3 Things You Should Know Before You Start a Side Project: Advice with Justin Edmund

1. Ask yourself: what do you want to do and what is your end goal?

I try to make all my side projects things I want to see in the world. As a test, I like to ask myself if the project was my last saving grace and I had to live off of it, would it work? And: is this something I would be willing to work on for a really long time? I don’t think that is something everyone has to think about, but this is how I think about my projects because my ambition is to start a company one day.

2. Know your optimal work style.

I need to break things down into smaller chunks otherwise I get overwhelmed. I also know I work best alone during the discovery phase. Side projects are so tightly linked to my learning process, working collaboratively too soon can be difficult for me. I enjoy exploring the project space and figuring out what my opinions are. When things advance a bit, I appreciate working with others through the ups and downs of a creative effort.

3. Know how to get unstuck.

You need to understand what motivates you to keep going. You might want to go outside for a walk, or listen to music. I keep mentors close, and people who are really good at offering moral support, because I know when I’m frustrated and hit a wall, outside perspective helps me. Pay attention to your motivation patterns.

While an undergraduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, Justin Edmund noticed that many of his artist classmates were in need of a tool to put their work online, but they didn’t know how to code. “It was frustrating to witness my peers not understanding how important an online portfolio is, so I ended up making a scripting language that I called Parsel, allowing anyone to write HTML using natural speech.”

Edmund ended up spending his last year in college creating Foundation, a platform for artists to publish work online. “I’ve always been a child of the internet, so I knew how to code and I tinkered. I could generally throw stuff together.” That ability to throw stuff together is what landed Justin an internship at Facebook and in 2011 he was the first product design hire at Pinterest and he has recently struck out on his own to pursue independent projects.

Two of Justin’s Favorite projects:

A beautiful music app by designer Julien Sagot.

Red Pen
A design feedback tool for designers built from scratch by designers Matt Farag and Katie Chen.


If you like this post, share the love on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with #sideprojectlove. We want to hear about your side project too, tell us about it here for a chance to be featured and invited to our Side Projects celebration in August.

We’ll be sharing more about the creative process of design leaders during our Bridge program. Keep in touch here before applications open September 15th.


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