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Looking back through 2020

January 2, 2021
Looking back through 2020

2020 - a year in which many of us reflected on who we are, how we spend our time, and what is our place in our communities.

One of the things I started this year was writing a bit - so why not write a year-in-review for 2020.

While many things this year were tumultuous, I was able to focus on a plethora of things that I may have never done. I spent alot of time walking/biking outside, listening to podcasts, learning new things, working on side projects, and spending time with those close to me.


Professionally, this was a great year (and my 2nd year) at my day job. Although many companies and individuals went through difficult times at different times in 2020, we were lucky enough to be in an industry that didn't have a heavy, negative economic downturn.

At the beginning of this year, my team began a few new cutting-edge projects and ended the year shipping v1's on all of them πŸ™Œ! While starting the year off with a handful of high-impact projects, we also fulfilled the need to scale the size of our team by 1.5x. We spent a ton of time:

  • Learning how digital tools can help bridge gaps between homeowners and contractors
  • Understanding a user's relationship between an app and a hardware products
  • Seeing how we can better inform/teach users on how to install home hardware products in the post-COVID-19 DIY age.

I chose not to freelance too much this year, but I did choose to help out designing for a company called SoleVenture. Learning how to ship a cross-platform product as well as find where freelancers see value in their benefits was eye-opening.

Portfolio and Blog

In late 2019, I began rebuilding my portfolio with React/Gatsby and was able to get it live in February - continuing to make small edits throughout the year!. Looking back on some of the quirks with Gatsby, I probably should have built it using Next.js from the start - but it's been a great learning experience!

At the beginning of this year, I wanted to start writing and sharing the things I'm working on in the open - so I built and iterated on this site. In fact, this site is not only a space for my writing, but also a place where I can experiment on new ideas I have: Theme Creator, Next.js, design system stuff, etc.

Using something like Next.js helps me iterate and deliver ideas more quickly and flexibly - easy-to-use, quick build times, package support, etc.

Side Projects

I spent a bit of time rebuilding Slack Themes this year and had a ton of fun implementing a few new, fun things into the updated version (Firebase, theme submission, Theme Admin, etc.). In fact, another designer jumped on board the project too. We've got some things cooking for this project this year!

The abrupt nature of this year caused a bit of disruption in how designers in the area could connect with each other - as well as how new designers in the area could connect with one of the many local design organizations. To help consolidate that information into a single space, I threw together - designers could join the different Slack communities and see which virtual events were being hosted by the local design orgs.

I'll be iterating on these project alot more through 2021, and possibly starting a few others πŸ˜‰.


Every year I tell myself I'm going to learn something new to aid in my design skills. However, this year I couldn't use my usual excuse of not having the time πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ. One of the benefits of 2020 was that I stayed at my desk a bit more, going through:

  • 100 days of SwiftUI
  • Learning Firebase
  • Building a few Figma plugins to help with our design workflow at work
  • Picking up a bit of 3D modeling with Blender and Spline.
  • (Re)learning bits of Python

Some of these new learnings are leaking their way into some of my recent designs, but I fully expect the rest to make an entrance in 2021!


Beside design/work stuff, I spent a ton of time picking up a few new things to help me spend my time more meaningfully, or even to help me "slow down and smell the roses". I picked up my dusty acoustic guitar more than I had in the past few years, and subsequently fell in love learning a bit of practical music theory.

One thing I never thought I would start is going to racing school πŸš—. Growing up as an avid Gran Turismo fan, the itch to get behind a steering wheel of a car on the track never seemed real. I had no idea what to expect, but I signed up for a 3-day racing school in January and it was more thrilling than I could've hoped. While I'm no Alain Prost in a Miata, it transformed the way I drive and helped me think about something as high-octane as racing in a more strategic way.

While stuck at home at the beginning of the year, I realized I could explore my locale further if I had a bike - so I went full-purist and picked up a fixed-gear bike. After doing of bit info digging before-hand, I thought to dive down the fixie route due to the DIY nature of it all - it's been great and I've been tracking my rides around town through Strava!

I also spent a bunch of time walking around town and listening to a ton of podcasts - while journeying from point A to point B. My podcast genres run fairly wide - from the music industry, to news, to design, to healthcare, etc. If you're curious, some of my favorite podcasts were:

2020 also bit me with the coffee bug. Before this past year, I would drink 3 - 5 cups of coffee from wherever, keurig machines, coffee shops, the beat-up coffee machine. Around March, I decided to level-up my coffee game - you know the drill, chemex, gooseneck kettle, coffee grinder, local-roasted beans, etc. Who knows what 2021 has in store for my coffee addiction? Espresso machine β˜•οΈ?

So drinking more coffee, going on long bike rides, learning how to race cars - a strange way to sum up a few new hobbies I picked up in 2020.

What to expect for 2021

This year was a whirlwind for everyone of us, in many different ways - from working/learning from home to personal relationships, we all spent some much needed time recalibrating.

In 2021, I want to focus on adding more interactivity to this site, my portfolio, and my side projects. Having others interact with the content is way more interesting and meaningful than throwing together a simple, static website.

I also want to write (alot) more than I did this past year. Starting off with this post, I hope to increase my cadence to ~1 post week, and see which content connects.

As far as extracurricular stuff, I'll probably continue all of the awesome things I picked up in 2020. On top of that, I've been thinking about learning how to ride a motorcycle and possibly learning how to modify a cheap project bike!

I hope your 2020 was meaningful and that you have a great 2021 πŸŽ‰!

Have feedback?

I'd love to see if this was helpful or if there was anything I should look to update - let me know below!

Hey, I'm Ryan.πŸ‘‹

I'm a designer and .

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