How to Create Your Design Kit ~ Nate Kadlac

Your website and other customer-facing assets need to be attractive to customers while communicating who you are and what your cohort-based course is all about. That's why I interviewed Nate Kadlac to figure out how to create a design kit.

We Covered
  • How Nate got into his career in design (01:30)
  • What made Nate want to start ApproachableDesign.co (03:00)
  • An example and high-level overview of creating a design kit and why it’s useful (04:34)
  • The beauty of having a design kit is that you can hand it to a professional designer (10:41)
  • High-level overview of what’s covered in ApproachableDesign.co (13:14)
  • Overview on how to identify your personal style (14:21)
  • Personal style vs. brand (20:10)
  • Detailed example on how to identify your personal style (21:56)
  • Overview of how to select design elements such as color, font, etc. (24:42)
  • How Nate chose the fonts for his own design kit (27:15)
  • Why this is a transformative process that clues you into your personal style beyond just the design kit for your CBC (29:04)
  • The various customer-facing assets to which you can apply your design kit (website, email, etc.) (31:29)
  • Final questions (33:21)
Step By Step
  1. Dig into your personal story, and pull out three basic keywords that represent you. Maybe you’re like Nate and you fell in love with the California beaches in your late teenage years, and so your three keywords are sun, sand, and Palm trees.
  2. Type in those keywords into Unsplash and other photography sites, and pick out photos that speak to you. It's important to compare your keywords to photography, not other websites. It's not about copying the colors and fonts you like the most from other websites. It's about finding your personal style.
  3. From the photos, pick out the colors, the fonts, the shapes, and the textures that you love the most.
  4. Buddy up, and use Figma to draft some designs.
  5. Finalize your design kit, and ship it to a professional designer so they can create your banners, thumbnails, pdf designs, etc.!
Full Transcript


[00:00:13] Jonathan: Ahoy, captain! Welcome to this super actionable podcast made for cohort-based course creators. I'm your host, Jonathan Woodruff. In today's episode, you will learn design. Maybe you have a website and other things for your course that your customers see, and it just doesn't feel right. You don't know how to choose the colors or the fonts or the overall appearance to make it feel personal to you and congruent with your brand, or maybe you don't even know what your personal style is or what your brand is. 

If you struggle with design or honestly have no idea what the heck you're doing when it comes to design, then welcome to the party because personally I am clueless when it comes to design. And that makes me just as curious and eager to learn as you. 

And that is why my guest today is Nate Kadlac, the creator of Approachable Design at approachabledesign.co, a cohort-based course that teaches you how to stand out from the noise by unlocking your visual style.

And by the end of it, you walk away with your design kit. 

So what's up, Nate?

[00:01:28] Nate: Hey, man. So good to be here.

[00:01:30] Jonathan: Good to have you. So, tell me just a little bit about your history with design. It sounds like you were self-taught and starving, uh, before you became a brand and product designer for 16 years?

[00:01:43] Nate: Yeah. Uh, not too far off. I was, I was not able to afford to put gas in my car. So I was home a lot and eating a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But yeah, I, uh, you know, I dropped out of college mainly because I, I wanted to do something creative, but I really wasn't sure you know, what I wanted to do.

And I thought I wanted to be a photographer. So I, so I dropped out, started like working and assisting as a, as a studio assistant and, kind of fell into design. I was working with a buddy of mine and, and I've always been creative. I've always been artistic. I grew up in a very creative household and I just figured out that I could design on my laptop.

And it didn't cost me anything more than the laptop itself. And so photography was this huge expense. I did not want to go down that rabbit hole and so I could design from anywhere and I started learning, staying up late, um, you know, teaching myself, learning the design fundamentals/principles. You know, building my portfolio and landing a job.

And so from there I worked as an in-house designer. I've worked at agencies, uh, went back out on my own to freelance, and then I worked for a startup for about seven years and now I'm back out on my own. So, um, I feel like it's come full circle a little bit.

[00:03:00] Jonathan: And what made you want to go out on your own and start Approachable Design?

