Why making side projects rocks, or our story of bringing art closer to people

Alex Chernikov
The Startup
Published in
5 min readMay 24, 2019

When the routine of working on your flagship product sucks you up, you start feeling tired or even worse — burned out — there’s a simple remedy. It doesn’t require you to lie low or go to Bali unplugged. It’s way simpler, yet still embraces your creativity, lets you rewire your brain and have fun by working… on a side project.

We’re a small Vienna-based company making useful (based on users’ reviews) educational and lifestyle iOS and Mac apps. We have a tradition of building side projects at least 2x per year. I’ll try to explain why making side projects is good based on our experience.

Artpaper was our first attempt to go aside from our main project back in the day — Mate Translate — and try to do something for fun, get our thoughts elsewhere. You can think of it as of a one- or two-week hackathon with no sleepless nights.

Reframing the problem

So, around 3 years ago my co-founder messaged me on Slack, “Why don’t we make wallpapers out of those gallery and museum works?” It instantly sounded like a good idea for two reasons:

  1. Many people get bored with the limited amount of default wallpaper. It also kind of justifies the number of third-party wallpaper apps out there.
  2. Even if having a bunch of slick-looking pictures, it’s still extremely tedious to refresh them manually. Third-party wallpapers apps automate this part but their pictures are barely different from conventional wallpapers featuring deserts, forests, and mountains.

So, we decided to approach it differently — by simply solving both problems above at the same time.

We hand-picked amazing artworks (copyright-free, of course) from galleries and museums all around the world. Art is something that people have been doing for ages, yet it remains quite inaccessible for most of us. We only see it in museums and galleries.

So, we made a simple Mac app which would set a random work from the gallery as wallpaper, on interval. Thus, you‘d always not only see something fresh on your desktop but also be able to catch up on your art education in a very subtle way.

Artpaper updates your wallpaper automatically. You can manually update it or look up the work’s title and its author’s name in the menu bar window.

Getting loved on a market we have…

Alex Chernikov
The Startup

Maker of top-rated, award-winning iOS and macOS software with over 600,000 monthly users; CEO at Gikken.co | twitter.com/chernikovalexey