Software & Plugins
Before beginning UX Academy, we expect you to have a basic understanding of one of these three design softwares: Figma, Sketch, or Adobe XD. If you don’t have this knowledge yet, no fear, you can learn through our free 7-day email courses. You can also learn more in our UX Academy preparatory course, UX Academy Foundations.
Figma is browser-based, works on any computer, and is free for individual users. Sketch requires a Mac, and you need to buy a license—but you can get 50% off via our Perks page. (Note that you’ll only be able to access the perk once your course has started, so if you’re installing it ahead of time, get started with the trial version and upgrade later.)
One of our goals in UX Academy is to introduce you to a range of industry-standard tools that you'll be using throughout the UX design process. We want you to be comfortable picking up new tools and understanding their workflow—this is part of life as a professional UX designer. By the end of the course, you will have a personal toolkit of software that will equip you to solve design problems in the wild.
Here’s some other software tools you might be interested in exploring during UX Academy:
- Prototyping tools like InVision, Marvel, and UXPin
- Wireframing tools like Balsamiq
- 3 must-have Figma Plugins: Autoflow, A11y - Color Contrast Checker and LottieFiles
- 3 must-have Sketch Plugins: Runner, Rename It, and Zeplin
- Collaborative flowcharts, wireframes, sticky notes, and mind maps: Whimsical
- Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes more advanced packages like Photoshop, Adobe XD, and Illustrator. (We also have a Photoshop 101 email course!)
You can check out all of the software discounts and special offers available to Designlab students on our Perks page.
While there are no required textbooks for UX Academy, it can only help you to further complete your knowledge of the UX/UI design industry to do a bit of outside reading before and during the program.
These are the top 10 UX/UI design books recommended by our team:
1. User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play
This book maps the hidden rules of the designed world and sheds light on how those rules have caused our world to change.
2. Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days
From three partners at Google Ventures, this book offers a unique five-day process for solving tough problems, proven at more than a hundred companies.
3. The Design of Everyday Things
The Design of Everyday Things shares these simple rules: make things visible, exploit natural relationships that couple function and control, and make intelligent use of constraints.
4. Don't Make Me Think
“If you design, write, program, own, or manage Web sites, you must read this book." - Jeffrey Zeldman, author of Designing with Web Standards
5. Hidden In Plain Sight
This book by Jan Chipchase, named by Fortune as “one of the 50 smartest people in tech,” illuminates exactly what drives consumers to make the choices they do
6. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
An inspiring guide to creativity in the digital age, Steal Like an Artist presents ten transformative principles that will help readers discover their artistic side and build a more creative life.
7. Articulating Design Decisions: Communicate with Stakeholders, Keep Your Sanity, and Deliver the Best User Experience
This practical book provides principles and actionable methods for talking about designs with stakeholders to ultimately win them over.
8. Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It
This book might make you angry. It should make you angry. But it will also give you the tools you need to make better decisions.
9. Writing for Designers
UX designers looking to build a solid writing foundation should read this book. Whether you’re new to writing or looking to hone your skills, Scott Kubie’s guide will empower you to get organized and get going.
10. 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (Voices That Matter)
This book combines real science and research with practical examples to increase the effectiveness, conversion rates, and usability of your design projects.
We like to stay up to date on the latest industry trends, news, and insights and recommend our students do the same. Some of our favorite places to find this information includes UX Planet, UX Collective, Sidebar, and Inside Design.
Here are a few articles that are helpful for those getting started in UX/UI design:
Apps & Websites
As a future UX/UI designer, you’ll likely want to utilize all of the apps available today throughout your time in UX Academy. Good news: there are lots of apps that can help you be a better student, designer, and human in general!
Here are some of our favorite mobile and desktop apps for staying on track:
“For Phase 2 of UX Academy, I moved my time and project management to Notion because I found it easier to both project-plan (task management) and write down all my assignments. This makes it easier for you to create your case studies since everything is written down.” - Gina Medranda, UX Academy Alumni & Designlab Illustrator
Here are the desktop apps and websites that can help to amplify your creativity:
While the nature of UX/UI design is primarily digital, it can be important for creativity to sometimes step away from the computer and work analog. Sticky notes are great for brainstorming, grid notebooks for wireframing, and there are all sorts of helpful UX/UI design card decks these days.
While there are no physical tools required in UX Academy, here are a few that might be helpful:
We hope you’ve found this list of what you need to prepare for a UX/UI design bootcamp (like UX Academy) helpful. If you’re interested in learning more about our UX Academy program, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.