Dear designer: Write hard and clear about what hurts

Persevere through the pain. Triumph over obstacles. Cut through the nonsense.

Mike Curtis
The You Design System
5 min readAug 26, 2022


Photo by Kat Smith

Today, for the first time in my life, I read this quote by Ernest Hemmingway:

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

Immediately, I knew the truth of these words and the help they could bring.

Every time I begin writing something to share with my fellow designers, where I want to talk about what hurts, my brain says no. Whenever I explore the personal side of our lives and connect it to the professional, I feel a barrier come over me. It’s as though I’m being told I don’t have permission to write such things for the world to read.

In my head screams the made-up voices of rejection, disgust, and hate:

  • “There goes Mike, sharing way too much about his personal life again.”
  • “Goodness, is that all you ever write about?”
  • “Is Mike even a designer? All he does is write about his feelings.”

You think I’m joking, but I have hundreds of drafts to prove it.

And then, I remember the nonsense of our industry. It’s next to impossible to sift through the piles of content and find design knowledge that deeply resonates. Cutting through the garbage and deciphering who is right and who is wrong…how do we know what is right?

Design legends fight with (and make it obvious that they hate) each other, articles are written as blatant ploys for fame or recognition, junior designers can’t find jobs, one method is better than the other… you’re right, I’m wrong, there is so… much… nonsense.

And then…there are the stories and accountings of pain, and pain is real. I don’t know why, but we can connect with pain. There are the real struggles of real designers doing real design work making real differences in people’s lives all while living and fighting through their own real, painful, difficult journeys.

That is real, clear, truth.

In large part, I’m the designer I am today because of what hurts



Mike Curtis
The You Design System

Senior UX Designer / New articles weekly on design & self-improvement / Helping you design the "UX of You" / 22+ years in design, marketing, & sales.