The Kickstarter Blog

Danyel Smith and Elliott Wilson on the Creation of HRDCVR

The print industry may still be figuring out how to contend with the speed and convenience of the internet, but there's plenty of freedom there. It has allowed publications to play with format, to create fantastically designed products that don't need to compete with the internet because they're running on a different track entirely. Enter HRDCVR, the new "book shaped magazine" from writer/editors (and husband and wife) Danyel Smith and Elliott Wilson. Both Smith and Wilson are veterans of the industry: Smith edited Vibe for a number of years and Wilson helped to create the seminal Ego Trip before moving on to edit both The Source and XXL, as well as his website Rap Radar. Both are, in their own ways, magazine and music lifers, and HRDCVR is the latest iteration of that. We spoke to them about their ideas and goals for the publication.

How did you come up with HRDCVR?

Danyel: Elliott and I have been talking about wanting to work together on something. We never could figure out exactly what. When I decided to apply for the Stanford scholarship, I knew I wanted to do something to serve a multicultural audience, and more importantly was created by teams reflecting that audience. I was thinking about doing some kind of weird teaching platform about how to manage these multicultural teams, because it’s something I’ve done a lot of in my life, but then I was taking this great class at Stanford and a lot of the kids in the class were product design graduate students, and they were asking me, "So what are you doing with your fellowship?" I was explaining to them something that didn’t really sound like something, and they said, "That sounds wack, why don’t you make something?" These are kids that are figuring out how to build a better thermometer, so they’re like, why don’t you build something? I loved this class. It was a history of design schools, and I was influenced by them a lot. Obviously Elliot and I influence each other all the time [as well]. Elliott doesn’t believe in anything until something has a title. We started taking about what HRDCVR could be before it had a name, and he just wasn’t into it. Finally, I said, "I thought of a name: HRDCVR. He said, "I can tell by the way you’re saying it that we’re going to do it."

Elliott: I definitely like a brand name. when I came up with Rap Radar—it may sound weird or generic at first but then when you start saying names of brands, it starts to become a reality. We definitely feel like the whole energy—the specialness of when a magazine comes out—is lacking across the board. There’s a lack of spirit or enthusiasm. You go to newsstands and you’re not as inspired as you once were, or go to bookstores and you’re not inspired. Let’s join forces, let’s work together for the first time creating an editorial vision, and let’s build that super magazine—literally a hardcover—so it has that same quality of a book, where it’s something you want to have on your coffee table, something you want to have possession of, something you’re going to want to Instagram and show your friends. Let’s create a movement behind it.

Why do you think the excitement of picking up a new magazine isn't there for you anymore?

Danyel: There’s a lot of people at magazines still doing good work. I just think there used to be a lot more of it. I feel like what’s missing now, and frankly what has been missing almost since forever, is what multicultural teams bring to the magazine experience. It hasn’t really been seen a lot in the history of this country. I don’t want to get too Kumbaya with it, but I do like the idea of people of all races—ALL, not just of color, not just white—just everybody... to see all of that reflected, beautifully designed, beautifully written about with wisdom and grace all in the same place—I think all of that has been missing since before the recent downturn and changes in publishing.

Elliott: We’re very active in digital. I have Rap Radar, she has a Tumblr with over 100,000 followers. We live, breathe, and eat off social media. We’re in the conversation. We know what’s going on. But we feel like there’s still a place for the print medium if it’s done in an innovative way. That costs money, and a lot of people don’t want to put money into it because it’s easier to put money into the digital space. We understand that the audience still wants things of quality. They want to possess things, and feel part of a movement. It’s the right time to launch HRDCVR in this landscape.

Danyel: I want to know what the millennials are brining to paper. I would love to see that. I would love for millennials to see what their name looks like printed as a byline in ink on paper. I would love to see the kind of story ideas they have, what kind of new ways of telling stories they’re bringing to an editorial meeting and to the pages of HRDCVR. I would love to see the topics that come up. Let’s talk about how things can be expressed differently, how they can be designed differently, how they can be reported differently. I would like to see that over the course of my career. If there’s anything I’m responding to, it’s that. I also think the quote unquote new generation is being talked at, not to. The so called new normal, the new everyone, as I like to call them. How the demographics are changing. How the new demographic got Obama elected—all these things. I feel like all these things are so often written about the people behind the graph bars, these human beings. They’re not being written to. They’re not writing because they don’t have positions at the news companies, media companies, publications.

