On March 17, 2011, Bethany Heck sent out a project update to the 807 backers of her Eephus League Baseball Scorebook Revival Project on Kickstarter. She'd been working with a printer in Montgomery, Alabama to accelerate the printing process so that the scorebooks could arrive in backers’ hands by the opening day of baseball season, April 1. But with five days remaining until the project’s close on March 22, it was starting to look like that wouldn’t be possible after all. In an update, she wrote:
I just went to visit my printer up in Montgomery and I have some news... First off, the corners of the book aren't going to be rounded. I'm quite upset that they neglected to tell me until this point, but it's too far in the process to back out and I'm financially obligated at this point. […]
The second bit of bad news is that the books aren't going to get to me by next week, which puts them getting to you by opening day in serious jeopardy.
The timing of the campaign had been a coincidence; when asked later whether she’d intended to send out the scorebooks by opening day, Bethany said “I didn't even think about that.” But once the coincidence became clear and the project’s baseball fan backers began to express their anticipation of opening day, Bethany decided she had to give it her best shot. The day’s press check at the printer had left her deflated, though. Would backers be disappointed?
Every week, we round up some of the stories about projects that made it into the press. We're happy to see them out there in the real world, and excited to share their progress with you! Read on.
Dhani Mau of Fashionista ran a long and thoughtful feature on a couple of successfully funded fashion projects, from Ministry of Supply to The Versalette: "Kickstarter goes against the traditional model of selling clothes and launching a fashion line, which has in the past revolved around finding one (or a handful) of well-financed investors and making an impression on fashion’s big-name players, whether it be by going after a Vogue editorial, or getting picked by Barneys. Kickstarter proves that fashion products can be sold and funded on the internet, sight unseen, by the general public, and the company’s success may be an indicator of the direction the industry is heading. It’s also more conducive to getting feedback from your target customer without much risk."
Peter McCollough of Wired posted a Q & A with the filmmakers behind the T-Rex documentary project chronicling the journey of Claressa Shields, the youngest woman to ever box in the Olympics: "For this project, we have been aggressive, aggressive, aggressive. And yes, that is the way that you raise money in Kickstarter but it also seems very relevant to distributing independent films as well. You find an audience that likes your work and constantly try to work with and inform that audience about whatever it is you are working on. If you’re on it, it can be very rewarding. And what’s crazy is how much the audience and fans appreciate that."
Jim Romenesko of his eponymous journalism blog wrote about the Voices from the Swing States project to travel to Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida and report on whether the American Dream is still alive in local communities there leading up to the presidential election: "His Kickstarter page is also a great indication of the way the industry is shifting: A journalist sees there are stories that need to be told, and instead of waiting for someone to assign the stories and pay him to write them between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., he takes initiative and does it on his own."
Gus Sentementes of the Baltimore Suninterviewed the creators behind the One Straw Farm project to create an app for the largest organic farm in Maryland that will enable farmgoers to find out what produce they’re growing each week, share recipes, and build a sense of community around locally produced food: "I can tell you farmers generally have embraced information technology and have some sophisticated applications that utilize geospatial technology in the fields," McMillan said. "They use it for precision farming, for when they're running their equipment over the fields. They can collect vast amounts of information. They can record [harvest] yields in specific places of their fields."
Allan Brettman of The Oregonianfeatured the Faraday Porteur project to create an elegant, powerful electric city bike: "In addition to an electrical system developed in Silicon Valley, the Porteur features a frame hand built in the USA, ash fenders, leather grips, a detachable, front-loading cargo carrier and built-in headlights. But it also joins a market that already has e-bike options, including German-made Kalkhoff bikes. The U.S. distribution headquarters for Kalkhoff are in Portland at Northwest 11th Avenue and Hoyt Street."
What does $1 get you these days? Not a lot. Maybe a newspaper, a candy bar, or a bottle of water. But when it comes to Kickstarter, $1 can go a lot farther than you might think.
For creators, a standout $1 reward can make a great first impression. It's a way to snag backer's attention, and bring them into the world of your project. In return, a $1 pledge is a backer's gesture of support — Kickstarter's version of "liking" something — since creators get an email notifying them of the action.
Sometimes $1 can add up to much more than a gesture. Earlier this year Amanda Palmer set a Kickstarter record by having 4,743 people pledge to her $1 reward. The offering? A digital download of her new album. Nice deal!
What are some other $1 rewards that stand out? There are three types in particular:
The One Buck Chuckle
A sense of humor can go a long way. Putting a twist on the traditional "thank you" can elicit a chuckle and spark a prospective backer's interest. For instance, Penny Arcade’s project to remove ads from their comics site offered:
Others use $1 to show a sense of humor and reaffirm their project’s intent, like Atheist Shoes:
Or, like crime novel comic artist Roman Muradov, a dollar can be a chance to (fittingly) arouse intrigue:
The Dollar Invite
Some of the great dollar rewards have been participatory. Literary magazine InDigest offered $1 backers a chance to be a part of the story:
Design & Thinking, a documentary project, offered two different $1 reward options. The first was fairly typical — a thank-you, along with access to project updates. But the second was special, limited to 20 backers:
(Not surprisingly, this tier sold out.)
Cartoonum, a large scale painting that depicted over 2,000 comic and video game characters, used the $1 reward as an opportunity for backers to weigh in:
A single dollar is barely enough to cover postage these days, so it makes sense that even the most inventive $1 rewards are usually digital or experiential in nature — but it can be even better when they're both. Take Molly Crabapple, for example.
For one week in 2011, the artist locked herself in a hotel room and drew pictures on butcher paper all over the walls. She called it “Molly Crabapple’s Week in Hell.” Of her 745 backers, 131 pledged at the $1 tier, which gave them “access to a private live stream of the week-long drawing session.” It was a perfect exchange — fans were welcomed into the creative process, a priceless experience for many, and, in turn, Molly found a hyper-engaged audience for her work.
One-on-one digital experiences can be effective, too. The creator of the Funklet project offered a zany, interconnected reward at $1:
Besides being hilarious, this reward also created a sense of comedic urgency — ”get these quick before picture quality degrades” — and gave backers a sense for the creator’s personality.
Every Kickstarter project is about the relationship between a creator and their backers. The $1 reward tier presents an opportunity not only to cement that relationship, but to draw new backers into the fold. With creativity and a little personality, anything is possible.
On that note, we'll end with DIY space photography project Bespin, who offered to send backer's names into space for a buck:
Simple, inspirational, and totally in step with the spirit of the project. Perfect!
Design shapes life in more ways than we notice. This week we asked MoMA's design curator to share a selection of links that show us the trends in contemporary design she's excited about, and learned that small, accessible inventions can make a huge difference. Today we're sharing three projects that are little in size, but huge in possibility.