Get Inspired by These Designers’ Side Gigs

Aug 11, 2018

At IDEO, we’re passionate about our jobs—and everything else. Our writers, designers, and researchers spend their spare time going after everything from beer making to starting their own businesses, making toys to writing stories. Why? Because big, small, physical, digital, experimental—no matter what we create, we know it’s valuable.

For one, creating keeps you inspired, giving you something to cling onto during those moments when the daily grind gets you down. It also forces you to push your edges—creatively, mentally, maybe even physically. By exploring your own creativity on your own terms, you’re bound to uncover new ways of thinking and working that will serve you in more ways than one.

Not sure where to start? Soak up some inspiration from IDEO designers whose side projects keep them sharp and creatively engaged.

1. If you want to learn a new skill...

IDEO New York’s Alex S. calls himself a “digital alchemist”—in other words, he loves making weird stuff on his computer. When he decided to teach himself 3D coding, he embarked on a slightly unsettling but majorly entertaining side project to create an online, 3D dance floor for his virtual colleagues to get jiggy with it.

READ: How I Taught Myself to Code in 3D

2. If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and make something…

In his role as a design director at IDEO Cambridge, Michael Hendrix spends his days thinking big (and staring at screens). To keep his fingers nimble and his mind open, he started a simple yet satisfying side project: Making a paper collage every morning.

READ: I Chop Up Faces Every Morning and So Should You

3. If you’re looking to start a business on the side…

Kim Powers spends her days designing the experience of working at IDEO San Francisco. Two years ago, Kim and her husband purchased an abandoned dry cleaners and transformed it into a coffee shop—and the journey turned out to be directly relevant to her work.

READ: Thinking About Starting a Side Business? Read This.

4. If you want to find a way to mash up your passions…

Legal designer Sean Hewens has a taste for the absurd. On one hand, he’s a fictional mapmaker, and on the other, he brews his own beer. Sean’s side project manages to combine those seemingly unrelated hobbies into what he calls “the ultimate beer drinking experience.”

READ: What Brewing Beer Taught Me About Design

5. If you'd like to build your kids something special…

When she’s not designing software at IDEO Cambridge, Ashley Holtgraver is busy raising her newborn son. To help him grow up healthy and unscathed by the pressures of today’s digital world, she used her programming skills to build her son a “Slow TV.”

READ: Why I'm Building a TV For My Baby

6. If you want to get involved in your community…

Jacob Waites spends his days designing for emerging tech with IDEO CoLab, but on the side, he’s a founding member of Foremost, a creative collective intent on bringing culture to small town Florida. Together, the collective gutted an old gas station and transformed it into a community art center.

READ: How We Turned an Old Gas Station into a Community Hot Spot

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