[00:03:04] Nate: So I left my job in July of this year and wasn't exactly sure what I, you know, what I was going to do. I had already started the workshop and had run one of them. And so you know, really what happened was I wasn't aware that I wanted to teach design. Um, and I wasn't really fond of maybe teaching other designers.

I actually started having all of these conversations with creators, writers, Youtubers and realizing that a lot of them had a deficit in their design knowledge. And so they were relying on templates. They were relying on a lot of these SaaS products that had a minimalist look and feel, you know, template, you know, that were designed sort of with black and white, and they weren't sure exactly how to express themselves through design. And so I found myself just with a ton of joy in helping these people out and helping kind of level up the design and the knowledge gap that they had. 

And so, you know, when I started having these conversations, I realized that maybe I could create something that didn't take a lot of time.

And so that's why we're, you know, we run a two day workshop and it was something that I could have a high amount of impact, low time investment, and have them walk away with something that they created. And so really, you know, when I quit my job, I wasn't really sure what to do, but I knew that this is something that brought me a ton of joy.

And so I just chased that.

[00:04:34] Jonathan: A couple of things there that I wanted to highlight. Your cohort-based course is a two day program, right?

[00:04:40] Nate: Yeah. And you know, I think course is maybe not exactly how I frame it. I like to call it a workshop because I definitely don't hold myself to the four or five week course standard, you know, in my mind, maybe we'll create that someday, but yeah, it is a two day workshop.

[00:04:57] Jonathan: And the other thing is that you're talking about, the joy of serving, you know, people like cohort-based course creators who, who need to learn about design. And that's a really cool thing that I learned in my work at Everyone Hates Marketers. I do part-time work there… is that when you're trying to find a market or an audience to serve, you know, as a creator, you really want to find the intersection of joy, access, money, and pain. 

And so, you know, is there a need that would be the pain. Is there a joy? Do you enjoy serving them? And it sounds like, at the very least you, you found that intersection and, probably all four.
And so, that's just really cool that, that you enjoy this. I mean, you found something that you love to do, that's not, uh, not something that too many people find. So, that brings me joy that it brings you joy. 

So, you have this two day workshop. So let's start to kind of walk through how you would advise, let's say somebody like me, who has no idea what we're doing with design.

We don't know anything about, you know, maybe we have a favorite color, but that's about it. and we want to design a website for my landing page for my cohort-based course. So, what would be the first step for me to try to kind of start to work this out?

[00:06:23] Nate: That's a great, kind of frame. I actually just did a website for a writer recently and we started emailing back and forth a little bit. And I said, you know, this is kind of how I start to build a website. And she came back and actually was confused because she had never thought about starting to build a website, or she always thought about finding a website that was already built and filling in the gaps and kind of like putting in all the content and adding colors.

But this whole process was kind of new to her. And that sort of sets up exactly how I think about creating your own style. You kind of have to backpedal a few steps. And so what we would do is really have a conversation about what you love. Like where did you grow up? What are some of the stories that, you know, bring you joy?

You know, where are some of the places that you visited that have affected you as a human? You know, what are some of the objects in your room? And so we start to kind of dig in a little deeper about you know what it is that, that you love about life. And so what we're trying to do is gather kind of your core values and the things that you care about.

And then what we do is we find, we kind of apply an aesthetic layer to this, and we do that through finding imagery. And a lot of people will kind of stop here and go find websites they’re inspired by. And so they'll look at a layout or look at a color combination and they'll, they'll say, oh, that's really cool.

I want to use that. And I, I actually push against that because you're, you're picking, you're making a decision based off of someone else's decision. They've made that decision for whatever reason, you don't know. But maybe they copied someone else, but you're kind of copying their decision and it's not connected to you.

And so the next time you see something else that inspires you, you might want to redesign your website or change it up. And what I'm trying to do is find these connective tissues, these connective stories, and so that we can kind of like put them out there. You can start making decisions from your own like experiences, right?

And so we will go out and find the photography and apply those to all of the stories that you have. And we'll kind of focus in on a few key words. And so for instance, if you go to any of my online web presences, you'll find a lot of palm trees. You'll find a lot of mood.

