My 2015 — Some of my personal highlights

2015 has been a wonderful year. It’s too easy to gloss over an entire year and forget all the amazing things you do, so I decided to go back through 2015 and note some of my personal highlights. I enjoy writing this stuff for myself as a personal motivator but you may wish to do the same as well.

Got engaged

This was the coolest thing I did this year. I’ve been with Rachel for just over five years now and I finally plucked up the courage to get down on one knee. I took her away to Fuerteventura for her birthday and popped the question on a sunset beach.

Managed to grab a quick pic on the beach

Visited three new capital cities

I’ve lived in England all of my life and I’d never even been to Scotland, Wales or Ireland (let alone the capitals). This year I’ve managed to visit Edinburgh, Cardiff and Dublin, as well as stay in some beautiful Airbnb’s, which was well overdue!

Our Airbnb in Edinburgh for Fringe Festival
The view of Arthur’s Seat from our Airbnb in Edinburgh
Our Airbnb in Dublin for HybridConf

HybridConf

One of the perks of working at Leto is they encourage the team to visit one conference each year. I kept hearing great things about HybridConf and saw tonnes of awesome people tweeting about it so had to check it out. I love that it’s a mix of code and pixels with a dash of random creativity thrown in. I came away having met loads of amazing people and was hugely inspired to keep creating cool shit.

I got to meet Draplin at HybridConf which was very cool!
Hanging with the dudes Jon Gold and Mike Scott

Got off my arse and started running again

This was more towards the end of the year but it’s still cool. I live in Greenwich with a beautiful park to run around which is motivating enough but looking back over the data is fun as well.

Launched my first side project; Newday

After six months of work (1–2 hours a week), my brother tombentleywatts and I launched our first side project; Newday. We both love cool photography and were looking for an interesting product we could build that somehow worked with the Instagram api. After a few beers we settled on an alarm clock that would pull through cool photos to get you inspired in the morning. You can read more about the project here.

A few screens from Newday

Attended a Dropbox and Tesco/Unilever hackathon

I love hackathons. It’s really fun to be given a super tight deadline in which you have to produce something! The Dropbox hackathon was a lot of fun but we weren’t overly pleased with our prototype. The Tesco one went a lot better and had a much more spacious venue which always makes it more fun as you can spread out and get some breathing room.

We tend to focus more on the concept/prototype than jumping into code which either goes really well (we won a Unilever hackathon a few years ago on just a concept and a design) or really badly (we weren’t shortlisted for the Dropbox one as we didn’t code anything). I guess we’d just rather concept a cool product than see how quickly we can code a crap one.

The Dropbox hackathon with tombentleywatts, Pawel and Yas
Our Dropbox hackathon prototype was an app called Reveal for filmmakers to create animated storyboards with sketches using the Dropbox api
The Tesco hackathon with Pawel and Alex
Here’s the Tesco hackathon app prototype

Began using product sprints as a sales channel at Leto (and won two clients)

This has been one of the coolest things we’ve done as a company. We’ve begun using the Google Ventures Design Sprint as a sales tool. I actually prefer the term ‘product sprint’ than ‘design sprint’ so we changed the name. In essence we charge the client a small fee and spend a week with them learning, concepting, prototyping and testing a potential new product. It’s a lot like a prolonged hackathon where decisions need to be made quickly which can be bloody stressful but is also freeing as you can’t second guess the decisions you’ve made or overthink anything as you need to keep moving forward.

I’ve learnt how to make decisions quickly, concisely and developed even more confidence with backing up my instincts which has proved invaluable.

Pawel at one of the product sprints

Hot desked at different offices

For three weeks Leto were in between offices. I saw this as an amazing opportunity to get out there and not only meet some cool new people, but also see how they decorate their offices (I’m getting more and more into interior design).

I reached out on Twitter in the build up to the move and some awesome people stepped up and helped find me a space. These amazing companies leant me a desk; Second Home, ustwo, Hailo, iHorizon, Geckoboard and GoCardless.

Working in Second Home is a very cool experience and thanks to tombentleywatts for hooking it up!
ustwo is one of the coolest offices in London and a big thanks to Nuno and MR TALKY® for sorting it out
A huge thanks to Rob Winters for letting me prop up in Hailo for the day
Startup accountants iHorizon were awesome!
Peter Thomas arranged a desk for me at Geckoboard which was a lot of fun
Sam Willis arranged a desk for me at GoCardless

Started getting back into cinema

I’m a huge film geek! My degree was in Film Studies and so I am a big fan of weird and wonderful films but work/life got in the way of me finding time to watch cool cinema. Rach loves movies but isn’t always keen to watch a black and white subtitled martial arts film. About half way through the year I stumbled upon Plot (by Ben Howdle and Jack Smith) which is an app that let’s you write a short review about films you’ve seen.

Something about recording the films I was watching inspired me to up my game and get back into obscure cinema.

Catching up with a classic over Christmas

Hired a junior designer

I’ve been a Senior Designer at Leto for around a year now but I was flying solo (and had been since I started around 2.5 years ago). Around 5 months ago the workload was just getting too much as we kept taking on new clients so knew it was time to hire a Junior.

To be honest I was pretty nervous about having someone beneath me that I would be directly responsible for. The workload was already pretty crazy, let alone finding time to look after a Junior.

Hiring the right person was critical, and Karolina has been smashing it since she started. It’s been really fun stepping up and making sure she gets the feedback she needs to do the best work she can.

Getting back into photography (and helping out Design+Banter)

Not everyone knows this but I ran my own photography business for around six years before becoming a designer.

My business taught me tonnes about client relations, getting shit done (not waiting around for other people to do something), and confidence.

When I started pursuing design I completely shelved photography as I wanted to be known as a designer, not some photographer faking it as a designer. But now that I’ve been doing design for a while it felt time to brush the dust off the camera.

I’ve been going to Design+Banter for the past year and a half and absolutely love what those guys are doing. I realised that I had a skill that they might find useful so took my camera along to a couple of events and the feedback was excellent. It felt amazing to help out such a great event!

A great turn out for the Oct 2015 event
Gearóid O'Rourke doing what he does best

Started my next side project (and started learning Swift)

My previous side project, Newday, was a lot of fun but we didn’t get the traction we were hoping for, and ultimately felt unfulfilled as we built it on Android (we all use iOS).

My next side project is going to be a film trivia app (you can read about the concept here). I’ve decided to be completely selfish and build something that I love and would get a lot of use out of. The rationale being that if I love it, there will be others who love it as well. Simple and hopefully effective.

I also want to learn the basics of Swift so that I can trouble shoot problems and potentially jump in and fix bugs. I’m building the app/learning Swift with my friend Pawel who is also a mega film geek and I’ll be writing more updates on our progress in the new year.

Goals for 2016

  • Keep learning Swift.
  • Launch the movie trivia app.
  • Develop front-end skills (currently basic HTML & CSS).
  • Make even more time to enjoy weird and wacky cinema.
  • Make more time to relax.
  • Take more city breaks.

Thanks for stopping by and reading about my year . I genuinely hope it might inspire other people to look back at their 2015 and remember the great stuff they achieved! It’s so easy to forget the good times among the mass of constant negativity online, or be afraid to share your good times in case others take the piss. Fuck them. It’s ok to be happy!

If you have any thoughts, give me a shout on Twitter.