September 25, 2016

Life, Work, Tools: Web Designer & Developer Megan Coleman’s Reliance on Evernote



What is your tool—the one that helps you 
do the things you do?

As a constantly on-the-go designer, mother and homemaker, Evernote is the tool I use most frequently in my work and home life.

How has this tool helped you?

As a business owner, Evernote allows me to easily keep and organize notes such as: marketing tasks, referrals, business goals, estimates and processes. As a mother and homemaker, I keep extensive daily and long-term to-do lists, meal planning tips, grocery lists and reference sheets for trip planning and household tasks.

The software is easy-to-use, searchable, free, easy to share with others, and above all, accessible anywhere I go—whether it be on my computer, tablet or phone.

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Images courtesy of Megan Coleman.

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Explore Design Feast: Designer’s Quest(ionnaire) / Blogger’s Quest(ionnaire) / MakersSide Projects


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September 18, 2016

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Danyelle Sage’s Outreach to Her Local Creative Community



What are you working on—on the side?

I am extremely passionate about community outreach. As a member of the AIGA Chicago Board of Directors, I have the honor of working on programs that elevate and nurture our design community. I get to ideate, organize, develop, manage and attend new and existing events for our chapter. With strategic vision, I manage and oversee event series and event chairs.

Concurrently, I act as Volunteer Coordinator for the Chicago Design Museum. I oversee the organization, coordination and management of all volunteers and recruitment initiatives at the museum. This includes things like planning appreciation events, tracking volunteer hours, developing an incentives and training program, and continually finding new ways to engage potential volunteers.

I also mentor CPS [Chicago Public Schools] students at monthly design studios for the Chicago Architecture Foundation, guiding them through the design process, talking through design problems and encouraging design thinking. It’s a great opportunity for me to reflect on my professional experience while collaborating with the students as we work through problem-solving.

Additionally, I do a bit of freelance design and brand development for small businesses here in Chicago. I find the clients to be very approachable (many of them are friends or acquaintances), and more importantly, the work is meaningful. I just celebrated 2 years of working with the amazing individuals behind Chicago’s longest-running podcast network, Dynasty Podcasts. The founder and host, Jaime Black, has spent the past year producing dozens of free panels and free workshops, designed to captivate and encourage students with an entrepreneurial mind-set.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

One day at a time! I’m lucky that I really enjoy what I do, so it hardly ever feels like working, and I’m hardly doing it alone. Lots of collaboration taking place in all of my endeavors. It does occasionally require me to do work long nights and weekends. To stay on top of things, I track everything I do (down to do dinner dates) in a very organized Google Calendar, and keep track of all my projects with Google Docs and a stack of notebooks/sketchpads.

Why have a side project?

My freelance projects give me an outlet to hone my craft and to express myself in ways that I don’t always get to do in my 9–5. I had one client that wanted something hand-sketched, and that was challenging for me, because I’m very much accustomed to using Adobe or 3D-modeling programs to create. Ever since, I’ve been really into creating my own doodles and script.

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Images courtesy of Danyelle Sage.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with 50,000feet, an independent creative agency dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


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September 10, 2016

Infographics inspired by Jared Diamond’s book “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies”


I had fun making infographics for passages that inspired me to visually interpret in Richard Florida’s “The Rise of The Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community, and Everyday Life”, Derek Sivers’ “Anything You Want” and Al Pittampalli’s “Read This Before Our Next Meeting.” Motivated to do the same with “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies” by scientist Jared Diamond. Another good read. Took me awhile to finish it—I’m a slow reader, also considering that it’s packed with historical information and analysis—Diamond has a logical narrative running through all of it. Here are visualizations of some his points:

Infographic 1: World-changing trifecta
The book’s title is game to visually portray, like in the form of a rebus. It’s Diamond’s framework that scaffolds his findings and arguments about the three major contributors, for better and worse, to the life of people and our planet. Sketch:



Digital iteration:



Infographic 2: Developments over time, largo pace
What was established, way back when, activated the evolution toward the methods and tools used today. The latest means to make things, to make a civilization, share a long history and continue to make history—as both a complex benefit and a mixed bag of unintended consequences. Sketch:



Digital iteration:



Infographic 3: Geography’s blatant role
One can easily call Diamond a “geographic determinist.” The physical environment, coupled with human desires, can play a definite part in the day-to-day environment—manipulated era to era. It’s a generative outcome that can’t be ignored. Sketch:



Digital iteration:



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Highlighted in the book’s Preface, a reviewer wrote that Diamond viewed world history as an onion, where modern society is on the topmost layer and past versions on subsequent layers. Diamond admitted, “Yes, world history is indeed such an onion! But that peeling back of the onion’s layers is fascinating, challenging—and of overwhelming importance to us today, as we seek to grasp our past’s lessons for our future.” This claim can seed another visualization.