There's a lot of dark hues that I use. And then you're going to find a lot of like off-white sandy colored, you know, really light, you know yellow tints. You'll see that on my newsletter. You'll see that on my website. And the three things that I focus on are sun sand and palm trees. And I had to go through this whole experience to figure out that that's what brings me joy.

And it seems like incredibly basic. I totally realize this, but whenever I design something new, I know exactly what my starting point is. I know. I have to just think of those three things and find some combination, and it's gonna kind of resonate with a consistent look and feel. And so I can change that up at any, any point, but that's sort of my foundation.

And so for you, we would just kind of land on a few key words. And we would start to extract colors, typography that resonates with you. We would start to look at shapes and textures and we'd build out a design kit that gives you kind of a reference point. So instead of having to kind of like redo this every single time, if you worked with a designer or you worked with an interior designer, a photographer, potentially at some point you could give them this kit. This is your new language for them to communicate with you in the right way.

And so, for Charlie Bleecker, who's a writer whose website I was just describing, she took this kit, and she went to a photographer because she needed photography done. And so they were able to kind of have this like leveled up conversation that she wouldn't have been able to have before. She didn't know what she wanted. And so now she could go and talk to them and say, this is exactly what I want.

This is what brings me joy. These are the colors I'm after. And so her website reflects that exactly. And so this is what I love about it because it's more of an exploration about what you love and it's not about what anybody else thinks.

[00:10:41] Jonathan: So there's a lot that I want to break down there. And first, just a comment to kind of... I was just realizing when you were saying the usefulness of having the brand kit. So, one of the first projects I did for Louis Grenier at Everyone Hates Marketers was to help him out with his testimonials.

And so, kind of a funny story. So, I helped out with the testimonials, right? So I, basically what he did was he interviewed customers that went through his cohort. I took the transcripts from those interviews and edited them into long-form written testimonials. So, we had like 64 pages of testimonials, right?

And so then the next job was to take the 64 pages of, you know, white background, black text and make it look nice, you know, design it. And so, um, he gave me the brand kit and I did my best, you know, I used Google docs and I used the colors and the fonts, and it didn't look, it didn't look very good, but the bright side of the story is that, after we realized, you know, I'm not very good at design, we shipped that out, that brand kit, to a professional designer and, that's all they needed.
They just needed that brand kit. And then they were able to run away with it and, and make it look really good. And so, I think that's, yeah, that's definitely the beauty of having that brand kit and the result of going through this process. it just makes it really clear, I think, and easy to communicate, like you said.

[00:12:14] Nate: Yeah. That's exactly right. Like when I've worked on, you know, I've worked for Microsoft and Target and a lot of these companies, and they hire out that work with agencies. I've never worked with them before. Right? So, these agencies have designers, and what these big brands will do is they'll send those kits.

You know, they're usually design systems that are a little bit more complicated, but the designers will get them to review them. They'll digest them, and they will start to work on things that look and feel like that brand because of that kit. And so at the individual level, there’s still a leveraged, you know, superpower because you now can kind of go back to the well and find the same colors and typefaces.

You don't need to question that every single time. And so really it's about speed, right? Like it's not about, oh, I gotta, I have to create this new YouTube thumbnail, what do I do? You know? No, you just go back to your kit, you kind of like reuse some of the same things. So you have a consistent look and feel and yeah, like you said, sending it off to the designer.

I mean, that's all they need.

[00:13:14] Jonathan: So let's go back to step one, because I was kind of noticing on your website. It's a, so it's a two day workshop, and the first day is kind of all about finding your individual style, would you say… and your brand? And day two would be more of the... let's figure out what colors and fonts and the shapes and structuring everything?

Is that right?

[00:13:37] Nate: Yeah, it's, it's kind of, uh, wrapped up in this concept called inside out design thinking. And so day one is really exploring the inside. Like getting, getting everything that's unique about us kind of out onto the page, and then day two's kind of like designing the outside, taking all of that stuff, and how do we apply design to it? 

And so through that process, students will learn the fundamentals of design. They'll learn a lot about themselves, what brings them joy and what they care about and what looks good to them. And so we, uh, yeah, explore that on day two and we apply it. We choose typefaces, we choose colors, we choose shapes, and they're all doing this in Figma themselves.

