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How To Balance Client Work With Passion Projects

Co.Design has partnered with the Brooklyn design studio Hyperakt to bring you Lunch Talks, a video series of conversations with smart, creative people. Here, a talk with Athletics cofounder Matt Owens.—Eds.

Many creatives, whether they’re designers, architects, or writers, prioritize client work over personal projects. It can be hard to take something you dreamed up in the shower as seriously as a project that a big corporation commissioned and offered to pay you for.

Matt Owens, a founding partner of New York-based design and branding agency Athletics, grew up in Texas and spent the late ’80s and early ’90s designing records and flyers for Austin bands and labels. Now, with Athletics, he has shifted to designing for corporate heavyweights like Advertising Age, Major League Soccer, Google, Forbes, Random House, and The New York Review of Books.

Still, by remaining committed to self-started projects, Owens stays true to his “indie ragtag” roots: “I’ve done a lot of personal work just out of the love and the passion for it,” he says in this Lunch Talk. He reveals his approach to balancing client work with internal work:

The way to do self-initiated projects is to treat them like client projects. You can’t treat them differently, or they become secondary or fall through the cracks. That’s really hard to do–you have to kind of abstract it in your mind and think of the self-initiated project as something that’s as important as a project that’s paying money. When you see it as a pet thing that’s done after 5, it’s never as good as when you’re like, ‘We’re dedicating resources to it, we’re putting money behind it. This is a real thing.’ That’s the secret to it.

Watch the full Lunch Talk for more from Owens.

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