Sidebar Creative: Collective Realignment
Thursday, April 10th, 2008
Two years ago in Austin, Texas, at SXSW Interactive 2006, an idea was conceived by 4 friends, and nine months later Sidebar Creative was born. That was a little over a year ago, and now that our fledgling design collective has had a chance to stretch its limbs, open its eyes, and all the other lovely things that newborns do, it’s time for some changes (no, not the diaper kind; and yes, all positive). But first, a mini-retrospective of “Year One: The Awakening.”
Let’s go back
Over the course of the first year, Bryan, Jon, Steve and I have learned more about each other and ourselves than any of us expected — and more about what Sidebar means to each of us, and how different that is from what we all expected at the beginning. We expected that joining forces would be a good way to attract larger projects and clients (which it was, and continues to be), but none of us anticipated the attraction of bringing our own ideas to the table and using our combined experience to bring them to life.
Has anyone seen my shoes?
Though the prospect of more client work was a key incentive at the start, our individual consulting businesses saw increases around the same time Sidebar launched (either a coincidence or potential clients hoping to get a lower price by contacting one of us individually — false logic for what it’s worth), and though we received RFPs for large, lucrative projects from day one (the stream of requests has remained steady since January 2007), scheduling and availability became a barrier to accepting many of them. The projects we have been able to work on, however, have been lots of fun, in one case even allowing us to stretch beyond the computer screen to design for pixels of another sort (more on that when we’re allowed to talk about it ;)
Having more than enough client work has served us two-fold: on one hand, we’ve become even more selective about the clients we choose to work with than we were before (being selective is the key to staying interested and engaged: only accept projects you can be passionate about for clients you’ll enjoy working with), but it’s also afforded us the time to indulge our own interests.
Dude, I hear a car
And indulge we have: the Sidebar Network is home to four projects so far, with more on the way (use the network navbar at the top of any of the sites in the network to bounce between them).
My Mile Marker
Known within our ranks as “M3″, MyMileMarker tracks your vehicle’s mileage, MPG, and provides projections so you can judge just how much gas you’re really guzzling. The original idea was Steve’s, and we all chipped in during our spare time to make it happen, from brainstorming to IA to design (with Steve taking on all the Ruby on Rails programming duties), including a handy mobile site that features a lick-able custom stylesheet for iPhone/Mobile Safari users.
SMS via Twitter and Edward Scherf’s beautiful custom icons are the icing on the cake for this lovely little app that already has almost 10,000 users, spreading purely by word of mouth (thanks in large part to the Twitter community).
What do you get when you put Snook and Twitter together? Why, you get Snitter, of course. What started as an experiment of Jon’s to become familiar with Adobe AIR has turned into one of the most popular 3rd party Twitter clients on OS X and Windows. The programming (including loads of cool filtering options) is all Jon’s — the rest of us chipped in feature suggestions and improvements, with Steve and I providing designs for the default set of themes. If you haven’t tried it yet, what are you waiting for? Get Snitter and start Twittering!
With Twitter clearly playing a large part in our online lives, it was only logical for our minds to wander in its direction. After integrating MyMileMarker with Twitter, and seeing Dan Cederholm’s Foamee introduce the concept of a “barnacle app”, we decided to follow the most popular word on Twitter (“overheard”) and see what people were talking about. After a few nights worth of sketching, design, development (by Jon, using CakePHP) and testing, Overheard.it was released upon the world (the domain itself makes it a site worth visiting ;)
Future plans for Overheard.it include event-specific filters (for those great conference quotes we all love), voting, and all manner of other potential silliness.
Bryan is quickly becoming a Django savant (and has been toiling away at various projects for a year or so), and in addition to doing his best to convert the rest of us to Django-ites, he likes to find problems that need solving — a few days ago (this past Friday, to be exact) he decided the Django community needed an easier way to access the growing library of 3rd party “pluggable” applications without having to dig around Google Code for hours hoping to find the diamond in the rough.
Three days later, he had designed, built and launched Django Plugables, and if you have any interest in Django, you should check it out. Speaking of Django, you should also dig around Bryan’s recently relaunched Avalonstar, which, in addition to sporting a terrific design, is all Django, baby.
It’s a miracle in a bowl
The design community uses the term “realign” to describe an adjustment of direction rather than a bottom-up transformation, and that’s a good way to describe what has been happening within Sidebar since last summer (the course-correction was already evident in our Digital Web interview with Matthew Pennell back in September). It was clear that we needed to reflect our realignment on the site, while also taking the opportunity to realign the site itself, showing more of what makes us who we are as individuals, and with more emphasis on consulting, training and education — areas we all intend to spend more time focusing on in the coming year, including a series of full-day workshops we’re planning to bring to cities normally overlooked by larger conferences.
There are a ton of amazing ideas bouncing around the Sidebar Campfire, and I’m more excited than ever to be a part of this group. So go check out our little realign, and stay tuned: the best is yet to come.