So, it's a very collaborative and incredible process.

[00:14:21] Jonathan: Let's dig into day one. How would you begin to identify your personal style? How would you dig into those memories? Like what would be your process? Do you just begin journaling out and brainstorming or, um, you know, what kind of questions did you ask yourself to start to figure that out?

[00:14:40] Nate: So we do this in pairs. We actually, before I created the workshop, I was doing this with my clients and we would have a conversation, and I would have about 20ish questions, roughly to kind of like poke and prod, you know, and, and just have this conversation. And while you're speaking, I'm writing. I'm like writing down kind of from an objective standpoint, like what I'm hearing.

And so what you get is when we go back over this, I'm going to ask you kind of like, what did you hear from yourself? Like, what did you find surprising and/or delightful? And also here's what I heard. And here are the, here are the things that keep popping up. And so what we're actually doing is looking for patterns, and you would do this with another student and then you would flip.

But what we're doing is looking for keywords that surface multiple times. So let's say you, you know, I had a client who lives in Fiji and she is a computer science major and she loves the ocean, obviously, uh, loves pets, loves cooking, has a couple of kids, family's really important. And what we really honed in on were Fiji the island is really important in her life, and then we have, she wanted to go to school for fashion design, but actually never did and went for computer science. 

But that was really... fashion was really a large element of her style and her aesthetic. And then we also honed in on, on pet or actually it was cooking. We merged these three key words and started unraveling the aesthetic layers of that, pulling colors from photographs that resonated with her.

And so that's kind of how we, we go through this process and you could revisit this in a year or two when you start to experience new things. You know, your, your identity changes a little bit, evolves over time, and that's totally understandable. So, you could go through this process multiple times, but, um, that's what it is, is it's, it's really spotting patterns and the things that you are subconsciously thinking about.

[00:16:43] Jonathan: That's awesome. And so for another example, you mentioned for yourself, that sun, sand and palm trees were three keywords that you identified for yourself. So, what kind of memories and stories were you finding that kinda led you to choose those three, three keywords?

[00:17:01] Nate: Yeah. Uh, those three basic keywords. So the story behind that is I was 17 when I first visited California and I got out here. So I live in LA now, but, um, I'm from Minnesota. And so Minnesota is the complete opposite... very cold, and I love the city, but it's, it's different. Right? So I, I come out here when I'm 17.

I stick my feet in the sand, and I pop up my toes, and I just had this feeling come over me that I felt very connected to the earth. I knew at some point I wanted to move here, and this was just a, a personal connection that I had. I didn't know when it was going to happen, but I knew I was going to make it happen.

And so when I ended up moving out here about seven ish years ago, um, in LA specifically three years ago, I wanted to explore this idea. Like why do I feel connected to this place? And so I took on an experiment myself of drawing a hundred palm trees over a hundred days. And I wanted to use this as an exploration to hone in on...

I knew I love Palm trees. I just it's something it's like looking at them. I just, I I'm, I'm zenned out. I get into a very peaceful state, and I wanted to explore why. And so I drew a hundred Palm trees. And around the 60th, and I have all of the pictures still. And so I do visualize this usually in the workshop, but, around the 60th, I hit on this particular piece that had a Palm tree that sort of lit like by the moonlight almost.

And the, and the background was very black, very dark kind of shot at night almost. It's interesting because when you think of like sun, sand, and Palm trees, you're kind of thinking of like a bright sunny day, but what actually brings me joy is this like very moody, single light source that's hitting this Palm tree leaf. And, and somehow the sun is kind of getting mixed into that, but it's just sort of like in my imagination, but it's, it sparks joy immediately. It's the Marie Kondo of Palm trees. And I, I think like, I explored that from, from 60 to a hundred in this experiment, I just went like all mood.

I love drama. I love black comedy. All of these things started springing up. Right? And they all play into this aesthetic of what I love. It's it's, it's just part of like the... it gives me like the sandbox of parts to play with. And so now when I design something, usually I start with like a moody background. I'll sparingly choose Palm trees, but if you look at my Twitter, my LinkedIn, my website, you'll find Palm trees, every, you know, every kind of now and then, and then the sand is, you know, my, my white is a sandy color. It's I never use pure white. I always use this kind of like off white. and so.

