Has it been 5 years already?

By Jessica Ivins

A Well-Designed Student Loan for Career Shifters

5 years ago, we started our journey. Our goal was to change the world of design, by design.

We started with the Unicorn Institute Kickstarter project to create a UX Design curriculum for our new school, Center Centre. The design community came out in droves. Their donations raised more than 600% of our initial goal.

Those initial donations, 5 years ago, started a domino effect:

  • We hired Jessica Ivins and Thomas Michaud to develop curriculum for 24 courses.
  • With the depth and range of those courses (from Visual Design to Critique,) we attracted 70 applicants for our initial student cohort.
  • From those applicants, we found 6 who had the right stuff to become our initial cohort.
  • Jessica and Thomas then became our first Facilitators (what we call our full-time faculty), working every day with our students to teach the curriculum.
  • Every day, our students demonstrate they are learning the right skills to tackle real-world design challenges.
  • Companies are continually impressed by how quickly our students learn and how well they worked together on projects.
  • As our students approach their October graduation day, these companies are excited to recruit them.

The design community—your community—came together to make this happen. Your donations let us build an entire school from the ground up. We can’t stop here. There’s too much to do.

We need your help to continue to do amazing things at Center Centre. We need your help to change the world of design, by design.

We’ve got big plans for year 6. We want to help bring design deeper into organizations that struggle to deliver great experiences to their users and customers.

This is our master plan for 2018:

  • We’ll graduate our first cohort of students in October. They’ll get great jobs at organizations that will benefit from hiring well-trained UX designers.
  • We’ll start our second and third cohorts. We’ll improve our curriculum to teach them the latest methods and techniques.
  • With the core elements of our curriculum, we’ll create UX design training for businesses to infuse design throughout their organizations.
  • We’ll launch new design management training to help organizations get the most from their design teams.
  • We’ll also launch a new design leadership program, to help seasoned designers guide their organization down a path of creating delightful products and services.

To do all this—and change the world of design in the process—we need your help. Any donation you give supports a diverse and inclusive design practice that leads to better products, services, and ultimately a better world. You can be an important part of that.

Donate $50, $25, $10, or even $1—every dollar counts—and become a Give Forward Student Loan Fund Supporter. As a Supporter, you’ll get a VIP invitation to visit Center Centre, meet our students, share your own journey, and find your name on the Wall of Awesomeness.

Donate $500 or more, and you can attend a UX workshop at Center Centre alongside our students. This is a great chance to learn from an amazing expert in our industry and see our students in action.

Donate $5,000 or more, and we’ll put your name on a student’s three-month living stipend. We’ll introduce you to that student, who can benefit from your wisdom and experience as they start their career.

Donate $7500 or more, and we’ll send Jared Spool to talk about design with your company. Jared can educate your team with one of his entertaining, world-renowned presentations, where he’ll share his expertise on your hardest design leadership challenges.

We know you share our goal to have the world take advantage of everything design has to offer. We’ll need more designers to make that happen.

The only way we create more diverse, well-trained, industry-ready designers is with your support. Please donate today.

Thank you,

A Well-Designed Student Loan for Career Shifters

By Jessica Ivins

A Well-Designed Student Loan for Career Shifters

Sometimes, you don’t know how hard a problem is to solve until you’re neck deep in it. As we were designing Center Centre, we ran into one such problem. We needed to find a way to help career shifters fund their education.

Adults who want to start working in the field of user experience design are career shifters. When we embarked on creating a new school, we knew they were our primary audience. Early on, we met many career shifters as we were researching exactly what the school should be. We met carpenters, cosmetologists, print designers, product managers, and developers. Each was excited to move to a new phase of their life.

They’re usually switching careers because their original path wasn’t working out. Poor pay is one reason they want to switch. Coming from jobs with a less-than-ideal income, they haven’t saved as much money. This makes it hard for many of them to consider going back to school, no matter what the tuition is.

We’ve intentionally designed Center Centre to be a vehicle for their career shift, except for one hurdle. How would they afford to go to the school?

Center Centre is a two-year, full-time program. Not only do students need tuition, but they’ll also need a way to pay their living expenses while attending school full-time.

Doing the Unthinkable: Creating Our Own Student Loan

In the United States, students usually get an education loan for their tuition and expenses that’s guaranteed by the US federal government. However, those loans are only available to students attending schools that have graduated students before they are eligible.

