Mike Kus – 10 Things I’ve Learned

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you know who Mike Kus is. But if you’re unfamiliar with his work, hop over to mikekus.com and enjoy your designer envy rising to new heights. Mike has been a big inspiration to me for a few years now and I recently had the opportunity to hear him talk at Future Insights Live ’12 in Las Vegas. His talk was called “10 Things I’ve learned” where he shared some of his best lessons learned from his 15 years of experience. These are my notes from his talk.


1 Become the Designer you want to be

Your passion for your medium will make your work shine.

It’s not worth the money if it eats away at your soul

Build the portfolio you want to show on your own time


2 Compete on your own terms

If you need inspiration, create a headline

Examples: http://createdm.com/https://workfu.com/


3a Staying motivated – the value of emotional investment

Projects that you can’t proudly place in your portfolio hurt

When you own the project, your care for the details overflows

It’s more fun


3b Staying motivated - Financial incentive (for freelancers)

Do I feel motivated to do this project?

Take into consideration when building a quote that the project might not go well

Nothing worse than feeling like you’re losing money/time on a project


4 The value of creative thinking

[didn't grab any significant notes]

Example: Grabbing a user’s commonly used words on twitter when building a workfu portfolio


5 Creative Block – Don’t be afraid to get things wrong

Templates are difficult because there’s no content

“Don’t be afraid to get things wrong”

Be prepared to backtrack and ask “is it working?”

Example: Giftrocket went through tons of iterations where it just didnt work, but each one lead into the next


6 Color is key

Color has uses other than red for errors

Use 1 or 2 colors

Otherwise use lots of colors

1 to 2 tend to be the most impactful

Example: kicksend.com


7 Supply the right solution

Don’t give your client choice paralysis

Give the client one


8 You can’t learn design from a book

(says the Graphic Design college graduate :P)

You get better at designing by designing

Exry time you design, yousolve new problems and each time thereafter you have more to refer back to


9 User Experience isn’t a skill

Everyone building the web is creating a user experience

A user’s experience is determined by so many factors: speed of the site, visual design of the site, how it handles errors

It’s not something I call myself but it’s something that we do


10 Self-belief is overrated

“I always have trouble starting and finishing projects”

self-doubt causes you to question yourself and spot your mistakes

Even great designers experience anxiety and doubt

Lastyl, spouses are always helpful for encouragement



What effect did learning front-end dev have on your designs

“I found it liberating,” but it didn’t change my designs


What do you do for inspiration?

Once I know the company and the problem, I create a mood board