That was my exploration. And that's kind of how I'm sort of like reverse engineering this process for students so they don't have to draw a hundred of one thing, but it is kind of like, how do we explore these stories and get at the same connective tissue? And that's, that's exactly how I think about it now, but that was my, that was my journey.

[00:20:10] Jonathan: And how much of this, especially for, you know, cohort-based course creators, how much of this is personal style versus brand or is there a difference?

[00:20:23] Nate: Yeah. Brand is bigger than this. Right? Having a design kit is sort of like it's part of the brand experience, but brand is how people experience your products, how they think about you or me. When they're not in front of us, you know, what is their perception of us... that's our brand?

Right? And so a lot of the things we can't control, but what we want to do is build trust. We want to be consistent. And so. A design kit or having the right type faces and right colors will present an experience that they can trust because they can come back knowing that it's going to be the same thing over and over and over.

Right? You go order a Big Mac. It's going to be the same formula every time you order it, you have trust that it’s going to be that way. if you're into Big Macs and you know. It's, it's the same thing when they experience us, like when they come to our Twitter profile, if you have a YouTube channel, if you have a blog, if you have a newsletter, how do all these pieces feel cohesive and build a trusting brand experience?

So, it's not just any one part, right? It's the sum of everything. And so, but these are like fundamental things. These are things that people get wrong all the time, and they create something new and they're just like, oh, I need to pick a font from a dropdown. What should I do? And they'll just pick a new one.

Right? And so those miniature little design decisions affect the outcome and they affect the trust in the overall brand. So, long answer to a question, but brand is definitely bigger.

[00:21:56] Jonathan: Yeah, it makes sense. And I do want to get into, colors and fonts and those things, but first, going back a little bit again So, we kind of identify our three key words and our personality style. How do we begin matching photographs to that? Is it, is there any kind of scientific method to it or is it very, is it art?

Is it a feeling? Like how do you begin matching photographs to, to those things?

[00:22:25] Nate: Yeah, man, it's a creative process. So it's, it is a little bit about having fun, you know, and playing around a little bit. But here's the distinction that I usually make is... I love looking at photography because photography carries a vibe and they're usually natural elements that you're looking at.

And you can, you can get colors and textures and a vibe from a photograph. When you're looking at design, when you're looking at a poster graphic design, they're, they're solving a problem and they're solving a problem with design. And so when you look at that, you're sort of being influenced by design decisions.

And that's the difference between looking at photography versus design. And so I encourage my students to look at photography versus design only because of that, because you're looking at fonts, and you're looking at all of these other artifacts that have been applied. And so it kind of influences you a little bit, subconsciously.

And so I try to stay away from that. It's not that you can't, but I prefer not to. And so for an example, we would, so Jonathan we're, where did you grow up?

[00:23:32] Jonathan: I grew up in the state of Washington. We moved around, I would say the longest place I lived was Puyallup, Washington.

[00:23:40] Nate: Okay. if I were interviewing you, I would kind of dig a little bit deeper. Like, are there any childhood stories that you just kind of that resonate with you? And we, as you're speaking to me, I would start to write down words. We would use those words, as a search-like catalyst. So we would go to maybe Unsplash or something like that and type in these words and start looking at images.

And then I would have you basically scroll through them with me and kind of call out ones that, that, that you're drawn to. And then we would take those and put them on a board and we'd lay them all out. And then we kind of start looking at the patterns between all of these images and you'd be surprised at how much correlation there is between the images that you chose and what brings you joy. 

And then we kind of hone in and pick some colors from that and some textures. And so that's sort of like the process of like, starting to define what your aesthetic is because you're looking at sort of a unique board that's, that's tailored to you, not to anybody else.

[00:24:42] Jonathan: Okay. So now we kind of have our photographs and, and we're, we're matching it together with, with our keywords and we have kind of a board to look at. So, what's the next step? Do we go to straight to color or do we go to font type or, I think we're transitioning into day two on the outside.

