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Madeleine Perry – Bath Spa University

 Alumni profile 

Course studied: Skills Bootcamp in Creative Computing: UI/UX Design

My name’s Maddie, and I’m a designer, amongst other things.

I didn’t always feel confident saying this. Thankfully, I found my way onto the Skills Bootcamp in Creative Computing. The course mentors helped me to consolidate my passion for design and my curiosity about front-end development into an experience that will help me with the next step of my design career.

I've been immersed in creativity from an early age – my family’s background ranges from 3D and multimedia design to technical drawing and fine art – so I was initially considering a creative career. And yet, there were so many negative stereotypes about the sustainability and validity of creative careers in the media and various academic environments that I felt they’d be beyond my reach.

After studying languages, the first lockdown made me reconsider. I wanted to find a career that would allow me to pursue my interests in design, technology and psychology, along with the analytical skills honed during my degree.

I played with designing and illustrating using various Adobe programs in my own time, but it wasn’t until moving to Bath two years later that I seriously considered a career change from multilingual customer service to digital design.

The Creative Computing short course was recommended to me by an employment adviser, and I instantly knew that I had to seize this opportunity.

"Your previous knowledge (or lack thereof) of design theory/software isn’t a disadvantage; in fact, diversity amongst designers is essential, because problems are better solved when viewed from different angles."

Skills Bootcamps give participants a structured, supportive space in which they can refine the skills needed for the creative tech world. During the 12-week course, we:

  • Worked in cross-functional teams using communication and ideation tools like Slack, Trello, Miro, and FigJam
  • Planned projects using sprint methodology
  • Studied graphic design for digital media
  • Learned front-end development skills, writing HTML and CSS in Visual Studio Code
  • Studied UX (user experience) design theory, processes and tools, including ideation, competitor analysis, user research methods and usability testing with Maze
  • Explored UI (user interface) design theory, processes and tools, like concept sketching, low- and medium-fidelity wireframing and creating interactive prototypes in Figma
  • Assessed the accessibility of websites and apps according to web content accessibility guidelines
  • Learned about, created and managed design systems
  • Practised personal and professional skills in leadership, presenting and pitching
  • Were introduced to the range of roles in the creative tech industry and prepared our CVs, portfolios and LinkedIn profiles for it.

There are too many highlights of the short course for them all to be named here, so here are my top three:

  1. Our tutors were always recommending industry events for us to attend. I went to an agency’s ‘Introduction to UX’ workshop and conference in Bristol with fellow students. We met industry professionals and listened to inspiring talks, including one from Gavin Strange, Senior Creative at Aardman Studios. At a meetup for typography and lettering enthusiasts, I even spoke with Elliot Jay Stocks of Google Fonts Knowledge and a previous creative director of Typekit!
  2. Following a structured programme of study let me develop skills and software I’d already explored, while being introduced to new ones in a hands-on way, resulting in a series of mini-projects that I can now show future employers.
  3. Presenting our team’s project to a senior product designer-developer and receiving really encouraging feedback - the cherry on the cake after all our hard work!

If you’re thinking about applying for the bootcamp, please do so - it truly has been a life-changing experience!

Apprehensive about the application process?

Rest assured that there’s nothing to worry about there. Applying was really straightforward; Ellis, the Digital Bootcamp Programme Administrator, was amazing at keeping us updated on the progress of our applications, too.

In terms of actually doing the course, I have a few recommendations. Firstly, it's remote, so you’ll get out of it what you put in. I'd worked and studied remotely before, so I was already aware of the importance of regular engagement with colleagues and mentors. For online course newbies, I can’t stress enough how much more enjoyable remote learning is when you contribute your ideas and have your camera/mic on where possible.

Also, don’t be afraid of asking too many questions. Initially hesitant about ‘scaring people off’ with my enthusiasm, James and Amira helped me to feel comfortable sharing this excitement about the subject. Your questions help others to learn, too – many coursemates shared this belief, which was great, especially as our cohort had such a range of career histories.

Regarding time management, don’t forget to tend to your personal portfolio as well as the team project. I concentrated on the former and wish I’d had more time for the latter, but you live and learn! Moreover, keep the phrase “done is better than perfect” in mind. My tendency to over-research every task meant the weekly design challenges took me longer than expected. However, this inspired me to further refine my design workflow as I progress.

What did we actually do on the short course?

A better question might be "What didn’t we do?"

We were set a weekly design challenge with a professional brief that focused our output in terms of software, format and scope of deliverables. These ranged from logos and icons to the landing page for an imaginary local café. Additionally, we carried out independent research into celebrated designers, agencies and brands for personal inspiration.

Front-end development projects were equally varied, from recreating the Starbucks website with interactive images to exploring CSS filters and animations. We were always encouraged to discuss our thoughts and work – in fact, I suggested that we have a dedicated feedback channel in our Slack group. We used this to share ideas in a non-judgemental space and receive validation for our designs alongside helpful feedback from both coursemates and mentors.

From week six, platforms for hosting our portfolios were the order of the day, after which we moved on to styling and selecting the projects for them. Now, I’m really enjoying taking the time to improve mine whilst searching for an exciting new role!

I’d like to conclude with a massive thank you to James Shaw and Amira Ahmed for their continual support (both moral and professional!) throughout the bootcamp; their regular 1-2-1 meetings gave us the opportunity to celebrate small wins and discuss any difficulties.

I’m not the only one to feel incredibly lucky to have been selected to participate in the scheme, and can’t thank the whole team behind it enough.

Furthermore, I’m sure I’ve made some lifelong friends amongst my coursemates; in fact, we’ve all stayed in touch and are planning regular design-themed meetups in the South West. Long may it continue!

Find out more about the final project Maddie and her coursemates completed on the Skills Bootcamp, and follow her UI/UX journey on LinkedIn.

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