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4 steps and a timeless metaphor to designing anything you want
Plan Your Next #119
👋 Good morning from Los Angeles! I'm Nate Kadlac, and this is #119 of Plan Your Next. A Sunday newsletter that connects design, creativity, and how you prepare for your next thing.
💡 What’s new?
🎨 My design workshop for non-designers kicks off on Aug 27-28. If you publish online often, this workshop will give you a personalized design kit so you’ll never start your next design project from scratch again. Right now, I’m running an early-bird special for $100 off for the next week.
📸 I’ve been using the new Opal Camera, which is like a prosumer DSLR camera in a small, well-designed footprint. It’s surprisingly delightful, and the hardware is top-notch. I’ve got one invite remaining to skip the waitlist. The first person to reach out can have it.
The best metaphor for designing anything
Every day before dinner, I stroll my daughter past a bookstore in Echo Park. It’s sandwiched between a few small storefronts, filled with everything you need for a densely packed neighborhood at the bottom of a palm tree-lined valley.
This tiny bookstore is probably no larger than 500 sqft, but its tiny aesthetic fits right in with the other retail shops. Next door, a grocery store the size of a clenched fist is just footsteps away.
But each time I walk by the line of stores, why does the bookstore always stand out to me?
The design of a book
There’s simply nothing more gorgeous than a well-designed book.
Think of your favorite book, and I bet you can visualize the cover of it.
A book is also the perfect metaphor for designing anything. It even represents each of us perfectly, as New Yorker artist, Chris Ware states:
"A book is a perfect metaphor for a human being. It has a spine and a cover that can either lie to you or tell you the truth. And it's bigger on the inside, like our minds are."—Chris Ware
The cover of a book gives us a visual peek into the story. It serves multiple purposes, but its main goal is to draw us in. To grab our attention in mere seconds while walking by in a busy airport, strolling past a bookstore in Echo Park, or lying flat on our coffee table at home.
The cover of a book allows us to playfully experiment with typography, colors, and illustrations. It’s the first impression you’re giving us, creating a vibe that gives us a sense of your style, humor, or wit.
Netflix thumbnail art is like a book cover to the movie. The landing pages to our websites are our book covers. Even the shirt you chose to wear today is the book cover to your personality.
Most people jump right into the book and start reading, but the outline gives us a peek into the book's soul.
Once you peek inside a book for the first time, it’s when things get curious. The outline gives the reader a lay of the land, the ability to skip the uninteresting parts, or to see what ideas the writer is most devoted too.
The outline is the menu of a restaurant, the navigation to our websites, and the summary of your Hinge profiles. Our outlines give us order, but it lets the viewer decide whether or not to give us their most sacred resource: their time.
Each project should have some sort of outline to convey what’s inside, so we give the chance for people to opt-out if it’s not for them. It’s a gift in of itself.
This is where things get practical and allows us to take our time, going in-depth on the things that matter to us. It’s the plot line of the movie, the essays on your website, and the products you’re trying to sell.
Everything has a story, and it’s your job to communicate this with your creativity, visually or with words.
But the experience should be treated like the contents of a book. A pleasant experience without the interruptions we’re tempted to offer up, like advertising. The experience is a direct reflection of how we expect you to act. It gives us insight into who you are, and what it’s like to be your friend.
It should be legible, readable, clean, and free of clutter. Your words shouldn’t bump up to the edges of the book, but rather with just the right amount of padding.
The best designers understand this, but it’s so simple for anyone to achieve.
The back cover
This is the last point of contact before someone leaves your presence. The back cover of a book is the final interaction. It contains enough detail in case someone accidentally ended up here first.
This is where you provide the details of who you are and how you best like to be reached. This part of the design process could be referred to as the contact page of a website, the checkout counter of a bookstore, or the final credits of a movie.
It’s the conclusion of your story, with the reminder to stay in touch, even if it means they need to buy something.
The page should make your story feel complete, letting them take action on something new if they found the journey satisfying.
These small details, like a signup form for a newsletter, should be treated with care.
Each time you sit down to start a new creative project, imagine it’s like a book.
Step 1: The book cover
Remember to start with the large glass pane like the bookstore I walk by daily. Create something so compelling that it stops people in their tracks.
Step 2: The outline
Make sure people can find what they need, like navigating the books on the shelf inside that same bookstore. Help people know where to start and how to skip the line if they need to.
Step 3: The story
Your story is what keeps people around. Give them a glimpse into who you are, and what drives you. Let them peer inside like looking through the window glass of a store.
Step 4: The back cover
People need to know what to do next, and they won’t know unless you show them. Like the credits in a movie, show them they have reached the end.
If it’s consulting packages you’re offering, leave them without any unanswered questions, like looking at a menu in a checkout line. If it’s a newsletter signup, convince them it’s worth sticking around to hear more from you.
Or, if you simply want them to know how to contact you, explain what the best way to do that is. Don’t leave people hanging without letting them know how to exit gracefully.
The design of anything is not just the visuals but the entire experience and feeling you leave someone with.
Make it worth their time to stop in for even just a second.
⚡️ Two creative hits for you to check out next
🖌 “I realized that most great writers probably read at least five times as much as they write.”—Austin Kleon
An interview with one of my favorite artists/writers, Austin Kleon
🎨 A typeface with beautiful ligatures
Choosing the right typeface that does most of the work for you is a hidden hack in design. Quiverleaf CF is a delicate typeface with some of the most interesting ligatures I’ve seen. In the live text field, type in letter all-cap combinations such as “OO,” “CH,” “LE, or “LI.” And the ampersand!
🖥 Looking for creative wallpapers for your desktops? Look no further.
👋 See you next Sunday
As always, my calendar is open to chat about your next adventure, crazy idea, or if you’re feeling creatively stuck.
My goal is to level up the visual vocabulary in the world through my writing, teaching, and design. If you want to support my journey, the best ways are to:
Sign up for the 80/20 design challenge
Become a sponsor of this newsletter (Starting at $50—Please reach out)
Discover your own unique style by joining my live workshop
Have a great week,
p.s. Words are just words, but if these words made you feel something, would you let me know by tapping on the heart below?