Hiring: Visual Designer / Developer

Kickstarter is hiring! It’s time to grow our team to match the growth of Kickstarter.

We’re looking for a design geek with a passion for code.  Or, if you like, a coder with a great sense of design and typography. You’re equal parts developer and designer, collaborating with the design team to build the interface people see and interact with daily on Kickstarter.

Candidates should have a strong background in visual and interaction design of web applications, working as part of a small, creative team, and a desire to work on something really neat.  Ideally you’re located in New York or Chicago, but if you think you’ve got the skills we’d love to hear from you.

SKILLS
Strong understanding of current HTML/CSS best practices and web standards
Thorough knowledge of grid layout, graphic design & typography for the web
Familiarity with CSS grid frameworks, like Blueprint and Compass
Deep working knowledge of cross platform/browser development
Proficient with design tools (Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, etc)

ABILITY TO
Work in a highly collaborative environment
Develop rapid prototypes in code, if appropriate
Adapt designs or generate your own
Manage your own code for a growing, evolving site
Work seamlessly with engineers and designers alike

BONUS POINTS
Comfort working in a Rails environment
JS and DOM scripting experience, ideally with jQuery
Experience with source control, like Git and Subversion
ActionScript/Flex experience for our media player and widget development
Optimizing UIs for iPhone/mobile browsers

FIT THE BILL? SEND US:
A little something about yourself
Links to your personal homepage, resume, and online portfolio
Some of the interesting things you’ve done

Send your information to:

uxjobs_20091102@kickstarter.com

Spreading the Word

Looking around Kickstarter, it’s easy to be wowed by the amounts of money being raised. Everywhere you look projects are steadily — and sometimes rapidly — marching to their goal. It’s an inspiring sight.

But what you don’t see is the work that’s gone into raising those funds. Every successfully funded project — whether it’s raising $700 or $70,000 — was promoted by its creator to their network (friends, family, coworkers, Twitter, Facebook, etc) and audience to build support. Even we had to hustle to get our own Kickstarter project funded.

The lion’s share of every project’s funding comes from the creator’s existing network and their outreach. Kickstarter isn’t a giving tree, it’s a way to turn your audience and network into patrons. And to do that, creators must spread the word. Every project starts in those first couple degrees of separation. Those are the people whose support we can rely on, and they’ll be happy to spread the word through their own networks too. Fans operate the same way.

In some cases your own network can only get you so far (why setting a realistic funding goal is so important), and those are opportunities to get creative. Launch an event, craft a campaign, talk to the local press, both online and off. Spread the word through your peers — talk to your fellow photographers, artists, painters, game designers, journalists, etc. If you feel passionately about your project, what’s better than having an excuse to talk about it?

Getting the message out also builds an audience. You’re raising funds and awareness simultaneously, with Kickstarter being not just a funding platform, but a social lubricant. It’s much easier to promote your work when there’s something concrete and easily actionable for people to do.

Some creators launch hoping that just having their project on Kickstarter will be enough. It’s not. Of the projects that have failed to reach their funding goal, 23% of them never even got a single backer. Creators don’t repay what they raise of course, but you better believe they earn it.

So it’s not easy work, but it is rewarding. And because of the ticking clock and our all-or nothing model, you’ll likely get some help from your backers. They only get their rewards if funding succeeds, so if you’ve got something that people are really looking forward to, they’re going to be extra-motivated to make sure they get it.

Finally, I’d love to hear from creators on this topic. Whether you’re already funded or currently funding, drop some tips on getting the word out in the comments. Your advice will be a huge help to the community. Thanks!

Creator Q&A: Mysterious Letters

It wasn’t just Michael and Lenka’s recent addition of some interesting rewards that made The Mysterious Letters project catch our eye. The two have been arousing our curiosity from the beginning - which, actually, seems to be their speciality. Just ask the 467 people in the small Northern Ireland town of Cushendall who each received a personalized, handwritten letter from the pair on the same day in April of this year. Puzzling? Yes. Inspiring and even a little thrilling? Definitely. 