Center Centre is a new school and our students won’t qualify for government-backed loans until we’re more established. In recent years, most banks stopped giving out alternative private school loans. This left our potential students a small number of lending sources, many of which behave like predators. (“Sure, we’ll give you a nice loan for your education. Our interest rate? Only 26%.” No thank you!)

We had to find a way to get our students funding with reasonable terms. When we started, we thought how hard can this be? Turns out, it’s pretty hard.

But we solved it by designing our own donor-funded student loan. We partnered with the Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE), a nonprofit lending organization, to create the Center Centre Give Forward Student Loan Fund.

Now, our students can get a reasonable loan to cover their full tuition and they also can receive up to $20,000 per year as a living stipend. That kind of money goes pretty far in Chattanooga, where they can find a good place to live and still have money for other expenses.

A School Loan, Intentionally Designed

Students come to Center Centre to learn about designing great experiences. We set an example for our students by designing a great experience into our loan. We’ve made the application process super-simple—we designed the forms using the best practices in form design and conducted simple usability tests to uncover issues. We wrote the loan’s terms and conditions in plain English. We wanted everything to be easy and clear, not mysterious like most financial documents.

In our research (all good design has tons of research), we talked with many adults who disliked dealing with faceless banks and loan servicers with no compassion. We’ve tried to design a loan that our students will feel good about.

Each student’s loan starts 90 days after they leave the program. No payment is due and no interest is accruing until that moment. (Many of the available private loans have interest start the moment the student signs the papers and some force the student to make payments while they’re still in school.)

When the payments do start, our students can make them small by spreading them out over as long as 20 years. If they have savings or income and don’t need the entire living stipend or tuition, they can have even smaller payments. They only repay the portion of the loan they used, even when they’re approved for the full amount.

The money we lend out comes from donations we’ve collected by non-profits like Chattanooga’s Benwood Foundation, companies like Capital One, True Ventures, Mailchimp, and Northrop Grumman, and many individuals. All of these people believe UX Design is important and want to see more diverse UX Designers in the workplace. They believe in our students and want them to succeed.

Why a Loan? Why not a Scholarship?

Most loans are about generating a profitable return for the loan backers. Not ours.

Our loan money comes from donors. We don’t have to pay anyone back. This has two important implications.

First, when our students repay their loan, they are putting it back into the loan fund. Those funds are now available for another student to follow in their footsteps. They are literally paying it forward.

Second, we’ve chosen a very reasonable interest rate. This keeps the loan inexpensive. Our interest covers CNE’s servicing costs and gives us a little buffer to guard against inflation. We keep the interest rate fixed, so our graduates will always know what it will be.

Why didn’t we make it a scholarship? A scholarship could mean our students would graduate with zero debt. But, it only pays for one student. A loan (even one with a low-interest rate like ours) pays for a second student when the first student repays it. And then a third, and a fourth, and so on.

Our donors love the idea of using a loan over a scholarship. They’re attracted to helping multiple students with the same donation. They feel like they are getting in on the ground floor of something that can affect the lives of many people. This makes it easier for us to attract more donors and help more students go through the program.

Designing Commitment Into The Process

Taking on a loan requires the student make a different commitment than if we gave them a scholarship. With a scholarship, the student would be at no risk for trying the program and, if it wasn’t for them, they could easily give up and leave.

When taking a loan, our student needs to decide if the school will be the right fit for them before they accept the loan. If they can’t see how they’ll pay off the loan, we don’t think they should start the program. They should only take on the loan if they can make the commitment to completing the program.

The student’s commitment puts more responsibility on us as a school. We only want students who will finish the program. We designed our acceptance criteria to only take students with the potential to graduate and become great designers. We want every student to get hired by a great company, become a major contributor, and earn a good salary that lets them easily make each loan payment.

We’re in this together. We need to commit to each student, as much as they need to commit to the program. We will work our hardest to give our students the best possible education.

We work closely with hiring companies. We tailor our curriculum to what hiring companies need most from our students. The unique skill set our students develop at Center Centre helps position them as outstanding candidates for jobs with solid salaries. This helps ensure that student loans get repaid, giving more students the opportunity to go through the program.