But is there like a first part to day two that's essential to do first?

[00:25:09] Nate: Yeah, we usually end day one with, having chosen some colors. So we will extract about 20 colors from these images and then that's kind of where we end it. And then you'll come back on day two with a little bit of homework, trying to hone in on a few different colors. We'll choose a primary color and a secondary color and maybe a tertiary color. But this is really, that's kind of like the first thing you do. 

The second thing you do is we, and we're kind of learning about color combinations and a little bit of theory here, but really trying to keep it high level. So it's not, not too deep, uh, especially for non-designers, uh, nobody really cares. 

So, typefaces comes next, and we'll learn a little bit about selecting a category of typeface, you know, whether, whether you are drawn to a serif or a modern or a sans-serif or a script font, you know, what speaks to you and we'll learn about why that is. And so we'll dig into, really, how do you pick a typeface? Like, you know, if we go to fonts.google.com, they're all free. It's a great resource. You can download them to your computer, you can use them on websites.

So they're kind of like, you know, with the licensing and everything, it's sort of the best place to go for a free font. Now I'd advocate for paying a little bit of money for, uh, you know, a more established font, but there's, there's a lot of great stuff on there. And so we usually just go there first and we learn about what to look for and how to connect it to your decision-making.

And so that's, that's day two. and then we kind of go back and we figure out shapes and textures from the photography and we start to create them, create them in Figma. And we draw them and create little shapes and finding little background elements to use in your design kit. So, you know, it could be, could be something like waves or, you know, I'm not sure if anything comes to you from Washington, but we would go back to that board of keywords to think about, are there unique shapes or textures that we can kind of think about find or create ourselves and use those in our design?

[00:27:15] Jonathan: How did you go about finding the font style for Approachable Design?

[00:27:20] Nate: Yeah. So I use two. So, I use Open Sans for my display face, which is your header. You'll see on billboards or H1 tags or kind of the main thing, the main font. So I use that, I use Open Sans for that. The reason why I chose that, partly because I, I love the, the shapes of some of the letters. So I love the S's.

I love the Ks and I kind of, when I tell people to kind of like connect with a font, which sounds a little woo woo, but like it's about looking at individual letters. Maybe typing out your name and seeing how your name kind of speaks to you through a font and you might get drawn in by like the ampersand or, you know, the letter J the letter Q like there's some really unique letters that designers spend a lot of time on.

And when you get excited about it, You want to use it again, you know? And so it kind of starts removing this need for like changing it up all the time. but, so I love certain characters of open sans and then, for my serif font... So I usually pair like a sans and a serif font... It's Georgia.

It's, it's something you find on every computer, but I love Georgia and I love how readable it is at small sizes. So I use it a lot in my body text and I truly just, it's it's created for the screen. So it's a really well-designed font for digital interfaces. But yeah, and the italicized version of Georgia, I just, I, I absolutely love, you know, I just, it just makes me happy.

[00:28:52] Jonathan: I like Georgia too. I think ConvertKit uses Georgia. Um, for all those email people using ConvertKit out there. Um, yeah, I

[00:29:02] Nate: Yeah, it's on every computer. It's super common.

[00:29:04] Jonathan: Cool. Yeah, I love the way. you talk, I love the way you approach this. It's really a breath of fresh air because it's very art-form. It's very much about how things make you feel, which is fun.

And it sounds like you have fun and you bring fun and joy to not just the, as a whole, but to, just to every little piece of this, including colors and typeface and,

[00:29:28] Nate: Yeah, and I, I, you, know, I'll just interrupt you real quick, but like, I would be remiss if I didn't talk about... I have two, three people who helped me with the workshop, but two of them, one's a fashion designer and one's like a true textile artist. And what I think is really important is, you know, understanding your style and your aesthetic is not just about, you know, newsletters and websites, but it is about how do you apply it to the things that you choose to wear?

Like, why are you wearing that shirt right now? And, and when you really have a good understanding of your aesthetic, you take joy and a lot of these like other small life decisions, right? What kind of art do you buy? What kind of objects do you have, you know, around your office? And so just kind of, like you just start to hone in and be super curious about it. 

