November 5, 2013
A Fresh Approach to Developing and On-boarding Design Talent

Richard Banfield's Fresh Tilled Soil has really been making a push to be the hub of UI/UX design for the Boston area.

One program that is helping them do that is the Apprenticeship Program, or AUX as they call it, which they started last year and is being run by Geordie Kaytes.

The Apprenticeship Program on-boards people who are passionate about design and who want to learn from some of the best UI/UX folks in town. The sixteen-week program, dubbed an "immersive learning experience," gives designers and developers an unparalleled opportunity to become UI/UX masters through structured learning, mentorship, and real-world working experiences.

Here are the specific details of what the course entails from Fresh Tilled Soil's website:

  • First you will be thrown into a two-week, paid bootcamp where the most important design, UX, and development principles will be drilled in. At the end of the two weeks you’ll be partnered with a mentor based on your skill set and goals.

  • Real-world projects give you maximum exposure to the latest tools and techniques in web product design. The apprentices work together to create bloody brilliant web and mobile applications for us and our clients.

  • Each week there will be new readings and challenges based on design trends, best practices, and development skills. These challenges are designed, presented, and judged by senior members of the Fresh Tilled Soil team.

The whole program is part of Fresh Tilled Soil's initiative to not only get more people fired up about UI/UX in the same way that they are, but to create the next generation of design talent. Some of the new talent coming out of the apprenticeship program even sometimes ends up working for Fresh Tilled Soil, like former apprentice and current UI Designer Jenna Bantjes.

Bantjes took part in another Fresh Tilled Soil outreach project that I got to observe first hand a couple of weeks ago.

She was one of the judges, along with Kaytes, for a joint FTS/Olin College design "contest". The two-week sprint gave groups of students a category to work on and build an application for. They had two weeks to go through the design process, find users, and bring back a prototype to present to users and get feedback, and then pitch their idea to the class.

Members of the student-led Olin "Mobile Prototyping" class completed the apprentice challenges and pitched their ideas and prototypes a couple of weeks ago. While there was some value in the ideas presented, what the students seemed to get most out of the class was the opportunity to work with Kaytes and Bantje, and to get some feedback and mentorship from the whole Fresh Tilled Soil team.

Fresh Tilled Soil is no doubt one of the most creative design outfits in Boston (just look at the individual team member pages on the "About" section of their site; they each have a background desk covered in personally meaningful and identifying articles). With the innovative teaching/learning programs they are initiating, they should also become one of the fastest growing and best talent producing companies in Boston as well.

(Those interested in the AUX program can sign up for the spring session here.)

Dennis Keohane is a staff writer for VentureFizz. You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.