July 22, 2016

Relationships are all about time: Tru Studio at 53rd monthly CreativeMornings in Chicago


Anne and Steve Truppe, married couple and the team behind Tru Studio, spoke at the 53rd gathering of the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings, May 2016. Tru Studio is a Chicago-based photography and video agency that works with both commercial and advertising clients. Their work is distinguished by capturing truly authentic moments from their subjects through language (aligning to the client and their project), lighting (utilizing natural light as much as possible, if not available, mimicking it) and the lens (maneuvering in the rapid decision-making zone behind the camera).

During the Q&A, someone asked the Truppes how they acquired their first client. Steve said it was due to a relationship that developed over a couple of years.

This anecdote reminded me of a relationship’s nature and stature, drenched in history—especially good relationships. If a relationship is bread, then time is yeast. Relationships take time. They demand it. With good relationships, these do take their damn time.

Tina Roth Eisenberg, a.k.a. Swissmiss, the creator of CreativeMornings, recently tweeted, “Business is not just business. Business is *relationships*. Real humans! Real feelings!”

The Truppes’ chosen livelihood, from its origin to its present state, remains a turbulent trip of emotions and attempts. Because there is always so much to do. So much to face in realizing something, in maintaining the ratio of trying and succeeding. Relationships are critical in the process. They’re a means to an end. They provide a coping mechanism. Families, friends, colleagues, vendors and clients. Each plays a part in making a career the ultimate life. Relationships with tools (and their relationships with their users) included. Like people, tools also achieve the patina of use over time.

The Truppes desired the kind of work to grow into a life-long career. As their journey demonstrates and evolves, the best relationships survive the long-term.

• • •

Big thanks: to BraintreeDigital Intent (Host), Green Sheep WaterLyft, for being Partners of monthly Chicago CreativeMornings #53; to organizers Kim Knoll and Kyle Eertmoed who both spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #7; to the team of volunteers for greatly helping to have CreativeMornings happen monthly in Chicago.

Especially big thanks: to Tina Roth Eisenberg—Swissmiss—for inventing CreativeMornings in 2008. The fifth chapter was launched in Chicago, June 2011—my write-ups and photos.

Read more about the people who make the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings possible.

• • •

My coverage: view photos of CreativeMornings/Chicago gatherings; read more write-ups about CreativeMornings.

• • •

2011 was Chicago CreativeMornings’ debut year. Download the entire collection of selected insights.

July 21, 2016

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Event series Creative Women’s Conversations by Ari Krzyzek, Creative Director



What are you working on—on the side?

I’ve gone through so many side projects since 2011 and realized what makes great side projects, what works, how to fail fast and how to move forward with something new. My latest side project is Creative Women’s Conversations. It is an intimate environment, a safe place for creative women to be vulnerable, share stories, to learn and grow with one another, network and have quality conversations over brunch and cocktails.

Events are limited to 10 women (total including the host/co-host) in order to create such an intimate setting. I found that smaller groups have proven to provide better feedback, therefore I love keeping the guests limited in number for each event to make sure we get solid discussions and introductions. The mission of Creative Women’s Conversations is to create an inspiring and collaborative community for women entrepreneurs where they can share their goals and struggles, exchange opinions and even collaborate to lift each other up.



How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

It’s really tricky. Though being a mom and designer have helped me manage my time better, sometimes I would multi-task my side project into my work schedule, and sometimes I would focus on just my side projects on weekends. I’m still slowly trying to figure out a better schedule for my clients’ projects and side projects. Because my side project has become something that I really want to grow, and believing it helps and inspires other women, I try my best to include it into my daily schedule.

Why have a side project?

To feed on the creative process. As a creative person, I want to keep doing something that I can continuously feel satisfied with. Even though I own a design company and have a range of varied design projects, I crave for something more. A side project helps me fulfill that craving and to keep on learning. ツ

• • •

Images courtesy of Ari Krzyzek.

• • •

Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with 50,000feet, an independent creative agency dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


Please consider supporting Design Feast
If you liked this lovingly-made interview, show your appreciation by helping to support my labor of love—Design Feast, which proudly includes this blog. Learn more.

July 19, 2016

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Writing and Teaching by Tracy Osborn on How to Build A Web App



What are you working on—on the side?

My main side project has been my book series, “Hello Web App!” I taught myself how to code Python quite a few years ago to launch a startup, and over the years of learning more and more about programming, I kept thinking about things I wish were taught better once I actually understood them. I realized that I couldn’t just wait for someone else to do it—I needed to write the resource I wish existed.

