CCA Students and Alums Take to Kickstarter to Propel Their Dreams
Posted on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 by Allison Byers
Yield Design Co. Picnic Bag
More and more, the talented and driven creatives of the CCA community are turning to Kickstarter -- a funding platform for creative projects. We’ve seen more than 20 successful projects on the CCA Kickstarter page, and even more are out there, achieving their goals.
Since its founding in 2009, Kickstarter has served as an essential funding platform for ambitious, innovative, creative undertakings. To date, more than 2.5 million people have pledged more than $350 million to fund more than 30,000 projects.
Supply + Demand = Kickstarter
There is no shortage of awesome ideas generated by CCA students and alumni. What starts out as a class project could end up as an innovative product on store shelves, an inspiring and eye-opening film, limited-edition fine art prints, or a live performance.
Running a Kickstarter campaign is no cakewalk, but with hard work, dedication, and lots of planning, creative crowdfunding has enabled numerous alumni and students to make their dreams reality.
Lucas Ainsworth’s Kinetic Creatures
Lucas Ainsworth (Industrial Design, 2010) and his partner Alyssa Hamel spent four years developing their DIY mechanical cardboard animals, Kinetic Creatures, before launching a Kickstarter campaign for manufacturing.
“Kickstarter allowed us to assess the level of interest in our project,” says Ainsworth, “so we didn’t have to take a blind leap of faith, or approach the traditional gatekeepers to the industry. We were able to raise money without giving up ownership or control of our work.”
Importance of Networking
The Kinetic Creatures campaign launched on May 14, 2012, with a goal of $22,000. When it ended a little more than a month later, Ainsworth and Hamel had reached their goal twice over, with hundreds of backers pledging a total of $44,140.
One of the biggest factors in the campaign’s success was the great timing.
“We launched our campaign to coincide with showing our work at Bay Area Maker Faire in May 2012,” said Ainsworth. “More than 100,000 people go to that event.”
It was a good bet. The adorable Kinetic Creature characters -- Elly the Elephant, Rory the Rhino, and Geno the Giraffe -- were a hit at the Maker Faire, and within a few days, the project was being covered by countless art and design blogs such as Cool Hunting and Laughing Squid.
“A Kickstarter campaign by itself is not a magic ticket to funding,” says Ainsworth. “We talked to well over 2,000 people at the Maker Faire and spent every spare moment writing to blogs and news sites about our campaign.”
Neil Schultz’s Penrose Magnets
According to Industrial Design student Neil Schultz, the networking aspect of a Kickstarter campaign is valuable not only for funding, but also for the development of the product during and after the campaign. Schultz and partner Heath Westbrook created Penrose Magnets, colorful refrigerator magnets inspired by Roger Penrose and Johannes Kepler’s work.
Based on five-fold symmetry and the Golden Ratio, Penrose Magnets come in two shapes: kites and darts. They are meant to be highly interactive. While it is easy at first to make patterns with the magnets, it becomes increasingly difficult to build a perfect sequence as more magnets are added.
Importance of Engagement
After the campaign ended and they had raised more than $7,000 (their original goal had been $5,000), Schwartz found it easy to get feedback from project backers.
However, Schwartz admits that he regrets not using audience design input earlier in the process and leveraging that to create a better product. “Now that we’ve started the manufacturing process, I’ve been sending our backers weekly updates that include pictures and information on where we are in the process.”
Rachel Gant & Andrew Deming’s Yield Picnic Bag
Inspiration for the Yield Picnic Bag actually began during a class project in Rachel Gant’s third year as an Industrial Design student. “Fellow student Kevin Hseih and I mocked up a fictional product brand called ‘PickNick’. We each designed our own interpretations of picnic 'tools' to live within the family which is where my concept for the 'Picnic Bag' began.”
After graduating in May 2012, Gant teamed up with partner and fellow alum Andrew Deming (MBA in Design Strategy, 2012) to redesign the original concept and refine the product, then presented it during SF Design Week.
The incredibly positive reception gave Gant and Deming the validation they needed to launch the project under their new brand, Yield Design Co. “Kickstarter is a great way not only to raise funds, but also to introduce yourselves and your project to the world,” said Gant.
“Being discovered on the Kickstarter platform helped clear the dust and explain how we had crafted not only a product, but also the brand/studio surrounding it.”
Importance of Preparation
Gant and Deming, like Ainsworth and Schultz, put a great deal of time and effort into preparing for their campaigns. At the same time that they were creating a video, taking photographs, making a website, writing marketing copy, and devising a manufacturing plan, they were tasked with masterminding an entire brand.
“We needed to make sure the brand carried through to the materials and design.”
All three campaigns make clear that preparation is a key aspect of a successful Kickstarter campaign. “We had a product design developed and ready to go, but we spent an intense month preparing for our Kickstarter campaign -- planning, taking product shots, shooting and editing the video, and getting quotes from various factories,” says Ainsworth. “The hardest part was figuring out where to set our goal, and the cost of backer rewards. We’ve found most things take twice as long and cost twice as much as you’d expect!
“It was a steep learning curve of coordinating factories, and managing every aspect of production. You have to hire a truck to move parts from one factory to another, and you have to spec everything right down to the piece of tape that seals the box. It’s been an immense learning experience.”
Got your own Kickstarter campaign? If you're part of CCA, please share your Kickstarter project with firstname.lastname@example.org.
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