September 25, 2017

The importance of creative side projects – What keeps the MF team inspired

MF team

Side projects, side hustles, passion projects, creative hobbies – whatever you want to call them, these personal pursuits are time well spent because they are without a doubt good for your mind, health, productivity, and overall creativity. Side projects allow space to “recover” from the work week and leave workplace stress behind. But promoting employee creativity isn’t just good for the individuals, it’s good business as well.

According to McKinsey & Company, the most creative companies are the most successful companies. Google bet on this early with their now famous twenty percent policy, that allowed all staff to use 20% of their work week towards their creative projects that helped to advance the company. As others have pointed out, Google didn’t exactly implement this well, but it was a step toward companies recognising that allowing employees space away from briefs and deadlines often leads to inspiration that advances the business.

Side projects and work often go hand in hand. They can be an opportunity to use your professional skills in a more creative way, or perhaps it’s a chance to do something completely different than your day job so you feel refreshed and rejuvenated when returning to work on Monday. They’re also a glorious chance for collaboration.

And there’s another little secret that creative working professionals often learn. While the “starving artist” lifestyle is romantic, it puts a lot of pressure on your creativity when you need it to pay the bills. Knowing your finances are covered can provide a whole lot more freedom to have fun with and to explore different avenues of your side project. Spontaneity is often what leads to inspiration.

Admittedly, after a full day at work, it can be hard to put your mind directly into another project and feel like you’re creating your best work. On those days, Netflix seems like the best side project. But dedicating regular time to a passion project is definitely worth the effort, and hopefully, you find one (or several!) that truly feel like they give you a break from the usual grind – it could turn into your next full-time gig.

The Media Frontier team is a very creative bunch, and we all have very different passions that we pursue outside of the office. As you’ll see, the projects at work and the projects at home often influence each other.


Side projects and creative pursuits of the Media Frontier team


Ania drumming

Ania – dancing, drumming & baking

Project Manager

I’ve been a dancer my entire life, beginning with my first lessons at six years old. Dancing is definitely my first passion; it’s such a good way to release energy after sitting at a desk all day. I danced ballroom for years but recently my husband and I joined a salsa group in Geneva, which is so different and fun! And it’s helping to get him out on the dance floor more, which is a challenge, believe me! I also find baking very soothing. As a Project Manager I like to think I’m organised and precise, but actually when I bake I try to freestyle a bit, not all the measurements need to be exact (I know, I know, wild and crazy). A more recent passion of mine is drumming. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play an instrument so I took it up last year in secret and surprised my husband by drumming Highway to Hell with the band on our wedding day. It was a hit, to say the least, and so exhilarating!

Val figure drawing

Val – life drawing & calligraphy

Senior Graphic Designer

My father loved drawing so there were always art projects in my house. It was kind of never a question whether or not I would pursue something creative. I took my first art class when I was seven and I’ve always used art as a vehicle to express myself. At university in Russia I experimented with many mediums and styles, including watercolor, landscapes, digital drawing, and even cat portraits – for some reason, these are very popular! I love to try new things in art so I don’t think there is one particular style that defines me. At the moment I am exploring calligraphy, both Japanese and gothic styles. It is so beautiful, fluid, and patient. I also love attending life drawing sessions in Geneva to refine my skills. I would really like to try working on a larger scale (a wall mural would be fun!) and also to try some completely new medium, like film making. My fine art skills have definitely helped set me apart as a designer; it was part of the reason I was hired at Media Frontier!


Chris motorcycle

Chris S – snowboarding & motorcycles

Head of Technology

Outside of work I have four main passions: snowboarding, travel, reading, and motorcycles. I’ll read just about anything, from history to politics to novels to sci-fi; I burn through several books a month. Snowboarding is the reason my wife and I moved to Switzerland but I didn’t actually try it until I was 37 years old. The first time was on an indoor slope in Birmingham and it was terrible. But I gave it another shot while on holiday in the Alps and it was a completely different experience. Snowboarding up high in the mountains makes me feel more alive than anything else I’ve ever done. Now we spend every winter weekend in Tignes. When I can’t snowboard, I like building things. I used to restore classic cars back home in the UK, which is a passion I’d given up after moving to Switzerland, however, I recently bought a new Harley Davidson and I can’t wait to start modifying and customising it.


