickly. One of the biggest changes, we’ve done a lot of big changes over the course of the three years and one week that we’ve been around so far. One of the biggest was converting from a generalist curriculum to a specialist oe. We used to use that word “major”; we used to say you had a UX major or a UI major and we used to allow designers to major in one and minor in the other and at the time, we also offered front end dev as a third track, so you could even…you could theoretically do UX for your immersion phase project, UI for your first client project and a dev project as your second client project. And when it came time for people to start working on their portfolios and putting together the stories of their time here, we found that a lot of those designers had pretty weak portfolios: they had maybe two projects in UX and one in UI; there might have been some noodling and front end dev thrown in there. They were displaying skill, but not mastery and when we polled a lot of our hiring partners, including Creative Recruiters, they all came back and said, companies today don’t want generalists; they want specialists who have mastery and they didn’t want designers who were also coders; they wanted designers, like I said, who knew how to speak code but would be really exceptional in design. So, that’s when we removed dev as a potential track. We eventually removed supplemental workshops on dev from it also because we wanted people to really stay focused on UX or UI. A long time ago, I taught at UNC Chapel Hill for a semester and they offered only five graphic design courses that a student could take, and that was within the Journalism School which I always found to be a very odd combination there, so all these people in my class, fourteen or fifteen of them, had started out as journalism majors and ended up really excited by this concentration on graphic design. So again, there were only up to five courses you could take and you could only really do that as a junior or senior.

It turned out that that semester that I taught was the last semester that they offered any graphic design course; they closed all of them and said, not only is it a poorer and poorer turnout for registration in these courses but they said, if you really want a good design education, go to a design school instead; go down the street to NC State University; go to one of the other places in North Carolina, and that’s kind of what we did with dev; we said there are many, many dev focused bootcamps out there and actually there are a lot more dev bootcamps than there are UX bootcamps, and way more than UI bootcamps; we were one of the only UI bootcamps for a long time. So we encourage applicants who want to go into dev, to explore those bootcamps instead and say, you need an immersion into dev; this is not the place for that, you should go somewhere else, if you want immersion into UX or UI, we encourage you to come here and we’re going to be the best possible experience for that but it’s not going to be the same as if you want dev as part of that. Sometimes there’s a little more specialization within UX or UI among our designers; some of them will be really focused on research or content strategy or interaction design but usually there’s enough within that larger work in UX or UI, the experiences you have among the projects that you work on, especially in the scope of the immersion phase mock project or client-faced projects.

Gary:
How much down-time do you have between cohorts so you can just re-vamp things and hit a reset button?
Mike:
Sometimes that is only a weekend.
Gary:
Wow!
Mike:
So actually this is what happened last week. Two Fridays ago we had graduation for our twenty-third cohort and then the twenty-fourth cohort started the in-person phase on Monday, so graduation on Friday, in-person started on Monday, so we did a lot of work to make sure that they were prepared. Other times, there’s a week or two depending on the schedule of…we’ll take a week off, sometimes between phases or we’ll give them a week to prepare to move to Chicago for example because we have a lot of students…I’m sorry, if we have a lot of designers who come from outside Chicago, sometimes internationally, so they need some time to get settled here; we’ll take time off for holidays, two weeks off over Christmas and New Year’s to make sure that people are able to get some time with family or do whatever they need, so it’s only really a couple of weeks but we always generally have three to four cohorts running at different phases at any given time.
Gary:
OK. When you’re talking about it like on a daily basis, one week doesn’t sound like a lot but that’s seven days to actually iterate is a lot when you stop and think about it. So, this is one thing, and this is personal to me because I’ve never heard anybody say anything about this, but I personally have trouble understanding what kind of a portfolio a student would leave a bootcamp with. And I’m going to say UI, a UI specific one. Students who attend a four year university will leave with eight to twelve quality pieces but then when I look at student websites and portfolios from those who attended bootcamps, I see one project, maybe two at most and again, this is me personally, I can’t imagine how that would be enough work to convince an employer to even bring you in for an interview. So am I just looking at the wrong portfolios or are they saving hiding work for in-person interviews? I just don’t understand the whole thing.
Mike:
That’s a great question. I was at the Dallas Society of Visual Communications National Student Show and Conference a couple of weeks ago and I took part in the portfolio review because reviewing portfolios is sort of a personal passion of mine; I’ve done hundreds in my career and I just love doing it and I probably reviewed twelve or thirteen over the course of that portfolio review and literally every student who was about to graduate, they were all Seniors who had a month and a half or so left in their college career, came up to me with a booklet, a portfolio that was either wire bound or stitched or worse it was like a three-ring binder and all of these books, every piece in that book was about three or four photos of a particular piece, photographed at what you would consider dynamic angles, with a paragraph of text explaining the project.