“Hello Web App!” teaches web app development using Python and Django. I am a huge fan of Django and how easy it is to create a working web app with it—without feeling like you’re a “programmer.” My goal is to help people launch web apps, not learn how to be an engineer (but that’s cool if you use “Hello Web App!” as a starting point!). The original book is a step-by-step tutorial to build a “collection of things,” a project rubric that can be updated to a lot of different project ideas. The second book, “Intermediate Concepts,” has individual chapters teaching skills and features to improve your web app, like adding payments with Stripe, an API, tactics for working with multiple models, database design and more.

It’s been a seriously amazingly fulfilling side project—I’ve been able to help thousands of people so far learn how to build web apps, and it’s actually been a successful side-project in terms of revenue as well.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

When I’m in the process of writing a book (spoiler, I’m currently writing a third book titled “Hello Web Design!”), a lot of my mental energy needs to be devoted on the project, so it’s best if I can take a sabbatical from my full-time work while I’m writing. Though it’s totally doable to work on writing during evenings and weekends, it’s just what I prefer! I also sometimes will head to a place without WiFi and cell-reception (like a cabin in the mountains) so I have dedicated time to spend on writing on weekends.

It takes a bit of juggling, but the best thing about writing books is that they can continue to bring in revenue and career opportunities after the bulk of the work and pain is over.

Why have a side project?

“Hello Web App!” has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my career. It landed me my current job (I gave my books to my interviewers and I got a call that night with an offer), I’ve received multiple speaking engagement opportunities after someone has seen the book, it’s brought me extra cash (meaning I can work on projects that don’t make revenue), and I’m helping people learn how to code, which brings me so much joy. I encourage everyone to have side projects because they can have a huge positive impact on your career long-term.

• • •

Diptych courtesy of Tracy Osborn.

• • •

Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with 50,000feet, an independent creative agency dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


Please consider supporting Design Feast
If you liked this lovingly-made interview, show your appreciation by helping to support my labor of love—Design Feast, which proudly includes this blog. Learn more.

July 16, 2016

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Charleston Travel Guide by Lauren Beltramo



What are you working on—on the side?

As a little kid, going to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina every other summer was incredible. I absolutely loved it—the heat, the ocean, the accents! And then one day, it hit me: people live here all year round. Ever since that lightning bolt realization, it seems that I’ve been heading down south. From New York, to Philadelphia, to finally Charleston! I’ve lived here for almost two years and I am delighted to call The Holy City home. I put together Charleston Travel Guide to pay homage to all the amazing local shops and beautiful places tucked away between cobblestone alleys and lush palm tree-filled parks. That’s the most delightful thing about Charleston—the promise of the unexpected just around the corner. But, as cliché as it sounds, if putting together this guide has taught me anything it’s that I still have so much more left to explore! I’m not sure what my next tribute to this wonderful city will be, but in the meantime, I collect interesting lettering finds over at My Type of Charleston.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

I used to set very rigid parameters and deadlines for myself when it came to side projects, only to get overwhelmed and feel like there’s no hope of ever getting back on track after a few tardy days. Instead, I still set goals, but I make them much more broad in terms of months rather than weeks. After that, it’s a matter of being genuinely interested and wanting to do the work. Being freelance full-time also ebbs and flows, and it was really nice to have something to keep me focused in between projects. The truth is that this is one of the few side projects I’ve finished. I am always writing down ideas and filling a sketchbook page or two. Getting comfortable not finishing a project was actually a great relief. Whether I was no longer interested or wanted to work on something else, I’ve given myself the flexibility to continue experimenting—and that’s what’s most important.

Why have a side project?

So many reasons! Experimentation, self-promotion, simple delight. This project was great, because it gave me an opportunity to get back into writing, something I’ve sorely missed. I also hired a copy editor to proofread everything which was a new experience, and helped me see what kind of client I am. Managing this project in terms of my own time, cost and production, gave me a great perspective on pricing out similar projects for clients. Not to mention that having customers instead of clients was a whole new experience that I am eager to expand. Sometimes I have customers order a travel guide from places that I never expected, which has been so amazing. It’s easy to get caught up working away behind a screen, forgetting that actual people exist on the other side. But these guides have connected me with so many great people and seeing them hold these guides in their hands has been incredible. I feel like I am a stronger illustrator and designer for having done this project.

• • •

Diptych courtesy of Lauren Beltramo.

• • •

Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with 50,000feet, an independent creative agency dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


Please consider supporting Design Feast
If you liked this lovingly-made interview, show your appreciation by helping to support my labor of love—Design Feast, which proudly includes this blog. Learn more.