We’re the biggest donor to the loan pool. We believe we should be all-in. If our students are ready to take on the loan, we’re committed to being right there with them. We’re using our own money to give them the start they need for their new career.

Photo of Facilitator Thomas talking to Kim Goodwin, students working in the background.

The Future: A Loan That’s Paid For By Companies, not Students

Beyond the loan terms we’ve already created, we have a dream. We want to make our students so awesome that, when they graduate, companies might get into a bidding war to recruit them.

If we can make this happen, we’ll ask the companies to promise to assume the loan payments. If the graduating student chooses to come work for them, the company will promise to directly pay back the loan each month the graduate works there.

Our graduates might never make a loan payment. We’ve structured the loan, so interest and payments start 90 days after the students graduate. If we’ve made each student into the best designer we believe they could be, they’ll easily land a new job within that 90-day period.

As the competition heats up, we want to suggest the companies up their bidding: Add in a reasonable vesting period, after which, they’ll pay off the balance of the loan. There’s no penalty for prepaying. Prepaying reduces the interest payments substantially and gets us closer to another student through the program.

If companies pick a vesting period of, say, 3 years, then this is a real incentive for the designer to stay. Like a stock or an options plan, the employee has an incentive to stay and deliver quality work. We hope the company will want more designers. The faster they repay, the sooner we graduate another great designer.

With our dream scenario, our students never pay a penny of their student loan. Their new company picks up the tab. Everybody wins: the graduate, the company, and us.

A Well-Designed Student Loan Changes The Education Experience

As with everything we’ve done at Center Centre, we didn’t start by copying what others have. We started by asking what does success look like? For us, success is a student who becomes an awesome designer and isn’t constantly worried about paying back massive school loans and dealing with an inhumane, faceless loan collection company.

We took a thoughtful, compassionate approach. We learned what was required and what wasn’t. We discovered that many of today’s loan practices work against the student. We wanted to change all that.

The Give Forward Student Loan Fund has the potential to change people’s lives. It offers them a chance at a new career. If we can realize our dream, they may never end up making a payment. We’ve redesigned a standard financial instrument to become an instrument of change.

We’ve done a lot of incredible things in building Center Centre. The student loan is one of the accomplishments we’re most proud of. We hope our students will be proud of it too.

Choose your own adventure to learn IA basics

By Jessica Ivins

Choose your own adventure to learn IA basics

Center Centre students get to choose their own learning adventures. We don’t require students to learn from one, specific resource. Instead, students choose resources and experiences that meet their learning styles and learning needs.

Our students develop their own learning adventures to gain skills like information architecture. Information architecture (IA) is how designers organize everything in a design to help users find the specific content they’re seeking.

If you’d like to learn more about IA, use some of our favorite resources listed below to develop your own learning adventure.


  • How to Make Sense of Any Mess is a charming book that makes IA principles understandable and accessible. It’s also a quick read.

  • UX designers call Information Architecture for the Web and Beyond, “The Polar Bear Book” because of the bear on its cover. Now in its fourth edition, this book is an essential IA resource because it takes a deep dive into IA.

  • In A Web for Everyone, Chapter 6, “Helpful Wayfinding: Guides Users” explains how IA helps all users, including people with disabilities.



  • How to Make Sense of Any Mess explores multiple IA concepts. The presenter explains how there’s no right way to organize information. She shows you effective ways to organize information based on your business and your customer.

  • The Five Hat Racks reviews the five ways of organizing information. You can watch this video instead of reading “The Only Five Ways to Organize Information (Five Hat Racks or LATCH)” article above.


Become a Center Centre student

Do you want to learn how to organize your site’s content so that it’s understandable to your organization and your users? Would you like to become a well-rounded, industry-ready, junior UX designer? Apply to be a Center Centre student. View our full program or apply today

Alt text is part of your site’s content

By Jessica Ivins

Alt text is part of your site’s content

Clear, conversational writing helps users understand what they read on your website. It also helps users understand the content in your images’ alt text.

Alt text is more than just a few words that you quickly add to an image attribute. Images, like text, are part of your site’s content. When people can’t access the images on your site, alt text helps them understand your content.

In her accessibility guide, Accessibility Teaching Resources, Virginia DeBolt explains how you can write meaningful, useful alt text:

Think about alt text by imagining you are reading a web page to someone over the phone. When you come to an image that adds meaning to the content, what words do you use to describe the image to the person you were talking to? The image should be meaningful in the context of the content of the page, and the alt text should explain that meaning.

