What are the creative and personal advantages of personal projects?


Pushing boundaries with personal projects, by Mandy Barker

I have always being a big advocate of personal projects in the creative industry. It’s one thing I will always create time for as a professional designer. They allow you to explore things of interest, without any boundaries or commercial constraints. They help keep passion for design alive by allowing:

  • exploration
  • personal growth
  • use of different techniques
  • collaboration
  • tackling of social issues.

One of my ongoing personal projects is LGBTQ project Words Bare, which has a second exhibition coming up in Newcastle, as part of Curious Festival, in the run up to Newcastle Pride. I know LGBTQ people that go through social challenges daily, through comments or reactions. Words Bare uses these experiences to showcase some of what the LGBTQ community still face in society, with the projects overall aim to question why these views are still very present today.

Words Bare

Words Bare was an idea that came to mind when I was at Offset festival (literally a scrawl on a piece of paper – as shown). I kept hearing similar messages from the fabulous speakers – ‘get involved with projects close to your heart.’ I am very much interested in social change and challenging the status quo through creativity. As a member of the LGBTQ community, Words Bare was an obvious project for me, and started from recalling social challenges and reactions over the years.

In the UK, we are lucky to live in a society that is moving away from the centuries of discrimination, towards social acceptance. However, many of the LGBTQ community are still victim to prejudice, regularly challenged through social comments and actions, simply for being who they are. To society, some LGBTQ challenges may not seem like ‘obvious intolerance’. But when you are made to feel uncomfortable for simply being yourself, or being in love, that is an issue. Love and being true to who you are is a wonderful thing, yet when you are faced with challenges or intolerance it becomes ridiculed or taken for granted. Two feminine lesbians walking hand in hand, for example, can cause unwanted attention. Holding hands across the dinner table. Kissing in public. The list goes on. I wanted to share these experiences, and others as a collective exhibition. And Words Bare was born. It grew from a sketch, to a full project and then an exhibition.

“The UK is fortunate to be liberal with much acceptance and support, considering that we live in a world where gay people are being rounded up, detained, tortured, harassed, kidnapped and most likely killed on Europe’s doorstep. Closer to home, ours is a time when you are seven times more likely to be homeless if you’re LGBT, as families so often refuse to accept us for who we are, or create an environment so unkind, so unwelcoming, and so unloving that the dank, dangerous expanses of the streets feel more like home.

Ours is a time when a flailing Government licking its self-inflicted wounds must be propped up by a sectarian party whose record on LGBT and abortion rights is astonishingly backward – and whose repeated, on-the-record acclamations about the depravity and sinfulness of gay people seem to actively relish the prospect of being as cruelly medieval as possible.” The Independent

It’s articles like this that, as far on as we are, that show there is still room for change. And although small projects like Words Bare don’t even touch on the world issues, it is a small reminder of what is still happening in the UK, along with a prompt that this is part of a bigger picture. Those of different races, religions, social structures and laws are facing things unimaginable to the UK. Every piece of activism that is made visible, is part of challenging intolerance and will build up to a bigger picture. Or change someones viewpoint or behaviour. Or make someone feel they are not alone. All of which, are enough for me to continue with the project.

Words Bare has enabled me to explore LGBTQ intolerance, and made me feel at ease knowing people go through similar experiences. It has allowed me to create a platform/exhibition that starts dialogue, using real experiences. It has been hard work, out of hours, but it has enabled me to grow personally, and professionally, and has given me a reason to hold an exhibition.


When you are working, or self employed, personal projects may not be your priority. They take time, energy and resources, and often progress is made out of hours. It can also be difficult to keep up momentum. But as mentioned in the intro, they have so many advantages. They keep creativity fresh. They enable you to uncover new passions or areas of interest. They enable you to challenge yourself, and others. So keep a notebook of ideas, push your passion and then challenge yourself – step away from your comfort zone. Turn one into project. Collaborate. It will lead to wonderful things and people, and enable you to grow. And the outcome doesn’t really matter, it’s about the journey and self expression. The options around personal projects are endless, and the only boundaries are the ones you put in place.

Here is a great article about how to start a personal project: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2016/05/a-guide-to-personal-side-projects/

I am continuing to gather research both online and offline for Words Bare, you can submit yours by emailing mandy@sailcreative.co.uk.

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