Portfolio project ideas to create

I’ve come up with a list of some portfolio project ideas for my website. If you’ve seen my portfolio section at http://www.cliffnowicki.com/onepage_portfolio.html you’ll notice something. Things are a bit out of date! The latest project I’ve worked on was for Code Michigan 2014 in October with the app called “Kid Karma” and not even that is on the site. Just like a lot of designers, I am working right now on projects that are signed with an NDA and will never really see the light of day as its all internal. I assure you, I’m doing some kickass fun stuff! I just can’t show anybody. Which is why side projects are the way to go to help boost portfolios. My portfolio in particular.

Here’s a few portfolio project ideas that are swimming around in my head that I may or may not work on. I’m just going to throw the ideas out here right now. I’ve written down some and a few others I literally just made up as I was typing. That’s how I roll.

-Sight Words App – Who has kids? I do! I have three boys that are young and learning. A big challenge is getting them to learn new words with what schools refer to as “Sight Words”. Its your common word lists for the pre-k to 2nd/3rd grade to get them used to learning new words. I plan on designing a mobile app, web app or maybe just some nifty flash card designs.

– Website for my 2003 Saturn Ion – Why? Because I can!

– Dinosaurs – A mobile app about a dinosaur. I’m not picky on what dinosaur, but I feel like kids don’t like dinosaurs as much as I did as a kid.

– Retro video game website – I love them.

– Obstacle course app for people in Michigan – I ran the gladiator run last year, and I plan on doing it again this year!

– Debt Snowball app to let you know when you paid off all your debts.

– Simpsons app featuring quotes from Homer Simpson

– Kidrobot something. Because I love Kidrobot, but I may just boil it down to collectible figures

– Lootcrate catalog- I don’t do lootcrate anymore, but if I did, I feel like all its stuff should be cataloged so others know what awesome stuff they missed.

Photoshop tricks/hotkey a day app – Become a master!

Heroes Charge something – It’s the latest game I’ve been playing on my phone. I’d like to do something about the game since I play it everyday.

Those are all the ones that I’ve written down thay just kind of exploded out of my head. I may use one, I may use them all and I may use none of them. The point is that to recreate my new site I’ll be needing some example projects that follow what I enjoy.

Battling WordPress

I believe I’ve battled WordPress a lot more than I’d like lately. I started out by attempting to update WordPress to the latest 4.2.2 which turned into an auto failure. I went online to see how to do it manually since I haven’t done that in years. I always get paranoid when I delete anything in wp-admin, even when WordPress itself tells me too. I went through the process and now that it’s all updated, I’m still unable to upload images. Its not letting me set permissions and after some searching I may have to either call my hosting or wipe everything out.

I’ll have to stop focusing on that so much and continue on with my rebranding. Otherwise I’ll drive myself crazy! Besides, I’ll probably find the solution once I stop looking for it. Isn’t that how things usually work out?

On a positive note, my work had a raffle to give away their used 32″ tv monitors for the price of $2 a ticket. Low and behold, I won one! I’m now typing on it as we speak to replace my old 19″ square that I’ve had since 2003. I’ve been playing with the configurations a bit and it may feel like it’s a wee too big and not able to handle the correct resolutions I was hoping for in a monitor. I may use it as a secondary or put it to the side as a second tv.

The main goals of my rebranding

To start out fresh, I woke up an hour early to get cracking on my rebrand project. The house was nice and quiet to get some thinking done. I began by writing down a list of some of the major areas that I will be looking into during this rebrand. I came up with a list right off the top of my head without thinking too much in depth about it to get started. What would I need to make this rebranding a success? Here’s the quick list I came up with:

  • Create Mobile designs and even other designs to get my creative views out there and have something fresh in my portfolio
  • Potential new logo
  • New Website
  • Physical print objects such as business cards
  • Go back to past projects and give a small case study
  • Social media usage such as Linkedin, G+, Facebook and Twitter
  • Promoting myself

I was just about to upload a scan of the sketch I had, but it looks like WordPress isn’t letting me. It looks like I’ll be playing around with WordPress to see whats wrong. I plan on posting random ideas, sketchs and mocks as I go on to show little bits of progress. That being said, I have an entire weekend to create a more detailed account for what I’m doing. I’m thinking maybe a google docs that’s view only for anybody to look in on what I’m doing. Would that be of interest to anybody?

