Learn visual design principles

Make incredible design by mastering design theory

If you want to do better work, you need to take another look at design theory.

Design theory empowers you to be more creative. It sounds limiting but it's actually the opposite; design theory can inspire you, give you more confidence, and help you create better design.

TheorySprints is an online course that will teach you to use key design principles (not just memorize terminology), so you can see an immediate improvement in your work.

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Theory Sprints

Master each key design principle in a 1-day learning sprint

TheorySprintsis an online course with a quick 1-day learning sprint for every design principle you need to master. Each sprint includes video demonstrations, written lessons, worksheets, and exercises that help you understand then apply each principle quickly. 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 exercises and 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 stages to help you understand, apply, and then master using each principle. The stages teach you design theory using research-based instructional methods. You won't memorize terms or follow stale tutorials. You'll learn how to use design theory 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

See Everything Included in the Course

Get the Complete Course for $249 (USD)

Or, Grab a free lesson

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
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Why learn about design theory again?

This is what happens when you don't know design theory well enough:

You see an incredible design in your mind but when you try to create it on the screen, the result isn't what you wanted. You know it's wrong, but you don't know why it's wrong.

Having great ideas is only part of creativity. The most important part of being a designer—and arguably the most difficult part too—is translating those ideas into a real design.

Many designers have never learned to apply fundamental design principles, even some of us who went to design school. You've probably read about design theory before, but the magic many designers miss is in the application of design theory—not memorizing definitions but learning to use these principles while creating a design.

If you master design theory, you'll get better at translating your concepts into real design, so less is lost when the idea moves from your mind onto the screen.

TheorySprints will teach you the important design theory you've missed, and help you apply it in your work immediately.

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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See an immediate improvement in your design work

Master each key design principle in just a day, and quickly move on to using what you learned. For each sprint you complete, you'll see an immediate improvement in your design work as you practice and apply your new skills.

Everything Included in the Course

Course Features

  • 100% Money-Back Guarantee
  • 19 videos (Over 5 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

  • Worksheet: Reflecting on Your Process
  • Process: Design Theory Reboot
  • Lesson: What is design process, really?
  • Lesson: Finding Your Own Design Process
  • Process: Demonstration
  • Worksheet: Modifying Your Process
  • Exercise: Process in Practice

Sprint 2: Planning

  • Worksheet: Identifying Planning Mistakes
  • Planning: Design Theory Reboot
  • Lesson: Planning, boring but essential
  • Lesson: A Simpler Planning Method
  • Planning: Demonstration
  • Worksheet: Planning You Can Use
  • Exercise: Planning for the Real World

Sprint 3: Typography

  • Worksheet: Which fonts and why?
  • Typography: Design Theory Reboot
  • Lesson: Using Typography
  • Typography: Demonstration
  • Worksheet: Using Type Well
  • Exercise: Interchangeable Typefaces

Sprint 4: Alignment & Grids

  • Worksheet: How do you use grids now?
  • Alignment & Grids: Design Theory Reboot
  • Lesson: Alignment & Grids
  • Alignment & Grids: Demonstration
  • Worksheet: Checking Alignment
  • Exercise: Alignment Habits

Sprint 5: Proximity & Space

  • Worksheet: Noticing Space
  • Proximity & Space: Design Theory Reboot
  • Lesson: Proximity & Space
  • Proximity & Space: Demonstration
  • Worksheet: Managing Space in Your Designs
  • Exercise: Spacing Habits

Sprint 6: Color

  • Worksheet: Color Theory Reflection
  • Color: Design Theory Reboot
  • Lesson: Practical Color Theory
  • Lesson: Creating Color Schemes
  • Color: Demonstration
  • Worksheet: Color Insights
  • Exercise: Applying Colors Relationally

Sprint 7: Repetition

  • Repetition: Design Theory Reboot
  • Worksheet: What is “consistency”?
  • Lesson: Repetition
  • Repetition: Demonstration
  • Worksheet: Noticing Patterns
  • Exercise: Creating Patterns

Sprint 8: Visual Hierarchy

  • Worksheet: Busy, Cluttered Designs
  • Lesson: Visual Hierarchy
  • Visual Hierarchy: Design Theory Reboot
  • Visual Hierarchy: Demonstration
  • Worksheet: Delivering Goals with Your Designs
  • Exercise: Evaluating a Hierarchy