Now Michael and Lenka are determined to take their project world-wide, and they’re using Kickstarter to make it happen. Even though we imagine it takes a lot of time to write individual notes to hundreds of people, Michael and Lenka we’re kind enough to spend a little bit of time writing us some letters of our very own. Read what they had to say about their project below. Support it here

I think your project is so amazing! I was wondering how you guys came upon this idea? What made you want to do it? 

We came up with the idea in the British Library in London, which has one copy of every book, newspaper and magazine ever published in the English language. We went there a few times to look through stacks of books and come up with ideas. Once, over tea we in the cafeteria, I saw that Michael had written in his sketchbook; “Write a letter to everyone in the world.” I remembered having exactly the same idea, and writing it in my own sketchbook. We decided to honour the coincidence by doing it as a collaborative project. We started with the village of Cushendall in Northern Ireland (all the letters we wrote are on our blog). We were interested to see how it would be to write to hundreds of strangers and what we might say.

How do you feel about the responses you’ve been receiving so far? Any stand-out experiences?

We didn’t put a return address on the letters. We wanted to just imagine what might have happened when each household received a personal hand-written letter on the same day as every other household in a remote village. We imagined the postman with his unusually heavy bag, being forced up each path to each front door for the first time. We imagined the discussion that would take place at the breakfast table between the parents and children. We imagined on meeting neighbours over the fence, the realisation that they too had a letter, a different one, from the same unknown senders. We imagined the realisation, and the questions (who? what? why?) that would spread across the village, causing comparisons between the letters and reactions unique to the recipients. The project arrived on each person’s doorstep and gave everybody a reason or excuse to talk to their neighbours or strangers for a few days. It poses the question whether that happened, and doesn’t attempt to answer it.

How are you guys going to be using the money you raise from Kickstarter?

We’ll use the Kickstarter money to buy envelopes, hundreds of stamps, to fund research and travel and to rent a studio for the Mysterious Letters part 2 that will start in a mysterious location in November.

Where do you work from and what is your creative environment like?

Michael works in London (in a scribbly mess), I work in Pittsburgh. The place we write the letters from depends on where we’re writing to. The first 467 were written from a tower in the middle of the village. The second batch (the ones we’re writing in November) will be written from an old Barber’s shop in Pittsburgh. I am in the middle of sweeping it out and fixing it up at the moment.

Jamie Tanner Presents: The Squid

As Cassie highlighted earlier, Jamie Tanner’s graphic novel project has had tremendous success. Jamie has done a great job of spreading the word, and his work is spectacular. That’s a tough combination to beat.

During the course of Cassie and Jamie’s correspondence, we somehow roped Jamie into very very very generously creating a short comic for Kickstarter itself. We couldn’t believe our luck when he agreed, and we were even more gobsmacked when the strip arrived. It’s rad.

Read his strip below. And if you like it, consider showing your support for his project. I’m sure he’d appreciate it.

And now, allow us to present… “The Squid”

Creator Q&A: Jamie Tanner

One of the best parts about working for Kickstarter is that we’re put on a collision course with some of the most creative and ambitious people we’ve ever seen. Cue Jamie Tanner, a graphic novelist/very unhappy office worker who has all the talent (he’s an Eisner Award nominee for his graphic novel The Aviaryjust sayin’) but was having trouble finding the time and the money to complete his next book.  Not a totally uncommon story, but one that was quickly upended when Jamie turned to Kickstarter for help funding his project: within a matter of days he had cleared his goal amidst a landslide of support. 

Jamie’s overwhelming success goes to show exactly what can happen when a dynamic idea is well-presented — he was able to both grow his fanbase and turn it into a committed group of investors. As a result, he’ll now be spending his time buried in comics instead of office meetings. As he said in our interview, “My unsatisfying day job seemed to eat away more and more of my time and energy, and I wanted to get back to doing the work I actually cared about. When I stumbled across Kickstarter, it seemed like just an amazing resource — if you’ll pardon the hyperbole, it actually seemed like it could help me change my life for the better.”

