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Design Track: Become a Better Designer with Side Projects - Tim Smith23:00 with Tim Smith
It's been my experience that side projects have the ability to elevate designer, developers and more to a different level. If you choose these wisely, they can sharpen existing skills and create new ones. This session will cover side projects that have helped me, why they've helped, and suggestions for what you could do.
[? music ?] [Become a Better Designer with Side Projects] [Tim Smith] [Blend Conference 2013] 0:00 [Tim Smith] Welcome everybody to this session. Thank you so much for coming. 0:04 I hope it's enjoyable for you. 0:09 I'm going to be talking about becoming a better designer with side projects. 0:12 Now—let me tell you something— 0:16 the title says designer, but really side projects can help you with anything— 0:18 with anything that you want to accomplish, whether it be being a better designer, 0:24 whether it be being a better developer, illustrator— 0:28 Hell, if you want to be a carpenter, a side project is probably good for that, too. 0:31 So we're going to talk about that, but before we actually get into it 0:35 let me introduce myself. 0:39 My name is Tim—oh geez. 0:41 And I'm a designer. I'm a front-end developer. 0:44 I say that I'm a broadcaster as well because I have a couple of shows, 0:47 and I also identify as a coffee addict. 0:52 And I think—I don't know—a lot of us identify as coffee addicts. 0:55 You know? [laughing] There we go right there. 0:59 You can find me on ttimsmith.com 1:02 or on Twitter as ttimsmith. 1:04 If that's what you're into. 1:06 I write on ttsmith.com—sometimes it's interesting. 1:09 So I have a couple of side projects. 1:13 First one is "The East Wing." 1:16 "The East Wing" is a weekly show that talks to designers, developers, and entrepreneurs. 1:18 We talk about their story, how they got started, 1:24 what they're doing, what they're going to do next. 1:27 And it's pretty interesting—I mean for me. 1:29 I've been doing the show for about a year now, 1:32 and we've had—we've had just a range of great guests—great guests. 1:35 I also do a site called "Tim Likes to Teach." 1:41 "Tim Likes to Teach" is a way to learn web design, front end development, 1:46 and other type of geekery that you'd want to learn. 1:52 Right now I have 2 courses up there. 1:54 One of them teaching how to create an art-directed blog, 1:56 the other one teaching you how to create a podcast website with WordPress. 1:59 I have 2 courses in the pipeline right now. 2:02 One on Jekyll and another one just on basic html and CSS. 2:05 I find that there needs to be something that just teaches you the basics. 2:09 And mostly I want to do it for my father. 2:14 He's been trying to learn html and CSS for a long time, 2:18 but there's just no easy way to just do that. 2:20 And he's not into reading books, and neither am I. 2:24 So [laughing] and I'm—right now we can talk about this later in the talk, 2:27 but right now I'm looking at how I can expand "Tim Likes to Teach" 2:34 because I feel like there's a disconnect because you have sites 2:38 that are currently very successful at doing videos, right? 2:42 Code School, you have Treehouse, you have RailsCasts, 2:46 you have Ruby off Rails, and all of these are video screencasts, 2:49 but there still seems to be a disconnect between the person that's learning 2:54 and the teacher. 2:57 And how do these 2 things connect, right? 3:00 Because traditional education had a teacher—a professor 3:03 that you could go to, you could ask questions and say, 3:07 "Hey, look I need help." 3:10 And that's what I want to do with "Tim Likes to Teach." 3:12 Kind of have like code reviews so that you learn and you're guided by somebody. 3:14 I do a show called "Bytesize." 3:18 "Bytesize" is a weekly update on tech, design, and development. 3:22 Usually shows are like 4 to 5 minutes. 3:28 And it's if you're really busy, you don't know what's been going on in the news. 3:31 That's what "Bytesize" is for. It's byte-sized, literally. 3:36 I do another show called, Babblenut." 3:40 And I do this with Paul Armstrong. 3:45 He's a really awesome guy—way more intelligent than I could aspire to be. 3:46 We talk about life. 3:52 Like one time we talked about being content and what does that mean? 3:55 It's a really good show if you care to listen. 3:59 And another side project—my goodness— 4:03 "The Intellectual Radio Program," 4:07 and that's the show I do for fun. 4:09 We get together. We talk about the news sometimes. 4:11 We talk—definitely—about "Game of Thrones." 4:14 So if you guys are into "Game of Thrones," I think you're going to like the show. 4:17 You know, the thing about "Game of Thrones" is that it's— 4:21 [audience laughing] 4:26 It's so complex—there we go. 4:30 It's real, and the thing is—like—all these characters are so complex 4:32 but I'll tell you there's only one that you can truly hate 4:38 throughout all 3 seasons, 4:42 and that's Joffrey. 4:44 [audience] Yes. 4:46 [Smith] Paul Armstrong, the one I mentioned before, 4:48 he said once he's the first kid that made him want to kill a kid. 4:50 Anyway—drama. 4:56 I have a lot of side projects, 5:01 but here's the key. 5:02 Each of them has a purpose. 5:04 And that's what we're going to talk about today. 5:06 So today's agenda: Why did I start these projects? 5:08 How have they helped me develop skills? 5:11 Why it's important for you to have a side project. 5:15 And if we have some time we'll do some trust falls. 