Personal projects are an important part of being a designer. Whether you are working for yourself or you are working for someone else. These personal projects are what keep our creative skills fresh and sharp. It is too easy to get stuck in a routine of just working on the projects that pay but too much of that can lead to burn out.
This was especially true for me during my years of working in a print production environment. A lot of what I did became repetitive and a bit boring. While it helped I was doing projects for other people during my off hours, it still had the pressure associated with it to complete it under a deadline. This is where the personal projects help gave me a creative escape with out all the pressures. After all it is just for fun!
These personal projects can also allow you to explore different areas of creativity or design that you may not get to work in during regular projects. A good example is that while spending most of my time working on print projects, I started my own personal project to learn some web design and set up my very first website. Ironically, today I spend most of my time with web work and find my personal projects pull me back to my print design roots. You can also dabble in other areas of creativity like painting, photography, wood making or any number of other creative outlets. Photography is one of my biggest areas of creativity that I use for personal projects. It allows me to get out from behind the computer screen and out of the office. Sometimes I just go for a drive and see what catches my eye but other times I’ll find a topic on one of the many photo sites I frequent or make one up for myself. It’s just about getting out of the office and doing something different. Staying coupe up in your office all the time isn’t good for you but I’ll touch on that in another post.
Kitty discussed in our last podcast Rookie Designer 134 – Fear about how she uses her own personal project The Foodies’ Kitchen as a way to step back from some of her fears of meeting deadlines and bringing in payments. She talked about how much she enjoys cooking and baking for the blog also bringing up the good point that she isn’t paid for this project. So the pressure (and fear) isn’t there to have stuff posted on a regular schedule or meet someone elses expectations. This personal project allows her to stretch her creative muscles in the areas of cooking and baking but also in the area of photography. While she does food photography and product photography for some of her Asterisco-SA clients, she is able to be more adventurous with her photos while working on The Foodies’ Kitchen. This allows her to take some of these skills she has learned in a more relaxed atmosphere and bring them back to her paying projects.
Kitty and I both use Rookie Designer as a personal project as well, which allows us to discuss design on the podcast but also work on our writing skills by posting to the blog. I do the same on Rookie Photog that I co-host and write with my brother. Both of these personal projects are fun because I am learning a lot about podcasting and writing. It has let me explore some other ways to create content and given me the freedom to “give things a try.” Such things as recording some video tips and doing a short video recently to announce our new schedule for the podcasts. All things I don’t normally get to do while working on projects for my clients.
So as you can see Kitty and I both make it a priority to have personal projects to work on. We enjoy using these creative outlets as a way to grow and learn. More importantly though it’s a way for us to still be creative with out the pressures or fears. Personal projects are very important to being a well rounded designer and almost any major designer out there will tell you they have some type of personal project going. So what personal projects do you have going? If you don’t have one yet, what personal project do you think you will start? Let us know and share with the Rookie community. We would love to hear from you!
Edit: A new personal project for me starting with this post is giving Mark Down a try for writing my posts. Rather interesting how it works and maybe I’ll write up my thoughts once I use it a little more.