This impressive side project knows what time it is

Designer Matt Johnston finds time to explain Wrist, his illustration and animation project.

There's nothing like a good side project to keep you sharp. Whether it's designing your own free fonts or making a deck of custom playing cards, a side project can fire your enthusiasm, teach you new skills and, sometimes, raise your profile through the roof. We spoke to Matt Johnston about his own side project, Wrist.

Who are you?

I'm a product designer, developer, and aspiring illustrator living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Recently, I've been working as co-founder and head of product at Boatbound, a fully insured peerto- peer boat rental marketplace.

Matt Johnston illustrates watches to expand his skill set

This watch thing. Why?

For 11 years I've been noodling around with Photoshop and avoiding Illustrator as much as possible. I had a friend of mine take me through all the basics last year, and since then I've absolutely loved it. I was inspired specifically by José Guizar's illustrative project, Windows of NY, to start my own project that would help develop my skills with illustration. Watches are a perfect medium for design; typography, colours, form, and function all have to meld together seamlessly and fit on someone's wrist. I started reproducing existing watches and then moved on to my own designs.

What's the reaction to the project been like?

I've been really humbled by the community's positive response to the project. It seems to have really resonated with people, especially fellow watch lovers. Even after my first illustration I was hearing from designers who wanted to contribute to the project, so I decided to accept submissions to allow the design community to participate with me. It's great having people who are excited about what you're doing, because it not only helps push me to do a great job, but it helps shape the project.

It's not all swish designer timepieces

Should everyone have a side project?

Absolutely. Side projects are the perfect medium for self-expression and personal development. I love working on Boatbound, but this work is not so much self-expression as an expression of our brand. With Wrist I'm able to put forward my personal point of view as a designer without balancing other factors. Plus, I can broaden my skill set.

This article originally appeared in net magazine issue 252.