2013 marked my 5th year in business for myself. The year was great as I did incrementally increase revenue but also worked a lot less. With a few exceptions here and there, it was a nice easy pace throughout the year.
I did dabble with the idea of taking on a full-time position at a few different companies, but in the end things didn't align and I'm super happy about that.
I've finally realized and more importantly, confirmed, that I truly enjoy being self-employed and have dislodged the idea that the grass is greener somewhere else. Being self-employed allows me to pick and choose the projects I work on and gives me greater freedom with how I spend my time.
Without further ado, here are some of the things under my belt in 2013.
I still had a bit of a focus on mobile apps, but this year also had a larger dose of responsive web projects. Here are some highlights below.
8 DAYS iPhone App
This project technically started in the end of 2012, but I didn't include it in last year's review. My friend and Singaporean business partner, Dan, came to me with an opportunity to create an iPhone app for Singapore's largest media provider, Mediacorp. I busted out some serious UX and UI design for this project. In addition, I spent 50% of my time battling internal politics with the client, which was a huge challenge. But the results were worth it.
The 8 DAYS Eat app launched, and to date, has been the most successful digital initiative that Mediacorp has released.
I designed the interface and shot the panoramas of a home in Atlanta for the very first Dwell 360º interactive tour featured on dwell.com
Graceland: Undercover iPad App and Interactive Panoramas
I worked in collaboration with Mobients on a second-screen iPad app for the new TV show, Graceland. This project was a doozy.
I traveled to the set of the show in Ft. Lauderdale and shot panoramas of the entire thing.
I also led a creative team of 3 and headed up UI design for the entire project. There were at least 3 all-nighters involved. It almost sucked the life out of me, but hey, It did make the front page of Mashable. I forgot to replace my avatar in the PSDs that I delivered to NBC for the video and you can see my mug in the promo video, codename: XONYD, pretty funny.
I whipped together a quick site to show some of the designs as well as other recent apps. It doesn't work on mobile because I got lazy and this was done as an experiment. Have a look here.
This was a fun little side project I did based on one of my favorite books of all-time. I've probably read or listened to this book over 10 times. You should seriously go read it. The purpose page gives more insight into why I made it.
In April, I started a monthly design meetup with Jacob Thomason. Transform Athens grew from 0 to over 100 members in 2013, and has been a really fun project to work on and see grow. We had a variety of topics and speakers from a number of folks including, Neil Summerour, Marco Suarez, Aarron Walter, Chris Harrison, and more. If you're in or around the Atlanta/Athens area and would like to present a topic or attend, let me know! I should probably write a separate Transform 2013 review soon.
This year I set out to go to 3 conferences and did just that. I had an amazing time at each one.
This was my second time attending Greenville Grok. It's such a great conference with a huge focus on conversation and fun. I've already bought my tickets for Grok 2013. You should too!
My friend Ish knows how to do it right. Circles 2013 was a blast and incredibly inspirational. I met a ton of folks and made some great friendships. Duckfaces with Bill Kenney, slow-mo jumps with Joshua Krohn, and multiple BBQ outings with the Focus Lab crew, are just a few of the highlights.
I wrote a separate post about this. Nothing I can write describes its awesomeness. Just go if you can.
I began work for a small Atlanta-based startup, Shiplify. I've been doing a ton of design and product strategy work for them, including branding, UX design and wireframing, responsive web design, copywriting, business strategy and more. This has been one of the funnest projects I've had the pleasure to work on. I designed nearly all of the wireframes on a projector with the CEO sitting beside me due to the fact that I had nearly zero knowledge of commercial shipping logistics. It's been an incredible experience thus far and I plan to continue working with them in the future. Blog posts about this process soon to come as well.
Responsive Web Portal
I busted out some design concepts for (Redacted) in collaboration with Macquarium. The designs were extremely well received and helped Macquarium win a big account. I posted lots of the designs on Dribbble.
Float Label Pattern
Whoa. This was a big one. The float label pattern was a sort of crazy viral thing that happened in October and November, based on a Dribbble shot of mine, a GitHub repo by Jared Verdi, and a blog post by Brad Frost. My web traffic exploded over 6,000% during November and trickled back down in December.
Started Writing a Book
I started writing a book about "doing your own thing" since I've been doing just that for 5 years now. I had a lofty goal of finishing before Thanksgiving of last year, but only got about 25% of the way through. I didn't do the hardwork to finish it when my motivation was peaking, but I do plan to get back on track this year and finish it off.
I wanted to get a proper coworking space setup in Athens, but I needed to have a community going first. This was the reason I started Transform Athens. Right now Cowork is a slow moving beast that will happen in time, I'm just letting it organically evolve for now. If you're interested, hop over to the website to learn more.
Athens Made Branding
There is an initiative for a brand to be built behind Athens businesses, organizations, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and more. I designed a preliminary concept and am still waiting to see how it all pans out. I wrote a post explaining the thought process behind my design for Athens Made.
The biggest news of 2013 on a personal note, is that my wife is pregnant with number 4. We currently have 2 boys and 1 girl, and are now expecting boy number 3. Raising kids is no simple task, but the rewards are so high. My heart has never been so full in my life and will continue to expand and stretch with our new little addition, who is due on Mother's day of this year.
Also, this spring will wrap up my wife's first full year of homeschooling our oldest son for kindergarten, while at the same time entertaining our other two. I have an amazing amount of respect for my wife and am really proud that she is taking such good care of our kids while I'm working. I tell people all the time that her job is much harder than mine.
My wife recently flew to Texas for a wedding, while I stayed home with the kids from a Thursday through Sunday. Filling her shoes for those 3-4 days reminds me so well of all of the things my wife handles and takes care of, many of which I take for granted or don't think of them as much of a big deal. I love this kind of reality check, as it helps me understand and appreciate her struggles as well as empathize with her on a deeper level.
Here's a photo of our family from a little Christmas photo shoot from last year.
Goals for 2014
I have one main goal for 2014. Write everyday. Most years I create some well rounded list of goals (like I did last year). Some of them are met and most are not. This year I'm focusing on one thing and that's just writing. Here are the specifics:
Write everyday for a minimum of 30 minutes. I'm going to try an increment of time, rather than a number of words, to begin with. I'll see how it goes and over time I may switch it up as I progress.
Writing is good for the soul. It's good to put thoughts into words. It helps you think. It lets others know how you think and gives you a platform to share your ideas and thoughts. I've been designing professionally for nearly a decade and have run a successful independent studio for 5 full years now. I've got lots of experience and valuable lessons learned to share. I've been a casual blogger here and there, but looking back over the years, I would really love to have had a catalog of design challenges, personal thoughts, etc. spanning those years. I have a lot of experiences, opinions and a lot to say, and now I really want to get into the habit of doing that.
I'm going to make a time commitment to write for 30 minutes everyday. The goal is to do it when I first wake up with a nice big mug of hot coffee. If for any reason I fail to do it in the morning, I will make sure that I knock it out that night before going to bed. 30 minutes minimum, that's it. Substitute writing for one show on Netflix and your done.
In the morning. I already said that, geez...
I want to have a few people to hold me accountable to this one goal. I've got some in mind but haven't set this in motion yet. More on this later.
My other goals include running more, working on more personal projects, bettering myself as a front-end developer, and growing Transform Athens. Also, to stay curious.