Learn visual design principles

Master the practical design skills you need to have a successful design career

You want to create incredible design and see others benefit from it. You want better clients and you want to raise your rates.

But the opportunities to do your best work feel rare. The projects you get hired for aren't the kind of work you want to be doing—and they don't pay well enough either. Other people don't appreciate your work, and you don't feel confident in your designs.

Digging yourself out of that rut starts with improving the quality of your work and becoming a better designer.

TheorySprints is an online design course that will help you become a better designer so you can finally get hired to make the important, beautiful design you know you are capable of. (And make more money too.)

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To get a design job, mastering visual design is more important than ever

In an industry flooded with one UX designer after another who can only make plans but cannot deliver final, usable design assets, the designers with the practical skills to bring new ideas into the world are more valuable than ever.

We all know that design is more than aesthetics. But clients and employers judge "look and feel" first.

That means visual design is the most important skill for getting a design job or getting freelance clients.

But you don't know visual design principles nearly as well as you think you do, and that weakness is limiting your success as a designer.

Design theory seems like old news. You've read about principles like color theory and typography before. But there are mistakes in your work you can't see because you haven't mastered how to use those principles.

To reach your next career goal, you need to know how to use design principles. Reading about them isn't enough.

Theory Sprints

Master key design principles in quick, distilled training sprints

TheorySprints is an online course with a quick but intense training sprint for every design theory you need to master. Each sprint includes both video demonstrations and written lessons. You'll learn why each design principle is important, and then learn how to use it by observing how an experienced designer uses it. At the end, you'll practice what you learn using the included Portfolio Builder project briefs.

Before taking TheorySprints, I felt like an imposter. I felt like something was missing. Because I wasn't classically trained in graphic design, I felt that I lacked that vital foundational knowledge. And TheorySprints was EXACTLY what I needed. I've taken other design courses before but none that were as cohesive or as applicable. It's a great reference for when I'm stuck in the middle of a design project and, since taking TheorySprints, I have more confidence in myself as a designer.

Anatomy of a Theory Sprint

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Analyze how you've used each design principle in the past

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Learn all about each design principle in written lessons

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Observe how an experienced designer uses the principle

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Plan how you'll use the principle differently in the future

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Practice using each principle with project briefs & exercises

Sprints are composed of 5 important stages to help you understand, apply, and then master using each principle. The stages teach you design theory using research-based instructional methods so that you don't just understand the concepts but also learn how to apply them in your everyday work.

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Course Outline

Learn to plan design strategies and build your own reliable process

  • Sprint 1: Process
  • Sprint 2: Planning

Learn the Key Design Principles

  • Sprint 3: Typography
  • Sprint 4: Alignment & Grids
  • Sprint 5: Proximity & Space
  • Sprint 6: Color
  • Sprint 7: Repetition
  • Sprint 8: Visual Hierarchy
  • Sprint 9: Contrast & Dominance

Bonuses (See more details below)

  • Portfolio Builder project briefs
  • Accountability Group Starter Kit
  • Design Stories video series
  • Private Facebook Group Access
  • 6 Design system templates & worksheets
  • 12 Photoshop files from real design projects
  • UI design patterns & examples PDF
  • Downloadable videos
  • Downloadable audio of written lessons
  • Downloadable PDFs of written lessons

Get the Complete Course for $249 (USD)

See Everything Included in the Course

You can learn design theory and get step-by-step instructions from articles, books, YouTube, and other places. But very few of those sources teach you how to think and understand the substance. They don't show the mistakes. You see the concepts but not why things are done. For me, the demo videos in TheorySprints were the biggest value. They really helped me understand the design from start to end. The sequence of how to create a design and the whole process in practical terms is really valuable.

I went through courses on Udemy, Lynda, etc., and they always follow the same "how-to" steps, but you don't see the thought process. That's the big thing that differentiates this course. I haven't seen anyone do this.

Daniel Marek, TheorySprints student

Most design books and training don't help you improve.

TheorySprints is not like the design training you're used to.

Let's face it: most design education sucks.

Most design training will present you with a talking head who rambles on about an abstract idea, and you leave with no clue how you are supposed to use it.

Design bootcamps and design industry events try to provide inspiration but not practical techniques and guidance; you might learn to make punk-rock-themed oven mitts or mixed-media magnetic street art (true story), but nothing about how to make design work you can actually get paid for.

New designers are learning to run before they can walk. Popular design books teach complex strategies (like UX design, responsive design, living style guides, etc), but new designers just aren't ready to learn those things. Accomplishing advanced techniques like those requires mastery of the fundamentals. And because the advanced topics get all the buzz, many new designers never learn the basics.