Rebranding myself

It’s been a while since I’ve made a nice design for my core site. I’ve had my blog at www.cliffnowicki.com and then i’ve linked people to my portfolio section at http://www.cliffnowicki.com/onepage_portfolio.html which showcases the most recent work I’ve done. I stripped my original site and turned it into the 2015 theme from WordPress and just kind of kept it a blog. A simple blog and nothing more, but now I’m in the process of rebranding myself.

Every designer loves to change their brand every once in a while because its just plain out fun! Maybe I’m alone in that? I believe it’s because they’re still looking for their niche in life. Once they find that niche, they want to go head first and explore every nook and cranny of it. Once they have a solid foundation in it the rebranding occurs. That’s where I’m at right now in life. I’ve went on and on about my love for mobile design and you’ve even seen some great projects I’ve done too! The next step in my design life is more than just visual design and mobile design, its about telling stories. I love telling stories! I tell them to my kids at night, I make them up on the fly to entertain others and I even write about them to one day make awesome kids books.

What I plan on doing in this next rebrand is to tell a story. A story about who I am as a visual designer and how my thought process works. A lot of people may consider it bad to talk way to much about one’s self too personally. If you’ve ever met me in person, you’ll know I’m an open book that will tell you everything about my design life as you’d care to listen too. Don’t worry, I have filters!

With all that being said, what does it mean to rebrand myself? Why am I posting and not taking action? The idea is that I want to share each step of the way. How I got to certain conclusions about myself, what I did to come up with what I’d show, how I’d build my website and how I’d market myself to the world. I’ll be an open book in my rebranding and I’m excited to let everybody know about it!

Project of the week: Valentines Day Cards

I’ve always wanted to do something fun in terms of birthday cards or invitations. The idea I’ve had has always been some sort of interactive popup card. When you open the card, a mini-3D landscape appears before your eyes ready to be viewed. Little pull tabs would be there to interact with the cardboard cutout world and see how everything works. This year I’m going to put some solid effort into it with Nintendo themed Valentines Day cards for my wife and kids.

Paper isn’t dead! It still has its place in the world and with days like Valentines Day, paper reminders are what make the world special again. Holding something in your hands means more than an email or another e-card that took you a few mintues to put together. What exactly will it be? I’m toying around with the lastest crazes in my house. Minecraft and Super Mario 3D World are the top two contenders right now. Have Steve fight a creeper for your love? Maybe mario and gang jump on top of the flag poll saying how they’ll jump as high as it take? Lego games have made their way back onto the TV from the toy box. Will they earn a spot on my card? I’m still undecideded at this point, but those are my main ideas.

X-acto knives, cardboard paper and a precise hand are what I plan on having this week. I’ll have to make nice with Kinko for some prototypes since my printer has about hit the end of its road.

Challenge Updates

Here’s some of the latest updates for my challenges this year. I remind everybody that I say challenges because resolutions die off and goals eventually go to the way side as “nice to haves”. That’s why the word challenge has more meaning to me. I like challenges. I have a urge to buy the wordsearch and/or sudoku puzzle books everytime I check out at the grocery store. Something inside me wants to be challenge and take on challenges! So here are the updates!

1.) Create a Udemy Course:
I found my dynamic mic from college where I recorded, mixed and edited audio. It’s a Shure C606 dynamic mic thats ultra durable and has had its share of drops. I tested it out last night with a buddy via Skype. From what I hear it sounds great! The playback for Windows 8 Sound Recorder is awful though. I tried out a free version of Audacity and its better, but still something to behold. Once I come up with a solid idea for what I’ll create, I’ll look into better software

2.) Create a design for a t-shirt website such as shirtpunch.com:
I’ve looked at more t-shirt sites and have been checking out more graphic tees than usual. A developer friend recommended teespring as an alternative. I haven’t looked into what it takes on shirtpunch, but I plan on it soon.

