After 12+ years of designing and creating things professionally for businesses of various sizes. From startups to billion dollar companies. Things are beginning to go full circle. Before I even landed my first design job in late 2006, I was always inspired by art, design, film and creativity and would be noodling and making things in paintshop pro, photoshop 6.0, powerpoint and flash. And before that I was drawing and making my own books. From primary school through to high school.
I would sit on forums with digital artists - and places called tagmonkey, deviantart and depthcore. I’d play games like runescape and create forum signatures for those communities in exchange for game gold. In the end I just started creating things for free because I enjoyed it more than playing the game. It was a fun time looking back. I actually found my name mentioned on a reddit post in 2017 - which would’ve been 13 years later and someone still remembers my moniker. It gives me a little chuckle.
When friends and people my age were out – I spent a lot of my time just creating things. For no reason other than the fact that I just enjoyed it, it was fun and it was my hobby. Admiring great work from other designers and digital artists and trying to be better to close that gap between my work and theirs.
In short I had gotten bitten by the creativity bug.
One of the great joys of my life has been the ability to create something out of nothing. Whether it’s a business, a or a piece of design or a well written article. It’s that process that really sparks me inside. To think that something you made or written, has positively affected somebody's life, the happy customers, the people willing to pay you for your work, & that sense of contribution and belonging.
Design has allowed me the resources to provide for my family handsomely, travel, supported a good lifestyle and a life of abundance and freedom. And for that I’m extremely humbled, grateful and appreciative.
Looking back I didn’t think I’d be pursuing design or creativity as a career opportunity. It just didn’t seem possible or even financially viable. And yet here we are 20 years later and I’ve built a very fun but most of all fulfilling career – where work is play. Where creating millions of dollars in value doesn’t mean you can’t have fun along the way. Or lose that spark – with yourself or the people you are working with.
Sure I’m a professional.
“Inspiration Is for Amateurs—The Rest of Us Just Show Up and Get to Work”
I show up even if I’m not inspired or having fun sometimes. There’s mundane and difficult moments for sure. But it’s that balance of light and shade that has made this journey interesting.
I’ve gone back and forth between my perception of what makes great work. Is it work that solves problems? Work that helps other people? Work that other designers think looks awesome and works well?
When I was young I liked work that pointed to itself, look at me, look how cool, great and interesting I am.
Then I shied away from work that was too self indulgent for a while. I found it less interesting.
I then strived for simplicity and was more concerned about solving problems. And that the value was how I can solve problems for users and deliver great business value and great experiences for people.
And I still very much believe that.
But I’m also at a point where I just want to create things for fun. To have permission to be self indulgent and create things like I did during the digital art forum days.
I’m at a point now where I can begin to make things for fun again. I hope to explore new technologies, make things purely for fun (concept designs that will never see the light of day), collaborate with people I admire, deep dive in new ventures, styles, and problems to solve.
I share 5 inspiration links weekly on my newsletter - and when I look at the inspiring, beautiful, functional, useful work people are creating it inspires me to do the same. It lights a fire inside of me and I get excited and passionate about design again.
It’s funny in life how life with all your experiences you go full circle again.
I’m doing nearly the same thing as 18 years ago. Making things for fun. But I’m not the same person anymore. My actions and instincts may be the same - but with time there is a texture of experience that makes going full circle even more beautiful.
To have all that experience. Only to unlearn it. To empty my mind and to be naive and a beginner again.
So what am I trying to say to you? Give yourself permission to have fun. To find that spark. To work and to just BE.
There is the future and the past. But those are constructs of our mind. The present is all we truly have. So seize it - with play.
“No one can lose either the past or the future - how could anyone be deprived of what he does not possess? ... It is only the present moment of which either stands to be deprived: and if this is all he has, he cannot lose what he does not have.”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations