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?

2 comments

  1. abbyabbyabbyy

    very true. I remember when I was told that the dance posters NatalieAnn and I made weren’t going to be printed. All of the thought that we put into them and editing to make them perfect just died in one client meeting. It was very hard to deal with but if you believe that what you made to has value, which I’m sure it does then it is portfolio-worthy.

  2. Robert Huston (@roberthuston)

    This is a good topic. One that often gets overlooked as your attempt to represent yourself via your portfolio. I think you second to last paragraph hits the point. Take what you learned and move on, experience, is experience.

    I to, have been building up the pool of potential misleads, and yes, it can fuel quite the frustration rampage. One thing I have done in the past, and would certainly do again, if I had to present one of these mislead concepts – is to continue the work.

    What would the project have looked like, if it was finished? In terms of Apps, you might already have this done, but you know what I am referring to – perhaps find a neat presentation to display how the project would have lived, if it wasn’t prematurely killed.

    Such as print material, building out what your ideas were for that campaign and fake them – photoshop billboards, posters, somehow display what the project could have been. Digitally, it might be a bit easier, for me, I have several websites that could easily be applied, to let’s say, any industrial company was tweak it to fit their needs. Display that unique solution in my portfolio, using the work I’ve already have done, but taking it to the next level, in terms of ideas.

    I talk to much, shout-out if I shall shut-up. Keep up the blogs Chris/ Abby. Good idea, and I think they are a great asset for your online persona – which is very relevant in our more and more online profession. (Kinda referencing Abby’s latest blog post there.)

    R

Leave a Reply