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September 1, 2016

Anticipation for Cusp 2016


Launched in 2008 by design firm Multiple, the Cusp Conference is an annual gathering of the curious—people from many disciplines, with an appetite for creativity, imagination and divergent thinking. Cusp is dedicated to feeding these qualities in their attendees by inspiring success, resulting in better products, service, environments and especially relationships.

The creative, imaginative and divergent character of Cusp (for short) is evident foremost in its lineup of speakers, who represent the wide variety of careers (some never heard of) and, at the same time, the wide scope of issues (some totally wicked).

Browsing the presenters for Cusp Conference 2016, you’ll find a librarian, a physician, a dancer, an architectural restorer, a cancer fighter, a doctor of neural science and psychology…as evident, eclecticism. Cusp offers two full days of it. I recognized two speakers: Sandee Kastrul and Matthew Hoffmann. Sandee transforms low-income adults into skilled technology workers through her intensive workforce development and leadership training program. She participated in my Makers series of interviews. Matthew transforms spaces into moments of goodwill through his public art, particularly his grassroots-generated “You Are Beautiful” campaign. Read my write-up about his talk at the 28th monthly gathering of the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings. Sandy and Matthew will share the stage with a portfolio of speakers, like-minded in their drive to make ideas happen.

Cusp’s audience comes to be motivated, challenged in their thinking, have their curiosity fed and, perhaps, extended to apply to the next creative effort, whatever the scale, whether in the workplace or elsewhere.

For the past three years, I’ve proudly covered Cusp with write-ups (2015, 2014, 2013) and photos (2015, 2014, 2013). This September, I’ve been offered the great opportunity to provide again coverage on a unique event—presenting extraordinary human beings sharing their enthusiasm for a livelihood they’ve carved with distinction. A positively different range of perspectives await at the ninth Cusp Conference.

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Read more of my coverage of events related to design
and passionate pursuits.


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August 23, 2016

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Erma Tijerina’s laser cutting, sewing & more



What are you working on—on the side?

One of my favorite side projects is laser cutting. Whether I’m laser cutting a custom notebook cover, posters, earrings or special cards—I love the process. Laser cutting allows me to play with different mediums (so far, wood is my favorite), and get away from my desk.

My goal is to continue iterating and then bringing a few lines of crafted items to market. I’ve previously sold some of my laser-cut coasters and earrings at a holiday market in Houston, and intend to do more of that in the future.

A few other side projects, or perhaps, explorations that I’ll be focused on this year (in addition to laser cutting) is practicing calligraphy, getting back into sewing, diving into Processing, and hopefully learning and getting an intro to woodcarving.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

My weekday office hours are dedicated to the work that I’m doing as a contract graphic designer for a couple of firms. I’ll either use time after work, or most often, on a weekend, to engage side projects. I manage my time by keeping track of all project deadlines on Google Calendar, and working on personal projects around my client-work projects. I’ve also used Trello in the past to keep a running tab of projects that I’m personally focused on, but these days, it’s a combination of Google Docs and stacks of notebooks that contain my ideas/projects/brainstorms.

Why have a side project?

I’m interested in a variety of fields and mediums for continuous learning and growth. Having side projects enable experimentation, the ability to fail (often), and to recharge by playing and exploring something very different. I find it exciting to delve into new things. I don’t like being locked into one title and/or field, nor do I like only sitting in front of my desk and computer. I like to get out and work with my hands, do something new and see where it takes me. Sometimes, a side project will spark an idea that can cross into my client work for a project. Most of all, I can just explore.

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Images courtesy of Erma Tijerina. Portrait by Trish Badger Photography.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with 50,000feet, an independent creative agency dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


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August 22, 2016

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Melanie Richards’ honoring of creative women, a pattern library, weaving and more



What are you working on—on the side?

A couple months ago, I wrapped up my longest-standing side project, Badass Lady Creatives, a blog and directory which celebrates women working in design and related fields. After 3 years of profiling incredibly talented designers, artists, illustrators, developers, etc., I’ve decided to move on to some other projects.