Sprint 9: Dominance & Contrast

  • Worksheet: Making it “Pop”
  • Dominance & Contrast: Design Theory Reboot
  • Lesson: Dominance & Contrast
  • Dominance & Contrast: Demonstration
  • Worksheet: Bringing Your Plans to Life
  • Exercise: Creating Dominance

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

Or, Grab a free lesson

Includes an arsenal of bonuses that help you learn more quickly

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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 through exercises curated by 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, Grab a free lesson

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The course works at your own pace. The sprints are planned so that you can study each design principle for a single day to really absorb and apply what you learn in a focused way. A sprint shouldn't take more than 2-3 hours total to complete (the longest part of each sprint is the video demonstration, some of which are over an hour in length).

That said, some students have completed multiple sprints in a day. You could complete the entire course in a single weekend, or spread it out for months. It's up to you. You won't miss out on any content regardless of your study plans.

After you complete the sprints, you should commit to practicing what you learn every week! The course provides advice about how much you should practice.

The course also includes an exercise for each topic that you should try to do right away. You might expect exercises to take a lot of time, but I wrote them to be easy and quick to do. Research shows that if you practice using new knowledge immediately, you'll learn better, which is why the exercises are there. They are quick to complete and worth doing.

The Portfolio Builder practice projects are placed at the end of the course. You can can use them to build up your portfolio while you use your new skills. The practice projects will take the most time of anything else in the course to finish, because they ask you to create entire designs from scratch. That said, you can complete all 10, or just move through them at your own pace.

Practice is an important part of learning to apply what you learn—so don't skip it! You should spend more time practicing than you do reading or watching videos. You'll learn best if you practice regularly, and the course gives you lots of opportunities to do this.

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 a little. 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 need to know the fundamentals first. 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: do you have an open mind and are you willing to put in a little effort 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.

There is 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 refund is limited to 14 days to encourage you to try out the course right away! How many times have you bought a book or course, planned to use it later, then forgotten about it? This is your nudge not to forget this time. 14 days is plenty of time to try out every feature of the course and make sure it's right for you. (Some ambitious students have even completed all the lessons within that timeframe, although that's certainly not required.)

I want this course to help you grow and advance as a designer. And while those things take time, I don't want your money if this course doesn't help you. So, if you put forth effort to take the course and you still aren't satisfied, I'll issue a 100% refund.

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:

  1. Why aren't you satisfied with the course?
  2. Designs from any of the Portfolio Builder briefs you attempted
  3. 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 quickly.

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.

I'm Jarrod Drysdale, and I created Proximity School and TheorySprints. I understand that taking a course is a big deal, so here's why I hope you will trust me to teach you:

  • I am a practicing designer, not an armchair critic. I run a successful freelance design business that earns 6 digits average gross per year. I have over 12 years of professional experience. I know what it takes to succeed in this industry.
  • I've worked at top agencies, and have served clients like State Farm, LensCrafters, McDonald's, Kraft Foods, New Line Cinema, Domino's Pizza, Scottrade, Intuit, Bloomberg, and startups and online businesses of all sizes. Many millions of people have directly experienced my design work.
  • My email newsletter, Critique, has over 20,000 active subscribers and has operated for 6 years.
  • My writing has appeared in fine publications like Net Magazine, A List Apart, and the Creative Bloq.
  • My books and courses have been read by tens of thousands of people and have been mentioned on places like the Creative Bloq, AIGA, Design Taxi, Fast Company, and Signal Vs. Noise (by the 37Signals/Basecamp folks).
  • 3000+ people have bought my paid design books, and I've only ever had 1 person ask for a refund because they didn't like the book.

I know that there are lots of design books and courses out there, but TheorySprints is different because this course will not just give you some knowledge—it will help you gain skill. Most design books and courses teach you some abstract concepts and leave you alone to figure out how to use them. TheorySprints is different because it's structured around practice and application—you'll see the concepts being used and you'll practice using them yourself.

The other main difference is that TheorySprints strips out all the stuff you don't need to know and encourages you to focus on the principles that will help you grow quickly. I'm sure you've noticed that most design sites, books, and courses cover lots and lots of topics. And it can be overwhelming. TheorySprints might seem like a small course because it only covers 9 topics, but it is actually a very substantial course with a very narrow focus: helping you improve by teaching you the most important, critical concepts necessary to succeed as a designer.