Building A Course From Scratch
An essential part of The Futur’s mission is to democratize design education and make it accessible to everyone. We do that by providing high-value educational products that rival expensive private schools.
Beyond my design director duties, I also work with our product and marketing teams to develop new education products and expand our offerings. One of our most successful product launches was my course, Illustration For Designers. Here's how we built it from scratch.
We’re challenging the traditional school status quo by offering equal—if not better—design courses at more affordable prices. To do that, we need to build a strong foundation.
In 2021, we needed a new product that would:
- Bolster our design fundamental product line
- Create a unique point of entry point for customers
- Generate significant revenue over the next 2 years
- Get us closer to a proper design education curriculum
Bridging The Knowledge Gap
I had an idea (and several customer requests) to create an illustration course tailored to designers. Our initial research uncovered several great learning resources. But they were challenging for beginners, disconnected from core design principles, and light on conceptual thinking.
Any education product worth its salt will have a clear learning objective. Key outcomes help the educator keep their promise and provide students a path for which to prepare.
We identified the following key outcomes for our illustration course:
- Learn how to apply design principles to illustration
- Construct visually pleasing forms
- Analyze a creative brief
- Develop conceptual ideas from that analysis
- Build a unique, concept driven illustration
And most importantly, do all this without knowing how to draw.
Testing The Hypothesis
Before pouring all of our time and resources into producing the course, we wanted to test the concept on a smaller scale. So we hosted a series of paid workshops to test the course's viability.
These workshops allowed me to gauge interest, test run lessons and get valuable feedback from attendees that would help shape the actual course.
What About Product-Market Fit?
Hosting a workshop with 20 people is one thing, but if you’re going to invest resources into building an entire course, then it had better sell.
We offered an early bird presale of the course to test product-market fit. This approach allowed customers to purchase the course at a discount (which we rarely offer) and gave us a failsafe.
Fortunately, we met (and exceeded) our sales goal.
Building The Course
Creating the course itself was (dare I say) the easiest part of the process. We started by organizing our research, outlining the curriculum, and then identifying the learning gaps to fill to make it all flow together.
I wrote scripts for each video lesson in Notion and included contextual notes for approximate length and visual cues. This planning saved us time during the editing process.
My experience directing live-action commercials came in handy when it came to shooting. Unlike my first course, we shot this course at my home studio (during a COVID lockdown) on my Sony A7iii, a small Røde mic, and lots of natural light.
Shooting in 4K resolution at a wider angle gave the editor latitude to crop and push in for different framings throughout the course.
Notion saved the day (again) during the post-production process. I built a robust database to track the progress of each lesson, organize media locations, and manage deliverables. The video team and I then used frame.io to collaborate on edits remotely.
While managing the edit of all 41 video lessons, I simultaneously worked with our marketing and design teams to write email copy, flesh out the course sales page, and design a set of marketing assets for the product launch.
To accompany the interactive video lessons, we also designed supplementary resources to help students retain (and refer to) key outcomes. I always appreciate bonus takeaways and wanted to make sure that students didn’t worry about taking notes on everything I say. I find that gifts like this go a long way in the learning experience.
Marketing & Content Strategy
After smashing our sales goal during launch, we focused our efforts on developing a content marketing strategy. Creating valuable and evergreen content on Instagram, YouTube and via free resources is like planting seeds that will grow into sturdy redwood trees years later.
Publishing this kind of content helps also helps The Futur establish authority in the design education realm.
One year in, Illustration For Designers has over 1,100 students enrolled and continues to earn consistent monthly revenue for us. Alongside my first course, Color For Creatives, my specific product efforts have reached over 4,000 customers, millions in YouTube views, and generated significant revenue for The Futur year over year.