And so I think it's, even though this workshop is really tailored to building a design kit, I think the, the principles are super universal and, Heather and Hillary are both just, amazing, talented creative people. And I'm super excited to work with them on the workshop.

[00:30:30] Jonathan: I think Netflix should make a documentary of you because this reminds me of Queer Eye. Have you seen that show?

[00:30:39] Nate: I'll take it. I have. Yeah.

[00:30:41] Jonathan: It's like, you know, you find your style. You're like Tan, basically. I mean, once you figure out your personal style, I mean, it applies to the clothes you wear and everything else. It's transformative. It's more than just what goes on your website. It's

[00:30:54] Nate: I mean, It's not a coincidence that [what I’m wearing is] green, like a Palm leaf and like the black background of my website. So like, it affects me. And I didn't even think about it until now, but like, oh yeah, of course, like I'm wearing this right now.

[00:31:08] Jonathan: Yeah, Yeah. And I guess my, my clothes that I'm wearing right now reflects that I really haven't discovered my style yet. I mean, I'm wearing this orange, like Halloween looking plaid shirt with a blue backwards hat. Yeah. I got some discovery to do, man.

[00:31:24] Nate: It's all good. That's… You'll figure it out.

[00:31:29] Jonathan: Uh, so, Do you ever do? Does your program go into... Do you go specifically into website at all or does it just apply to all, all the different types of things?

[00:31:41] Nate: So. I kind of leave that open to the students and what they're working on. A lot of the questions do gravitate towards websites. I think that's, I advocate for everybody to have a personal website. and I think a lot of people who take approachable design do have a site. and so it does apply there, but I think these things apply to a newsletter. So for instance, I use Webflow for my, my own website. I use sub stack for my newsletter and also ConvertKit too. But on sub stack, it doesn't give you full control over the fonts, right? You can't upload a Google font. They have a very limited amount of fonts you can use. 

And so what happens, you know, you, you might have more control on one product and then less control on another. So what do you do? Right? And so I think, what's kind of unique about this is that you get to, learn why you would choose maybe one that looks similar to your brand font, but you can't choose it over here.

You know, like you might have, I don't know. You might have like some weird, cool font that you chose for Webflow because Webflow allows you to do it, but you won't find it on sub stack. So how do you make that decision? That's, that's kind of really unique to this, this course, or this workshop is because I tell you, I kind of show you like, you know, it's, it's about not finding the exact one, but it's about finding the closest one, but once you've defined what that is for you, it's really easy to make these like other decisions.

So a lot of it does gravitate around websites because it's such a universal concept. and but yeah, we talk about newsletters. We talk about YouTube channel art. We talk about, a lot of different ways to apply this stuff.

[00:33:21] Jonathan: So I have three more questions for you, that I just like to ask. So, what is the biggest problem that you face today as a cohort-based course/workshop creator?

[00:33:37] Nate: Yeah, I think the biggest thing is, is audience building. It's something that I started to do, I'm probably a little over my skis in terms of where my workshop is versus the, the audience that I have and which is okay, because I, I'm more of about like, uh, you know, I, I want to take action. I want to build something and learn along the way.

And so that's what, that's what's really important to me. So, you know, just continuously talking and, you know, you're probably better at this than I am, or I'm sure much better, but like the marketing side of it, you know, and just being, getting over your own insecurities about talking about something over and over and over, you know, like it's, it can be a little tiring, especially as a creative person who loves to dabble in a lot of stuff, and doesn't always want to be known for one thing.

And so there's a lot of insecurity mixed into that. And I think that's probably my biggest hurdle to overcome is, is insecurity about, around talking about design all the time. even though it's something I love, it's, it's a weird thing. So that's, that's probably the biggest thing in my way is myself.

[00:34:45] Jonathan: Yeah, I think that's very true for a lot of us. Thanks for being so open and transparent about that. And what are three, uh, the top three resources you would recommend to cohort-based course creators to keep up and keep learning about design?

[00:35:02] Nate: Well, I think Figma is probably the, the best and I, I love it because it's very collaborative. And you know, when I see products designed and built these days without any sort of collaboration involved, it just feels like it's a step back. What I attribute it to, it's kind of like Google Docs for designers or even non-designers, but it allows a bunch of people to come into the same file and you can get feedback from other people.

