November 8, 2016

Pride, Work and Necessity of Side Projects: Emily Wisser’s hand lettered “Oui, Sir!” prints and collaboration on Maker Mornings

What are you working on—on the side?

I have a couple of side projects that I’m working on. The first one is a line of hand-lettered valentines aimed at people in the web/tech design field, using funny and oft-cheesy pick-up lines for web designers and developers. I’ve always loved a good play on words, so it’s fun to be able to combine the process of brainstorming clever phrases with hand lettering—another thing I love—to make these cards. The website Oui, Sir! Prints (after the phonetic pronunciation of my last name) currently only has the line of cards, but someday, I hope to add on other printed materials. I have a few fun ideas for mugs and posters up my sleeve.

The second side project I’m working on is called Bright + Bloom, which is an organization geared toward developing creativity in people’s everyday lives. Creative expression isn’t always appreciated outside of disciplines that are seen as “creative” fields—it’s a phenomenon I have observed in the tech world and in school, most notably. Starting with Amazon, my co-founder Constance Wellman and I are trying to change that; so far, we’ve been running a monthly series called Maker Mornings where we invite employees to participate in a freeform creative activity. There are no constraints, requirements or deadlines. People come drink coffee, listen to music and meet people from other teams while they work on the activity of the month. We’ve had really positive feedback so far, and we’re working on plans to create other programs like a speaker series, workshops and more, to engage anyone with an interest in creativity—both inside of Amazon and far beyond. In the meantime, we also have a blog and social media to share our thoughts and events to inspire others.

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

With my lettering projects in general, it’s a big time commitment to get the work from the concept phase to the print phase. The valentines took several months of sporadic evening and weekend free time to complete, from sketching and refining to scanning and finishing. Usually when I have a lettering project I’m working on, I listen to podcasts or have a movie on, while I sketch compositions over and over. I still have a handful of sketches I haven’t yet turned into digital prints, which I think will be a good project for this winter. With Bright and Bloom, we meet once a week for a few hours at a coffee shop to work on things together. If we don’t finish everything in those few hours (usually we don’t), we’ll make a list of things to accomplish by the next meeting.

Why have a side project?

It’s funny, because even in writing about these side projects, I’m thinking, “Man, these things I’m working on are actually pretty time-consuming.” But when I’m working on them, it doesn’t feel that way. I get into the flow and time just flies. These projects make me think in a completely different way than I do during the workday, and I find that balance to be really energizing. In the professional post-school world as a designer, working with clients and technology constraints, it’s rare to get complete creative control. That’s not an inherently bad thing; it’s just the nature of the work. My mentor at my first job told me to find something—a project, hobby, anything—that was all my own and not work-related, and that advice has served me well over the years. With the valentines, for example, that project was completely mine from start to finish, and even though I spent countless hours on it, it was purely enjoyable for me. Having a side project that energizes and excites you can be a great way to de-stress, express your creativity without constraints, and balance out that need for creative control you may not be getting in other areas of your work.

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Images courtesy of Emily Wisser.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.

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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