Learn Design the Hard Way is a complete course on visual design taught in Sketch, no prior design experience required.

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Remember the last time you showed off that feature you've been working on?

You wanted feedback on the flow, the interactions, and the underlying concept. What you got was nitpicky advice on the shade of blue you picked, the placement of your form labels, and your icon choice.

Since visual design is the stuff you can see, people will always notice and respond to it first, sometimes at the exclusion of all else. We all judge books by their covers — this is called salience bias, and all humans are susceptible to it.

How do you accommodate this bias while keeping people focused on solving the right problems?

You don't have to be an artist to produce good design

If you’re a UX designer, engineer, product or marketing person who has ever struggled with your work being judged by how it looks, learning visual design is not as hard as it seems. In an increasingly designed world, people’s aesthetic expectations are growing.

There's no question that visual design is hard, but it's a learnable skill — whether you think of yourself as creative or not. There is a step by step process you can follow that will allow you to produce high quality design, avoid rookie mistakes, and imbue your work with credibility.

Aesthetics are a major factor in determining credibility

Stanford University's Credibility Project conducted a study with 2500+ participants on how people assess the credibility of a website. The findings prove the importance of visual design: “Nearly half of all consumers (or 46.1%) in the study assessed the credibility of sites based in part on the appeal of the overall visual design of a site, including layout, typography, font size and color schemes. (…) Beautiful graphic design will not salvage a poorly functioning Web site. Yet, the study shows a clear link between solid design and site credibility.”

In Stephen Anderson's article In Defense of Eye Candy, he cites research that examined the importance of aesthetics on usability. They found that aesthetically pleasing interfaces are not only perceived to work better, but they do literally work better.

Learn a design process that you can faithfully repeat

If you’re a self-taught designer, design can feel like a haphazard process that only sometimes yields beautiful work. Learn Design the Hard Way will teach you the designer’s mindset and a set of repeatable steps that will allow you to produce high quality design again and again. The full course will cover:


Ensure the voice and tone of your content matches your brand's aesthetic style.


Understand how visual design contributes to and detracts from the usability of an interface.


With a few constraints and simple math, learn to consistently achieve gorgeous typography.


Using common rules and grid systems, design layouts that direct the flow of traffic.


Learn to pick strong iconography and images that enhance your brand's message.


Use beautiful, consistent color palettes to engage users and evoke the right response.

Master the fundamentals

Learn Design the Hard Way is not for everyone. It is an ideal course for anyone working on digital products: developers, product managers, UX and usability professionals, and self-taught designers.

You’ll learn the underlying rules designers use to build beautiful apps. Breaking down visual design to it’s basic principles, you’ll learn why design works. Design is a learn-by-doing sort of craft and the course is structured around practical exercises. Using Sketch, the de facto application for prototyping apps, you’ll build your design skills one layer at a time.

This course is designed for people who want to learn the design process from the ground up.

The full course includes

High Quality Ebook

Learn the theory behind each design principle and technique and how it fits into the process.

Exercises in Sketch

Sketch files allow you to put the theory you've learned into practice immediately.

Video Walkthroughs

Watch the author walk through each exercise to compare against what you have done.

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Learn Design the Hard Way is under active development. Sign up below to get a discount when it launches!

“When I met Zac I was amazed at both how thoroughly and quickly he put together his designs. Zac didn't just do some mockups in Sketch and then barely carve them into HTML for me to fix. Zac went beyond anything I anticipated and thought through the design, content, marketing, usability, and entire structure for my company. When I saw what he could do and that he was teaching design as well I had to get him to create a course teaching his methods to non-designers like me. If his book is even 1/10th as good as Zac is at design it will be 100x better than any other design book out there.”

Zac Halbert

Hi, I'm Zac. I'm currently head of the product design track at Tradecraft, where I train designers who want to level up their skills or break into the tech and startup community, and who have landed roles at companies like Netflix, Facebook, Uber, and Pivotal Labs. At Tradecraft, we teach while designers work on real projects for real companies.

With a degree in design and over 10 years experience as a professional designer, I've worked in-house at companies like SamaGroup and Recurly, and consulted with numerous startups and brands like Target and Sharethrough. I am also the cofounder of Foliotwist, a service for visual artists.

When I'm not doing design-related things, I can be usually be found exploring the parks and coffee shops of San Francisco with my wife, brand new son, and sheepdog.