There are many reasons designers choose to take on side projects to complement their work. Whether they are looking to make a bit more money on the side, to grow professionally, improve their personal brand, or to learn new skills; side projects can be a great way to provide an outlet for your creativity and to explore more experimental designs.
Side projects can help to demonstrate your passion and enthusiasm for design to future clients or employers and can create a great new addition to your design portfolio. Side projects are a way you can work on things you want to work on — rather than just ones which are bringing in the money. Whether it turns out to be artistic or experimental, it can be great in taking you out of your everyday routine and leave you with a true feeling of satisfaction.
There’s never been a better time to start a side project. Here are some of our favorite designer side projects, guaranteed to inspire.
Christopher Simmons – The message is medium rare
The Message is Medium Rare was a side project created by designer Christopher Simmons, who runs MINE, a San Francisco design office. He wanted a side project to find inspiration and stay creative and found that through looking at the world both critically and in wonder, that there were lessons to be learnt everywhere and insights to be had.
He decided to investigate this idea by eating a burger a week and sharing the lessons each one teaches. The design and concept of the project is wonderfully simple, yet easy to get lost in amidst the hidden meanings sandwiched between slices of bread, beef and ketchup. The project has featured in many press outlets and is a great example of how a side project can raise your profile.
Davey Heuser – IconJar
Dutch designer Davey Heuser decided to take on a side project a few years ago, developing IconJar with fellow designer Curtis Hard. A Mac App for organizing and managing icons. It is essentially a library container that allows you to drop any icon in any format and organise them into sets (collections) and groups (folders). It’s easy to use and to export your icons both quickly and accurately.
It’s a great side project that is used by some of the biggest companies out there, including Google, Shopify, and Microsoft.
Frank Chimero – The Shape of Design
NYC-based designer Frank Chimero decided to self-publish a book as his side project. Back in 2011 he created the book The Shape of Design, a small handbook about designing that Frank wished was available to him when he began his own career in the field.
The concept was originally given as a talk by Frank at the Build Conference back in November 2010, where he was encouraged by the response and decided to expand on some of its themes in a book. It’s now used in design classrooms all around the world as foundational reading and has grown its audience to include chefs, woodworkers, writers and other creatives, all of which praise the book highly.
Nguyen Le – Process Masterclass
Nguyen Lee is an independent designer based in Melbourne who decided to start a side project teaching others about design. He called this Process Masterclass and it focuses on teaching new and aspiring designers how to improve their skills, provide more excellent value to their clients and create reliable design processes.
Over 1,000 designers have taken the course and this includes those who have worked at large companies such as Slack, Stripe, Framer, Ueno, Instrument, and Huge inc.
Lauren Hom – Passion to Paid
Passion to Paid is the side project of designer Lauren Hom and is an online creative bootcamp on how to create a killer passion project that will kickstart your career. Lauren cites side projects as the no.1 reason she was able to grow her business as a freelance illustrator and find success at such a young age and this course is here to help others do the same.
Content includes how to improve your lettering skills, how to get paid for your work, and how to come up with your next big idea. The Passion to Paid course is currently paused until mid-2020, but you can join the waitlist.
Chandan Mishra – Design Languages
Chandan Mishra is a designer from Pune, India whose side project is Design Languages. Developed with Varun Srinivas, it is a curated list of design languages and systems from a range of companies. It was born from the frustration of having to hunt for and research design systems, wasting time and hitting dead ends. It is a essentially a curated library for design languages, design systems, and front-end frameworks and it’s free to use too!
Jessica Hische – Should I Work For Free?
In 2011 Jessica Hisch put together “Should I work for free” a flowchart which helps you decide if you should work on that project for free or not. In short, if the client is not someone you owe big time, you shouldn’t. Jessica is a letterer and was bored of people asking her to work for “free” or for “exposure.”
As well as the flowchart which you can download, Jessica also writes a blog and gives talk on design as well as running an online store where you can purchase prints, cards and her own custom fonts.
Edoardo Rainoldi – Rooki.design
Rooki.design is the brainchild of Edoardo Rainoldi, a young digital product designer born in Italy but who travelled all around the world to work and study. The site was born from frustration in finding good, free resources for design students. Being a student himself, Edoardo found most articles and interviews online were catered for experienced designers and not those young, creative minds that need the help to start and grow.
All interviews and resources are catered for the young designer demographic and are free of charge.
Davide Baratta – TypoStories
Typostories is a side project that was created by Davide Baratta, the design lead at Impero. It is a study about typefaces and font pairings and was created from the want to explore diverse typographic solutions while also staying up to date with the newest releases from his favorite independent type foundries. The site offers a study into typefaces and font pairings and features an assortment of typographic illustrations he was inspired to create.
You can currently see Vol.1 and he is working on Vol.2.
Nicole Saidy – To Inspire About Design
Nicole Saidy is a digital designer from Beirut and wanted to start a side project to help inspire and teach people about design. She does this through her website, with many useful resources to help with designers — both established and newcomers — and also as a speaker and course author.
Her course “become a UI/UX designer” is made for those overwhelmed beginners who want to kickstart their career and has many helpful hints and tips.