July 5, 2014

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Len Kendall’s adventure-game Cartegram

What are you working on—on the side?

Cartegram is a side project I dreamed up in the early summer during a session of “Product Dev Friday,” a weekly tradition that involves stepping away from the day-to-day work to create new forms of utility or entertainment. Cartegram is essentially a scavenger hunt that inspires people to explore their surroundings. It does involve using a smartphone (specifically Instagram) but most of the experience is very much an offline endeavor.

Right now, I’m in the midst of a Kickstarter to launch the first batch of games and the campaign has already surpassed its goal. Cartegram is my first physical product, and I knew from the get-go that I need a minimum amount of interesting participants in order to make the project a reality. One cannot simply print 5 or 10 copies of a physical product. Unlike a website, which can scale from zero to a million users, when producing something tangible, small quantities are simply not economically viable.

Now as interests builds, I’m excited to continue refining the game and cultivating the digital experience around it. While most of my side projects live for a very short burst of time (which is crucial because I only have a finite amount of time), I am excited about the potential long life Cartegram may have.

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

I live and die by my calendar. I block off specific time periods to work on my full-time endeavors and on my side projects. As a person who is horrible at multi-tasking, it’s very important for me to do one thing at a time. While the primary purpose of this practice is to keep me focused, it has also helped me discover more time to work on side projects. When you block off your days in half hour increments, you also start to discard activities (like watching TV) that make for very useful blocks of time.

I general use Google Calendar, Sunrise (iPhone app), and Event Noted.

Why have side projects?

Growing a business can be a tedious process, and side-projects can be a quick mental vacation from that. Not only that, but side projects can be both fun and beneficial to your primary business. Successful projects grow your network, your online presence, and your credibility.

Sometimes side projects fail, and sometimes they have a huge pay-off. The point is that having a diversified portfolio of side projects gives your business wider visibility and helps keep you continually energized. The “high” of doing something new is something that almost all creative people thrive on.

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Diptych is composed of photographs by Peter Thompson.

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Len Kendall’s full-time job is working as the co-founder of CentUp. Read my interview: “CentUp Founders Believe that Content and Charities Make a Perfect Union.”

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

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