To hear more from Jamie, check out our Q&A with him below. Also, listen to him discuss his use of Kickstarter on Fanboy Radio here. Donate to his project here. And don’t forget to check back later today for an exclusive graphic-short that Jamie created especially for Kickstarter!

Tell me about yourself, first. What got you into comics? How did you start doing them?

Hmm, I couldn’t say exactly what it was that got me into comics in the first place - I’d have to imagine it was a stack of superhero comics that my parents gave me when I was very young.  I’ve been reading comics ever since, from those superhero books I loved as a kid (Spider-man, Batman, X-Men, all of ‘em) to the first alternative comics I found as a teenager (like Cerebus or Evan Dorkin’s work) to the books that really blew my mind in college (Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Art Spiegelman, so many more) and made it seem like anything was possible in comics.

And as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a cartoonist (cue Ray Liotta Goodfellas voice-over).  I’m sure there are some terribly embarrassing things buried in my folks’ basement - crudely drawn attempts at comics from when I was as young as 8 or 9 years old (maybe younger?).  I guess I started “seriously” making comics in college when I discovered mini-comics and began making my own complete little comic books that I’d photocopy and give to friends.  Eventually, “give to friends” turned into “sell or trade at small-press conventions”, which turned into “submit to publishers,” which turned into “Hey, I had a book published!” and there you go.  Wanting to make comics is an odd inclination, maybe more like an addiction.  It’s incredibly time-consuming and labor-intensive, and is an extremely hard way to earn a living (I’ve never even come close), yet it’s still what I aspire to do above all else.  I’ve talked to lots of other cartoonists who feel the same way.  Maybe we need a support group or something…

Where did the idea for your current project come from?

The idea grew out of my increasing frustration with how little time I could seem to find to make comics.  My unsatisfying day job seemed to eat away more and more of my time and energy, and I wanted to get back to doing the work I actually cared about.  When I stumbled across Kickstarter, it seemed like just an amazing resource - if you’ll pardon the hyperbole, it actually seemed like it could help me change my life for the better.

As there’s generally not much money in making comics, cartoonists have often sold their original art to help support themselves.  So my initial idea for a project was to sell the art for a new comic book that hadn’t even been made yet - so the people pledging would be enabling its creation, would be able to watch as it gets made and would get a physical piece of the art they helped create.  From that spark, the idea broadened to be a sort of general art sale, with some smaller, more immediate rewards like signed copies of my first book or little blank sketchbook/journals or art prints, and even more personalized rewards like commissioned drawings or cameos in the new book I’ll be making.  So backers get to be patrons — by buying some art, they’re in effect giving me a sort of advance (almost like a bona-fide novelist — dare to dream!) that lets me make the work I’m passionate about.

How have people been responding to your use of Kickstarter? Any cool stories to share about that?

The response has been pretty amazing - people seem as taken with the whole Kickstarter idea as I am.  Not only is it really encouraging to hear that people want to see more work from me, it’s also pretty great that people want to be a part of the whole process too.  I was stunned that people went for my most ridiculously-priced rewards, like getting a cameo in the book-to-be.  One backer — actually two people splitting it — even pledged $500 to have a character in the book named after them!  Definitely a thrill that people want to be such a part of it.   The pressure’s on to make something awesome, but it’s the best possible kind of pressure.

What has been your most successful reward so far?

Well, the single reward that people have gone for the most is a signed copy of my first book The Aviary.  But a close second is a page of original art from either my first book or the new book.  And of all the rewards chosen, more than half are some sort of artwork, whether it’s a print, an original page, or a commissioned drawing or painting.  So I’m pretty excited that people are responding to the whole idea. And that response has already started inspiring me, too.  For the backer whose pledge put me over my funding goal, I made a bonus reward for him - a drawing of a giant squid high-fiving my Quiet Bird-man character.  So when you asked if I’d like to draw a comic for the Kickstarter blog, that drawing popped into my head and inspired the little story I sent along with these answers…

Creator Q&A: Blip Festival 2009

Chipmusic has had a wildly successful history with Kickstarter. First there was Kind of Bloop, an 8-bit tribute to Miles Davis that received 432% of its goal and became one of the first Kickstarter success stories. Then there was Soundbytes 5, an ongoing project supporting the Melbourne-based Soundbytes chipmusic festival that has been equally as victorious. Both received the kind of momentous support from their backers that is representative of the ideal Kickstarter model in action: turning a community of dedicated fans and followers into patrons.