July 13, 2016

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Architect Laura Thomas’ Watercolors



What are you working on—on the side?

My watercolors, the physical expression of my keen eye, are an integral part of who I am and what I do. To be an architect is to be an observer. My work is constantly informed by the art and architecture that I see during my travels abroad and in my wanderings in my hometown. Without a sense of observation and exploration, my creativity becomes stagnant; that staleness would inevitably carry over to my professional designs. Travel and critical observation are an important part of my growth as an architect. (1)

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

When I travel, I do so with my favorite pen, a small, old Windsor-Newton travel watercolors box, a collapsible camp-stool and folding table. I take time to stop, set up my seat and my watercolors (or climb on a wall!), and take in the scene. In those moments of stillness, I can see details like proportion, color, patina and light that would be lost to the harried tourist with a camera.

I settle in and LOOK. This can sometimes take a while. Sometimes I move slightly to get the angle I want. I look at the light and the colors. I study the shadows. Frequently my sketches are peeked at by fellow travelers and local children. I don’t mind the curiosity. The little kids are the best—they seem truly amazed at what I am doing and can just watch patiently and silently for minutes at a time. (2)



Why have a side project?

I LOVE to draw. I believe in the value of connecting the architect with the design on the page in a way that can’t be replicated solely through a computer. Drawing by hand is a part of who I am. I sketch daily in the office for my projects, and practice my observation and drawing skills while traveling through my watercolors. (3)

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Diptych courtesy of Laura Thomas.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.


From Laura Thomas’ blog:
(1) “Starting something new, again”
(2) “Where I sketch”
(3) “The importance of drawing”


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with 50,000feet, an independent creative agency dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


Please consider supporting Design Feast
If you liked this lovingly-made interview, show your appreciation by helping to support my labor of love—Design Feast, which proudly includes this blog. Learn more.

July 11, 2016

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Chelsea Lee’s Obsessive Photography of The Home Aesthetic



What are you working on—on the side?

Well, I’d really call it more of an obsession, than a side project, but I photograph houses and doors (sometimes windows too). I can’t really pinpoint the exact origin of this obsession, but for argument’s sake, let’s say it began in 2012 when I moved to Chicago.

I fell in love with the city instantaneously. It’s the architecture, and not necessarily the skyscrapers of the Loop, although those are pretty great too, but the sunrooms, and workers cottages, and deck-lined alleyways. It’s the history and the little details that often go unnoticed that really inspire me. Sometimes when I see a house that is just so delightful, I literally jump for joy, and then pull out my camera.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

I like seeing how people live, what the architecture and design is like, and how those things change from neighborhood to neighborhood, state to state and so on. I honestly can’t walk down a street without pulling out my camera, even if I’ve photographed the thing before, there's always something new to it. It could be the lighting of the day or new plants in bloom, and it’s these little things that scream to be photographed.

I especially love my walk to the train. First, there is the pink ranch; it’s actually pretty ugly. It has pink vinyl siding, pink stonework and cement stairs that are, big surprise, painted pink. It has a typical iron hand railing going up those cement stairs, that casts a beautiful shadow across them. I have a lot of photos of this shadow.

Next to the ugly pink ranch is my favorite house on the whole street: a red brick workers cottage with the most beautiful garden and a little old lady tending to the flowers. Soon, the whole house will be blocked by the row of sunflowers set to bloom. Next to my favorite house is the two-flat with peanuts under the welcome mat. I smile everyday as I walk by and see the pigeons and squirrels scurrying away with their treats, and I smile a little bigger when I think of the old man sitting just out of sight watching them. And as I continue walking down this street, there’s the overgrown ivy, decorated like a Christmas tree, and the dog sitting in the doorway, and the kid’s toys strewn across the lawn, and the pastries in the window of the bakery, as I cross the street to board the train.

I take so many photos, and with all this beauty, the real challenge is editing. I have a rule that if I’m going to take the photos, I have to share them (well at least some of them). I feel like you have to put them out there, so they have a bit of life and others can enjoy them. And I guess that’s where this obsession turns into a project.

Why have a side project?

For me, it’s really about giving yourself the space to indulge in your curiosities. It’s about doing something for as long as you’re inspired, and then moving on to the next thing that you want to do. Before this project, I spent 365 days making designs. I challenged myself to create something every day for an entire year and post them to my blog Significant Nonsense. But after that year, I was interested in other things, so I put that down and picked up my camera.

I think it’s important to find a creative outlet that’s somewhat separate from your job; in that creative-outlet space, the work can be all about you, what you’re interested in and what you like. Hopefully that work will inspire your other work. Or maybe not, maybe it will just make you happy.

