Creators' Corner #21 - my newsletter system and using Figma to make your designs pop

Creators' Corner #21 - my newsletter system and using Figma to make your designs pop
Photos of the week: hike up to Soinsee - a little lake tucked away in the Alps, about 60km from Munich. Also: We got a new puppy! Her name is Lily and she loves chewing my running shoes, chasing flying objects and the first half of hikes (she is a puppy after all).

Hey friends πŸ‘‹. Greetings from Munich!

Welcome to the 4 new people who signed up this week. This brings us up to 177 subscribers. Here's the previous edition of the newsletter for those who missed it.

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Line-up this week:

  1. Quote of the week.
  2. New essay! My Newsletter System.
  3. Creating images on Figma that look 100x better than stock photos.
  4. One tip for other creators.
  5. Things you might like: a thread, an article, a book and a joke.

1. Quote of the week

Some magic from our favourite wizard:

β€˜I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. β€˜So do I,’ said Gandalf, β€˜and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

2. New essay: My Newsletter System

This piece has been a long time coming.

At 3,000 words, it's one of my longer essays, but it's filled with all my hard-won lessons from writing a newsletter consistently over the last five months.

Definitely check it out if you are considering starting your own newsletter.

And if you aren't - still click the link to see the cover image :).

My Newsletter System
I believe more people should start writing online. Not only will you be better off for it (by increasing your luck surface area), the world will be a richer place for learning from your ideas. In this essay, I cover: 1. Why you should write a newsletter 2. How to

3. Creating images on Figma that look 100x better than stock photos

Creating good visuals is one of the most powerful ways to communicate your thinking.

In an attempt to level up my design skills, I'm taking Nate Kadlac's 80/20 Design Challenge. It covers all the ins and out of Figma, a design tool used by some of the world's best visual thinkers like Jack Butcher to create images like this:

Basically the Mona Lisa of Twitter.

Last week I played with masking and removing background effects to create this image:

100x better than a stock photo

This beats using stock photos and only took a couple of minutes to create.


The work in progress.
  1. First, I found an image on Unsplash. This is a site for royalty-fee-free images. I had just written last week's segment on Stoicism and searched 'Stoic books'. I liked this pile of books. Soft, orange colours and I've read Meditations.
  2. I then removed the background using this site. I like how the bookmark from the bottom book sticks out.
  3. After this, I added a circle with a blue fill to offset the orange, which I layered behind the book. I also 'masked' it i.e. the circle cuts off the edges of the pile of books outside the circle. But it actually turned out better this way. The books are floating off the screen. Not caged into the circle.
  4. Lastly, I added an accent colour to the frame background to offset the blue. Softer on the eye.

And to wrap things up, I inserted a quote on books, added my Twitter handle and voila!

Sign up for Nate's course. It's only $20 for 20 days of email content. I've been blown away by the versatility of Figma.

4. One tip for other creators

Even if you are employed full-time, it won't hurt starting something on the side. If anything, it might improve your performance in your current role.


  1. Expanded awareness. You will have more and better ideas than your colleagues.
  2. Expanded skill set. You will learn to use new tools and build personal assets like website design, writing copy and creating visuals.

5. Things you might like

  • 🧡 Thread: Visakan Veerasamy's (@visakanv) great breakdown of what memes are. With different voices from David Attenborough, Jordan Peterson and Joe Rogan. Fun reading.
  • ✍️ Article: June Huh, High School Dropout wins the Fields Medal. Fascinating story of how Huh dropped out of high school to study poetry and only later stumbled upon mathematics. His creative instincts allowed him to make new connections and breakthroughs in combinatorics and geometry to win the Fields Medal - the highest honour in mathematics. Took me back to my math camp days.
  • πŸ“š Book: 2022 Pulitzer Prize winner The Netanyahus by Joshua Cohen. Short, funny and scathing.
  • 🍭 Laugh: this tweet by Paul Millerd. All that advanced calculus and integration in second year came in real handy. June Huh (from above) is one of the few with a different curve.

Until next time. Have a great week and happy creating.

-- John

P.S. you can respond directly to this email. I would love to hear from you.