The Effective Designer

Beat doubt, embrace failure, avoid burnout, and silence that nasty little voice that says “you can’t”.




Become An Effective Designer

I have a look at what it might take to be an effective designer.

The essays are almost completely original to the book, except for one or two that might have shown up in the newsletter (hint hint: newsletter subscribers get good stuff), or one that might just appear on one of the biggest design sites there is (but I’m keeping that under my hat until it goes live!)

The Rat

With its blood-red eyes shining through shadows, it finds its home whenever we begin. It’s Pressfield’s resistance, it’s the dark wolf, it’s the frame too large to capture a moment. It’s the bastard that stops us.

It’s the scratch that begs us to stop whenever we start.

A Space To Make Things

Sometimes we just need a little push to do so.

We need to be reminded that while we sometimes make things out in the cold, there’s a warmth into which our ideas can be housed. And more often than not, it’s empowering to build such a home ourselves.


When it comes to design or development, fine won’t do. Fine is a death sentence.

Fine is the full-stop on the end of your growth.

Fine means ok enough.

It means stop.

“My skills are fine” means “I can stop trying now.”

“I’m fine without it” means “I’ve given up trying to get it.”

For decades designers have been able to get away with being fine.

Let Your Failure Grow Beautiful

But if I speak after he’s whispered his spite, if I get up after I’ve fallen, he quickly becomes quite the ally, perhaps even my biggest cheerleader. If I lend him some respect he might just show me the way forward.

And if I’m lucky, I may just witness my failure grow beautiful.

Dealing with Loud and Silent Burnout

We’ve all experienced that burnout moment.

It’s that moment in which we’ve got nothing left to give but keep trying anyway, when we’re left without much more than a shell to live in and motions to go through.

What causes it? How do we avoid it? How do we shake it?


The problem with assumptions is that they’re almost always bullshit. They’re fake. They’re what we say to ourselves to cover the gaps in our knowledge and to use as an excuse to not do the work.

And we allow this pathetic little lies hold us back.

We assume we aren’t capable and all that assumption gives us is the promise that we won’t even try.


Most of us are suckers. We do everything except the one action that validates it all. We’ll buy the shoes, buy the heart rate monitor, map out our running paths, figure out our eating habits, understand that if we start on date x, then by date y we should be running a distance of z.

Most of us do all that stuff around running, but few of us actually put one foot in front of the other.

We pretend that all the prep is important.

Honing our craft—building our skills and career—is no different.

Why Did You Write This?

I think we all want to be more effective in what we do. We want to get work done quickly, to a high standard, and hopefully, without much stress.

I don’t think there’s a perfect road map to achieving such great heights.

But I do think there are a few questions that we need to explore, and each of us need to figure out what the answers are for us.

This book is my shot at answering a few of those questions from my own perspective, and whether you agree with everything I write or think it’s all hogwash, that’s fine by me. At the very least, I just want you to see a point of view that might help you develop your own, so that you can start your journey to being the best version of yourself that you can.

Some of the topics came straight from the Retinart newsletter subscribers. I put the call out to ask what issues people were having in their careers, what was bothering them, holding them back, keeping them up at night.

All I hope for is that you’ll be able to read this book and take away just one little piece of advice that might help you be the designer you always wanted.

Is the Book Just For Designers?

Hell, no!

I can only speak from the point of view of a designer and amateur writer, but I tried to keep the book free from any jargon that only us designers would get.

If you’re a developer, painter, musician, fashion designer, or just trying to keep your head clear, then I think there will be something in here for you!