• • •

Chelsea Lee is an Experience Designer. Read her thoughts on design and designing in my series Designer’s Quest(ionnaire), consisting of 100 interviews—and growing.

• • •

Diptych courtesy of Chelsea Lee.

• • •

Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with 50,000feet, an independent creative agency dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


Please consider supporting Design Feast
If you liked this lovingly-made interview, show your appreciation by helping to support my labor of love—Design Feast, which proudly includes this blog. Learn more.

July 5, 2016

The Net Effect: Firebelly Design’s Founder Dawn Hancock at 52nd monthly CreativeMornings in Chicago


At the 52nd gathering of the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings, Firebelly Design founder Dawn Hancock shared selected details of her journey from student to studio founder and owner. Her presentation was a tone poem about how her family roots and relationships primed her to make a business that is not only one of Chicago’s best-known creative crews, but one with a strong reputation for design activism.

Hancock’s story reinforces how personal relationships—both positive and negative—shape human lives. They influenced her identity as a designer and nudged her to lead her own likeminded group.

The defining relationships in Hancock’s life were both encouraging and dismissive. In her talk, Hancock shared a sharp instance of the latter. A designer and teacher dissed her at a vulnerable time during college, telling her, “You’ll never find a job.”

Children’s book author Dr. Seuss said, “You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.” In this particular case for Hancock, the former didn’t play out as it should.

Cold for someone to shut the door on someone else. When the someone is older closing the door on someone younger, it’s patently shitty.

A mentor’s advice can have profound effects. Recall the advice given by seasoned novelist Philip Roth, a literary giant, to new novelist Julian Tepper, who shared with Roth his first published novel. Roth told Tepper: “I would quit while you’re ahead. Really. It’s an awful field. Just torture. Awful. You write and you write, and you have to throw almost all of it away because it’s not any good. I would say just stop now. You don’t want to do this to yourself. That’s my advice to you.”

After finding out about this story, author Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote “Eat, Pray, Love” (2006), believed Roth to be unwelcoming—in a cranky way. Tepper defended Roth—in an idolizing way. To me, Gilbert’s take is right. Because however one interprets Roth’s advice, his words—however minced to collage another meaning, whatever the tone, speak to a joyless reception. The Gilbert Effect is preferable. She suggests, “Simply extend your hand and say, ‘Welcome.’”
“Chance encounters are what keep us going.”
—Haruki Murakami, Novelist
Fortunately, there was someone there to lend a helping hand. His name was Kent, a parent, who, at the time, was pursuing a new career in nursing and needed a place to live for this two kids to visit. They became roommates. He helped Hancock when she needed it the most. First, he believed in her. Second, he helped her get her first Mac. Without it, design school would have been more stressful. The Kent Effect, delivering generosity with the by-product of serendipity, was the positive tremor in Hancock’s timeline, personally, professionally and humanely.

Burden lightened. Liftoff achieved by an individual who turned the cliché prompt “Be useful” into an actually useful to-do, beautifully applied to Hancock’s situation. The benefit—an unfolding effect: Hancock persists to advance her usefulness through her design studio and beyond it. She created the annual week-long exhibition Typeforce. She established the Grant for Good, which awards a rigorous care package of branding and design services to a local nonprofit for a full year. She founded nonprofit Reason to Give that provides an educational program to insightfully equip families, in the Humboldt Park community of Chicago, with long-term skills to realize a better life. And every summer, 10 selected designers from around the world participate in Camp Firebelly, an intensive 10-day apprenticeship.

One effect causes another. The choice presents itself in every moment: What effect do I want to be? If the effect is welcoming like Kent, it could be a breakthrough moment. A net effect of momentum.

• • •

“If you’re lucky enough to do well, it’s your responsibility
to send the elevator back down.”
—Kevin Spacey, Actor

• • •

Big thanks: to Braintree, Morningstar (Host), The Dupil GroupGreen Sheep WaterLyft, for being Partners of monthly Chicago CreativeMornings #52; to organizers Kim Knoll and Kyle Eertmoed who both spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #7; to the team of volunteers for greatly helping to make CreativeMornings happen monthly in Chicago.

Especially big thanks: to Tina Roth Eisenberg—Swissmiss—for inventing CreativeMornings in 2008. The fifth chapter was launched in Chicago, June 2011—my write-up and photos.

Read more about the people who make the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings possible.

• • •

My coverage: view photos of CreativeMornings/Chicago gatherings; read more write-ups about CreativeMornings.

• • •

2011 was Chicago CreativeMornings’ debut year. Download the entire collection of selected insights.