3.) Sell something on the envato marketplace:
I have a set of Auto Icons that I’ve done before that I had intentions of giving away. This may be a nice test to clean up the set and attempt to sell them as an icon/font package.

4.) Create a Startup:
I had something going last year for a design startup and it may or may not happen this year. I’m hoping it will and that will take place as my Startup. If not, I’m hoping to make something with my wife and kids as a side project to help get them involved in the design process.

5.) Speak at a Meetup group:
I’m apart of 2 meetup groups in the Detroit area that I’m sure will have me again. I think it’d be really awesome to speak at an ignite event. The step up is that they already have the time set for you! I’ll get in touch with the hosts later this year to see if I can make something happen. Who knows, maybe I’ll speak at multiple places! I’ll of course let everybody know…. a lot of times… in a short period of time.

6.) Read 20 design books:
I’ve been reading a lot of magazines lately. Computer Arts and .net are the primary suspects. They don’t count as books though, so I’ve done nothing in this challenge.

There you have it! My challenge updates for 2015.

Challenging myself with design goals for 2015

Its been a pretty slow year for 2014. I really made things happen back in 2013, but have felt the slide in 2014 and its time to make that change! For 2015 I’m starting out with setting goals for myself. I plan on having some pretty lofty goals this year that seem challengening. Who doesn’t love a challenge though? I’m focusing on things I’ve never done before, and things I’ve done before but would love to have more experience doing.

Cliffs Design Goals of 2015

1.) Create a Udemy Course – I’ve always loved watching these videos myself and always wondered if I could create my own.

2.) Create a design for a t-shirt website such as shirtpunch.com – I’m addicted to this website! I rarely buy anything online that isn’t from Amazon, but shirt punch has taken at least $60 from me in 2014. I’d love to create a design and have it showcased on this site.

3.) Sell something on the envato marketplace – WP Theme? Icons? I’m not exactly sure what but I’ve always wanted to get some sort of passive income stream going.

4.) Create a Startup – I’ve been to a Startup Weekend and I try to keep up on the latest Startup news. My goal with this is to just see how big and scary these things are and deconstruct them into something small and digestable. What will it be about? No clue, but what it won’t involve is investors to pour money into something. Whatever it is, I’m doing it based on what I know.

5.) Speak at a Meetup group – I spoke at 2 meetup groups before. Metro Detroit WordPress meetup and Refresh Detroit. They were fun to speak at, but I felt I’ve come ill prepared each time the second I step into the room. I always talk about more and forget the notecards and wind up wishing I touched on so many other things. Perfection? Or the need to just flush out my brain on the subjects?

6.) Read 20 design books – I been having my head in magazines such as .net, Computer Arts and Web Designer. What I haven’t done is read actual books! I have a whole bunch of design ebooks ready to read and its time I’ve read them.

There you have it! My goals for 2015! What are you goals Do you plan on challenging yourself this year? If not design, then how will you challenge yourself in 2015?

Online Advent Sites 2014

Its my favorite time of year, Christmas! And with the holidays comes traditions including advent calenders. There are some sites that have caught my eye this year that I visit on a regular basis.

Packt Publishing
Packt Publishing is doing a free ebook/video download a day for 24 days. The books are step by step training books covering a variety of development tools and techniques. You can get each book in .epub, .mobi or pdf format. Make sure to download each version just in case because once the day is over, you can no longer claim that free book or video. If the book comes with code files, you’re able to download them free at anytime.

24 Ways
24 Ways reveals a new blog article about the design/development industry everyday leading up to Christmas. Articles are posted by people in the industry about the latest and greatest. The site dates back to 2005 with tons of useful articles and tips to improve yourself. If you find yourself waiting for the next days article or the 24 days have passed, go back into the archives for some fun reads.

UX Mas
Just like 24 Ways, UX Mas is a 24 day advent calender of articles. The main focus for UX Mas is UX! There are some fun reads in comparison to Christmas as well as some hot tip articles to liven up your UX. The site is updated every morning at 8am Australian EST which is 4pm Eastern.


