Get to know Michael Riddering, long-time product designer and Figma Academy creator

Mike McAlister  |  September 14, 2021

Michael Riddering, or Ridd as he’s known around the web, is a long-time product designer, design educator, and mentor with a passion for sharing what he knows. 

Along with being the founding designer at Maven, a platform for cohort-based courses, and advising on the popular Shift Nudge UI course, he also recently launched the Figma Academy course on Lemon Squeezy where he teaches advanced design tactics with hands-on lessons delivered directly inside of Figma. 🤯

Ridd has a deep history of designing products people love. Let’s dig into his brain and learn a thing or two about his product design ethos.

1. Who is Ridd and what are you working on this week?

I’m a husband to my beautiful wife, Richa, and a proud parent of two Great Danes—Rosie and Rabbit. Home is in Michigan (recently moved here from Denver) and I probably spend way more time in Figma than anyone healthily should. On top of that, I love watching NFL Redzone, have been dabbling in some nerdier board games as of late, and am always down for an overly sour beer.

Right now I’m working on a new landing page editor for instructors who want to market their courses on Maven (which really just means I’m making a huge mess of prototyping spaghetti lines). It’s part of a large-scale rebrand project that I’m super excited to unveil.

2. When did you find the passion for teaching? How can designers and creators use teaching as a means to level up their skill sets and careers?

A couple of years ago I had a serendipitous week where I flew to Cincinnati for work and was able to spend a few hours teaching Figma to a more junior designer. On the flight home, I sat next to a student who wanted to get into product design. Once he realized that’s what I did for a living, he spent every minute of the two hour flight asking questions and taking notes. I called my wife afterwards and explained how oddly significant the experience felt. It definitely sparked something in me.

Right on queue, a few days later I met a now close friend who wanted to make a career transition into product design. At this point I was excited to mentor him and we ended up meeting once a week for nearly a year. He just recently landed his first FT gig 🎉

Fast forward a couple of months later and I met MDS. He hired me to help him as the first design advisor for his interface course, Shift Nudge.With every Loom video I filmed for students I fell more in love with design education. But I was also learning a lot. In fact, I might’ve improved more as a designer over the first 4 months at Shift Nudge than any other point in my career. Because it forced me to deconstruct the why behind everything that I do. And Matt is also a killer designer. So it definitely helped to be required to understand his curriculum 😅

This is how I think about teaching…

For almost the entirety of your career, there will be someone one rung below you on the growth ladder. There’s no better way to take the next step for yourself than helping that person onto your rung ✌️

3. What was the catalyst to creating the Figma Academy course?

I met with an online learning startup in April of 2020. It was a publication of sorts for frontend specialists and they wanted me to teach the module on Figma. During the conversation I shared my vision for “learning Figma in Figma” and all of the different possibilities that could unlock. Although that project never came to fruition, I bought the domain figma.academy shortly afterwards and have been dreaming about what it could become ever since 😇.

4. Were there any behind the scenes lessons you learned while crafting and launching Figma Academy? Anything you’ll do differently on your next course?

By far the scariest part of creating my own course was creating the video content. I hated the idea of spending hours editing videos. But then I found Descript. What a truly incredible piece of software. It made the entire lesson-creation process less intimidating and over the course of releasing the beta, I can say I went from 0 to 1 as an editor. 10/10 recommend for anyone looking to create video content.

Another lesson I learned was the value of using Twitter to test your ideas. A lot of my core beta lessons were the extrapolation of my most engaged tweets. For future courses I’m going to lean into this even more… where all of the content I tweet is directly contributing towards my lessons. That way I can build up content + build an audience + improve my ideas all in a single action.

5. After designing products every day for the past decade, how do you stay motivated to keep pushing yourself to make better products? What inspires you these days?

Design (and more generally creating things online) is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world. I’m incredibly blessed to be able to say that what I’m paid to do every day genuinely feels like play. It’s corny, but it’s true. So I’ve never really faced an issue of dwindling motivation or feeling like I need to figure out how to push myself forward. 

Right now one of the most inspiring things for me is knowing that I’ve helped someone level up. Since investing in Twitter over the last ~6 months I’ve received countless messages of appreciation and screenshots of how I’ve helped improve their team’s workflow. Those snippets of encouragement are more inspiring/encouraging than anything. And they’re a big part of what motivates me.

6. What are three apps that every creator should check out?

  1. Honk — this is one of the most delightful products I’ve ever used and an excellent interpretation of what the future of consumer social could look like. Their product marketing videos are higher quality than any NFT 😬
  2. Roam Research — one of the most important elements of being a creator is having systems for maximizing ideas, organizing your thoughts, and building upon your ideas. Roam is simply the best.
  3. Pocket — The best way to share engaging ideas is to plug in to engaging inputs. Pocket is how I make sense of everything and curate my reading list. One of the best habits I’ve built is defaulting to a saved article in Pocket when I have 10 minutes free vs. scrolling aimlessly through social media.

    P.S. Twitter is the obvious #1 answer

7. What’s your favorite go-to font right now?

Fontshare just released an awesome set of free fonts. Lately I’m loving “Sentient” but I definitely recommend checking all of them out.

Find Ridd out and about