April 1, 2017

Pride, Work and Necessity of Side Projects: Hands-On Creativity by Pam Daniels and Brandon Williams of Welcome Industries

What are you working on—on the side?

Our side project is making more makers and designers—We teach! We love unlocking people’s potential to imagine and create. We have a unique role as designers in residence at Northwestern University, where we built a working studio on campus to make the messy, playful design process more visible to students. In addition to leading our design practice Welcome Industries, we each teach a range of courses in human-centered design. The course we teach together is called “Design Thinking and Doing.” It gets students comfortable with hands-on, low-fidelity building and engaging with people to understand their needs. We’ve also led workshops at Archeworks and hosted design jams for Chicago Ideas Week inviting the public at large to participate in the design process. We expect to offer a course this summer at mHUB as well to teach prototyping skills to entrepreneurs, and the past two summers have taken us to China to help lead a two-week design intensive program called “Jiang China.” What’s so great about teaching design is that we get to learn alongside our students. The answers aren’t something we have—they’re something we create and discover together. Our job as educators is mostly to create the climate and context in which people can do this.

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

It helps to have wide-eyed students expecting you to show up every week. We discovered teaching by mistake. We formed our design practice Welcome Industries right after finishing grad school, and were invited to lead a three-week design course for high schoolers from around the world on Northwestern University’s campus over the summer. We said yes, and have kept saying yes ever since.

Why have a side project?

As designers, we feel our ability to play, learn and create are what fuel us. We love cultivating this in others. Our side project at this point eclipses our design practice, but that’s OK. We love what we do and can’t help, but believe that a better future can be achieved by giving people a chance to imagine and build together.

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Diptych courtesy of Pam Daniels and Brandon Williams.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.

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