5:18 [audience laughing] 5:24 Now—now give me a second here. 5:26 I want to just clarify that I stole this joke. 5:29 I know. It's a bummer. 5:33 You—many of you may know Dave Rupert. 5:36 He's an amazing speaker, 5:38 and I heard him say once at Front-End Conference that if they had time they would do trust falls, 5:40 and I was like, "I'm using that for a talk." 5:46 All right so let's talk about "The East Wing." 5:49 "The East Wing"—I started this because I felt like my learning had gone stale. 5:52 I was in a difficult point in my life 6:00 where not only my learning had gone stale, 6:04 but I felt my work sucked. 6:06 The work I was outputting and also the jobs that I had sucked. 6:09 And the reason for that was because I was in a job where 6:14 I was the only one that was on Twitter, 6:17 I was the only one with a Dribbble invite, 6:20 I was the only one actively participating within our community, 6:23 and to me that felt sucky. 6:28 I felt like, "We're a team of designers and we should all be a part of this." 6:30 And for me, "The East Wing" helped me with that 6:35 because every week I was able to talk to someone that I really admired. 6:38 And every week I get to do that. 6:44 I get to have a 45-minute conversation—sometimes a little longer— 6:46 with someone that I really admire. 6:49 Someone that their work really inspires me, 6:51 and their story really inspires me. 6:53 And that helps me in my day-to-day job because the truth is 6:55 not all of us get to have these big awesome projects. 6:59 Not all of us get to display on our portfolio that we worked with—you know—I don't know— 7:03 Coca Cola or whatever—these big, huge brands. 7:10 So how do you stay happy and how do you stay excited about the work that you're doing? 7:13 And that, for me, is staying involved in the community. 7:19 And that's what "The East Wing" did for me. 7:23 Let's talk about "Tim Likes to Teach." 7:25 "Tim Likes to Teach" was actually a lot simpler. 7:29 It was just—for me—a place where anybody can learn. 7:33 The truth is that "Tim Likes to Teach" is not a—it's not a unique idea by any stretch of the imagination. 7:37 Tutorial videos are a dime a dozen. 7:46 And if you were to search YouTube, I'm pretty sure you could find 7:50 videos on the topics that I touch on. 7:54 But the thing here was for me to do it 7:57 because I wanted to do it. 7:59 And I thought that anybody could learn. 8:01 It doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter what type of budget you're on, 8:03 it doesn't matter—anything, anything— 8:06 you can learn. 8:09 It's $8.99 a month if you want it. 8:10 And it sounded like a fun idea. 8:13 I—as you'll notice during this talk— 8:16 I love to talk. 8:20 And something that was also really nice about doing these videos 8:22 was that I learned a lot about my own workflow. 8:26 Like I could see how I worked, and it made me think, 8:29 "Man, I am totally wasting time there. 8:33 I need to do that differently." 8:36 And it really helped me with my own workflow. 8:38 Not to mention the money. 8:41 Now this is an inaccuracy 8:44 because [laughter] I haven't made that much money from the site. 8:48 But here's the nice thing, on a Sunday I'll be having brunch 8:52 a mimosa, and an order comes in 9:01 and someone subscribes, and I'm not doing anything, guys. 9:05 I'm having brunch, and I'm making a little side money. 9:09 That's really nice. 9:14 So let's talk about what I've learned. 9:16 First of all, content with lots of personality. 9:18 This is—this is one of the biggest things. 9:21 Because—like I said before—none of my ideas are original. 9:26 They're not. 9:29 Anybody can do them. 9:31 But what's different is me, 9:33 and that's what I try to bring to the side projects that I do. 9:37 I try to inject as much of myself into them. 9:39 Which means that when you interact with my podcasts, 9:44 or you interact with "Tim Likes to Teach," 9:47 you don't get just the website you interact with me. 9:49 You'll always talk with me, and I like having that personal connection with people. 9:53 And personally I think that that's what really makes an impact on people 9:59 especially with the way that technology is nowadays. 10:04 Personal connections are more important than ever 10:08 because there are things that are vanishing, basically. 10:12 I stalk my guests. 10:16 I do a lot of preparation for "The East Wing." 10:21 However, not like this. 10:24 This is not the type of stalker I am. 10:28 I don't know, it's creepy, though. We'll move on. 10:30 [all laughing] 10:34 The point is to have a genuine interest. 10:36 So what I do is I look them up, I read their blog, 10:41 I listen to other interviews that they've done, 10:45 sometimes I follow them on Twitter—a lot of times I'm already following them on Twitter. 10:48 And for me, what I do is that I look into what they're interested about, 10:54 and that's how I find questions to ask them. 10:59 Because the thing is, it is very difficult to have a 45-minute conversation 11:02 with someone whom you have no interest in whatsoever. 11:08 45 minutes are the longest minutes you'll ever feel in your life 11:12 if you don't have some type of preparation, 11:16 and having a genuine interest in my guests allows me to get interested into what they're interested in. 11:18 And the beauty is when you ask that question and you just feel them go off. 11:24 Like—they're like—their eyes open wide 11:28 and they're able to talk about something that is really, really 11:33
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