What a year it has been! It was a year of successes, failures, excitements, and frustrations, but most of all, it was a year where I learned a lot about myself.
I don’t usually write summaries at the end of each year, but I think it’s a great way to motivate yourself by looking back at all of the things you did. It’s also a good method to hold yourself accountable for the goals you’ve set for the next year.
So, here we go…
Authentik → Good People Digital
Those of you who are subscribed to my newsletter and have been following me for a while know that at the beginning of 2019, a couple of friends and I formed a design studio called Authentik (now renamed as Good People Digital).
I officially left the partnership at the end of 2019, deciding to go back and run my own little solo design studio. However, I’m remaining as a Creative Partner and will work closely with Good People, helping out with various, larger client projects like Smart Passive Income and PatFlynn.com.
So, what happened?
We were growing pretty fast and steadily, but I soon realized that building a bigger company and design agency simply wasn’t for me.
While there was great potential and the possibility of bigger financial success than going solo, there was also a different kind of work and several responsibilities that I didn’t enjoy.
In order to scale the agency, we had to hire more people and give up doing some of the work ourselves. So naturally my role started turning completely into creative direction and project management.
I had heard stories from other designers that growing an agency is a pretty difficult step for designers, because you can’t do the actual work yourself. You have to be OK to let it go and hire other designers.
That’s something I didn’t feel good about. I love designing so I decided to take a step back and return to the place where I was happy and enjoyed my work.
Since I’ve always had that itch to build an agency, I’m glad I took that route and discovered that it’s not for me. Now I know exactly what I want to do :-)
And that brings me to a new (or rather back to an old) chapter in my career…
Rafal Tomal Design Studio
I’m taking my services back to my personal website and I’m planning to keep it that way – small and simple. I decided to focus on what I’m best at and what I enjoy doing most.
I love working 1-on-1 with my clients and using all of my potential by bringing the highest quality design direction and execution. It’s not a sexy and scalable business model, but it’s simple and it works. It also feels great to have full control over the entire client experience.
The good news for you is that I’ll have more to teach about! I want to go back to writing my behind the scenes posts and create more courses and design tools for you to use.
Projects I worked on
It was a pretty busy year and I’m very proud of the projects I had a chance to work on. Here’s a list of projects I was working on in 2019 either as a designer and/or creative director (not all of them have been launched yet, so stay tuned!):
- ExactMetrics.com (not launched yet)
- PatFlynn.com (not launched yet)
Courses and design tools
Not too much happened with my courses and design tools this year. I failed on delivering more courses as I got too busy building the agency. I also lacked some clarity on which direction to go and which design software to teach.
Not that long ago I switched from Adobe Photoshop to Sketch, thinking that Sketch was going to be my primary tool for longer, but at the beginning of 2019, I switched again to Figma.
Now all of my designs are created in Figma and it’s an absolute winner among design tools these days. I’ll be creating all of my new design tools and courses probably exclusively for Figma (I’m writing a post about why I chose Figma, so stay tuned).
A really good thing happened around my Web Typography Course this year. I had more sales than expected after making some changes to the sales page and releasing some free sample lessons. I’m hoping to find some time to refresh the course this year.
I also released a sitemapping and user flow tool called QuickFrames. It’s a template for Sketch and Figma that helps you create simple website design plans and content strategy. I also described my entire technique of creating simple website plans on my blog.
Again, I’m hoping to release many more courses and tools in 2020. I have a lot of ideas and some stuff in the works already. The first course I’m currently working on is about designing websites in Figma. It’s a full video course where I show step-by-step how to design a complete website in Figma from scratch.
Among some of the design tools I’m working on are (all for Figma):
- Web Design system for Figma (UI/UX and Wireframe kit in one)
- Visual Brand Guideline Book Template
- Website Starter Template (my actual template that I use to start every project)
- QuickFrames 2.0 (you’ll get a free update if you’ve already purchased)
A sneak peek at the design system for Figma I’m working on:
Just testing my design system for @figmadesign. Check out how easy and fast you can build a simple wireframe :) Make sure to be on my email list if you want to be first to try it out 👉 https://t.co/2XIfaQIFQM pic.twitter.com/OsdOuW9r5a— Rafal Tomal (@RafalTomal) January 23, 2020
Goals for 2020
2019 proved to me that I can’t do everything. I was pretty burned out at the end of the year. I was chasing the wrong things and working against myself, which quickly drained my motivation.
So, in 2020 I’m planning to get back to my routine of exercising and meditating in order to restore my energy and take better care of my physical and mental health. I want to define my “enough” and focus on building a small and profitable business. I’m looking to decrease my stress level by not having too many employees or huge commitments.
I also want to redesign my solo design studio business by creating a better system around how I scope projects, communicate with clients, and manage my projects and finances.
Finally, I’m hoping to release at least one video course and all of the design tools mentioned above as I’m pretty sure they would be very useful to a lot of you.
I’m super excited about 2020! I’ve already kicked off the year with some big projects that I can’t wait to tell you about.
Keep designing! :)