When I originally started this “Design A Song” project in May 2014, the idea was to make it a weekly vehicle to keep my design gears moving by illustrating one of my favorite songs and/or lyrics. I felt like my design skills were atrophying as I took on more and more project management at BBM&D (where I worked for my first nine years as a professional creative) and then jumped to Oniracom (my current employer) to focus on web development, which I did pretty heavily for the first six months there. All that copywriting and coding seemed to dull my creativity when it came to actual illustration and design, most noticeably in some truly horrible pieces I’d created for AIGA Santa Barbara when I first joined their board in 2012.

All that contributed to a general malaise about my design career, so I tried doing something about it and figured that jumping into the trendy “project of the week” posts that grew to dominate social media would do the trick. I was inspired by actual good work, though, namely my friend and colleague Tad Wagner’s periodic illustration binges and holiday “Tadvent” series on Instagram. Another inspiration was the collaborative Project 52 series by Liz King and many of her CSUCI design students (several of whom interned for me at BBM&D).

My series started well and I created some good pieces, but the slog set in sooner than I expected. I learned all over again that I don’t work well this way—regularly churning out lots of pieces instead of concentrating on making fewer, better pieces—and struggled to stay inspired while taking on more responsibility at both Oniracom and AIGA SB. Another issue was, predictably, the overwhelming dominance of white male rock artists (mostly from the 1980s onward) in this project. For better or worse, that’s what I listen to the most—but I still feel like there aren’t enough women or artists of color included, and not much hip-hop, jazz, or country either. Furthermore, I left out many favorite songs for lack of a good illustration idea, but that’s probably for the best.

I do have favorites; “Big Dipper,” “Synchronicity II,” “Red Tide,” “St. Francis Dam Disaster,” “Dream Brother,” “Ana,” “Hell is Around the Corner,” “Watch That Man,” “Goin’ Against Your Mind,” and “The Way” are probably top ten, though not in that order. Some of the rest were pretty good, and a few were great, but most were poor and several were downright bad. Still, when mashed all together they do make for an interesting playlist, whether by the order published, the reverse of that, or by chronology of when each song was actually released (which is how I compiled this “Design A Song” PDF booklet).

The series was always going to end after a year’s time, but it felt like a chore long before that. By the time I’d wrapped it up I was ready to ignore it for a while, and now when I finally have some proper distance from this project to evaluate it, the value seems truly dubious. Unlike many of my other projects, I probably won’t go back and look at these much, so a slapdash compilation like this seems the best way to put it to bed and move on to the next creative time-suck.