Now it’s Mike Rosenthal’s turn to take up the Chipmusic crown with his project to fund New York’s Blip Festival 2009. The event, featuring live music, workshops, and video installations, has quickly become a focal point for the international chipmusic scene, with acts coming from all over the world to participate.  A third of the way to their goal — and with thirty days to go — Mike talked to us a bit about the festival, the music behind it, and how his project is going.

You can stream live recordings of last year’s Blip Festival here and watch video footage here. To support the project, head over to their page

Tell me about the festival! Where did the idea come from?

Well, the idea for the festival came from a series of chiptune shows we were doing at my performance space The Tank (in New York) in late 2003-2005. I was the experimental music curator at that space and had become friends with Bit Shifter (Josh Davis) and Nullsleep (Jeremiah Johnson), who introduced me to this music they made with Gameboys that they called Chiptune music. We booked a lot of shows together and one day they said there were gonna be these 8 amazing Japanese chiptune performers coming to NYC for vacation and could we book a show? I said if they are all gonna be here, lets do a festival! So we did. It has taken off from there. 

I’m personally interested in this re-appropriation of hardware for musical expression. It’s weirdly subversive and creative…these amazing composers, who could make awesome music on any instrumentation, are choosing to limit themselves in this unique way and really push boundries that they set for themselves…the endless variety of work that comes from that basic restriction I find fascinating. Plus the music is catchy and fun to dance to!

Are you particularly excited for anything happening in this year’s festival?

I’m excited to see Little-Scale (all the way from Australia) and to finally attend a Blip Festival after-party for the first time, mostly to see Random and Covox (two amazing Scandanavian chiptune artists) perform. We have an (informal/occasionally broken) rule to not repeat out-of-town performers year to year, just as a way to keep the line-up fresh and new. Having these two amazing guys play the after party is our way of getting to see them perform again without breaking our own rules (sneaky). 

What’s been your most popular project reward so far?

The cheapest ones of course! Though the $50 custom made visualist designed T-shirt is neck and neck with the $10 mp3 collection…

How have people’s responses been to the use of Kickstarter as a funding tool for the festival?

Actually, people have been pretty excited about it. This is a community in which everyone really supports each other. It’s a fringe art in a lot of ways, and sticking together has been an amazing way to make close friends. People see Blip Festival as THEIR festival, so people are rallying, which is awesome. 

Any closing thoughts?

I just wanted to say that Kickstarter is a fantastic idea for niche markets and independent artists and I think you will find a lot of great success with tapping into these types of communities. Good luck!

Allison Weiss Update

If you are new to Kickstarter, then allow me to introduce you to Allison Weiss, an absolute powerhouse musician, blogger, and personality. Earlier this year Allison raised nearly $8,000 to make a new record after she blew past her $2,000 goal in just ten hours. Incredible.

In the months since, Allison has been keeping everyone deeply involved in the process. We got to name her record, we read her parents’ funny take on her music, we got to see updates from the studio, and we even watched her play a marathon live show of every one of her songs. You name it and Allison thought of it and executed it perfectly.

Earlier this week, Allison unveiled the album’s title and cover in a project update. We can’t argue with the result:

Earlier this week, Allison also did an extended interview for the CD Baby podcast, and she talked a lot about her Kickstarter experience. We recommend that everyone give it a listen for some great tips on running a successful Kickstarter campaign, as well as some insights into Allison’s approach to creativity in general. It’s a great conversation with an incredible artist.

Congrats to Allison and her backers, and we’re looking forward to the record’s release on November 24th.