Read your alt text out loud

After writing the alt text, read it out loud. Reading your content out loud helps you determine if the content is appropriate and written in a friendly, non-robotic tone. Kate Kiefer Lee, communications director at MailChimp, explains this technique on her blog:

As you read aloud, pretend you’re talking to a real person and ask yourself “Would I say this to someone in real life?” Sometimes our writing makes us sound stodgier or colder than we’d like.

Remember to keep alt text short

Write meaningful, human-relatable alt text. Keep alt text as brief as possible without sacrificing clarity. Concise alt text helps someone, who is using a screen reader, get the gist of the image quickly.

In our previous post about alt text, we asked you to imagine you’re designing a website for a robotics product called WidgetWonder. Your website displays a photo of kids using WidgetWonder products at home. Alt text for this photo could say something like, “Two kids build a remote-controlled car in their kitchen with WidgetWonder.” This alt text explains a lot about the image. It’s also relatively short (about 75 characters).

Learning accessibility at Center Centre

We’ve baked accessibility into our program at Center Centre. In our courses, students learn accessibility tips that are relevant to each course. For example, the Copywriting and Content Strategy course helps our students learn how to create content that is useful and accessible to the design’s users. During team projects, students will apply accessibility principles they learn to the designs they build.

Become a Center Centre student

Would you like to learn how to make designs that are accessible for users with diverse needs? Would you like to graduate from Center Centre as an industry-ready, junior UX designer? View our full program or apply today.

When writing alt text, ask yourself this question

By Jessica Ivins

When writing alt text, ask yourself this question

When you build a website, it’s good practice to include alt text (alternative text) with images. Alt text describes images on the web.

To include alt text, you insert an alt attribute into an HTML image element. An element with an alt attribute might look this:  
<img src=”/images/cat.jpg” alt=”Orange cat sleeping on a chair” />

People with visual impairments may rely on alt text to use your site. Some visually-impaired users use screen readers to access the web. When images have alt text, a screen reader reads that text out loud to the user.

While including alt text is straightforward, writing useful alt text takes a bit of thought.

Ask this question when writing alt text for images

Every time you write alt text, ask yourself, “Do I need to describe what this image does, or do I need to describe what this image is?”

For functional images, write alt text that explains the purpose of the image. For example, imagine you’re building a website for your company, WidgetWonder. WidgetWonder’s logo appears in the navigation menu, and it links to the site’s home page.

The alt text “WidgetWonder logo” would accurately describe the logo, but the description isn’t helpful to someone using a screen reader. In this case, someone using a screen reader doesn’t need to know what the image looks like. She needs to know what the image does. Consider using alt text like “WidgetWonder home page” or simply “Home.” This tells her that the logo goes to your site’s home page.  

Sometimes, describing what the image does is most important. Other times, it’s more important to describe the image itself. Decorative images can simply be decorative, or they can be part of your site’s content. When images contain illustrations or photos that give users meaningful information, use alt text to describe what’s in the images.

Suppose WidgetWonder sells robotics products for elementary school-aged kids. A customer accesses your site with a screen reader. She’s shopping for robotics toys for her two children.

Your website displays photos of kids using WidgetWonder products at home. Alt text for these photos could say something like, “Two kids build a remote-controlled car in their kitchen with WidgetWonder.” This alt text tells the customer what’s happening in the photo. It also demonstrates how her children can use your product.

Write alt text that’s useful and accurate

Simply including alt text usually isn’t enough to make your images accessible. The alt text has to be useful. For more information about alt text, and to learn more about accessibility, read Virginia DeBolt’s accessibility guide, Accessibility Teaching Resources.

Learning accessibility at Center Centre

We’ve baked accessibility into our program at Center Centre. Students won’t just learn how to write alt text that’s useful and meaningful to their users. They’ll learn other things like how to write accessible content and how to observe accessibility needs during user research. During team projects, students will apply what they learn about accessibility to the designs they build.

Become a Center Centre student

Would you like to learn how to make designs that are easy-to-use and accessible? Would you like to graduate from Center Centre as an industry-ready, junior UX designer?  View our full program or apply today.  

