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Cloud Cloud

My Kickstarter experience.

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kickstarterWhat could be cooler than having an open forum to market test an idea and if its worth a damn, it gets funded and produced.  That is basically my review of my Kickstarter experience in a nutshell. It connected me to several types of great people:

  1. folks that wanted the toy.  They just dug my design and wanted to see it happen so they could own it.
  2. people who really appreciated the time and effort I put into this so far and sincerely wanted to help me see it through
  3. people who are doing something similar and want to use this as a resource.
  4. people that make me love waking up in the morning because they simply have the means and want to help others.
  5. family & friends

Getting started tips:

SO you have an idea and are ready to make a Kickstarter project.  What to do after launch:

Kickstarter will do what they can to promote you to their own traffic and newsletter recipients but its not a calculated effort.  You get lucky. Maybe project of the day, who knows. But its really up to you to bring people to your project.  Have a plan to contact bloggers, writers, voices in your related industries and make sure you have something for them.  In my case, I offered to provide them give-aways on their own site so they get something out of it.

There is a psychology to backing a project too.  It is interesting and I confirmed this with more than just one person’s experience.  At the beginning of a project there is a spike in support.  Your friends, family, co-workers and roommates who have known about what you are doing are excited for you and ready to help you out.  That first week is crazy exciting as you ramp up in funding quickly.  Then it plateaus into what we’ll call the dead zone.  That is when you have exhausted the known and have to connect with the true market for your product.  Don’t lose enthusiasm, its time to really see if you’re idea has promise. You have to sell now.  Your video will do a lot of the heavy lifting but you have to get people to it.  Social media is ideal for this – embrace it.  Hopefully long before trying to get something funded you have done a lot of research, made a lot of connections that can help in this effort.  If not, no worries its not a kill-switch, it just makes the incline a little steeper.  Start connecting.

TWITTER & FACEBOOK. I kept this to a minimum but it was vital.  I picked two times during the day that I would send updates or comments about progress.  Tweeting can get obnoxious.  Some exceptions to tweeting just the current % of funding are when a backer tweets about your project – follow them and RT it, thank them for getting you to that % wherever it is.  I also used twitter a lot to connect to industry blogs that might like to pick up my story.

THANK YOUR BACKERS! I can’t tell you how many backers wrote me after I sent each and every one of them a message as soon as I had a free moment to thank them for supporting me that I was the first to do so.  Really?!?!  Kudos to my folks for raising me with the inkling of class it takes to jot a short note to someone who has just given me money in support of my own vision.  I know I have a reward commitment to them, but c’mon it takes :10 and in many cases creates a flag waving voice for your project.

UPDATE, OFTEN. People want to know this is something you are really ready to pull the trigger on.  What are you doing while you wait to get funded?  Have you really done everything?  What will your next steps be after funding, what is the plan?  When can you expect to see your backer reward?  You really can come up with any excuse to connect with backers and when you do they are apt to share the progress.  In hindsight, I wish I had a few of these updates written and ready to go during that dead zone.  A few of the one’s I came up with saw a spike in backing like a surprise bonus reward or more detail on each reward level.

PRESS KIT. Have a press kit put together.  Photos, text, anything that would make it easier for a third party (blog, magazine, whatever) to say something nice and link their viewership to your product.  Upon contacting them, if they show the slightest interest, link them to the kit where they can just download a nice tight package of awesome.  Less work for them means it is easier for them to get up quickly.

REWARD LEVELS. Really think this one through and make sure you offer something for even $1-$5 backers.  Stickers were great for this for me.  I have seen some people mention backers on their blog.  Whatever, just make sure you don’t start your rewards at $50 even if they are the meatier one’s.  Offer some crazy rewards too – like fully funded – what would you do if someone just gave you every cent you needed.  Can happen.

VIDEO. Not reporting anything new here that I haven’t read on the interwebs already.  You are selling yourself as much if not more than your idea.  Connect. Speak up. Be creative.

TIME: I get asked a lot if I had my project deadline set at 60 days instead of 30 would I have sold more?  Probably not.  I think there is a lot of excitement on both sides to see what you can do in a month and backers don’t have to wait that long to see if it comes to fruition.  The afore mentioned spikes and lulls in support just get spread out and you risk the chance of those planning to come back at the end to help see it over the line forgetting about you.  I like 30 days, felt right.

Some interesting reactions to using Kickstarter (and my responses):

“It’s pan-handling.” – It’s do or die market testing. You’re not asking for hand-outs you are pre-selling a product pretty-much sight unseen.  If you can pull that off, you have a pretty damn good idea/product.

“If you can’t fund it yourself you shouldn’t be doing it to begin with.” – Kickstarter is a funding tool yes – but it is also a marketing platform.  1000′s of people know about what I am doing and creating having used it.  I have connected, collaborated, learned from, and been a resource with dozens of people I wouldn’t ordinarily have had the opportunity to share with.

“KS is an easy way to get funded and is just going to help saturate the market with low quality crap.” – Wrong and Doubtful. You might be the best salesman on the planet but people are only going to back products, people or ideas they believe will succeed.  It is not easy, it’s a lot of freaking work and I dug every minute of it.

In the end.

