Sustainable Side Projects
For the longest time now I’ve been fond of indie businesses.
Most of my friends don’t even know this, but the first real company that I ever started on my own was called SimpleStartup.
It was a web app written in PHP that helped single person companies create a website, charge money for their services, and track finances:
It took me about a decade to realize that I don’t really want to be a start up founder. Up until that point, quitting my job, and launching a startup had always been in the back of my mind. It was an obsession that plagued me.
Between having a young family, working a full-time job, serving at church, and side projects, my life can feel pretty hectic at times. Finding balance in life is a constant obsession of mine.
My ultimate goal is to live a boring, perfectly scheduled, monotonous life. Turns out, that’s harder than it sounds… 😛
There are 5 areas that I care about maintaining balance in:
It’s so easy to be caught in the trap of keeping up appearances:
Be Gut Driven, But Data Informed
Many organizations are either all in on data driven design, or zealots about listening to their gut. It’s natural to feel polarized toward one side or the other.
You already know from the title of this post where I stand. I believe pretty strongly that there’s a sweet spot, and I don’t think it lies at either end of the spectrum.
In my experience, the sweet spot comes when a designer primarily trusts their gut to design, but also allocates some time to collect data, and to do some testing. These last two things are key, because they help you validate your assumptions, and they add clarity to your design process.
First Iterations Always Suck
And that’s okay…
In fact, that’s the way it should be.
There’s so much involved in designing a product. As the design lead on a project, you’re responsible for:
Always Work on Side Projects
Finding your motivation
Side projects fall in the same category as eating well, and excerise. We all know that these activities are good for us, but it can sometimes be hard to motivate ourselves to do them.
There are lot’s of great reasons to work on side projects:
Start Each Design from Scratch
Let’s say you’ve done a little research, you sit down at your computer, and you’re ready to start a new design.
What’s the first thing you do?
Well… If you’re like a lot designers you immediately head over to Dribbble or some other site for inspiration.
Trust me, you don’t want outside inspiration at this stage
Reduce Time to Clarity
Time to clarity is the amount of time it takes you to establish a clear/confident picture in your mind of how to go about designing the best possible solution for your users.
What activities can lead to clarity?
Don’t Pay for Design School
You don’t need a degree to become a designer.
I regularly receive pings from friends and family for advice on how to get started in a new design or front-end coding career. The emails usually read something along the lines of:
I was hoping I could hit you up for some advice. I’ve decided to switch careers to become a designer. I’m thinking of either applying to this [ENTER_NAME_OF_2_YEAR_UNIVERSITY] course. There’s also this [ENTER_NAME_OF_HIPSTER_DESIGN_TRAINING_SCHOOL/COURSE] which lasts X weeks, and costs $X000. I’m undecided. Which would you choose?
After a deep sigh, my answer is always the same, “I wouldn’t pay for any of that“.