Build a collection of project work for your UX portfolio

By Jessica Ivins

Build a collection of project work for your UX portfolio

Through our research at Center Centre, we’ve noticed a change in demand for UX portfolios. Today, more hiring managers require UX candidates to have portfolios that showcase their UX skills and experience. Job titles and descriptions on a résumé don’t always show a hiring manager if you have the skills they need. Hiring managers need to see evidence of your design experience to know if you’re a good fit for their team.

Hiring managers want to see more than just finished work in a portfolio. They want to see your work process, from start to finish. An up-to-date portfolio can help you land an interview, and it can help you tell the story of your work process.

The best way to keep your portfolio up-to-date is to is to document and collect your work over the lifetime of a project. Sit down regularly—about once a week—and take stock of the project. Take photos of your sketches. Collect screenshots of your process. Take photos of the sticky notes on your office wall. For each project, record notes about the challenges, the process, the solution, and the outcome of that project. Your goal is to collect materials that help you tell the right stories in your portfolio.

Keeping an up-to-date collection of your project work allows you to have the materials you need to update your portfolio quickly. You avoid the daunting process of trying to remember everything you’ve done since you started your current job.

An up-to-date portfolio also allows you to make career moves more easily. When your collection is up-to-date, you’re prepared to apply for a job because you can assemble a portfolio in a short amount of time. You don’t have to spend extra time gathering materials to put into your portfolio.

Creating a portfolio doesn’t start when you’re ready to find your next job. It starts long before a hiring manager asks you for a portfolio. It starts when your work starts.  

Creating a portfolio at Center Centre

Shortly after students start classes at Center Centre, we’ll help them learn how to build a collection of materials for their portfolio. As students approach graduation, they won’t rush to create a portfolio from scratch. Instead, they’ll have the pieces they need to construct the story they want to tell through their portfolio.

Become a Center Centre student

Would you like to graduate from Center Centre as an industry-ready, junior UX designer with a portfolio that helps you land an interview? View our full program or apply today

More resources on UX portfolios

To learn more about creating a UX portfolio, pre-order Ian Fenn’s upcoming book, Designing a UX Portfolio. You can also purchase Ian’s seminar, Sharing Our Stories: Designing and Reviewing UX Portfolios, from the All You Can Learn video library.

What work should you include in your UX portfolio?

By Jessica Ivins

What work should you include in your UX portfolio?

In our last post, we explained how a UX portfolio can help you get a job interview. Your portfolio can also support your next career move. You can use your portfolio to get the job that’s right for you, and not just any job that’s available.

What work do you include in your portfolio to get the job you want? How do you know what not to include?

You don’t need to include every project you’ve worked on over the past few years. Ian Fenn recommends showing work that you want to do more of in your portfolio. In his seminar, Sharing Our Stories: Designing and Reviewing UX Portfolios, Ian says this is a great way to land a UX job that you’re good at—and happy with.

For example, if you want to do more user research at your next job, look for UX jobs that involve a lot of user research and create a portfolio that showcases your user research work. Deemphasize other work you’re less interested in doing. In this case, play down things like prototyping, information architecture, and content strategy.  

You can still include a variety of work to show that you’re a well-rounded UX designer. Just make sure to highlight the work you want to do. Remember, your portfolio tells stories about you, as a designer. It tells stories about your past work and where your focus is for future work. A great portfolio helps you get opportunities that align with your skills and interests.

In the next post, we’ll explain how to keep an updated list of work accomplishments for your UX portfolio.

Learn more about creating a UX portfolio

To learn more about UX portfolios, you can pre-order Ian Fenn’s book, Designing a UX Portfolio. You can also purchase Ian’s video seminar, Sharing Our Stories: Designing and Reviewing UX Portfolios, from the All You Can Learn video library.

Become a Center Centre student

Are you transitioning your career to UX design? Would you like to graduate from Center Centre as an industry-ready, junior UX designer with a portfolio of your work? View our full program or apply today

Tell stories in your UX portfolio

By Jessica Ivins

Tell stories in your UX portfolio

Getting the right content into your portfolio is hard. It’s especially hard when you’re creating a new portfolio or revisiting a portfolio that you haven’t updated in a long time. 

At Center Centre, our students will face this challenge. Most of our students won’t have portfolios when they begin our program. By the time they graduate, students will learn how to create an effective portfolio. 