And I was so dismayed when I read that, when I saw those, first of all because that’s the same as what portfolios looked like fifteen, seventeen years ago when I was coming out of undergrad. And I told every single one of them that there was so much that was missing there, so much context for me as somebody who’d never met them before and never seen this work before and all the things that they learned and where they failed at and when surprised them over the course of that project, all those things mattered in the story of their work, so one of the really important things that we’ve done at DESIGNATION, this is something that I’ve put a lot of work into, because I run our career phase and I’m the one who teaches all of the portfolios and case studies stuff, is that these are not portfolio pieces: these are case studies, they must be case studies, and I don’t know what other bootcamps do but at DESIGNATION, I really drill it into designers that the purpose of their case studies is not to show work, it’s to show what they learned and how they learned it, so it’s less of a reflection of the deliverable and more a reflection of the process. So, I tell them, think of your portfolio as explaining your growth from point one to point a hundred; your first case study, which is four weeks of your life, covers points one to forty and your second case study which is maybe your first client project is points forty-one to seventy and your third, which is your second client project is point seventy-one to a hundred. Anyone who reads your portfolio who sees these case studies needs to be able to see your growth from zero to designer, all the way through your portfolio.

So, chronologically later case studies must show the things you incorporated…must incorporate the things you learned in earlier projects, so they are supposed to look and read cleaner, they are more fluid, they show more expertise, maybe they’re shorter because you have figured out how to write a case study in a shorter amount of time and using less text and at the end of every case study, you always need to discuss where the project can go after your time on that project, so, being objective about the work you did and knowing that it can still be improved and then also what you learned as a designer while working on it, and that has to include again those things of where did you fail, where did you struggle, where did you pivot? What gave you joy in this project? And that’s a real challenge because so many of the people who come to the program are used to seeing only those four photos and one paragraph about showing a project in their portfolio. A huge, huge pet peeve of mine that I could just rant with so many curse words is when people in the program Google the phrase “UX Portfolio” or “UI Portfolio” and they see that same thing: they see these designers who’ve been around for twelve, fifteen years and all they show is some wireframes in a UX portfolio; they’ll show a bunch of screens in a UI portfolio; they’ll have that single paragraph that describes that work, or maybe they won’t even have that paragraph at all, and I hate having to tell them that those designers have probably less, much less to prove because they’ve been in the business for years and years; they have a résumé that’s long and storied; they have awards they’ve won, they know people who can vouch for the quality of their work and their process, but our designers at DESIGNATION have everything to prove because they’re brand new designers; they don’t know anybody yet, they only have a few of us who can talk about their skills, so they need to show all those things in their portfolio, the things that they’ve learned and how they grew. I think it’s fair to say that numbers-wise, obviously we just can’t keep up with a university produced portfolio. I think it is hard to see depth of knowledge in three case studies. We certainly see graduates do pro bono work or freelance work after graduation, they add those to the portfolio, maybe they’ll do like a daily UI challenge; those are really, really popular, especially for the UX graduates to do those and so they want to supplement their portfolio but I have a lot of confidence that if they only have three case studies in their portfolio, those case studies are going to do some of the best work in the design industry as a whole at showing growth as a designer and those case studies have to live on their own in front of a hiring manage; the hiring manager has to be able to show what that designers knows and how they learned it through experience and I believe that ultimately, that’s much more valuable to a hiring manager than pure design talent.

