Our 2021 in Review: A Year of Growth & Resilience

2021 felt like a year spent in limbo—but our community of students, mentors, alumni, and staff were resilient and overcame many challenges.

Harish Venkatesan
Harish Venkatesan
Dec 29, 2021
Min Read

2021 was a year of flux. While it didn't quite capture the global highs and lows of 2020, the entire period felt like a year in limbo as we slowly started to recover from COVID and the world re-opened (and re-closed) in fits and starts. It was also a year of reinvention and reimagination, as so many of us took charge of our careers after having more time and space to think intentionally about the shape of our lives.

It was a full, action-packed year for the Designlab team and community of students, mentors, and alumni—to whom we remain incredibly grateful for. Here's a short recap of the last 12 months…

Student Life Committee

By far, the most exciting part of the year for our team was watching our growing community evolve and find new ways to participate, network, and improve their skills through active involvement. 2021 marked the launch of our very own Student Life Committee (SLC), a completely student-led initiative to iterate and improve the community experience. Watch this webinar for more info about what the SLC worked on 👀 

Community Design Challenges

This year, we started to host regular internal design challenges for our community. The design challenges gave our community a chance to flex their skills and have some fun designing. 

Check out the prompts and winners of our recent design challenges:

Adobe XD x Designlab Design Challenges

Our community also found ways to actively take part in third-party challenges and hackathons with our design partners, like Adobe XD 🤩 

Adobe XD x Scholastic

Teams of students from Designlab participated in the Adobe XD Creative Jam with Scholastic Books in November, and did really well! 

Here are some key takeaways:

  • 51 learners registered from Designlab
  • A learner from Designlab and her partner received 2nd place!
  • We also had a team receive 5th place
  • Plus, two additional teams in the top 10
  • Three teams with Designlab learners received honorable mentions

Adobe XD x NASA

Designlab students were invited to participate in the Adobe XD UX Bootcamp Creative Jam in partnership with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Hundreds of UX design bootcamp students participated in this portfolio-worthy creative challenge—including 65 Designlab students!

In total there were 520 registrations from 20 different bootcamp programs across the US, Canada, and UK. 173 portfolio-worthy projects were submitted and only five were selected as winners—two of which were from Designlab students 🏆

Check out the winning Designlab teams and their projects here.

Impressive Hiring Outcomes

After a challenging 2020, the hiring landscape started to pick up and our community began to see some strong traction in the job market. Check out our success stories about recent graduates who’ve landed their dream jobs, for example:

Our Growing Mentor Community

Our mentor community also grew considerably. We now have over 500 mentors with an amazing breadth and depth of experience, from startups to Fortune 500 companies to freelancers. Our mentor network is a global community, with mentors from over 50 countries 🌍

Check out these mentor-written blog posts to learn more about their various areas of interest and specialization:

You can also check out these mentor spotlights to learn more about their individual stories and backgrounds:

$300,000 in Design Scholarships

Since March 2020, we've been running our Diversify Design Scholarship with the intent to build equity by promoting diversity and 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.

As of December 2021, we’ve given out over $300,000 in scholarships to students entering our UX Academy program—following through on our commitment to open doors and increase diversity, equity, and representation in the design space. We’re excited to do even more in 2022 🤩

Webinars & Video Content

We hosted 25 webinars this year! Here are some of our top webinars that you can’t miss:

The Top Blog Posts of 2021

We were as active as ever on our blog. Here were some of your favorite posts:

Partnerships & Career Services

Since launching our partnerships experiments this year, we’ve paired 53 students and counting with real-world projects—with over 150 students also introduced to partner companies. These partners have included Pinterest, Code and Theory, Rainfactory, and startups in every sector. 

Partnered companies get access to candidates with a diversity of work and life experience beyond, or in addition to, a traditional 4-year degree. For the students involved, the partnerships gave them the opportunity to add real client projects to their portfolios, work in teams, and practice interview skills. Read more about our partnerships initiatives here 🤓

Here are some of our top career services-oriented blog posts from this year:

New Domain Name, Who Dis?

We were super excited to announce a change that had been a long time coming: we migrated our website domain to designlab.com towards the end of the year 🎉 (It was formerly trydesignlab.com).

There is no more try—only do—or in this case design…you get the idea 😅

The Designlab Internal Team

One of the biggest areas of focus this year was growing the internal Designlab team to meet the growth of our community. Our small but mighty distributed team of doers grew from 25 to ~40. We expanded a few key areas of our team: 

  • Product Team: Helping level up our ability to create best-in-class educational experiences for creatives
  • CX (Customer Experience) Team: Helping us get even better at providing amazing support to our community
  • Growth Team: Helping get the word out about the Designlab movement

In addition to growing the team, we ran a number of experiments to stay at the forefront of remote work that empowers our team while helping them find flow—such as 4-day workweeks, transparent benefits, and growth ladders.

We’re still growing, so if you’re interested or know someone who might be, check out our Careers page 💼

Looking Ahead to 2022

We can't wait for some big launches that are coming up in 2022! We’re looking forward to the new year with our expanded team and a focus on building the best UX/UI design learning community in the world. Here's a sneak peek at what’s to come:

  • Big improvements to UX Academy and our existing courses: You heard it here first—we're planning some exciting changes to course content and formatting in UX Academy and our other courses.
  • New advanced courses and new course formats: Our advanced workshops that we launched in December are just the start: stay tuned for a range of new offerings catered to designers at every stage of their career journey.
  • Expanded community efforts: And last but certainly not least, we're going to be looking for ways to actively empower members of our student, mentor, and alumni communities to help us create an experience and network that can lead to lifelong connections.

We're ever thankful to our community, and are excited to keep finding ways for all of us to grow and expand. Happy holidays and here's to a new year ahead!

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Launch a career in ux design with our top-rated program

Top Designers Use Data.

Gain confidence using product data to design better, justify design decisions, and win stakeholders. 6-week course for experienced UX designers.