Ian Fenn says that the goal of a UX portfolio is to get you an interview with a UX hiring manager. In his seminar, Sharing Our Stories: Designing and Reviewing UX Portfolios, Ian recommends creating a portfolio that tells stories about your best work. By including these stories in your portfolio, you can get hiring managers excited to learn more about your experience. 

When you create a portfolio with stories, you can include screenshots of polished, finished work. Many designers do this. However, Ian says you can make your portfolio much stronger by telling stories about the process you took to get to the finished work. 

To illustrate the stories about your process, show examples of work you did throughout the project. You can include a series of interface sketches you did with a developer. You can include photos of you and your team working through ideas with sticky notes on the wall. You can also include screenshots of prototypes that you tested with users. Use examples that highlight your process, not just screenshots of polished, finished work. By showing both your process and your final work, hiring managers get a real sense of how you approach a design project.

Before writing the stories for your portfolio, consider what questions hiring managers will have about your projects. To learn about your process, hiring managers often ask questions like: 

  • How did you meet the business goals of the project? 
  • How did you meet the needs of the customer? 
  • What challenges did you encounter in this project, and how did you overcome those challenges? 

After you consider these questions, craft a story for each project you’ve worked on. Keep these stories short and interesting. For each project story, Ian recommends that you describe the challenges, process, solution, and outcome. 

Center Centre’s co-founder, Jared Spool, recommends you also indicate the duration of the project. The duration shows how much time you had to complete the project.  A project that lasts for one month is often very different from a project that lasts for one year. When hiring managers know the project duration, they can ask how you used the time available to create the best possible outcome for the project.

To infuse the right content into your portfolio, write short and interesting stories. Include examples that support the full story, rather than just showing screenshots of finished work. Create stories that make the hiring manager curious for more information. Remember that the goal of the portfolio is to get you a job interview. During the interview, you can provide more details about the projects in your portfolio. 

Creating a portfolio at Center Centre

We’ve taken Ian Fenn’s portfolio recommendations and applied them to our curriculum at Center Centre. We help our students learn how to create a UX portfolio that’s rich with stories. In our Storytelling course, we show our students how to apply storytelling skills to things like team projects and portfolios. Through stories, students will demonstrate what they’ve learned, what they’ve accomplished, and what skills they’ve acquired at Center Centre.

By telling stories about your best work, you can make your UX portfolio great. In our next post, we’ll explain what work examples to include in a portfolio. 

More resources on UX portfolios

If you’d like to learn more about creating a UX portfolio, consider pre-ordering Ian Fenn’s book, Designing a UX Portfolio. You can also purchase his video seminar, Sharing Our Stories: Designing and Reviewing UX Portfolios, from the All You Can Learn video library. 

Become a Center Centre student

Would you like to create a UX portfolio that will get you an interview? Would you like to graduate from Center Centre with a well-rounded education in UX design? View our full program or apply today

Collaboration: An indispensable skill

By Jessica Ivins

Collaboration: An indispensable skill

When I was a junior UX designer, I often designed alone at my desk. I loved it. I got to listen to my favorite music, push pixels around, then share my work with the team.

Looking back, in some ways I was doing good UX design work, but in many ways, I wasn’t. My work wasn’t as strong as it could be because I wasn’t collaborating. I wasn’t building relationships with designers and developers. I wasn’t using the power of brainstorming to source the best ideas from my team. By working alone at my desk, my design work wasn’t able to move from good to great.

Over time, I learned to collaborate. I began to get input from stakeholders early in a project to avoid disagreements later in the project. I learned how to structure activities like brainstorming sessions so that everyone could participate and share ideas. I realized that once you know how to collaborate effectively, you can produce better results—as a team—than you can on your own.

As I build the Leadership course curriculum at Center Centre, I collaborate with Dr. Jim Tucker, an expert in learning and leadership. Dr. Tucker knows that effective leaders influence other people around them to reach shared goals. They accomplish this through collaboration.

When I asked Dr. Tucker to recommend resources about leadership, he recommended several books, including Humans are Underrated, by Geoff Colvin. Throughout the book, Colvin emphasizes the significance of collaboration skills in today’s workforce:

Employers’ top priorities include relationship building, teaming, co-creativity, brainstorming, cultural sensitivity, and ability to manage diverse employees—right-brain skills of social interaction.

