The studio of Jarrod Drysdale,
designer, writer, & consultant.

icon of a design software bezier curve

Master the visual design principles that will make or break your career

You want more exciting design projects, a job at your dream agency, higher pay, and complete creative freedom. I'm sorry, but you need to hear this:

Your design portfolio isn't good enough to earn you those opportunities.

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.)

Registration reopens in late August 2017. Join the waiting list to be notified.

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Make your mark as a designer

I'm Jarrod Drysdale. My design career started at a tiny desk crammed into a server room over 10 years ago. Like you, I used to dream of making incredible design. I used to think:

"I want a chance to do what top designers are doing. What if I could make 6 digits a year, or work at a top design agency? What if I could run my own consulting business and pick the clients I wanted?"

Fast forward a decade, and I have achieved all of those things. And I can teach you what it takes.

I've worked at top agencies, served clients like New Line Cinema, McDonald's, Intuit, and Bloomberg, and run my own business. My writing and design work have appeared in major design publications like:

  • logo
  • logo-sm
  • logo

I built the design career I dreamed of back when I was sitting in that server room, and I did it by becoming a better designer.

Each time I levelled up my design skill I landed a huge new opportunity:

  • Earned a coveted agency job right out of college.
  • Got a job making Hollywood movie websites (instead of used car dealership ads).
  • Doubled my salary after receiving competing offers from 3 prestigious agencies.
  • Moved my family to our dream home by getting a new job where I wanted to live.
  • Built my own business, and now I get to choose which clients and projects I accept.

There are endless opportunities to make incredible design.

But to get hired for the projects you want, you have to become a better designer. Every time I advanced my design career, I did it by improving my visual design skills.

Mastering visual design is more important than ever

In sea of UX designers who make plans they cannot execute, the designers who push pixels and 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 aesthetics first.

That means visual design is the most important skill for getting hired as a designer.

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 master design principles and prove you can bring ideas into the world.

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 (Jarrod lays out the whole system you need from initial concept to final product) or as applicable (Jarrod doesn't teach in lofty concepts but in real-world application). 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

Each Sprint begins with a Design Theory Reboot video about that topic, continues with written lessons, and ends with a demonstration video. At the end of the course, you'll practice what you've learned and participate in critiques of student work.

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)

  • Downloadable videos
  • 6 Design system templates & worksheets
  • 12 Photoshop files from real design projects
  • UI design patterns & examples PDF
  • Portfolio Builder project briefs
  • Design critique workshops
  • Downloadable audio of written lessons
  • Downloadable PDFs of written lessons

Registration reopens in late August 2017. Join the waiting list to be notified.

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, CEO at Systemios, early access student

Tired of design books and training that don't help you improve?

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

Let's face it: most design education sucks. It doesn't teach how to make design.

Most design training will present you with a talking head who rambles on about an abstract idea, and then challenges you to have a big idea of your own. And you leave with no clue how you are supposed to do that.

Or, the second type is the one where you'll attend a design event, bootcamp, etc and learn to make punk rock oven mitts or mixed-media magnetic street art (true story), but nothing about how to make design work you can actually get paid for.

In the average design book, you learn about the agonizingly long history of the written language but not how to pick and use a font. You learn what complementary colors are but not how to make a color scheme. You learn about complex UX strategies when you can't even design a simple form without wanting gouge out your own eyes.

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

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.

So many of the popular books and workshops mislead you into trying to have big, important ideas by following a complex process but you ultimately fail at it because that is impossible for all mere humans.

In TheorySprints, you will instead learn how to take all the horrible, 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 hired.

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 gain experience in design by participating in design critiques. You'll see designs—maybe even your own—carefully analyzed. You'll learn how to judge design and how to fix it when it's broken.

All of this combined will give you the experience you need to get hired.

Praise for Bootstrapping Design and Off The Chopping Block,
the predecessors to TheorySprints

I wish I was taught these things in design school.

Gerardo Covela, Designer

I keep recommending it to folks. It's the single best reference I can give a developer to help them understand design in a nutshell.

Nathan Kontny, CEO of Highrise, Creator of Draft

I love how it's always saying things like, 'Here's what the experts do. That's hard/complex. Stick to these simple guidelines and you'll get decent results.' It's surprisingly comforting and encouraging. It makes me want to try it.

James Edward Gray II

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
  • Portfolio Builder Critique Workshops
  • 12 Photoshop Design Source Files
  • 6 Design System Templates & Worksheets
  • UI design patterns & examples PDF

Sprint 1: Process

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

Sprint 2: Planning

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

Sprint 3: Typography

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

Sprint 4: Alignment & Grids

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

Sprint 5: Proximity & Space

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

Sprint 6: Color

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

Sprint 7: Repetition

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

Sprint 8: Visual Hierarchy

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

Sprint 9: Dominance & Contrast

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

Registration reopens in late August 2017. Join the waiting list to be notified.

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


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.


Bonus: Portfolio Builder Workshop

Learn from design critique sessions

Learn how to improve your own designs by seeing in-depth design reviews. These critique sessions will train you to evaluate design and see how design principles work. You'll also have a chance to have your own work critiqued.

Note: the format for the portfolio builder workshops will change depending on how students like the format and how many student work submissions I receive. It could be live webinars, pre-recorded critique sessions, opportunities to submit your projects for written reviews, or even a new format, depending on student needs. In August 2017, TheorySprints will relaunch with a new workshop format based on student requests. Join the course now and you'll get a vote on which format you prefer.


Other Bonuses

More useful assets to kickstart your learning and design process

  • 12 Photoshop files from real design projects you can tear apart to decipher, hack, and learn from
  • UI Design patterns & examples PDF: learn how to tackle common design components and challenges, including common mistakes
  • 24 Source design files (Sketch, PSD, & AI) from the video demonstrations for each design principle
  • Design System Templates
    • 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)

Registration reopens in late August 2017. Join the waiting list to be notified.

Questions? I have answers.

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 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 Photoshop too.

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!

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.

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 reading my design training. 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!

Note: for the first launch of the course, I extended the money-back guarantee because several portions of the course were delivered on June 6th, 2017, after launch. If you purchased the course before June 6th, 2017, you have until June 20th, 2017 to request a refund.

After you purchase, you'll receive an email with details about how to log in and take the online course.

After you 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.

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.