Expectations vs. reality
As designers, we often find ourselves disappointed by the amount of “fun” or “inspiring” work we get to do at our jobs. Yet, we also tend to forget that the “day-to-day” work can actually be pretty darn fun and inspiring.
There is the reality that the main focus at a job is to work on projects that support the company goals. More often than not, the company goals create projects that need to generate leads, generate sales, and ultimately make money. Sadly, in the tech world, these “money making” projects are not often ones that get the creative juices flowing. One page data sheets, blog images, banner ads, e-books; the list goes on. While these projects can be somewhat fun and satisfying, for some designers, it is hard to dig in and be totally, creatively fulfilled.
Do something else
It is unfair for a designer to think that a job should be their sole creative outlet. Because of this, it is important for designers to have side projects. Fun fact: we put a lot of value on side projects when we interview for design positions. I love seeing that people leave work and have their brains cranking on something else. They are out there solving problems, entertaining their passions, and making a difference. Sometimes, that creative outlet is found in hobbies. Other times, it’s art, freelance, or performing at a local theater. For me, I need to ride my bike and surf. I also co-own a clothing brand and shop (neveandhawk.com). As a design manager, it seems a bit counterintuitive to allow and even promote these side projects. But at the end of the day, helping each member of the team feel fulfilled and empowered is going to hopefully keep them at Zendesk longer. Every once in a while you actually lose a team member to their hobby. Their side hustle gets big enough and becomes their main thing. That’s a proud moment; the moment that a designer decides they are ready to take the leap. Any design leader should feel proud for encouraging that.
Eyes wide open
There are two sides to every coin. While it is good to find creative outlets outside of your day job, it is also important to look for and initiate projects and opportunities at work that can fill your creative cup. The more projects that fulfill a designer at work, the happier and more challenged they are. The last thing I want is a designer just going through the motions while they work here. Often times, the truly fulfilling projects are there, but nobody is taking the lead or even recognizes them. Encouraging a design team to be proactive, look under all the stones, and push areas that they are truly interested in often times reveals those opportunities.
Every once in a while the stars align and give us designers the opportunity to combine a passion from outside of work with work. I don’t get to design much anymore. Opportunities for me to design often come as self-initiated side projects. The Zendesk cycling kit is a perfect example of that. I saw that there was a pretty solid and active community of cyclists at Zendesk. The #cycling slack channel seemed to always be going. This felt like an opportunity. I’m always looking for a cool cycling kit and I always wanted to design my own. All of the sudden I had a passionate audience and a brand that would benefit from it. Boom. Project initiated. Zendesk needed a cycling kit.
The Zendesk Cycling Kit
The first Zendesk Kit came with the launch of our rebrand. It was all about celebration our shapes and new identity. It was big and bold and touted our messaging at the time which was “Relationships are complicated”.
The 2019 kit
The new kit steps back and leans on Zendesk’s charming minimalism. It is clean and refined but uses a very unique color palette and incorporates the clever illustration work of Marcus Oakley. I also wanted to take the opportunity to give this group of cyclists at Zendesk a unifying identity. There are many cycling clubs around the world. Rapha has the RCC — why can’t Zendesk have something? This was the chance to create a club, put a name on the already strong community, poke a bit of fun, and maybe show that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. This is a club that everyone is part of by default. It’s opt-out. Not opt-in.
Wanna join the club? You absolutely can (and should). Purchase your own at the link below. And remember: every project needs petting. It’s up to you to create it.