I’m not saying that people of color aren’t doing great work right now, because they are. At HRDCVR, we reject the niche and we reject the mainstream. We are about the multi-stream. We’re trying to squeeze as much in there as we can. Sometimes we’re like should we be more focused? Should we be a sports book? Should we be a music book? Should we be all that? We’re starting out big, if we have to narrow down later, okay fine. [Right now] we want to be a potluck where everyone is there.

Elliott: And speaking of the millennials, there’s a lot of talent and voice out there but they’re not learning. We learn from the new generation and they learn from us, and there should be that exchange where we’re helping to develop writers and make them better. Everyone can benefit from a great editor.

Danyel: Wouldn’t it be great for people to go through an edit? Wouldn’t that be amazing? Maybe they’ll hate it and never want to do it again, but why not go through it? Why not see what your writing would be like if you went through an edit? Maybe you’ll take that skill somewhere else and just turn the party out at the next job interview that you go through. Also, we are very serious about paying people. No, we’re not going to be able to pay everyone that’s amazing their rate. The more I think about the younger writers—all these people are out there doing good work, but they’re not out there in the larger culture as much as they could be. We’re going to have these people at HRDCVR.

So you really feel like there's a lack of editing in the magazine world.

Elliott: You can have a horrible editing experience in the time of your career, but at the end of the day if you find a good editor, It’s going to bring the best out of you. You need somebody to look at your writing with fresh eyes and with some insight to help you find your voice and develop your voice better. It’s different now. People come in and rewrite content. I’m not saying I’ve never done that, [but] you learn how to be a better editor as you get more experienced, and you realize that your job is to develop that voice and represent that point of view that is trying to be expressed. It’s the only way you get better. It’s like going to the gym. You have to work out as you get older. You have to stay in shape. You don’t want to do it some days, but you’ll be better off for it, you’ll live a better life.

Danyel: One of the best things that was ever said to me about writing was like this: I turn in something and the editor hands it back to me and says, "Your lede is in your conclusion, and you need to write a conclusion, so do that and get back to me and then we’ll go over it line-by-line." That sounded so terrible to me. Like I was such a failure and hadn’t written the right piece, or done a good job, or disappointed an editor I respected. He was just like, "What are you talking about? This is the fun part. You’ve written it. We’re about to make this the most amazing piece ever. You’ve given me 3000 words of clay, so let’s get started. Let’s cut out 700 words and make it super tight. Let’s move to the bottom to the top and write a new bottom after we see exactly what you’re trying to say. And let’s make it as clear as we possibly can." Then I started seeing what a piece could become. It can’t always be a first draft. That’s not what we’re going to be publishing. things are going to be edited and they’re going to be great. We’re not trying to make you change your mind about your thesis, we’re trying to bring it to light.

This is the first time you guys have collaborated professionally, right? How's that going?

Elliott: Danyel’s probably the first real editor I ever had. She was running the review section at Vibe in the mid-'90s. She taught me about kickers—the end line of a review...what’s the final little oomph? What’s your walk off strut? What’s your drop the mic moment? I remember, I came to her office and she had a thesaurus and a dictionary—that’s how old school it was. I was like, Okay, you have this book, I’m going to get this book. Me and my partner Sasha Jenkins—we started a magazine called Ego Trip—we’d sit at her desk and we were so excited to be up at Vibe magazine—if you had a thesaurus then we needed a thesaurus. Danyel taught me a lot about reviews and how to structure reviews and be more effective. I had a lot of voice but less structure. Kinda like the blog culture. I had a lot of what I wanted to say. I was strong in my opinion and what I thought was good or bad, there was no in-between. I learned a lot—and then of course we had a falling out. I thought I deserved more work from her.

Danyel: You’re telling this story again?

Elliott: I acted a fool and then I ended up not being welcome at Vibe anymore and then I got a job at The Source magazine.

Danyel: Oh you are exaggerating.

Elliott: At The Source, we competed against Vibe. Fast forward: Danyel goes in and out of the business as she tends to do, I’m at XXL [magazine] for several years, we hook up. We get married.

