Updated: Nov 14, 2020
Personal projects are one of the simplest and most fulfilling joys as a creative person. (There’s research to back that up.) And, it doesn’t have to take being a designer or have any art degree to make something for yourself, simply for the pleasure of making.
Sometimes the ideas fall on our lap and we can’t wait to get started.
And, sometimes we don’t know where to start.
A little fun fact: Most of my portfolio is comprised of personal projects over the years. The main reason I’ve made sure to keep in touch with producing ideas of my own is so I can keep challenging myself, both technically and conceptually, among other things:
Having more self-discipline & accountability
Possibly resulting with a portfolio piece that you can tell clients “I did this myself/I collaborated with another artist to make this – here’s how I/we did it.” It can only be impressive.
It shows yourself and others what you really care about and how you spend your free time
It can pave a path for more ideas = more projects
You grow as a creator!
We’re all pretty familiar with formal creative briefs. But what about briefs that are used for us and made to be fun? (I’m aware “brief” & “fun” sound like an oxymoron, but bare with me here...) Where’s the brief that you as the creative director, art director, producer and creator have sole control over?
Hehehe. Well, well, well, do I have some jargon to answer that.
I’ve got some helpful questions you should ask yourself in the beginning to structure a personal brief, as well as a downloadable PDF that you could use for yourself later. (See end of post)
1. The basic W's you should preface:
What is the idea for the project?
Why do you want to do it in the first place?
Who is all involved? I.e. any other collaborators.
Will this cost money?
Where will this live? (Hanging in your office, on a coffee table, in your online/physical store, a t-shirt, in an awards show, your potential clients’ hands? Etc.)
How much time might this take?
2. Other questions to help narrow down the purpose & scope
What interests me? Or what is really peaking my interest right now
What challenges will this bring to my skill set? (Good and bad)
Do I want to do this just for fun, no pressure?
Am I wanting to profit off of this?
What production roadblocks might come with this?
Am I trying to catch the eyes of a certain company, agency or studio?
What am I wanting to accomplish with this project? (New skill, refreshing a current skill, collaborating with another person, gift for someone, etc.)
3. Research and development
Mind maps: write keywords, phrases, maybe some sketches
Research into your topic as much/little as you need to; if its information-heavy, check your sources and keep a log of it!
What resources do you need? (Fonts, textures, video, music, 3D shaders, anatomy references, etc.)
Look into any necessary materials and production: (i.e. A professional printer (like if you’re making a book;) getting the right kind of wood to make a table, proper software to render a 3D scene, clay to make some pottery pieces, etc.)
If you're taking your project to a higher level, are there any legal licenses or copyrights needed?
4. Being your own producer
Make a rough timeline or goal: The best thing about personal projects is that you set your own timeline for it. It can really just mean doing it over the holidays when you have more free time, or just being consistent with creating something every day/week.
Be sure to document your process! The best part of the final product itself is seeing how you got there. You can post this on any of your social medias, blog, or make special case studies. People love to see process and will intrigue them to look out for more of your work.
Stay dedicated to your goals, but also take it at your own pace. The point of a personal project is to have fun, grow, and learn. When you restrict your own timelines too much (like what happens in the real world,) it takes the fun out of it. Give yourself that fun.
5. After it's done
Pat yourself on the back for a freakin' job well done, friend ;)
Post. That. Beautiful. Sh!t. Out! Even if the point of your project isn't to have a million eyes on it, it's still fun to show off what you accomplished on your own/with others.
Curate it as a portfolio piece on your website if you're happy with the results!
If you're feeling real good about the results, submit it to award contests!
If it's a merchandise/store item, sell it like a hot tamale!
That all sounds like a lot, and not all questions or points may pertain to you and your project. It should be a good start to "getcha head in the game" to begin your project-makin' groove ;)
I hope you have an exciting, inspiring time laying out your "fo-fun" project – once you start, you can't stop!