Should I enroll in design boot camp?
June 19, 2017 1:11 PM   Subscribe

I've overthought this and now I can't make a decision. I'm entirely self-taught in my field. I would benefit a lot from a focused, structured design course. But I can't find a slam-dunk reason to do it or not to do it. Pros and cons inside.

I have had a number of visual-media "careers" over the years. I returned to video a few years ago. I'm better suited to the work and clients seem to have a better idea of what it takes in general over clients when I was doing web stuff.

I mainly do motion graphics, some animation and editing (I also have clients where I'm working almost exclusively on the technical side).

I can produce results people like, but I'm pretty slow because I don't have a process for transferring a vague idea into a concrete reality. I have never studied design except in the context of theatrical scenic and lighting design, which doesn't really overlap as much as would be helpful. I mostly just experiment until I stumble across a direction I like, then I (over) work it and take forever to get anything done.

I'm considering the School of Motion Design Bootcamp to get some concentrated, focused and structured training in design, which would ultimately improve my workflow, my confidence, my ability to communicate effectively with clients, and the content of my reel. I do well in structured learning environments as well as in self-teaching, but I'm kind of burned out on self-teaching right at the moment (I've been cramming on a lot of software and other things, and I would really enjoy letting someone else "cook dinner" for a change, if that makes sense) and I think structured coursework would be good for me. I don't know if the specific institution has any cachet that would bring benefits (there's no certificate or anything) but judging by the curriculum and the process I feel like I'd get my money's worth even without that value-add.

On the downside, it's about $1000. My summer work that I expected to do has evaporated and it might or might not come back. My other jobs are typically 2-week bursts of high-intensity, more-than-full-time work. I don't have any specific prospects on the horizon for such jobs at the moment, but if one came along while I was in boot camp I'd likely end up having to drop the boot camp. They do have a "homework bankruptcy" students can declare one week during the course, but I'd likely end up with two weeks of work I couldn't complete if I booked a gig.

Also, since my expected work dried up, $1000 is feeling a bit steep. I know the benefits would ultimately make it worthwhile, but I don't know if it would translate into me booking some work in the short-term.

I almost signed up for the previous session, but then booked a couple jobs that would have made it impossible. I'm stumped because the financials are only easy if I've got jobs booked, but having jobs booked means I can't commit the time to the training. I have time for the training if I have no jobs, but then I'm stressed about the money.

If my evaporated job revives, the nature of the scheduling for that would be much less intensive and I could do both that and the boot camp. But it's impossible for me to tell how likely that is to happen.

I could do my car insurance on payments instead of paying the whole term all at once, which would take some of the money pressure off (the insurance would cost more over the term as a result, but I think that would be an OK trade-off).

I'm generally risk-averse. I'm leaning toward not doing the boot camp because it feels less risky, but I get energized thinking about doing the boot camp. I've just worked myself up into a state where I can't actually decide.

Should I take the risk and enroll, or should I play it safe and save the money?
posted by under_petticoat_rule to Work & Money (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't see a timeframe for the course in your post (apologies if I missed it.) It sounds like a full-time commitment for a month or more, which is a lot to manage while also earning a living. (As you're already aware.)

I wonder if you can take individual classes instead? It sounds like what could really help you is some sense of process in coming up with ideas, conceptualizing them, and executing them. An into to graphic design class worth its salt should teach you those skills. A class in storyboarding and/or creating animatics could also be a big help and may be more specific to your career.
posted by Cranialtorque at 2:01 PM on June 19

More info about the schedule - it's 11-12 weeks, and they say students typically spend 20-30 hours a week including course time, homework, critiques etc.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 2:34 PM on June 19

I'm in sort of a similar situation, not with this program but with another that requires a similar amount of time commitment and in an adjacent field. (12 week terms, 25-30 hours a week on class time, lectures, homework) I had originally decided only to take freelance work that I could do part-time while I concentrated on the class, but due to some 'I can't say no' full-time job offers, I've been doing the full-time plus thing(10-7 media schedule plus a one-hour commute both ways) which leaves just barely enough time in life for the class. If I work 8-10 during the evenings that gets me 10 hours, if I work 8-11 that gets me 15, and then I usually work all day Saturday (7 am until late) and then Sunday until the deadline (7 am - 3 pm) which gets me to 35-ish if I'm super focused and don't have anything else going on during the week. I've even managed to make it to a friend's baby shower or birthday party here and there although I have been basically a hermit.

So all that preamble is to say - depending on how much other stuff you have going on in your life - it could be possible for you to do both at once. It's a lot but it isn't on too long a timeframe (I'm on my 3rd 12-week term, and it is getting to be a lot).

If this class is anything like the one I'm doing, there is a certain amount of 'you get out of it what you put into it' so it's true that it helps to spend more time if you have it, but I would just go into it with the attitude that it doesn't matter if you fail, or what your grade is, it's what you learn that counts. I would also investigate what resources your school offers for people who finish the class - I know I'm missing out on a lot of what I could get out of my class because I skip all the supplemental lectures, but those are all available to all past and current students so I feel like I can just watch them all on my own later whenever I have a bit more free time.

So my advice: take the class, get what you can out of it, take freelance work if it comes up, spend whatever time you can on the class but don't sweat it if some of your assignments aren't as good as they could be.
posted by matcha action at 3:08 PM on June 19

I do motion graphics and animation full time, and I feel your pain as someone almost entirely self taught. I did have the good fortune to go to school for a pure design degree (visual communications/graphic design), and I also wrestled with the decision to do similar boot camps, like SOM's Animation Boot Camp or Mograph Mentor, a couple years back. I ultimately decided not to.

SOM has a great rep and I highly recommend them. That being said, I have heard it is pretty rigorous, and some I know who have done the animation boot camp never did finish it. This may be something that's more affordable and easier for you to study on your own during your various gigs, but I know in this industry, what you're doing can vary wildly. I think the biggest benefit of these courses is more for newbies to the industry, which can help a lot with building your network and contacts and get you started generally.

If the price tag and time commitment are still making you nervous, you might benefit more by giving yourself a personal project designed around what you feel needs strengthening. This gives you more flexibility on time, definitely saves you money, and gives you some unique reel material--on my previous reels, a big chunk was from my personal projects.

Please feel free to memail me if you want to talk shop! I am all about this stuff. Also are you on the motion slack? it is a pretty great resource for just such decisions!
posted by caitcadieux at 8:10 PM on June 19

It sounds like you know how to make the graphics, you just need help getting from planning a concept to execution in a more direct way. Is there a community college near you? Many of them offer shorter certificate programs in graphic design or digital design that would probably cover what you'd want to learn.

Granted, it'd probably be more money in the long run (I think most CC's run around $105/credit give or take?), but being able to take one or two classes at a time spread out over a year or two would probably be less of a time/money crunch than an intensive boot camp situation. But that's assuming you even want the credential--if all you wanted was a formal class to give you the foundation for design ideation, you might even be able to get away with just taking one or two classes that cover what you want to know.
posted by helloimjennsco at 6:56 AM on June 20

Oh hey, Motionographer actually just posted this today, might be of use to you as well!
posted by caitcadieux at 8:50 AM on June 20

They're all good answers, Brent.

I decided not to do it this time around, maybe in the future. I just need to be available for work over the summer.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 1:11 PM on June 20

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