DesignFeature

Big question – what was the last thing you built for fun?

Our expert panel members discuss the latest side project they did just for the sheer delight of it – whether it’s a pop-up shop, wearable electronics, tip calculator or a key-controlled helicopter

Rob Walker
Managing director
www.xcitedigital.com

I recently did http://davecousin.co.uk for my mate Dave. He’s an up and coming chef and worked on the project with some of my team as a team building exercise. As a reward we all got to eat at his restaurant.

Rob is managing director at Xcite Digital

Aral Balkan
Experience designer
aralbalkan.com

Everything I make, design, or code is for pleasure. Why else would I do it?

Aral is a designer, developer and professional speaker

 

Jonathan Smiley
Designer
www.zurb.com

While I did do it for work, the last thing I coded for pleasure was a rewrite of the grid system in Foundation to use Flexbox, a new CSS property that makes grid layouts (really, any layout) not just dead simple but incredibly flexible. Amazingly, the rewrite only took about half an hour, but will now allow users of Foundation to do things like reverse the order of columns for mobile, change the order of columns and include an arbitrary number of columns in any row. It's pretty cool – I just wish it had better support.

Jonathan is a design lead at ZURB

Mike Buzzard
Business partner manager
www.google.com

In the "old days" (c. 2000) I worked on newstoday.com, designiskinky.net, and k10k.net mainly to collaborate with people who shared my level of passion for detail and quality. With limited tinker-time in later years I now only focus on one passion-project, which is helping out the folks at HUF. I continue making time for HUF because it gives me an opportunity to continue creating things with the same sense of inspiration and freedom that I started my career with. Keith and his team constantly come up with fun ideas that they want to experiment with, which takes me back to way we did things in the "old days", fueled entirely by reckless curiosity.

Mike is a business partner manager/unicorn at Google

Aaron Gustafson
Principal
easy-designs.net

The last thing I made specifically for me was Tipr. I created it back in July of 2007. I know. I need to carve out more time for personal projects.

Tipr is a tip calculator with a twist: the check total it creates will always result in a palindrome (e.g. $13.31). I had been using palindromes as a sort of checksum when I dined out to identify when someone at the restaurant had altered the tip amount; a quick glance at my credit card or bank statement would reveal any such activity.

I was rocking a Palm Centro at the time and had been using the calculator app to calculate my tip amounts, but that was quite time consuming. So, while sitting in a hotel room one night after working on-site with a client, I decided to make myself a progressively-enhanced mobile app to do the calculation for me. Tipr’s launch happened to coincide with the launch of the iPhone and it became quite popular in the days before installed apps. In fact, it made a number of "Top 10" lists and was even singled out by Apple for an ad, which was awesome.

After building the initial web based interface, I also added text messaging support and Twitter support for tip calculation. I used the text one a lot on the Centro as using the web over Edge kinda sucked, but once I switched to Android and iOS, I moved to the web version. It still sits on my home screen and I use it almost daily.

Maybe one day I’ll give it an upgrade, but it works really well as it is.

Aaron is principal at Easy! Designs

Paul Lloyd
Designer
clearleft.com

Bradshaw's Guide is a website based on George Bradshaw's Victorian railway guide. This book became popular again since it featured heavily in Michael Portillo's 'Great British Railway Journeys' BBC television series.

After finding a PDF scan of the book online, I thought it'd be fun to convert it into hypertext, making it easier to read Bradshaw's description of towns while travelling on a train or enduring the daily commute. I originally thought about using this project to learn a new programming language. In the end I opted to use Kirby, a file-based CMS that allowed me build and launch the site much more quickly.

There's still more to do; the site features just the first of four sections from the book. I'd like to add further enhancements too; geo-location and offline access are high on my to-do list.

Paul is a visual designer at Clearleft

Lorna Mitchell
Freelance software consultant
www.lornajane.net

I'm a crafter really and coding is merely an extension of the same thing. I recently made a prototype of how my new lilytwinkle (wearable electronics) circuit will hook up. All I need to do now is sew the bag that I intend it to go into ... but the wiring was the fun part!

Lorna is a freelance software consultant

Laura Kalbag
Freelance designer
www.laurakalbag.com

I designed moving cards for when I moved house. It's very rare that I get to work on print-based projects, and it made for a fun and different challenge. I'm usually my own worst client, but this was a fun little project as it didn't take too long, and was a far more interesting and memorable way to share my new contact details than via email or Facebook.

Laura is a freelance designer

Gavin Elliott
Designer
www.gavinelliott.co.uk

The last thing I designed was a new illustration for a t-shirt for Gump Inc. Gump Inc is a new little store, which myself and Vic Bell created so we could have some creative freedom for ourselves. Working for clients day in and day out restricts the amount of freedom you have. Gump Inc. was our way to just design for ourselves and then promote those designs to see if anyone wanted to buy them.

The last thing I coded was some HTML/CSS on my code playground to copy the layout of an iPhone app just because I wanted to for the fun of it. You've gotta have fun, right?

Gavin is the founder of the Industry Web Conference

Trent Walton
Founder
paravelinc.com

It'd normally be a blog post design, but more recently I built a small type-centric layout with a variety of scenarios like wide columns, narrow columns, headlines, quotes, lists, etc. to test typefaces in a fluid setting.

Trent is founder of Paravel

Shane Mielke
Creative director
www.shanemielke.com

For fun I’ve been designing and coding a new portfolio for myself in between projects for the last few months. Although it’s been quite painful finding the time I’m really excited to be experimenting with all sorts of fun CSS animations and archiving all of my past projects to show everyone what I’ve been up to since going freelance.

Shane is a freelance designer
 

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