The best part of Kickstarter was that I maintained control of the process and at the end of it all, I am indebted to my backers by not having to sacrificing my vision to make the project happen. Hope that helps anyone considering using Kickstarter.  Here are some hard numbers to geek out on for hours: http://www.kickstarter.com/blog/10000-successful-projects

Best of luck on your project.

Craftsmanship

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I can’t help but be inspired by the craftsmanship of House Industries.  Long known by designers as a prolific type foundry, but what really gets me about them is evident in this video as well as this quote: “What ultimately shines in the House Industries oeuvre is what always conquers mediocrity: a genuine love for their subject matter”.  This kind of work always makes me think of the fading heritage of  letterpress and makes me want to learn it.  Thankfully there are still artists who value what these things have in common. Craftsmanship!

Monster Kolor.

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I’ve always been a little intimidated by airbrushing.  Not sure why. Anyway – going to be doing a lot of it this weekend.  Anyone have any tips, shoot em my way.  I got, by request, a set of Monster Kolor airbrush paints for xmas.  Bought a brush, borrowed a compressor, good to go.

To Draw is to See

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Absolutely stunning work. This sketchbook features over 100 of Norm Schureman’s master drawings.From birds to dinosaurs and from tanks to insects, every page is an inspiring example of his legacy.   100% of the proceeds of this book go towards his two sons, Milo and Kian.  Preview the entire book here.

Christmas Past

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One of a series of illustrations I did for Holiday Greeting cards. To this day I still don’t like Santa to have arms. Weird, I know.

Tattoos, butterfly wings and a little plastic rhino

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floatThis is Float, a character I have had in my head and sketchbook for a long time.  The idea behind him is that he represents me. Back in 1991, I was seated in a tattoo parlor chair about to get a rhino running with a football on my arm when I chickened out.  Kinda glad.  Because the idea of a big lumbering beast propelled through the air by something almost etherial like butterfly wings is a bit more fitting as I age than a rhino rampaging with a football.

Needless to say this has been a fun ride and one I aim to repeat.  Casting this fella has been cumbersome but with each speedbump comes a slew of new challenges and hell, that makes it a fun ride.  One of these days I’m going to choose a hobby that is simple and inexpensive but then what would I learn from that.

Visit my Flickr account to follow along and sign up for the newsletter in the footer of this site to know when he is  available.  Still working on his final colorway and backstory, but there most certainly is one and it’s gonna be awesome.

Following in my shoes

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Emma's ShirtsI spent an afternoon last weekend helping my daughter come up with an idea for a Christmas gift for family members that are visiting this holiday.  Of the suggestions that ranged from bizarre to implausible was making them shirts.  I’ve done some screen prints in the past that turned out pretty well and thought it might be fun to print some of her art.

The print above is 100% her work (slightly organized by and then digitized by me) and I think my favorite part is that stylized “a” on her name is starting to feel like her own brand.  Who knows, maybe well come up with a line of shirt prints together.

Attempt at clearing up “using work to get work”

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obeySo this morning’s oversight by a fellow colleague (which was quickly righted, much appreciated guys) – brought up something that has come up a number of times over the years and certainly not by just me as far as using work to get work.

Here is my take:

1. If you didn’t do it, don’t say you did.

2. If you participated in a project, by all means put it in your portfolio and use it to gain employment for YOURSELF. It is an example of your capabilities and you should identify what your participation was. Mentioning the others that worked on it in your personal portfolio is a courtesy but certainly not necessary if you simply cite that your role(s). It is pretty expected that most projects of any scale are team efforts.

3. Using work done at a previous company to gain work for ANOTHER company aint cool. You are most certainly competing. That work is the property of the firm it was done for – they spent the time and effort to gain the client and would be the recipient of whatever awards and accolades that it garners. NOT whatever company you are now with. Right? Read on.

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That is pretty black and white. Here is where it gets gray:
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What if I am working with a client that I went after and got for my company (NewCity) on the basis of past work NewCity has in their interactive portfolio. Say that client has some print jobs they need done too and inquire about your print capabilities? Certainly something we can do but our print portfolio isn’t as robust, but our design staff has extensive prior experience with print. Personally I don’t feel it is right to show the work done at the previous firm, even though this is an example of showing work of a particular designer’s capabilities – the end payoff is still a client paying you for work based on what was done while somewhere else. My vote would be don’t do it. Try to sell the client assurances.

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Even grayer:
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But then think about this. You personally, as a designer have value. What you bring to whatever firm you are at is a product of your years of experience and everything you have worked on. Should that value be backed by your personal portfolio, regardless of where you work now? It is basically your brand. Or should that experience be reflected in your most recent work upping it’s value alone without the need to show what you did back in 2005? Could your employees be presented as individuals, showcasing the talent you have on staff, separating work done in-house with work done in the past?

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Keep in mind this isn’t addressing plagiarism, (unless you fail guideline #1 above) – its about using work to gain work, who owns that work, and who should see reward from it.

2010 Gocco print calendar

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GoccoSo I keep meaning to play with Gocco printing and I’m sure my silk screening experiments will eventually get me there.  Meanwhile, I often run across some outstanding examples that draw me back to it.  This one is a standout.  Some really fun illustration work.  You can support their cause and get some great art for 2010 at Crossbird’s Etsy store.

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