Gary:
Before I ask the next question, I have to go off a little bit on the portfolio rant!
Mike:
Sure.
Gary:
Because there’s a Facebook group for Design Faculty and somebody asked, are you still doing print portfolios or you going to digital? And I was reading the comments and a lot of them again were like, yeah, we do a print portfolio but the print portfolio they’re producing is like you said, maybe it’s a thirteen by nineteen sheet that is a print-out of a collage of the work and I’m just, for the life of me, how is that different than showing a digital portfolio on a tablet or a laptop? It’s the same thing.
Mike:
Yes.
Gary:
It’s not like it’s a print portfolio where they’re literally…they build these little wells into this nice clam-shell portfolio where you can take out the brochure, hold it, feel it; you can flip through the catalog that you made, you can physically interact with it; it’s just photographs of work. So why? Why do you need to print that out and put it in a binder?
Mike:
Yeah, and I’m somebody who…
Gary:
That makes no sense.
Mike:
I had terrible craft when I was undergrad and so all my pieces smelled like rubber cement because I wasn’t…you know, and the corners were rough and all these things that was “my best” efforts at the time and it’s sorely lacking, even compared to today. I’m curious: do you see or hear from your students and from maybe other faculty that there is a stigma around using portfolio sites like Squarespace for example, or WordPress?
Gary:
No. Well….I don’t think so, I don’t think there’s a stigma. I will say I’m not a supporter of Squarespace because they’re kinda like the Uber in their business practices of those things. As far as Behance or any of the self-built portfolios, it depends what job you’re shooting for. If you’re specifically saying, I’m just a UI graphic designer, then you’re not expected to be able to code; you’re not expected to do those kind of things so that’s a perfectly appropriate delivery vehicle. If it’s well put together. If you tweak the Squarespace or if you tweak the WordPress or on Behance or Dribbble, there’s nothing to tweak, so I think it just all depends on…the feedback that I’ve gotten, I’m going to go from employers is, as along as whatever you’re showing fits the job you’re looking for, they don’t care. So, being able to hand code it certainly helps but it just shows that you at least understand the medium of the web, so does that answer your question?
Mike:
Yeah. I’m very curious about that because I see a lot of designers coming in and having a little bit of trepidation about having a portfolio that’s an off-the-shelf kit that they can use like Squarespace, like WordPress, Weebly, Wix, Webflow, there are so many out there that are intentionally very easy to use and I tell them, there’s nothing to worry about, like you said, if you’re not expected to code in your job, you will not need to hand-code a website. You don’t necessarily need to know HTML. There are certainly sites out there that can be improved with a little bit of HTML and CSS knowledge and that’s great to be able to get some of that on your own because it’ll make you a stronger designer but I do see some of that fear about, will people look down on me? Will employers look down on me if I use Squarespace instead of hand-code my site and I tell them no, but I think that will always remain a little bit because they see online stores, for example, that are set up in Squarespace or blogs that are set up in WordPress and those are fundamentally different things than what we expect our designers to do in a portfolio but they are worried that their portfolio is going to have to fit that mold instead of being able to let it do what they really want it to do.
Gary:
The minute you said the word Wix, that triggered a conversation on a podcast that I had in an earlier episode with Jay Fanelli of Cotton Bureau. They were hiring a senior level designer that was expected to be able to produce high fidelity prototypes, so how you got that high fidelity, whether it’s through clickable, whether it’s through bootstrap, whether it’s coding it yourself is irrelevant; they just wanted to be able to get the…so anyway, so I said, what were some of the biggest problems that you saw when people were applying and he said, people using Wix and he didn’t…it wasn’t the website builders; it was the website builder that they picked. So if you’re going to use a website builder, if you’re using Squarespace…Squarespace, WordPress are like industry standard in the design realm. Wix isn’t. So there’s like a level to these things, so he was like, if somebody gave me a portfolio that was in Squarespace or WordPress that showed them adjusting it for themselves, not just blanket-ly, just using the standard template but adjusting things within it, he’s like, that was perfectly acceptable for what I would consider a fairly high level design job. But that’s one…
Mike:
No, I think I show probably twelve or thirteen various platforms for every cohort when I talk about the options that you have for setting up a portfolio and there are definitely several of them that are not built for designers, they’re built for the everyday person, so Wix is one of those that they advertise on the subway here in Chicago and they want anybody, all of our mothers, to be able to set up portfolio sites or any type of site on there, whatever they want, and that means…that’s the trade-off; it can be easy to use but you may lose a lot of the special touches that make it worth having a design portfolio be really useful on that platform.
Gary:
Well, that’s all we have time for today on Episode Forty Six, part one of Design Edu Today. I want to thank today’s guest, Mike Joosee for being so generous with his time. I want to thank the audience for listening and I want to thank the Design Edu Today hosting sponsor DigitalOcean and the CDN sponsor Fastly for making the hosting and distribution of these podcasts possible. I also want to thank the AIGA and the AIGA Design Educators’ Community for their generous support of my research that lead to this podcast series.

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