TheorySprints is different from most design training because it's ruthlessly practical.

TheorySprints will teach you the foundational skills of being a designer, starting with visual design, design process, and planning.

Theory is in the name, but you won't just learn about design theory. You'll learn how to actually use it. You'll learn what to do when you sit down at your desk to design something.

In TheorySprints, you will learn how to take the boring and bad-sounding ideas you always have and make something great out of them anyway through revision and hard work.

You'll learn to be a designer. You'll learn to solve problems. You'll learn to make beautiful, exciting things.

You'll work hard in order to do all that, because there are no shortcuts and there is no magic process that makes it easy.

But you'll finally learn how to start making the amazing design you've always wanted to.

Learning isn't enough.

Get the experience you need to get a design job.

New designers face a catch-22: you need experience to get hired, but you need to get hired to get experience.

For mid-level and senior-level designers, getting opportunities to do your best work can still be difficult. Maybe you're stuck working under someone else's direction or don't get picked for challenging projects.

You need the chance to gain experience and grow as a designer. TheorySprints will help you gain that experience.

First, you'll learn by watching an experienced designer work in the demonstration videos, and you'll finally get to see how top designers create great design.

Then, you'll practice and build your portfolio by doing real design work. The course includes in-depth project briefs you can use as the basis for side projects, so that you can fill your portfolio with designs that prove you are ready for better opportunities.

Last, you'll get in-depth feedback on your design work by forming an accountability group. You'll meet regularly with other students from the course (or from your own personal network, whichever you prefer) so you are held accountable and keep practicing while also getting objective and constructive feedback.

All of this combined will give you the experience you need to get a job or land a new freelance client.

The course is helpful and practical, especially the video demonstrations that show how principles work and how to evaluate each decision. I use it as a reference and to reflect on my own design process. After taking TheorySprints, I understand better how to apply these design concepts in my own projects. 

Ann Tai, designer, TheorySprints student
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Level up your design skills and advance your design career

TheorySprints will guide you to become a better designer through the wisdom of design theory. You will break some rules. You will try crazy-sounding ideas. You will get your hands dirty.

If you do the work, your design skill will grow. And you will find all kinds of new opportunities waiting for you.

Everything Included in the Course

Course Features

  • 100% Money-Back Guarantee
  • 18 videos (Over 4 hours total)
  • 12 written lessons
  • Online course access
  • Download and keep all the content forever
    • PDF of all written lessons
    • Downloadable audio of all lessons
    • Downloadable videos

Bonuses (details below)

  • Portfolio Builder project briefs
  • Accountability Group Starter Kit
  • Design Stories video series
  • Private Facebook Group Access
  • 6 Design system templates & worksheets
  • 12 Photoshop files from real design projects
  • UI design patterns & examples PDF

Sprint 1: Process

  • Design Theory Reboot Video
  • Lesson: What is design process, really?
  • Lesson: Finding Your Own Design Process
  • Demonstration Video

Sprint 2: Planning

  • Design Theory Reboot Video
  • Lesson: Planning, boring but essential
  • Lesson: A Simpler Planning Method
  • Demonstration Video

Sprint 3: Typography

  • Design Theory Reboot Video
  • Lesson: Using Typography
  • Demonstration Video

Sprint 4: Alignment & Grids

  • Design Theory Reboot Video
  • Lesson: Alignment & Grids
  • Demonstration Video

Sprint 5: Proximity & Space

  • Design Theory Reboot Video
  • Lesson: Proximity & Space
  • Demonstration Video

Sprint 6: Color

  • Design Theory Reboot Video
  • Lesson: Practical Color Theory
  • Lesson: Creating Color Schemes
  • Demonstration Video

Sprint 7: Repetition

  • Design Theory Reboot Video
  • Lesson: Consistency is Repetition
  • Demonstration Video

Sprint 8: Visual Hierarchy

  • Design Theory Reboot Video
  • Lesson: Visual Hierarchy
  • Demonstration Video

Sprint 9: Dominance & Contrast

  • Design Theory Reboot Video
  • Lesson: Dominance & Contrast
  • Demonstration Video

Get all the Sprints, Features, & Bonuses for $249 (USD)

Or, Sign up for a free lesson

Includes an arsenal of bonuses to help you become a better designer

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Bonus: Portfolio Builder Project Briefs

Practice what you learn

To get better at design, give yourself the opportunity to practice, because no else will.

You need an opportunity to practice design and gain experience in relative safety, sheltered from complicating factors like clients, budgets, and aggressive deadlines. You need to figure out how you work alone before you attempt working with others.

Included in the course, Portfolio Builder is a self-guided workshop where you get the opportunity to work on real-world design scenarios and get hands-on experience under the guidance of an experienced designer.

