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The Value of Personal Projects

When I was young, birthday and Christmas gifts almost always came in the form of a creative construction set: Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, Legos, you name it. It’s as if I was preparing for my career in design and fabrication from the get-go. Today, the toys are bigger and more expensive but no less fun.

The Value of Personal Projects

Opportunities that spring from personal interests can be just as rewarding as they are profitable.

By Shon Roti, Sublimation Consultant, Graphic Designer

(Originally published in the March/April 2022 issue of Insights.)

When I was young, birthday and Christmas gifts almost always came in the form of a creative construction set: Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, Legos, you name it. It’s as if I was preparing for my career in design and fabrication from the get-go. Today, the toys are bigger and more expensive but no less fun.

 

Figure A

If you enjoy what you do, it truly is a gift. I love to design and create tangible products for my clients and for myself. Projects are no longer defined by business and play but rather by ones that pay the bills and ones that do not. I believe there is room for both. It’s also possible that pet projects can lead to billable orders.

When I’m not creating for a client, I’m often creating for fun and/or for a practical purpose. Christmas card designs, “blueprints” for a construction project and numerous birthday gifts have all been in my design and production queue.

Christmas card designs have become a yearly tradition. Figure A shows a couple of Art Deco designs that have been sent out in the last few years. Christmas cards are a great way to say thank you and reach out to family, friends and clients. They are also a great way to update folks on my capabilities and showcase my design skills. I figure if people can see that I can create a custom Christmas card, they should surmise that I can create other ephemera: business cards, stationary, stickers, etc. And if they didn’t surmise that, I also make mention of it in the card.

My wife, Lura, and I started daydreaming last spring about building a carriage house where our current garage stands. Before we discussed our ideas with our contractor, I used CorelDraw to create a layout of the build with some specifications added (Figures B, C). Our contractor suggested a few changes to meet building codes, but he otherwise agreed to work with my proposed schematics.

 

Figure B

 

Figure C

My wife and I enjoyed the planning process, and I was excited that I was able to create a usable guide for construction. Will this endeavor lead to other blueprint creation opportunities? Probably not. But I did use new tools in the process (Parallel Dimension) and discovered that if I needed to do it again, I could. Building costs started to soar later that spring in 2020, so our plans changed to a basement remodel instead. Naturally, I returned to CorelDraw to create a layout for that as well (Figure D).

 

Figure D

My software and hardware came in handy again while constructing the basement bar. I had rescued an old piano a few years ago, and my plan was to use the parts to create the bartop. Designing the top was truly a labor of love. I was nearly finished when I discovered the last piece needed to be cut into a unique shape. Because I was running low on piano pieces,
I decided to make a template out of chipboard first. I used CorelDraw and my laser.

From a sketch of the general dimensions (Figure E), I was able to create the template in CorelDraw (Figure F). And, after several attempts, I created a template that fit snuggly into position (Figure G). Using the template, I then traced the outline onto the piano boards, finished the cuts and set it into place (Figure H).

 

Figure E

 

Figure F

 

Figure G

 

Figure H

Passion Never Rests

Character Building
Fonts have always been fascinating to me, and I work to always be mindful and use the appropriate font for a design. Several years ago, I made a font using my own handwriting. The process was mostly straightforward, and I had a great time. (For a step-by-step CorelDraw tutorial on font design, visit: bit.ly/corelfonts.) 

It is my goal to one day produce fonts of my own design and market them online. Wish me luck!

Custom Costumes
Halloween is one of our favorite holidays. My sublimation equipment and laser have been instrumental in creating accessories for costumes over the last few years. Several of our friends have employed me to assist with their costume ideas as well. Figure I represents a T-shirt mock-up I created for a fictional superhero. A cape, cut from an airline blanket, accompanied the T-shirt, as well as a custom flashlight and facemask. Nametags, custom patches and buttons have all helped finish off many costume designs. I imagine there is an opportunity to join the cottage industry of creating custom Halloween accessories.

 

Figure I

Other pet projects of mine have included sublimating metal prints (later framed and hung on our walls), designing personalized playing cards and producing various forms of merchandise for the clubs and organizations my wife and I belong to.

Producing personal projects is enjoyable. It’s great to be able to have an idea, complete it and enjoy the finished product. At the same time, I am honing and improving my design and fabrication skills and hopefully showing others my abilities as a byproduct. My philosophy in life is to never stop being curious and creative. Opportunities that spring from personal interests can be rewarding as well as profitable.

Shon Roti is the owner of 9th Street Designs, a sublimation & graphic design consulting & promotional products business. A graphic designer, Shon has spent more than two decades working as a production artist and instructor in the awards and promotional products industry. In 2014, ARA named him Speaker of the Year. You can find him at www.9thsd.com or contact him at shon@sublimationconsultant.com.

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