One of my favourite things to do as a kid was create things, and personalise them to make them my own. I expect this urge is what eventually lead me to the design and development industry.

Mum has always been a big recycler, so we always had a crate of cardboard in the garage my little sister and I could dig into and have at with scissors and tape. We created bunk beds for our stuffed animals out of shoeboxes, using toilet rolls for vertical supports.

When I signed up for membership to Scholastic’s Goosebumps and Animorphs clubs, each month they would send  not just new books, but also trading cards, membership cards, stickers etc. I would spend hours cutting up paper from Dad’s paper recycling box in the study to make pockets that would hold these trading cards, recreating the Goosebumps logo on the front in bright texta, personalising them with my name, threading coloured string through holes punched in the paper and reinforced with sticky tape to make the card holder into a pocked lanyard.

In 1998 when Dad brought the first two Harry Potter books home from the UK, I got on his computer and used a combination of Word and Paint to create my own spellbook, listing every spell I had come across in the books so far with the incantation and description. I printed new editions on paper that had an old parchment texture as each new Harry Potter book came out, each time punching new holes in the spine and threading the new edition with bright red string. I scrawled my name in the front. This edition of the Book of Spells, Grade 1 (2) (3) (4)… belongs to Donna Leys.

When I got my paws on my first laptop in 2002 (Dad got me a MacBook, much to my disappointment at the time) I started personalising my digital life as well. Someone gave me a copy of Photoshop Elements so I could make wallpapers for my laptop. When I discovered LiveJournal, I began teaching myself CSS so I could make my own journal themes. Then my own fanart. Icons, macros, an endless parade of photo-manipulations, wallpapers, and more. Let us not speak of my foray into vidding, haha. So much of it is terribad to look back upon, but all of it helped grow my skills in some way. None of it was time wasted.

The act of making something with your own hands, even digitally, is enormously satisfying. I haven’t ever been able to stop.

These days my personal projects involve less toilet rolls (to your great disappointment, I am sure), but they are still born out of this unstoppable urge to create something that is mine, or make an existing something better suit my needs.

I’m hoping to post some personal projects here in the future, as I often find myself opening photoshop to redesign something I have seen or used online that I’ve thought could be improved upon, or just in need of a facelift.  Much of the joy of being in this industry is how fast-moving it is. Websites are in constant need of a good update, so there is no end of inspiration.

I am more often discontent with my designs than my code, so personal redesign projects are probably the most important work I could be undertaking in my spare time, as this is the area I most desire to continue to improve upon.

My most recent personal projects have included redesigns of Archive of Our Own and Bioware’s Mass Effect multiplayer N7HQ. Neither were 100% completed, but I should like to post what was finished, just for the fun of it, and now I’ve activated my blog, I think that I shall. And hopefully, having a place to post my personal projects will encourage me to finish a few more.