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Bonus: Design Stories Video Series

Learn by seeing entire designs created from scratch

The demo videos included in TheorySprints show each design principle one at a time being used to create a real project. However, most design projects aren't quite so linear; designers usually jump back and forth between using various design principles rather than using them one at a time.

The design stories video series shows an entire project being designed within a single video, and you'll see how experienced designers apply various design principles and understand the reasoning behind each decision about the design.

This series is brand new and is still being released one video at a time. The first project in the series is the Proximity School website design.

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Bonus: Accountability Group Starter Kit

Get accountability & feedback to keep practicing and improving

Numerous studies have shown that the most important method for improving at higher order skills like design is practice. But most new designers don't practice, and that's why learning design can feel so difficult.

When you're learning on your own, it can be tough to keep going. You might feel lost or lose your motivation.

Instead of going it alone, form a small, private group of trustworthy peers who can keep you accountable and help you evaluate your progress.

The Accountability Group starter kit provides everything you need to form your own accountability group with other designers near your skill level. You'll meet with them regularly to share your latest work, get feedback, and be held accountable to keep working.

As part of TheorySprints you'll also gain access to our private Facebook group where you can meet other students to form an accountbaility group. Or, you can form a group using your own personal network of designers you already know.

Either way, this kit provides guidelines, rules for critique sessions, and other advice for keeping your group committed, efficient, and worthwhile.

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Other Bonuses

More useful assets to kickstart your learning and design process

  • UI Design patterns & examples PDF: learn how to tackle common design components and challenges, including common mistakes
  • 24 Source files (Sketch, PSD, & AI) from the video demonstrations for each design principle
  • 12 Photoshop files from real design projects you can tear apart to decipher, hack, and learn from
  • Design System Templates: design files you can use to kickstart your own projects. You'll learn to use these in the lessons.
    • Project Planning Worksheet: for planning your design projects and gathering critical data (PDF)
    • Type study template: for comparing font choices (Sketch, PSD, & AI)
    • Type system template: for building a typographic system and hierarchy (Sketch, PSD, & AI)
    • Logo design grid template: for comparing logo designs, includes starter styles to inspire you (Sketch, PSD, & AI)
    • Color palette evaluation template: for evaluating color contrast and harmony (Sketch, PSD, & AI)
    • Grid system template for 3 responsive screen sizes: based on the Bootstrap 3 framework grid system (Sketch & PSD)

Get the Complete Course & Bonuses for $249 (USD)

Or, Sign up for a free lesson

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The course is at your own pace. You can complete it in a single weekend, or spread it out for months. It's up to you. Regardless of your pace, you'll have a downloadable version of everything you purchase plus online access so that you have the material forever.

That said, don't buy the course and plan to take it 3 months from now. If you buy the course, plan to start it right away. Commit to completing your course. I've seen so many people buy books and courses and then never use them. Don't do that to yourself!

You should plan on committing 3-5 hours per week for several months to get the full value from this course. That time includes not just watching and reading the content, but practicing.

Practice should take up the bulk of your time, and it's arguably the most important part. Practice is difficult when you don't know which areas you need to improve, or what you should work on. The course will guide you in all of that. Use the Portfolio Builder briefs! I included them for a reason.

Also remember that until much later in your career, you will frequently experience creative roadblocks and other challenging times when it takes you longer to come up with quality ideas. Make sure to give yourself space and extra time to account for this. Over time, as you practice, these differences will even out and you'll form a more reliable process and a more predictable work time. The course is the right place to work out those kinks. It's ok to struggle, so long as you are putting in the effort. And I'm here to help you through it.

No. This is a design course, not a software or coding course.

Part of the problem with most design education is that instructors get distracted by tools. There are many places to learn that stuff, and you should be able to learn most everything you need to about Photoshop or Sketch in a couple of days. Using Photoshop isn't hard because of Photoshop itself but because design requires skill. If you can't design, you can't use Photoshop. So start by building design skill and some software basics. You'll learn advanced software techniques as you practice, but just know that software techniques don't make you a designer. Mastering design principles and working on designs makes you a designer.

That said, the course does include a bunch of Photoshop and Sketch files you can rip apart and decipher to pick up some techniques and tricks. The intent behind these is allowing you to see how a design is pieced together, but you will be able to see how I use software too (especially Photoshop since it's my personal preference).

Learning enough HTML/CSS to produce cross-browser, responsive websites (or programming for other devices) takes substantially longer, however. That's a much larger undertaking, and for newer designers it can distract from developing basic design competency. So I don't teach it. Learn that later!