Right now, I’m working on a couple things: putting together a pattern library (here’s some examples of what I mean) that I can use as a jumping-off point for my own web projects; working on a little utility to make it easier to bulk edit articles saved in your Pocket account; and digging more into craft, especially tapestry weaving (below). I’d also like to do some longform writing on really niche subjects, possibly as a “liberal arts” sort of website, so I’m looking into how I can improve my writing and fact-finding skills.



How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

My strategies for making time for side projects has evolved to fit different jobs, schedules, life circumstances. For example, I currently have a long bus commute, so I use that time to whittle down some smaller tasks. I also regularly attend Meetups, like Beer && Code and Code Sisters Seattle, where people get together to hang out and work on side projects. I’m a huge fan of the camaraderie that is working side-by-side on projects with a close friend.

This year, I’ve been experimenting with how I set and track goals. One practice I’m trying to get better at is having at least one set block of hours a week in which I’m working on a personal project. For me, Friday nights are actually a really good time to do that, since I’m pooped from the work week and need to recover in my introvert shell before the weekend. I’ve started to be less prescriptive about which side project to work on, instead, following my mood—it’s an easier way to feel motivated to begin.

I’ve also stolen an idea from the prolific writer Victoria (V.E.) Schwab: I have some side-project-esque activities color-coded, and for each hour I spend with those activities, I color in a block in my Hobonichi planner. It helps me spend more time with my side projects (rather than just crossing something off the list), and it also helps me see at a quick glance how I’m balancing—or not—the different activities that are important to me.

Why have a side project?

Often, my side projects are inspired by something I want or need—if it doesn’t exist yet, I’ll do it myself, dang-it. But I think for all people who feel energized by making, side projects are great for growth. Your day job probably doesn’t scratch every creative itch, so you can round out your satisfaction by exploring on your own time those things that interest you. You might find, as I do, that the new avenues you explore through personal projects ending up finding their way into your work. Personal projects are a great way to test out new skills and approaches in a setting with arguably far less risk or pressure.

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Images courtesy of Melanie Richards.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with 50,000feet, an independent creative agency dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


Please consider supporting Design Feast
If you liked this lovingly-made interview, show your appreciation by helping to support my labor of love—Design Feast, which proudly includes this blog. Learn more.

August 17, 2016

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Lara Stein Pardo’s Mapping Arts Project



What are you working on—on the side?

I think I should first start by saying that I don’t see my projects as ‘side projects,’ even if they aren’t what I work on every single day. As someone who works across fields of art, anthropology and the web, all of the work I do is broken down into ‘projects.’ I work on them to varying degrees depending on the needs of the project, external factors like collaborative deadlines or grant deadlines, and a general timeline for a project’s progress.

In any case, the project I’ll share with you is Mapping Arts Project. It is a project, mapping cultural arts histories of cities through places where artists have lived and worked. Currently, the project includes three cities—Miami, Providence and Denver. Chicago is coming soon. We are in the middle of a big design transition. As we added Denver to the project we knew we needed to overhaul the searching and sorting features. We took the time to do UX research and testing that revealed some areas for improvement in the visual design and user flow throughout the site. We are making changes now, so the site will continue to look and feel different (and work even better!).

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

In my daily life, the projects I’m working on take center stage. I have a fairly typical weekdays work week, with the occasional extended hours for a big push on a project, a guest lecture, or a grant proposal. On a daily basis, I use Google Calendar to plot out time to work on Mapping Arts Project, and all of my projects. Mapping Arts Project is collaborative, so depending on the task, say research or coding, I’ll work with others to define a timeline and benchmarks. Then, I work in times into the weeks ahead for the work that needs to be done. One thing that helps me manage my time is to set up calendar alerts for the goals and benchmarks, or even a reminder to check in with collaborators.

Why have a side project?

For someone who has a full-time gig where they are working on someone else’s project, I can really see the value in having a ‘side project.’ It’s yours. It’s a place to learn, grow and have creative control. I’m in a different kind of position at the moment. All of my projects are truly my own. Perhaps that makes them all side projects, or a lot of sides that make the whole. I will say that there are times when I thought I wouldn’t be able to continue to grow Mapping Arts. Say, if I hit a stumbling block in terms of funding. But, the project itself is important to me; the significance of mapping out hidden histories and making artist visible for the role they have played in creating the places where we live and visit. The driving force in Mapping Arts—the idea of linking geography, art and history, inspires me to breath new life into it as necessary.

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Images courtesy of Lara Stein Pardo.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with 50,000feet, an independent creative agency dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


Please consider supporting Design Feast
If you liked this lovingly-made interview, show your appreciation by helping to support my labor of love—Design Feast, which proudly includes this blog. Learn more.