Building my ideas in 2021
A look back at what I built (or tried to) this year
Last year, I wrote about building my ideas in 2020. In 2021, I left Cash App and started building my ideas full-time. I went through my entire 2021 Twitter timeline to see what I was up to each month of this year. Here’s a look back at what I conceived and built in 2021, what I promised and didn’t deliver on, and what I learned along the way.
January & February
SwiftUI & iOS concepts
2020 including lots of building SwiftUI experiments, and I continued that in January and February 2021. I open-sourced a sample Finder macOS SwiftUI app, made a concept of iOS widgets on the Lock Screen, and imagined a world where our software was still delivered on CDs. I made a concept of Time Machine on iOS, imagined iOS with Big Sur app icons, and open-sourced a Kickoff for Mac built with SwiftUI tribute.
I experimented with a Figma plugin where you could take a flat image of a design and convert it into real layers.
I made a news app built in SwiftUI that uses lil APIs. Here’s a SwiftUI experiment replicating the iPod Screen Lock. I open-sourced the iOS 6 Settings UI built in SwiftUI. I made a mock up of a GameBoy playing a Robinhood video game.
Concepts & NFTs
In March, NFTs started to make the rounds more widely. I designed a few concepts and made some more SwiftUI apps.
I made a “Magic Keyboard” concept and shared SwiftUI Sunset, Finder Mood, and GMEboy as NFTs on Foundation.
April & May
After maintaining about a dozen independent lil apps on TestFlight and running into trouble with Apple, I decided to combine them all into a single app: lilOS.
I open-sourced the code for the Precision Finding experience for AirTags, gave a talk at Figma Config 2021 about experimenting with plugins, made a concept of Xcode for iPad built in SwiftUI, and imagined people as app icons on the Home Screen.
I shared a teaser of some apps I was exploring, made a concept of windows as apps on iPadOS, and started working on a lil resume app with the introduction of iOS 15. I made the original Apple logo in SwiftUI and a concept for iOS by controlling the screen with a trackpad.
In July, I left Cash App. I intentionally gave myself lots of things to work on in order to find what I wanted to focus on full-time. One of those ideas was Fruit. I shared a video coding the Fruit website and teased Blueberry, a Twitter DMs app.
Another thing I gave myself time to focus on was design tools. I introduced Tricycle, focused on building automation tools for designers. I made an iOS app to interact with the Figma canvas and a drop for Tricycle called Joystick, pairing an iOS app as a remote control with a Figma plugin to turn Figma into a video game. I shared a concept about the equivalent of “Shortcuts for Figma” and an experimental Figma plugin to magically link layers together in a prototype.
Automator, Fig, FigJam
I shared the very first demo of Automator, a way to automate your Figma workflows. I shared a few work-in-progress FigJam widgets from the FigJam beta. Here’s a demo of the lil todo and lil calculator widgets.
Figma & concepts
I explored making a generative art plugin in Figma, made a mockup of a physical qwerty keyboard on an iPhone, mocked up an Apple Calculator Watch, and imagined if the iOS Camera app icon represented the three camera lenses. I shared an update on Fig, a virtual design assistant in Figma. I shared an update on lil widgets for FigJam.
October & November
Automator, lil widgets, lil wallet
I explored a collaborate design tool concept that combined Figma and Discord, introduced lil widgets for real to install on FigJam, shared the code for the lil dice FigJam widget, and shared a progress update video on Automator.
After a few long months of building Automator, I finally started to send out private beta invites for testing. I wrote about the idea, building it, and the progress.
I explored a native CMD + K concept for iOS, and mocked up iPhoneOS: macOS + iOS. Around this time I started to become fascinated with crypto and web3. I committed to building a native iOS Ethereum wallet app with SwiftUI and shared a teaser of the progress.
I rebranded Tricycle to Diagram, shared a concept of Apple Crypto in the Wallet app, shared an example Automator automation to generate placeholder designs, and made a video sharing the progress on lil wallet.
lil wallet was approved for TestFlight and I shared it for everyone to install and open-sourced the code for anyone to contribute.
I announced a pivot for Blueberry to be a wallet-to-wallet messaging app given Twitter API troubles. I shared a concept for “AirDrop” riding on the “drop your .eth” trend, and made a video sharing an Automator automation that generates a design spec in Figma.
Looking back, I can pull out a few themes from 2021 for the things I learned:
I learn best by building.
I share ideas and concepts early and often to gather a general sense of interest. This guides me on whether to push or rethink.
It’s hard not to get distracted by trends like web3 when some of the smartest people you know are pivoting. I couldn’t resist the urge to explore.
Maintaining focus on one thing at a time is important. Having the freedom to explore is important.
Thanks for following along with me in 2021. I’ve really enjoyed sharing my work with you all, and your notes and feedback have kept me going.
thank you for sharing your incredible and inspirational journey.
The pace and breadth of your ideas is incredible. Whatever you focus on next, you got this!!!