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Christopher Murphy

For the first time in a long, long time I’m excited about my work and I’m facing the next 24 hours with anticipation. That makes such a difference to the day ahead.

If you start the day with a sense of excitement, what faces you is not a day of drudgery, but a day of delight. Instead of the hours dragging by, they disappear and you want more of them.

I don’t intend this to sound grandiose, but I feel like what I’m working on at The School of Design is important. If not to the world, then to me.

The Library feels like ‘a life’s work’. It’s a mammoth task, gathering ‘everything I’ve learned’, but if it can help others, it’s important. One of my students at The School of Design sent me the following message this morning:

I was perusing The Library yesterday and there’s so much good content in there.

This is incredibly encouraging and it’s motivating me to continue adding content. It does, however, leave me facing a conundrum. Should this content – a design × business library designed to help designers become self-sufficient – be:

  1. Entirely open access, helping the maximum number of people possible; or
  2. Should it sit behind a paywall, for the benefit of students at The School of Design.

The teacher in me says: open access, but then… How do I make an honest living? ¹

Access to design education is prohibitively expensive – in the US and UK, certainly – and that excludes a great deal of people. ² That’s a problem. The design industry is a community largely comprised of the privileged few. How do we fix that?

That’s my mission.

What’s your mission?

I occasionally find workshop attendees rolling their eyes when I talk about the importance of a ‘mission’, as if all mission statements are utterly vacuous, dreamed up in the C Suite. ³

That’s a shame, because – as I stress to my students – defining your mission and building your business around it is one of the best ways to guarantee success.

My mission is so, so important to me. It has grown considerably during my time on Propel. Where I am now in relation to where I was at the start… the two points are so, so different. The journey from A → Z has been life-changing, and I don’t use those words lightly. ⁴

It’s hard to put into words the massive change I’ve been through, driven by everyone on the team at Propel: Chris, Ian, Kate and, the mastermind behind it all, Tristan.

My mission at the start – to improve UX +/ UI education by embracing digital tools – seems in retrospect ludicrously low-level. I’m now trying to build the best design school in the world. (I know, that sounds like no small undertaking, but shoot for the stars….)

The Propel mentors have helped me to challenge myself, encouraging me to: question my assumptions, test my limitations and, most importantly, ask: “What’s the biggest impact I can have?”

That’s why my mission is bigger than UX +/ UI, which is too thin a slice of the design industry to make the difference I hope to make.

The 300

In what remains of my lifetime, I have ~300 students left to teach.


That’s three cohorts of nine students per year, over the next ten years. (I’ve rounded up, because I have a tendency to offer to help others (and no matter how often I remind myself to say no, I forget)).

At that point, when I’m 60, I plan to call it a day and – like my mentor from afar, and friend, Ed Fella – become an exit level designer. Teaching, far from being easy, is incredibly difficult. It’s also tiring. I’m putting all of my effort to the 300.

When I think of it through that lens, those students are incredibly important: They are picking up the torch and – I hope – running with it. They are identifying their own mission.

Where they run is important. I’m helping them, in a small, but important way, find their direction.


(1) One option that’s been rattling around my brain is to – perhaps? – seek sponsorship? There are many, many businesses – like MailChimp, for example – that rely on a thriving design- × business-driven culture and if The Library can be supported in some way, they benefit. (Perhaps?)

(2) I’m working on a longer essay exploring the cost of education, following an important discussion one of the students sparked off in The School of Design Slack.

(3) This perception isn’t helped when C Suites are often guilty of dreaming up bullshit missions, because someone told them they had to. Worse are the empty values that are bolted on to businesses by marketing departments who should know better.

(4) I wrote about this life-changing journey in an essay called ‘Massive Change’. 3-5,000 words I lost due to a sync issue with Tot.

Do not use Tot: its sync isn’t sync; it has no document conflict resolution, a basic, indeed critical, feature of text editors that work across platforms (macOS, iPadOS and iOS); and its developer is discourteous.

About the author…

A designer, writer and speaker based in Belfast, Christopher mentors purpose-driven businesses, helping them to launch and thrive. He’s currently building designtrack, an education-focused startup.

As a design strategist, Christopher has worked with companies, large and small, to help drive innovation, drawing on his 25+ years of experience working with clients including: Adobe, EA and the BBC.


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