Freelancember is an interesting choice since I knew about it from the beginning but haven’t been visiting it as much as I wanted too. Each day there is an article or a download to be had. As far as I know, you can’t go back to previous days so make sure to keep up!

Thats a quick wrap up of the Advent style websites I’ve been following this year. If you have some things you visit this month that haven’t been listed, then feel free to share!


Things I learned yesterday:
Axure and lots of it! I’ve been working in Axure at work for a few months and I must admit it’s more robust than I ever thought! Like all new programs, it feels like I’m learning something new everyday.

Code Michigan 2014 – My Experience

Its been a while since I last posted from a series of a lot of posts. However, I’m here to talk about my experience at Code Michigan 2014! So sit down and save some time to read how it was.

Going into Code Michigan 2014, there we team jump ins and drop outs for backend development. By backend development, I mean anything beyond HTML, CSS and JS. Anything past those is spooky and scary to me because I’m a UI guy. So we had a full team up until the last person dropped out due to work related issues. That being sad, the idea we all came up with had to be narrowed down to something quick and easy that a designer and a developer could do in a weekend. So after a few sit downs and meetings, we came up with the idea of Kid Karma.

**Spoiler Alert **
Here’s the video for a short view

I’m just going to explain what it was we did as a team. The app is called Kid Karma. A points system in which kids could earn points for doing good deeds. This could be cleaning your room, having good manners at the table and any other good deed. The points can be redeemed for non-monitary rewards such as extra time playing video games or watching TV. The main concept being to reward good deeds with good deeds and not have to spend money. Something even low income families could do. Afterall, this was geared towards the state of Michigan! The idea is to change the childs behavior, enforce positive habits and built character.

To make sure we used a Michigan API, we chose the Michigan Schools. The use would be when someone enters their childs profile, they choose what school they go to. The app would then take the Good Deed information along with points received and push it back to a database to collect it all. This database would show what schools have kids participating in Kid Karma as well as how good they are doing in the app. The hope is that the school would have on record the number of incidents schools have with children. They could track how well someone is doing on the Kid Karma app and then compare it to behaviors at school. If they child does well then it’ll show in school.

Back to the weekend! Also a reminder, I am a UI Designer, so my role in this entire weekend was that of a UI and even UX Designer.

Friday, October 3rd – Game Time

I drove downtown after work to make it in time for the opening remarks. Of course there was construction on Woodward, so I had to drive around it to make it to the Detroit Opera House parking garage. As I was walking in, I could hear others talking about app ideas. Awesome! People were showing up! It was held at the Grand Circus, 4th floor in downtown Detroit. I signed in on the bottom floor and got my swag of a t-shirt, sticker and lanyard. I also signed in my teammate since he would be showing up tomorrow morning. I took the elevator up and stepped into a familiar place. This is where I spent weekends at my previous 2 hackathons, Code Michigan 2013 and Startup Weekend Detroit 5 (2014). I also spoke here at two meetups for Refresh Detroit and Metro Detroit WordPress User Group. It was a good familiar place and I felt pretty comfortable there. I found a table to claim my own for the weekend.

After the opening remarks, dinner was served! Mexican food from some place I didn’t ask about. It was pretty decent. I’d regret it later that night. After dinner I started on sketching stuff down and creating wireframes. My teammate had some rough ideas he did earlier in the day that took him a few hours. So by generous hackathon ethics, I didn’t even look at them until exactly that time frame after the event started. There was lots of talks with volunteers and other people about my idea and it seemed to get good reception! I finished up all my sketches and a volunteer came by and as I told him the idea, it turns out another idea simliar to that has already been created! So I had to check it out for myself. After going through it, it seemed to be more chore based and had some bad UX moments from just signing kids in. It was a pretty cool app and I may use it myself, however the idea that good deeds deserve good deeds was the motto. Monetary gain was not what we wanted to express in our app, so I continued!

The night slowly died down as people started to pack up and go home for the night, while the meager few stayed awake at their computers doing there thing. I kept up by listening to an audiobook by Scott Sigler called “Nocturnal”. Its a fantastic listen and I’m near the end of it! I remember buying that book for my wife thinking it was about vampires, but from what I know so far its not even close to vampires. I spent that Friday night completing the UX of everything along with the wireframes and putting everything into an interactive low-fi rendition of it in Axure. Man I love Axure!

