Creative outlets and continuous learning

3 November 2012

I’ve had some further reflections on the 10-hour challenge in my last post after reviewing some of the projects I’m currently engaged in and those on the idea wish list. My side projects are either ones that require minimal maintenance or ones that need frequent updates. Flixflip is a simple tool for randomly picking a film to rent (usually because I can’t make up my mind). On the other hand I have ohkul, a blog where I can rant about cool ‘stuff’ such as tablets, apps, design objects and gadgets; writing that might not necessarily be appropriate for this blog. (That leads to a question about this blog for later). While each is an opportunity for me to design something new, there’s often another purpose for doing the project, both in filling a personal need and push the boundaries of my own skills.

Flixflip, and the next webapp I’m currently working on, exist mostly for those two reasons. I wanted to create an app to answer a need I had. I was less concerned about the design, though that doesn’t mean I didn’t start with a design or throw out design / ux principles, far from it. The project did help me keep my coding skills from going rusty and I learned new methods and how to interact with an API. The project I’m currently working on is in a similar vein but I’ve set myself a challenge to learn object oriented programming using PHP. The code will be rough, but that’s okay.

With ohkul, I wanted a place to share cool new tech that might not seem appropriate for design related. There was less coding involved as I built the site off WordPress, making my own custom theme and rolling my own plugins. That was basically to get the site off the ground and to utilise an unused domain. I’m not going to claim I’m treating as a serious side-business given it’s seldom updated. If anything it was an opportunity to improve my WordPress theme-skinning skills.

These projects are all about continuous learning; keep up-to-date with some skills while picking up new ones. Design works well for this, it’s a foundation of principles that can be easily applied to any project. I don’t need to think about the design, it’s already ingrained in my approach. I’m just not sure this is a creative outlet or whether it matters. I’ve sketched out a few ideas for posters, and on a few occasions I made information graphics in my spare time (including subway/metro map redesigns); these are creative outlets done on personal time, they just don’t always see the light of day, or at least are not shared on the web. This does make me pause and wonder if I need any further creative outlets, or as design is my day job, maybe the break from design is important. Then again, as a creative person driven by a desire to create, while design is not at the forefront of my projects, ultimately they are creative outlets.

Returning to the purpose of this blog, besides the obviously shameless self-promotion, I use this space to explore topics on design. On the surface this might make me appear to be a fairly one-dimensional, while in realty I have other interests outside of design: film, music, technology and coffee are just some of my interests. (That reminds me, should start a third-wave coffee blog).