Diverting from Career Interests for Side Projects

My freshly planted vegetable garden

This past year I took a whole-hearted dive into Digital Product Design. I declared for my major in Information Science and User Experience Design, took a class called Intro to Digital Product Design and have joined several teams and projects dedicated to designing and developing digital products.

While these experiences have been extremely beneficial for me in terms of deciding a direction in my life and career, throughout the year part of me itched to get back into the world of physical design and DIY projects. In the Spring, I took a Design Visualization class outside of my major and was thrown from the world of app design and UX to artistic renderings and designing architecture. It was then that I decided I wanted to take a step back from digital design and pursue side projects outside of my major and career interests.

So, I identified a few things that I have wanted to make for a long time, like a backpack, shelf for my records, skateboard and a self-planted vegetable garden, and wrote down rudimentary timelines for them all. After researching inspiration and gathering materials, I have started all of these projects and hope to finish them by the end of the summer.

When I opened my email earlier this week, I serendipitously read Julie Zhuo’s post, The Importance of Side Projects, in her fantastic collection of essays, The Year of the Looking Glass. In the essay she discusses her history of artistic side projects and stresses the importance of working on things outside of your career interests, saying that “the most important thing about side projects is doing something you truly enjoy.” Don’t waste time thinking about it too much, “just get started and learn as you go!” This is what I have done for my summer projects and it has been a both fun and fulfilling experience. I love the excitement of jumping into the deep end of inexperience and just solving problems as you go.

Throughout my projects, I will be writing and documenting everything. I plan on posting about each experience, outlining the steps that I took and describing anything that I have learned along the way. By documenting my processes, I hope these posts will connect me with other DIY enthusiasts and possibly inspire people on the fence about side projects. The biggest thing I have learned so far, like Julie Zhuo said, is to just do it! I’m looking forward to sharing with you all.