The Kickstarter Blog

Dreaming Big

  1. DIY Manufacturing

    In 2010 the TikTok made headlines when it pre-sold nearly a million dollars worth of iPod watchbands directly to the public. In a world of Apple, Google, and Microsoft, how could some guy in Chicago do such a thing? The breakout success brought a wave of designers and first-time manufacturers to Kickstarter in 2011.

    Typically product design is a corporate-dominated market, but Kickstarter products were made by real people we met in homemade videos. In project updates they shared the thrills of achievement and the headaches of learning-as-you-go. Backing a product was as much an experience as it was making a purchase. The process was part of the reward.

    When product design was a hit, it was a hit — more than 30 product design projects raised six figures in 2011. Coffee lovers marveled at the Coffee Joulies. Filmmakers rallied around CineSkates. The Camera Capture Clip found support from thousands of photographers. The Revolights and TiGr were hits with bicyclists. The PadPivot landed in Best Buy. Windowfarms made anyone an urban farmer.

    Designers with off-beat products also made an impact. There were wooden desktop trebuchets, a three-stringed guitar, and an annual clock. People backed jellyfish tanks, imaginary marching bands, physical GIFs, LPs lasercut into 3D dinosaur puzzles, and an alert system for the International Space Station. The Design category was anything but predictable.

    At the core of Design were the makers. They made stuff so other people could make stuff, whether it was an arduino mod for game designers, a modular system for solar-powered electronics, a 3D printer, or the irresistible Twine. Their projects turned backers into creators.

    Projects turned backers into manufacturers, too. They commissioned thousands of Cosmonauts, HexBrights, and Elevation Docks from manufacturers in the US and around the world. Their pledges reopened factories and launched small businesses along the way. In 2011, “mass-production” didn’t just describe the assembly line’s output. It described how the crowd made it happen, too.

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  2. Current Events

    Current events are packaged, distributed, and consumed so fast that there's little space to think about what's happening, and less still to act. But 2011 saw people take what was on the front page of The New York Times and trending on Twitter, and launch it on Kickstarter.

    Some projects documented events as they happened. When NASA announced the end of its shuttle program a team of photographers, cinematographers, and artists recorded it all while others turned it into video art. The Occupy Wall Street JournalOccupy Boston Globe, and Occupy! chronicled Occupy Wall Street. Citizen journalism launched from Libya and Tunisia.

    Alison Klayman’s documentary about the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei mirrored headlines. When Weiwei was imprisoned by Chinese police in April, Klayman broke the news to backers with word from his camp. In May, she discussed him on the Colbert Report.

    Others creatively addressed crises head-on. In the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake, scientists and technologists created a Radiation Detection Hardware Network to publicly measure and report data in real-time. In the wake of the BP oil spill, a group of naval architects developed plans for wind-powered, sailing robot drones called Protei to skim oil from open water.

    Not all hashtags were highbrow. When a new version of Huckleberry Finn was announced that would edit the "n-word" to "slave," two comedians published a book to replace it with “robot.” When a random tweet to Detroit’s mayor asking for a RoboCop statue went viral, backers kicked in $70,000 to actually do it

    The backers and creators of these projects didn’t just respond to the news of the day. They helped create it.

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