Colvin explains why collaboration is more than just a buzzword or a trend. Collaboration is an indispensable skill. According to Colvin, machines and computers are replacing many jobs that don’t require skills like collaboration and relationship-building. That means a designer who effectively collaborates has better job security.

A New York Times article, “Why What You Learned in Preschool Is Crucial at Work,” explains that the demand for soft skills is growing:

Learning math and science is not enough. Jobs that involve those skills but not social skills, like those held by bookkeepers, bank tellers and certain types of engineers, have performed worst in employment growth in recent years for all but the highest-paying jobs. In the tech industry, for instance, it’s the jobs that combine technical and interpersonal skills that are booming, like being a computer scientist working on a group project.

The book and the article fascinated me. I didn’t realize that soft skills are in demand partly because machines can’t perform those skills. I wasn’t surprised to read that soft skills are in demand now more than ever. In our research with UX hiring managers, every hiring manager told Center Centre that what separates good designers from the best designers are soft skills. That’s why there is a focus on soft skills at Center Centre. Our students will graduate with a holistic skill set—including the soft skills—that hiring managers desperately need.

By the time Center Centre students graduate, they’ll be well ahead of where I was as a junior UX designer. Our students will have two years of experience applying their collaboration skills before they graduate. They will know how to collaborate effectively with others—to make sure that other voices and ideas are heard, while wrangling the team to reach the outcome that everyone desires and needs.

Students will move their design skills from good to great by applying effective collaboration techniques. The soft skills students learn will help them throughout their careers. Graduates will be indispensable members of their organizations.

Apply to be a student

Would you like to improve your collaboration skills while learning other UX design skills at Center Centre? View our full program or apply today.

Learn more effectively by reflecting on what you learn

By Jessica Ivins

Learn more effectively by reflecting on what you learn

In Figure out how you learn best, we explain how to learn more effectively by focusing on your process of learning. Then, you’ll figure out what learning approaches work well for you.

Paying attention to how you learn is part of becoming a better learner. You can also reflect on what you learn to help your learning stick.

Use a journal to reflect on your learning

Another trick for making learning stick is to reflect on your learning. You can do this by writing about what you learn in a journal. The journal can take any format you’d like, though I suggest keeping all journal entries in one place. The journal can be anything from a Google Document or a small, Field Notes memo book. Use whatever tool that feels most comfortable. Journal reflection is for you and you alone. So there’s no need to make a beautiful artifact, unless that’s what makes you most comfortable.

In your journal, jot down what you learned, how you learned it, and what was effective or ineffective in your learning process. As you journal, you’ll begin to see patterns in your learning. You’ll begin to know what learning approach works well for the type of thing you need to learn.

Share what you learn with someone else

Another way to reflect on your learning is to share what you learn with someone else. Sharing what you learn is a powerful way of making learning stick. During our daily stand-up meetings at Center Centre, each of us shares the most important thing we learned and how it will change our approach in the future. Sharing what I learn often helps me remember it later. When I’m trying to do something I haven’t done in a while, I usually remember a conversation I had about what I learned in a stand-up meeting. Because I shared what I learned with my peers, I remember it more easily.

You’ll be amazed by how much you remember if you share it with someone else. Also, sharing with someone else also helps that person learn something new. And when they share something they’ve learned with you, you have the opportunity to learn something as well.

You can share what you learn in a number of ways. Ask if your team members would like to share what they learned at your weekly staff meeting. You can each take five minutes or less to talk about what you learned and how it will help you approach learning differently in the future.

Find a learning buddy

You can also find another lifelong learner—someone who’s willing to geek out on learning with you. If you can find a co-worker, meet with this person for five to ten minutes a day and share the most important thing you learned. Explain how it will change what you do in the future. If you can’t find a co-worker, you can do this with someone outside of work, like a former colleague or a friend. Reflecting on what you learn every day will infuse the pattern of learning. You’ll both get better at learning how to learn.

Reflective learning at Center Centre

We have a learner-centered culture at Center Centre. Each day, we we learn on our own, and we learn something new from each other. By sharing and reflecting on what we learn, we make learning stick.

If you’d like to learn more about how Center Centre infuses learning into our daily process, check out the 24 Ways article, Meet for Learning, by Center Centre’s co-founder, Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman.

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