And so what I do during the workshop is I actually have one file with 12 art boards or for whoever's in the course, right... each person gets a separate art board, but I can go in and, and actually jump around to different art boards and pixel push things around. and, uh, it's a lot of fun and you get to see everybody’s you know, cursors and you kind of get, it's a very playful environment. but it's really easy to kind of... it's free and it's really easy to just create shapes, play with stuff, build a design before you actually have to implement it. and so I recommend that a lot. Two other resources. ..

So I would say, you know, the most important thing for people to learn is, is typography. It's it's. If you can understand how to lay things out, using type. It's, you're going to be so far advanced from, you know, 90% of other non-designers.

[00:36:19] Jonathan: So what's an example of Typography, Like what, what do you mean by that?

[00:36:24] Nate: Yup. So it's, it's about combining fonts. So choosing a serif and a sans-serif font to create intrigue and visual interest, knowing that contrast plays a huge role in creating visual interest. and so you can do that with type. 

So part of it is just laying things out. For example, a bad type set page might be a paragraph that spans the entire browser with, you know... have you ever come across those sites where it's just like your eyes you know, have to go two feet, you know, from left to right? And then it has to go back down and there's no padding and there's, you know, the, the lines are too squished together. 
And so it's, it's about learning some very fundamental stuff like ledding, kerning, and padding. 

So just a quick tip is your sentence like from left to right...the amount of words in a, in a line should be about 11 to 13. And so. Either you get that by increasing the font size or, or, or increasing the padding on each side. And so just simple things like that to make the reading experience much better is really important. and then once you understand that, then you can really start to play around with, Oh, maybe I should scale this header atrociously big and make it really kind of unique and artful in a way. You don't have to sit there with the defaults and, you know, put something out there, like have fun with it. Typeform… Type is an art form in itself.

[00:37:53] Jonathan: And the third resource?

[00:37:55] Nate: Trying to think of a third. Um, I, you know, color is one of those things that people struggle with a lot. It's probably the most common question I get is like, how do I know that this color works well with this color? 

And so there's not just one resource out there. I think a lot of people will gravitate towards these pre-built color palettes, but again, that kind of defeats the purpose of like, understanding what, what you love.

But I would just say that learning a little bit about color theory and how colors work together is probably, a huge leverage, you know, factor in design. I think most people just, just need to put a little bit more effort into learning like, you know, what a, what a color wheel means and how to pair colors, you know, across the color wheel, learning secondary and tertiary, uh, color pairing is really helpful.

So, uh, more than the, what the show's about, but, a little bit of color theory will take you far.

[00:38:53] Jonathan: And would that cover... how much does color blindness go into your decision factors for picking a color?

[00:39:01] Nate: Yeah. I normally will come up with a couple of colors that I think go pretty well together. And so from there, I will go back and use a couple of tools. One is called Contrast, I think, at least on that Mac app store. and it will give you kind of an accessibility score.

Webflow is really great for this because you can choose a color and they'll actually show you the accessibility score in the interface. And so, you know, if it's going to pass or fail. Contrast is the biggest thing. I think a lot of people use very low contrast in their designs and it affects people who have color visibility.

[00:39:44] Jonathan: Well, Nate, last question for you. Where can people find you and keep in touch with you?

[00:39:49] Nate: Yeah, man. Uh, so on Twitter. @Kadlac, my last name, Kadlac. And my, uh, yeah, approachable design is at approachabledesign.co. And you know, I write a weekly newsletter called planyournext.com and it's really the intersection of creativity, um, you know, design and finding your next thing. And so, um, those are probably three places.

[00:40:14] Jonathan: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Nate.

[00:40:17] Nate: Thank you, Jonathan.

[00:40:24] Jonathan: Thanks for listening. If you'd like to listen to more episodes, hop aboard cohortcaptain.com. If you'd like to be my matey, I would love for you to message me on LinkedIn or Twitter. And remember, always captain your cohort, always be my matey, and never lick an iceberg while your ship is passing by.

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