What are you working on—on the side?
I’ve currently got a major and a minor side project. My major side project is The Leading Strand, an initiative to leverage the power of design to celebrate basic scientific research. In our first cohort, we’ve got 5 cutting-edge neuroscientists collaborating with 5 world-class designers. Their work will be on display at Pratt Institute in New York City, July 13–18, 2016. You can get a ticket to opening night.
My minor side project is Creative Habit. Every day, I spend up to one hour creating an original illustration or collage (below) and post it to my Instagram feed: @alonglastname. It started out as an exercise in efficiency, a way to train my ability to design under pressure but has taken a life of it’s own. I’m about to reach one year/365 individual illustrations. I think I’ll make a book out of them.
How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?
So my day job is being an Art Director at a design agency called Primacy. In April, I was accepted into the TED’s first-ever Residency Program for The Leading Strand, and I was able to work something out with my manager—so I’m technically on semi-sabbatical at Primacy, while I work on The Leading Strand. I’m still expected to be putting around 25 hours a week into Primacy, and that basically means I’m working 60, 70-hour weeks right now. But since this is only a 3-month program, it’s something I’m pushing through, and it’s such a great ride.
In many ways, doing Creative Habit has trained me to come up with new ideas under pressure and execute creative work under a short time frame. That’s set me up to be successful juggling both Primacy and The Leading Strand.
Why have a side project?
I think side projects are really important for developing your skills and getting experiences that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to have. Enjoyment is also a big part of it. Einstein said, “Play is the highest form of research.” And I truly believe that. With Creative Habit, I’ve been able to experiment with new visual styles and techniques that I wouldn’t have had time to explore in my deadline-heavy agency job. With The Leading Strand, I’m learning about project management, fundraising and getting media coverage for my work. And I get to see these amazing collaborations come to life, while I help my teams to their best work.
I’m such a big believer in side projects that I actually run an online bootcamp called Ship Your Side Project that helps mid-career technology professionals launch the ideas they’ve been cooking up on the side. We’re running another session in the fall of 2016.
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Diptych courtesy of Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya.
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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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