The time was around 2:30am and I figured I’d try to get some sleep. The area had half the lights off and only 3 people were awake working that I spotted. I had an umbrella just in case it rained. I found a spot in the hallway that actually had some sort of carpeting and opened my umbrella to block out the hallway light and laid it on the floor. I used the tshirt I got as a pillow and put my hoodie down and attempted to sleep. I think I finally fell asleep at 3:30am and awoke at 4:15 in pain. Floors suck. I noted to self, go home and get pillow and blanket. Make sure to also bring inflatable mattress next year. I sat up and decided, sleeping wasn’t in the cards tonight. I was able to wake up within a minute or two. Apparently sleeping on the floor gives me no reason to sleep in! This is probably a good thing for a hackathons, or if I have to get up super early in the future for anything. So back to the table I went!

The lights were still off in my section of the room. A guy near me was playing some old soul and jazz music. It was soothing and I was hoping he turned it up. After he noticed me awake and working, he asked if it was bothering me. Nope! I told him I was about to ask if he could turn it up! So I got to hear some nice jazz from about 5 to 6:30am. Then I decided I wanted to stream the channel 7 news online to see what was going on outside this building I spent the past 12 hours in. I spent the entire morning creating visual look of the main app. Breakfast was scheduled for 8 but showed up around 9:30 to eat. It was quiche and banana bread and muffins. I was hoping for pancakes and bacon. I never had a quiche before so I tried it annnnd I very politely spit it in my napkin, tossed the rest and took a few more pieces of banana bread. Did I mention I’m an ultra picky eater? I am!

I got a call around 10:30 from my team mate saying he just got home from last night and was ready to come up. Knowing I was in a funk, I decided to upload all my stuff to google drive and head home for some shut eye. It was a fuzzy drive home and as soon as I got there I fell asleep like a rock for 2 hours. I woke up to a quiet house and a phone call to get back in the game. Eric drove by to pick me up since parking costs were bad and it was just easier that way.

We drove back downtown to get back to our app and get it finished before the end of the day so we could get onto the video. When we got back we set up our gear for the day. I walked into the kitchen area to get something to drink when Tammy, the head go to person, introduced me to Maggie Durant. Maggie is the Co-Founder of Circuit Learning and occupied one of the spaces in the floor below us at the Grand Circus. It was cool going down there and talking to her about Circuit Learning as well as the Kid Karma idea. We both had the same mission of helping kids better themselves in life!

Back to the grind! After setting everything up and reconnecting finally on a one on one basis it was dinner time. What was on the menu? Dangerously Delicious Pies. We both tried the BBQ pie and from the taste, it just wasnt right. I’m a bit of a picky eater, so I stick with meat, cheese and potato things. I love BBQ so I figured this would be up my alley. Unfortunately, it was very bland BBQ. The crust was excellent though so I know these guys are doing something right. I plan on going back for some of their dessert pies thats for sure. After a few bites and not eating the rest, we decided to head to cheli’s chili for some burgers. Mmmmm Burgers.

Grand Circus time! It was starting to get dark and we were on the edge of finishing it all up. I polished off the badges and icons while Eric put the finishing touches on the layout. I started up a storyboard of how our video would look and what it’d say. I got to work and opened up After Effects after what seemed to be years since college. I stumbled a bit and had to google things here and there, but it all slowly fell into place to get what I needed done. Between 9pm and 1am I put together a quick simple video that just needed to be dubbed.

We were looking to get some quiet, so we went down a floor level to record audio. The first take matched up nearly perfectly to my voice, so little animation editing was needed. Next up was getting it all done with Eric. He was still working on a few things so I went up to the floor we started on and feel asleep in the hallway. This time I brought my pillow and a blanket so I didn’t have to lay on the hard floor. At about 3am I finally got to sleep. A beautiful 2 hours later I woke up at 5am refreshed and ready to get at it. I went back down to the 3rd floor where Eric was passed out sleeping. After waking him up, we recorded the walk through process.