Here are simple places to start with Photoshop tutorials and Sketch tutorials.

No, no, and probably no. You need to get out of the mindset of trying to learn everything you see on design blogs right now.

You aren't ready for that stuff. High-level design strategies are incredibly difficult to implement until you have some skill in visual design.

The course doesn't teach that stuff because you don't need to know it yet. Instead you'll learn essential design theory that will serve you your entire career and will serve as a solid foundation for improving your skill and learning that advanced stuff later.

Unless you want to dedicate your career completely to user research, in which case TheorySprints is not for you.

Junior designers, mid-level designers, and design learners. People with under 5 years of experience in design will learn the most.

That said, I still see people with more experience taking the course. Many of us can benefit from new perspectives, seeing how others work, and filling in knowledge gaps. (And for the record, knowledge gaps happen regardless of whether you are self taught or went to design school.)

This course is for people who already are or want to become web designers, graphic designers, interaction designers, mobile designers, visual designers, and hybrid designers / design generalists.

This course will not teach you to become a UX expert. But, you should know that UX has become a very murky term in our industry. Many who have the job title "UX Designer" often do visual design and interface design.

If you want to design how things look and function, this course will help you. But it's not a user research course.

The only thing you need to know is this: are you willing to work hard to become a better designer? If your answer is yes, that's really all you need to know.

You will eventually want to learn some design software skills, such as Photoshop, Sketch, or Illustrator. That's not required to begin the course but you will need that knowledge to use the Portfolio Builder briefs and practice what you learn.

Whether you learn design software first is up to you, but you should be able to learn enough Photoshop/Sketch in a weekend to get by. Can you draw shapes? Can you use layers? Can you make a textbox and change the font family and size? That's enough.

I offer a 14-day, 100% money-back guarantee on the course. If it's not right for you, email me the info below within 14 days and I'll give you a full refund.

The guarantee is there if you put forth effort to take the course and you still aren't satisfied. I work very hard to make sure the course is high quality and useful so that doesn't happen.

Here is the refund policy:

  1. Email me within 14 days after purchase with the info below. I'll check whether you have completed lessons and watched videos.
  2. No refunds after 14 days following your purchase of the course. All refunds are discretionary, and eligibility is determined only after all requested items are submitted.
  3. All decisions are final. No exceptions to the policy.

Along with your refund request, include:

  • Why aren't you satisfied with the course?
  • Designs from any of the Portfolio Builder briefs you attempted
  • Link to your design portfolio or design work samples from prior to purchasing the course

After you send these items, I'll consider your refund request and get back to you.

To earn a refund you need to prove you put in some effort and actually used the content. Deciding after you purchase that you can't afford the course, don't want to learn design, don't want to do the work, or don't like the course because it doesn't include a specific topic will not earn a refund.

If you do the work and still don't feel you have learned from the course or improved as a designer, I will issue a 100% refund.

I want this course to make a difference for you. But before you ask for a refund, give yourself a chance to learn and give it a sincere attempt!

When you purchase, you'll create a username and password you can use to log in to this site. If you've already signed up for the free lesson, you can log in with that same account to purchase the course and continue where you left off.

You'll also receive an email with details about how to log in and take the online course in case you forget the link.

After you purchase and log in, you'll also be able to download all the materials.

You can complete the course at your own pace, and you'll be able to keep the downloadable content forever.

"Sprint" is a term that dates back to the Scrum software development framework but the book Sprint by the Google Design team has popularized the term in the design industry.

Essentially, a sprint is a technique of focusing on a narrowly-defined task, goal, or topic and trying to complete it in a short time frame.

Many design and development teams run project sprints following specific structures, some using Google's sprint framework and others inventing their own structure. Sometimes sprints are used for internal projects and some agencies even sell sprints as a service to clients.

In TheorySprints, a sprint is a group of lessons, videos, and content that is narrowly focused around a single design topic. The structure allows you to dig deep into one topic at a time without becoming overwhelmed by trying to use and learn multiple principles at once.

Disclaimer: TheorySprints is for people who are serious about growing.

Are you ready to take a leap forward in your design career? Are you willing to work hard, keep an open mind to new perspectives, and make a positive change? Then TheorySprints is for you.

TheorySprints only works if you do. Purchasing the course won't make you a better designer overnight. But if you do the work, watch all the demonstrations, read all the lessons, and practice what you learn, you will improve.

As your skill grows, new opportunities will open up to you. But your success depends upon you.

If you show up and put in effort, I will give you a path to follow. I'll support you as much as I can, but I can't do the work for you. In the end it's up to you.

That's probably scary, but it's also liberating. Nothing is holding you back. You can do this.

Questions? Not sure? Email me here.