Fundamentals of Design: Introduction

 This introduction contains three sections. Work through the content in order.

Why You Need Design Skills
Why the Fundamentals Matter
The Fundamentals of Good Design

Do Writers Really Need Design Skills?

YES. Sure, you write books first and foremost, but there will be numerous times in your career as an author when you need to communicate something visually. Being able to communicate that message efficiently and effectively is an invaluable skill.

What might these situations look like?

As an author you may want to…

  • Make graphics for social media (to announce book sales, tours, etc.)
  • Create promotional materials/swag (such as bookmarks, stickers, postcards, etc.)
  • Update your online branding (such as your twitter header, an author logo, etc.) 
  • Create and manage your website and/or newsletter
  • Design a book cover (if you’re an indie author—or even a trad author giving away a freebie short or novella!)
  • and more!


Can’t I Just Hire Someone to Design These Things?

Sure! But speaking as an author myself, I know most of us aren’t loaded. And ideally, you don’t want to have to hire someone for every little design project. If you’re looking to get a cover designed, it will often be worth the time and money to hire a professional. But if you just want a few graphics for insta to share blurb quotes or trade reviews, wouldn’t it be great to handle that yourself?

Most likely, you’re nodding your head yes. It’s why you signed up for this course, after all. And I’m so glad you did!

I want you to be able to tackle small projects on your own. I want you to have the skillset to design these pieces and, in turn, enjoy the financial freedom it provides. I say this as someone who offers design services for authors! My background is in design. I have an MFA in New Media Design & Imagining from the Rochester Institute of Technology, and before I transitioned into a career as an author, I was a designer and art director working on websites and mobile apps for brands like Kashi, Royal Caribbean, Nickelodeon, and more. I’m very happy to offer my design skills to other writers. But I also know just how freeing it is to be able to handle design projects on your own.

That said, this course will not give you the skillset to tackle every single design project you can dream up. (Even I can’t tackle every design project on my own. I know where my skillset lies, and if I want a hand-lettered quote or illustrated character art, I’ll hire out.) But this course will give you a firm understanding of basic design—and it will educate you enough that you know when you need to hire a designer/illustrator and when you can take on a project on your own!

It all starts with understanding a few key fundamentals…

Why the Fundamentals Matter

As a writer, you’ve likely written dozens (maybe hundreds) of stories. Some may be shelved or abandoned, but if they went on to see the light of day, they were undoubtedly revised numerous times over. “Practice makes (near) perfect” and all that.

All that revision was done in the pursuit of creating a really great, polished story. To do this required you to understand the craft of writing—plot, characters, pacing, worldbuilding, etc. You looked at the “fundamentals of good storytelling,” so to speak, and worked to revise and polish these elements until your story was shiny and near-perfect.

An Understanding of Craft + Practice/Revision = A Darn Good Story

The same formula can be applied to design. 

An Understanding of Craft + Practice/Revision = A Darn Good Design

Good design communicates a message efficiently and (seemingly) effortlessly. Of course, as you know from your experience writing, making something look effortless requires a lot of dedication and work.

You won’t become a pro designer overnight, but with practice and a solid understanding of the fundamentals laid out in this course, you’ll be set up to succeed in your design needs.

The 5 Fundamentals of Good Design

Excellent design balances five key principles:

  1. Purpose
  2. Hierarchy
  3. Color + Contrast
  4. Typography
  5. Spacing + Layout

These elements work together to create eye-catching, legible, and successful designs. If even just one of the elements is missing, the entire piece can miss the mark, failing to communicate its message to the audience.


Course Structure

This course is made up of five units. Each unit will focus on one of these five fundamentals. I’ll explain why the fundamental is so important, show what is at stake if poor design choices are made, share visual examples of the fundamental at work where applicable, and provide some quick tip do’s + dont’s to wrap up each unit.

Each fundamental will also be tackled from the lens of an author. This is what makes this course so unique. I won’t merely be teaching you the basics of design; I’ll be teaching you how these key fundamentals can be applied to the common design tasks most authors tackle time and again. 

While the course is designed to be completed at your own pace, I must stress that you need to complete the course in its entirety to have a full understanding of these fundamentals and how they all work together.


Ready to get started? Great! Let’s dive right in…

Start Unit One: Purpose

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