Danyel: I don’t know if "hook up" is the appropriate word.

Elliott: We got together. Around the time of our one year anniversary, she gets the offer to go back to Vibe. I was like, "Well this is crazy, we’re going to compete against each other."

Danyel: It was tough.

Elliott: There was a time when I ran XXL and she ran Vibe and we were still a married couple and we still competed. She beat me to all these covers and hopefully I would beat her sometimes. Now we’re at the point, career-wise where I have no ties with any other magazine, and she doesn’t have ties with any other magazine. My pedigree is more of a pure hip-hop head on the surface, and on the surface Danyel is a little more sophisticated, knows more about politics, and the culture overall.

There are times when Danyel is at the forefront and I need to support her, and times when I’m at the forefront and she needs to support me. We do a good job for each other with that. It doesn’t take away each other’s strengths. That’s how we approach our marriage and that’s how we’ll approach the magazine and doing business together.

Danyel: It’s fun. Me and Elliott argue anyway, so why not argue about something incredible? Why argue about the trash or taking the dishes out of the dishwasher when you could argue about, do you like this design? Re-read this and tell me what you think. We need to film another ID video for the campaign. How come you didn’t write that idea down i told you about? Now we don’t know where it is. Let’s argue about that great stuff. Let’s argue about music. Let’s argue about politics. Let’s argue about real stuff. We might as well do HRDCVR. Let’s do something together. Elliott's a pretty fantastic guy. I’m happy to be in business with him, even if I wasn’t married to him.

You mentioned on your Kickstarter page that you wanted to have writers write outside of their comfort zones.

Danyel: Yes! Elliott, you know how much you love to talk about how rock writers should come in and write about hip-hop and the black and Latin and Asian writers should write about rock.

Elliott: We’ve always fought against that. We were editors at quote unquote urban magazines. You come up in the '90s and a rock critic can write about Cam’ron but you can’t write about PJ Harvey. We’re not trying to limit writers. We want writers to get the most out of their experience writing for HRDCVR. They can write about things they may not be able to write about for other publications.

Danyel: There’s a lot of places too where women at mainstream publications are writing about things their bosses think they ought to write about, instead of things they’re passionate about. This is your opportunity to pitch and be considered for what you think you can do instead of what others think you can do. These narrow things that people think you can write about—if you’re the Asian person on staff and then it’s Chinese new year, and someone is like, "seems like a good story…" maybe that person isn’t even into that. Those kinds of things are played out, and they’ve been played out forever. It still goes on. It’s not changing really. I see these new media companies being enlarged and I look at mastheads and make sense of it on Twitter and other places—I don’t see the new everyone reflected. I don’t know how new your media is, except for the platform really. Elliott and I want something different. Everyone’s included. Not in every issue—now I’m talking about it like it’s an ongoing project—Overall, it’ll be for everyone.

A lot of niche publications do amazing, passionate and excellent work. There’s a place for those publications, and I love those publications, but HRDCVR wants to do something different. It wants to see the new everyone in the same place. It’s never existed. For years, magazines like TIME, Newsweek, they would say, "we serve everyone. We serve the mainstream." No matter how many times they said it, it just wasn’t true. it still isn’t true. We’re a magazine for everyone.

Ten Creators, One Question: What Did You Learn?

Some parts of the project process are straightforward, and some present a new challenge or bring on a new experience. We asked ten Kickstarter project creators to respond to the same question: 

What did you learn during your Kickstarter project?  

Jacob Krupnick, Girl Walk//All Day: Naïveté can be a mighty gift. If I knew what sort of undertaking making a whole film would be, it would've been crushingly intimidating. Instead, I thought about the 577 people who backed Girl Walk and imagined a small village of people cheering us on, anticipating our finish line. Film #2 feels far scarier than film #1.

Molly Crabapple, Molly Crabapple's Week in Hell: Hotel security is far more slack than I ever expected.

Lauren Krakauskas, Freaker USA: Kickstarter is bigger than just the money that you raise. The concept of building a community, of testing the markets, of using all the energy you have to see if “doing what you want” is a realistically profitable life-option… it’s incredible. Everybody has something. Something they love. Something that excites them. What if somebody out there is into it? What if a lot of people out there are into it? Kickstarter is wildly important. It’s not just a funding platform, it’s a testing lab for a new way of living.

