I have had some kind of side project for as long as I can remember. They have quenched my curiosity about new technologies and tools, kept my design and development skills fresh and often given me something to put out into the world.
Most of the time my side project has been this website. Redesigning it, debugging it, optimizing it, writing for it, shooting photos for it, editing photos for it, building out new functionality for it, managing servers and storage needs, et cetera.
For the last 6 months I have been working on a new side project (thread), a simple stocks-related app. It has helped me dive head-first into the world of Swift and SwiftUI, learn about Core Data, Cloudflare Workers, Sign In With Apple, TestFlight, Stripe Atlas, Firebase, Firebase Cloud Functions, Express.js, Hugo, Netlify and more. Not to mention that it has helped me sharpen my mobile, motion and visual design skills further.
Side projects give me a constraint-free creative outlet. I am the product manager, the researcher, the mobile designer, the web designer, the motion designer, the brand designer, the marketing designer, the mobile engineer, the backend engineer, the reliability engineer…
I can spend a month working on the animations of one view if I want. Everything is a blank canvas where I can try out different aesthetics, interactions, copy, motion and more. I can break as many design rules as I want. There are no gatekeepers or stakeholders.
I don't set goals or deadlines for side projects—I fear they will start to feel like work then. It doesn't matter it if takes me 4 weeks or 4 months to write a blog post or even longer to publish trip photosets or ship an app. I’m just looking to make things the way I want.
Side projects keep me fulfilled on so many levels. I can’t imagine not having one on hand (well, ask me again when I have kids).