Juliette skull

Juliette – art & culture

Graphic Designer

I have three main creative pursuits outside of work: freelance graphic design, art, and my cultural association Voltaire’s Attic. My association is closest to my heart at the moment, as we are growing and establishing ourselves in Ferney. Our goal is to promote local art and music in the Pay-de-Gex region through expositions, concerts, themed charity dinners, and our first two-day festival, FestiVolt, which will take place in June next year! Working at Media Frontier, especially with learning from a fantastic project manager like Ania, has been so useful for this pursuit. For my art, I’m inspired by feminist values. My naked ladies are pro-body image and anti slut shaming. It was online that I discovered a community of like-minded individuals who inspired me to express my support of these themes through art. It sounds corny but creativity is a muscle and it has to be constantly flexed. Working in several genres helps to keep my creativity nourished and makes it easier to approach several projects from various directions, whether it’s client work or a personal project.

Follow my work at elephentshoe and Voltaire’s Attic.


Chris sketchbook

Chris A – eclectic art projects


My background is in Fine Art and Multimedia, so I’ve been working on creative visual projects with an interdisciplinary approach for a while. I’ve always enjoyed drawing and painting and became interested in printmaking (namely silkscreening and photo lithography) during University. As a result, I’ve been making things using a pretty wide range of media.

A few years back I took part in The Sketchbook Project, which is a crowdfunded project based in New York where artists sign up to receive a small sketchbook in the mail. You’re given a due date and once you fill the book, you send it back to them and it goes on a little tour in a trailer which sets up at art fairs, farmers markets, etc. where people can search by theme and take out a sketchbook to browse through. After the tour, it stays in a library in Brooklyn where people can come in and look at the sketchbooks. This was a drawing project combining portraits, landscapes and imagined spaces. From this project I have been working on some paintings and silkscreen prints which translate similar themes, ideas, and images into different media. I also attend life drawing sessions to try and keep up my drawing skills.

I originally started working as a graphic designer after University, but also took on some development projects. I find the two creatively stimulating, but they present different challenges. Design calls for solving visual problems and representing content in a creatively appealing way, while development for me is about finding unexpected solutions to complex problems that you may not have known existed in the first place. It’s a constant learning experience. I think keeping up with visual art projects in my spare time helps me to keep a balance and focus on making something just for me without a client in mind. It also is a great creative outlet for visual projects since I am focusing more on development in my job these days.

Chris’ sketchbook project


Emma woodwork

Emma – woodwork & mobile photography

Digital Manager

I’ve worked in digital for seven years now, and I love it, but it is so refreshing and invigorating to step away from the computer and actually use my full body to create something. Standing up, holding materials in my hands, comparing colors in natural light – these are such viscerally different experiences to working behind a screen. I work with many patterns, so most days that I’m in the woodshop I’m constantly constructing and deconstructing puzzles until I find the one that fits. The exercise definitely sticks with me throughout the week as I find my groove between the various projects I manage for Media Frontier and World Radio Switzerland. And of course the flow goes the other direction as well, as no maker can be successful these days without a solid digital presence, so I’m lucky to have a foot on both sides. And it’s technology that sparked my other creative pursuit. Never one to carry around bulky camera equipment, having an iPhone in my hand has opened up the world of mobile photography. I’m usually lagging behind a bit taking pictures of leaves and flowers and vast Swiss landscapes.

Follow my woodwork and images.


Lisa singing

Lisa – singing

Client Services Director

You know how some people like to jump off mountains or feel the need for speed to get their adrenaline kick? I’ve tried those and literally feel nothing. But singing? That’s what makes my blood rush and my heart pound. And it’s free!! I was entered into my first competition at the age of 5 and won singing ‘My Grandfathers Clock’ in my little Brownie uniform and just never stopped. I joined my church choir when I was 7 and stayed loyal until I was packing my bag for Uni. By the age of 11, I was charging brides the bargain rate of £50 to knock out an Ave Maria for them every Saturday over summer. I peaked at the grand old age of 13 when I won a place to sing with Philip Schofield in the UK Tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. And when most of my friends were clubbing away their summers in Ibiza, I was touring the most iconic cathedrals in the UK as a Mezzo in a Camerata run by one of the best organists in the country. There is nothing that gets my endorphins popping than singing as a cog in the wheel of a 16 part harmony with some of the best singers around. And there wasn’t a club beat that would have made me miss it! (that said, I’m a party-loving Northerner, and there was many a weekend where late nights limited that top range and I’d have to mime it instead 😉 Since my own kids arrived, I’ve passed the baton on a bit as I watch my own daughter’s eyes light up on stage. But I still sing in charitable events and when a good friend of mine who sings at the Opera de Genève wanted to go all Game of Thrones on the weekend, I gamely joined her trio to sing her original pieces at beautiful medieval festivals in Yvoire and the Old Town’s Auditoire de Calvin. A part of me is missing out at sea when I’ve not got a regular gig going and it definitely gives me the peace I need to balance out the madness of keeping our many lovely clients happy!!


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