Failed or Stalled Projects

At some point in your life you’re going to have a project that just doesn’t go anywhere. It’s as true in life (a bookshelf that’s half built) as it is in the design world (that sweet iPad app that ran out of budget). I’ve had my fair share of projects that fell into oblivion. Most of the time it just plain sucks. For reasons often outside of your control, a project you’ve put hours of work into will never see the light of day.

How do you cope with this? It can be extremely frustrating and somewhat confusing. What do you tell your friends and family (whom you’ve inevitably been talking up this project to for months)? Can it still go in your portfolio?

For me the worst part is feeling like you wasted your time. You can spend months on something and have nothing to show for it. In your next job interview you’ll explain what you’ve been working on for the past few months and when they ask to see it you’ll have that lame answer “well it didn’t get made.”

Hours iPhone mockupsA recent example for me was called Hours. It was an iPhone app I had designed screens for. The project was going to serve up business hours on top of the foursquare database. We were nearing launch when foursquare announced they were adding hours into their main database. The months of time and effort we had invested was all for naught. Foursquare had beaten us to the punch. Our spirits were broken and even though our standalone app could still be useful to non-foursquare users, it was never finished.

The reality is it happens. Much more often than anyone would like to admit. I think the best thing to do is try to move on. I hate that advice; it sound so simple but it’s very difficult. In the case of a designer, you are left with un-built screen designs or the artwork of un-printed posters. You’ve done the work, you’ve taken the time to think through the project but it was never put into production. Moving on for a designer could simply be taking the skills and experience you’ve gained and applying them to your next project.

I think it’s still appropriate to put in your portfolio. I have a couple of app projects that stalled out for one reason or another (like Hours) but I plan to put them into my portfolio. The screens were thought out and designed. The mockups were completed. My side of the project was finished, even if the other side wasn’t. Why shouldn’t I have at least something to show for it? Sure it might not be as valuable as a full-fledged running app but until I have those completed projects I want and need something in my portfolio demonstrating my interest and abilities in the app arena. Sometimes just having a few mock ups can be enough to demonstrate your skill and thought processes. In the end that’s what a portfolio is all about anyway, right?

Discraft Ace Race

Hot on the heals of my first disc golf tournament, I played in my first ace race on Sunday. The Discraft Ace Race is a competition where players receive two new prototype discs and then use those discs to throw aces. It sounds easy; it’s not.

The discs are the same but you can kind of pick your colors and weight (or trade with others to get what you want). The event I attended at Irving Park had 27 holes set up. Most of them were on the original 24 holes of the course but with modified tee areas. The tees were designed to be more easily ace-able.

The rules were simple. One throw per hole, two rounds. You get an “A” on your score card for an ace (hole in one) or an “M” for hitting any metal of the basket but not staying in it. At the end of the day the person with the most aces would be crowned champion. If there was a tie, the person with most “metals” would triumph.

It sounded really easy but turned out to be an extremely hard task. Just throwing a disc you don’t know is hard, trying to throw that disc and hit a specific target is even harder. I managed to get myself two metal hits and about five legitimate close calls for aces. At the end of the day I didn’t win (or even get an ace) but I had a great time. The player pack was packed full of cool items and I’m now the owner of two discs you can’t buy anywhere yet. I’m really excited to throw at next year’s ace race, and hopefully get an actual ace.

Here’s a video from the event…

My First Disc Golf Tournament

A few days ago I happened to stumble upon a disc golf tournament happening this past Saturday. It was a fundraiser for Gryphon Place and took place at one of my favorite courses, Oshtemo Township Park. The Gryphon Place Toss Across sounded like it would be a chill and low key kind of tournament, which would make it the perfect first experience for someone like me. My brother and I decided we’d sign up and give it a shot. We didn’t expect to be great competitors or anything but it was for a good cause and we picked up a disc and some other random swag for doing it plus we were probably going to play a round that day anyway. I was also curious how I’d do under the pressure of a tournament, even if it was an easier and unsanctioned one.

Turns out I handled the pressure just fine. Although I thought I had totally screwed up in my last 6 holes or so, I ended up with my best round ever at Oshtemo (a +11). I figured that’d put me in the top five, which I would be quite happy with. Then it was time for the official results to be put up and much to my surprise, I had clinched first place in my division. I was standing there in disbelief when I realized my little brother pulled off a third place finish with his best round at Oshtemo too. We were sitting pretty on the leaderboard. The first two places received trophies and I was rather happy and shocked to get mine. It was a great experience and a lot of fun. I can’t wait to play another tournament.

After the trophies were handed out they raffled off some prizes. My little brother won a really nice four-person tent, a big disc bag with shoulder straps and a Mophie battery backup iPhone case. I may have come in first place but my brother definitely won that day.