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Why All Designers Should Do Side Projects

Julian Lozano  |  Design Musings

We designers should feel empowered to have the opportunity to work on exciting creative things, but it is easy to feel stuck at times. This is my take on why all designers should do personal projects.

I just want to start by saying that this won’t apply to all designers. I know there are some that are lucky to be living the dream and doing their own work. However, there are many of us who are working through the 9 to 5 studio projects that are centered around client needs. And all of that is OK. There is humility in providing our design knowledge to solve valid problems for others. It is one of the reasons we can have creative jobs. However, there will be a point where projects will drag on and you will be burnt out. So here are my reasons why it is important to do some side projects for yourself.

Your Rules

You have the creative freedom to do anything without any constraints, which could lead to creating some of the best work out there. This is a good time to start to own your personal “style” or “theme” that you want people to see as uniquely yours. Take a look at sites like Dribbble or Behance and you will see that most of the work there is conceptual and among the best-looking art pieces on the web.

I would say to start simple. Try small projects that won’t take up too much of your time, that way you can maintain a rhythm in producing more frequently and creatively. DailyUI and TheDailyLogo are a great way to stay mentally active. They offer daily design prompts and challenges for those who struggle to self-initiate (I’m one of those people).

Also, take a look around! See something that you don’t like? Redesign it! One of my favorite side projects has been my conceptual redesign of my favorite radio station’s website, KXLU 88.9 FM. I felt their website didn’t express their identity of diverse music and was extremely outdated, so I took on the role as “art director” and took a stab at it.

KXLU Web Redesign

Expand your brainnnnnnn!

The design industry is moving fast and adaptation has never been so important. With big tech buzz such as augmented reality, we have to be on high alert for the next big design trend. That is why it is important to be eager to learn new things and expand your skill set by taking on different types of projects, whether it’s 3D, motion, type, or coding. The list is endless! Just recently I enrolled in 3D For Designers by Devon Ko to learn and become functional in 3D – wish me luck!

3D For Designers

The work comes to you

Good-looking work leads to a good-looking portfolio. Good-looking portfolios lead to good exposure. And good exposure leads to $$$. No, but really, having great-looking work that is visible to the public could lead to potential clients or employers that share your common interests finding you. Creatives such as Tommy Perez and other designers have a strong social media presence that showcase their personal style and they have since collaborated with well known brands. It is also good to note that employers admire a designer that puts in time on the side to work on personal side projects. It shows passion and dedication.

Tommy Perez

Easier Said Than Done

Finding time to do your personal project is rough, especially when working full-time for someone else. I don’t think anyone has the best answer to this since everyone works at their own pace. The important thing is that you open up time for side projects. I can be a night owl, so I have no problem opening time in the evenings or past bedtime hours. But that is not for everyone. If you don’t want to be up late, I would encourage you all to work on the weekends! Plan to work on your side project on Saturday or Sunday during the day at a local coffee shop. Bring a friend – I find it more motivating when I am around other creatives because it creates more support.

If you need someone to work alongside, feel free to reach out! Even I could stand to dedicate more time to side projects.

Before wrapping up, wanted to give a shoutout to other badass designers who have ongoing side projects.

Jessica Necor: Jessica Necor Studio

Nick Paff: Everything he creates

And that is it! I hope you all find something useful in this. Doing side projects can be tough, and I hope this leads you to the right direction. If you have any questions, shoot them my way!

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