12in12: The Side Project Project

12 Side Project, 12 Months. What Could Go Wrong?

What everyone is probably thinking…

No, Not Again

You can relax, this isn’t the start of 52 weekly blog posts. For those who don’t know, last year I published a series of 12 articles chronicling my first ever experience in an industry internship as a UI Engineer. Sharing my daily learnings and (many) mistakes was intended to help others in a similar boat but also proved an invaluable resource for myself. Enough that I would be crazy enough to attempt a similar project again and ramble about it here. Sorry not sorry.

Now university is out and it’s back to the daily grind, this time diving into UX Design at Puppet for placement year. So I got to thinking, what can I share this year? There’s heaps to learn but no one wants to read my work journal for a whole year (except maybe my poor tutors who may not have a choice when marking rolls around). But what if it wasn’t just about daily work life? An entire year of practical experience (mostly) free of coursework is a golden opportunity for experimenting in my own time. Thus a (likely overly ambitious) plan was born: try a new side project every month for a year.

*Stolen from Austin Kleon, stolen from Maureen

The Format

Updates twice a month: once to introduce the new project and then again at the end of the month to reflect on the results, what went right (or failed spectacularly), and how what I learnt at work informed my design and vice versa.

The Goal

  • Try a new project and/or learn a new skill every month for a year.
  • Actually tick some of those scribbled project ideas off the to do list.
  • Grow and explore as a designer, letting what I learn from work inform my personal projects and vice versa.
  • Practice project planning, balancing work with personal projects and general life.
  • Chronicle it all here so others can learn from my inevitable mistakes and hopefully even motivate anyone else with too many side projects on the wishlist rather than in progress.
The Current Portfolio

This Month’s Project: Here Be (More) Monsters

My new portfolio is feeling less shiny now and in need of an overhaul but quite frankly that’s an operation that I only want to take on when I can devote the proper amount of attention. Instead, the goal this month is to polish up what’s there and add the section I’ve been meaning to since I built it: a blog. That’s right, now you’ll never be able to escape my ramblings.

Goals:

  • Component-ize and convert entire site to Jekyll (or another static site generator)
  • Take advantage of new setup to build a blog
  • Update portfolio with the newest projects
  • Tidy up some issues behind the scenes (Performance stuff, maintainability issues, etc.)

Icing on the Cake (a.k.a in the unlikely event I have time leftover):

  • Animated page transitions
  • Polish up some of my half-written article backlog for the blog.
Reading Show Your Work ages ago was one thing, now to act on it

Lessons Learnt So Far…

With only my first week on the job complete, I’m still getting started but already the lessons are worming their way into my process. A few that stuck out:

  • Users don’t care about your complexity.
  • Balance the immediate fixes with the longterm goal. You need to service the current users while also preparing for a better future product (without getting too caught up in either). This was an especially timely instruction not only for the new job but also for this month’s project, helping me focus on what I can do now to improve the current version while still helping in the long run (such as the blog).
  • The subject and complexity might be completely different but your design thinking and process still applies. What changes is the return you are designing for.
  • Flexible working hours and break times are great but can make it tricky to get to know your coworkers. Seize every opportunity to chat and ask someone’s name/what they do.
  • Set your expectations appropriately: when you set out a timeline for a side project coinciding with starting a new job, allow adjustment time (and more than you think).

Now it’s back to work until September!