It took a while to use the laptop to record and get a good view of him displaying it all. We probably should of done a screen capture, but where was the fun in that? This is solid working proof!! After a few attempts, we got the video done and I added into the main video! Now it was the true test. Rendering video! I was smart enough to make sure to render every 5 minutes so there wouldn’t be any major issues at the end. However, it had to spend a good 15 minutes rendering a few times before we got the video ready for youtube. Pretty fast I’d say.

During the rendering time, we had random people stopping by and we were chatting it up about our apps. Just when it was about done rendering, a guy pointed out that there was another app that did something similar. We knew earlier, but it still stung just a bit. Afterall, we had this idea for so long and thought it was one of a kind! We weren’t phase though, the show must go on! We were able to finish out the video and post it to youtube! We’re finished! All we had to do was submit everything and we were good to go. We did that with just an hour and a half to go!

Now came the waiting game! Breakfast was served of what was mostly Bacon and eggs. Well, thats the only thing I really ate. Bacon! The rest of the morning was just spent talking with other people and watching videos online to pass the time. Later at around 1pm they started to gather everybody to the main TV as the judges went to go decide who would win. Everybody talked a bit about their app and then they showed their video.

By the time it was my turn, I was so spent I’m not quite sure what I said. I’m sure it related to the app somehow though. At least I hope it did. Then a raffle was on for a Nexus tablet. Who won it? Eric won it! So he is now the proud owner of an awesome tablet.

After what seemed like a while, they gathered us back up and announced the winners of the Marquette location. The first place winner there was a grave locator app. We were still waiting for Newaygo, so they dropped the winners for the Detroit location. Third place was a michigan trivia app, second place was a scrapyard theft app and the first place was a challenge idea for a farm to table app. They were all pretty good apps. There was another half hour wait for Newaygo to get their winners together and they finally got into a google hangout. It was about 3:30pm and everybody was beat tired. The winners for our location were already announced and the only thing worth hanging around was to hopefully see the Detroit location take the grandprize.

It seemed like the other location had no idea what was going on from our view as we were staring at a blank room for a few minutes, only to see a few people come in and say they didn’t make a decision yet and they’ll come back. The TV went off. At that point, running off 4 or 5 hours of sleep and some people running off none, half the place just started to clear out. Everything was supposed to have been done by now and for those tired people, it wasn’t worth sticking around. The Detroit Lions T game was letting out soon and the Tigers game was about to begin. Traffic downtown was a nightmare and it was about to get 10 times worse if we stuck around. Most people had the idea of being tired and waiting to hear someone else win along with traffic, wasn’t a good way to end the weekend.

We never did find out how Kid Karma did or what we could of done better. I planned on sticking around, but if the judges knew there was an app similar to ours that was already out? The old saying goes “Don’t assume because you make an Ass out of U and Me”. It was safe to assume, we already knew why the judges didn’t pick us to win. We were fine with that and we were just looking to get some sleep.

What we learned is that Code Michigan is a great time and a fun time. Its an awesome experience. In order to win, it seems that you need an idea that could benefit the state of Michigan directly tomorrow. Of course its a civil hackathon and the idea is to help the state of Michigan, but being creative people we like to go beyond that. We like to think of ideas that can help the morale of the state as well as the state of life.

Overall, it was a great experience and I might just go for a third round. For now though, I’m glad I went and will dream about the next hackathon or my next big project.

Cleaning your work space

Usually on the weekend is when a lot of people get stuff done. Today is was a cleaning day! I cleaned up around my office some and set up my new swag from lootcrate. Its still a mess, but it feels like I’ve got a lot of stuff accomplished.


I watched the entire 2nd season of Comic Book Men on netflix today. It reminded me of that brief summer when I bought comic books while I was on vacation. To pass the time on the lake, we went to the local book store and literally got stacks of comic books. As I was watching the show, I realized how awesome it was to just be around that lifestyle.


What I learned today:
Comics are a lot more than when I bought some as a kid. I used to get comics for $1 – $1.99, now they’re $3.99.