Jay Silver, MaKey MaKey: Too much to list. I learned what moves people. I learned that honey is not conductive, and neither is oil, but avocado and cat paws are, but hamster feet are more complex. I discovered that I used to want to live in the '60s when the revolution was happening, but I'm finding that it's coming back around, and I'm in the right era, gay marriage, brown president, legalized marijuana, government lies exposed, internet-catalyzed revolts, and I don't need any CEO's permission to launch an idea, just the crowd's. 

My favorite lesson is that if you believe in people a little, they believe in themselves a lot.

Sam Jacoby, Form1: The people and community involved are the most important part of any product. We're always talking to our community, and Kickstarter really got that all started. Some of the folks on our team were our earliest Kickstarter backers.

Lisa Q. Fetterman, Nomiku: Your Kickstarter fans are forever fans. These are folks who believed in you from the very beginning and have a lot of insight into your company. Some will even last longer than our first employees!

Eric Kersman, BRCK: We learned that you need to prepare a good amount of multimedia materials and really test out your copy before you push a Kickstarter live. The week before we finally “published” our Kickstarter was a bit hectic as we were going through so many things so quickly. We spent quite a bit of time testing out our images and copy with friends, peers and would-be customers to ensure that what we were saying resonated with people immediately.

Coulter Lewis, Quinn Popcorn: We learned how to tell our story, how to connect to people, how to get others to feel the passion we have for this. On Kickstarter you have the attention of people who want to believe, who want help make something great come to life. That's a one of kind opportunity. If you can't connect to that audience then there's no hope when you are in the real word where it's all inferred, where you are lucky to get a customer to read one sentence of the back of your box.  

Alex Blumberg, Planet Money T-Shirt: I learned that people really will support projects that capture their attention. I learned that putting together the most ambitious multimedia project in NPR's history is really exhausting, but also really fun. And I learned that the people who make our clothes are real, complicated individuals, with real nuanced ideas about the clothes they help bring into being.

Patrick O'Neill, Olloclip: [I learned] that the Kickstarter community is full of amazing people with great creativity. I have met so many of our original backers at events and just met one at SXSW [recently].

Introducing Launch Now and Simplified Rules

Millions of people from around the world have used Kickstarter to bring ideas to life. More than $1 billion has been pledged to restaurants, board games, documentaries, innovative technology, and much more.

We’re proud to have helped so many great things happen. We’re also constantly challenging ourselves to make Kickstarter even better.

Today we’re excited to announce two important changes that make Kickstarter easier to use than ever before — and improve a couple parts of the system we know haven't always been as simple as they could be.

Launch Now

We want creators to have the support and freedom they need when building their projects. That’s why we’re introducing a feature called Launch Now. It gives creators a simple choice: go ahead and launch your project whenever you’re ready, or get feedback from one of our Community Managers first.

Over the past five years, our Community Managers have offered their expertise to more than 100,000 creators — sharing advice, encouragement, and support to give creators the best chance of success. We love doing it, and we’re always here to help. But we’re pleased to offer creators a simpler process for sharing their projects with the world, and the flexibility to choose how much help they need.

We’re rolling out Launch Now in stages. It’s currently available to 60% of projects, and we’ll be expanding it to more projects in the weeks to come.

Simplified Rules

We’re also introducing dramatically simplified rules for Kickstarter projects. After taking a long hard look at every one of our guidelines, we boiled them down to three basic principles:

  • Projects must create something to share with others.
  • Projects must be honest and clearly presented.
  • Projects cannot fundraise for charity, offer financial incentives, or involve prohibited items.

These three rules highlight exactly what Kickstarter’s all about: making things, sharing them with others, and being honest with the people helping you do it. To see the rules in full, click here.

Some Common Questions and Answers

Were any rules added?

Nope. No new rules were added.

Were any rules removed?

Yes. Many changes were simple housekeeping — clearing out rules that didn’t feel necessary anymore. Others open Kickstarter up to new kinds of projects, including bath and beauty products and more types of software. And we’re now allowing hardware projects to offer multiple quantities of a reward.

How does Launch Now work?

The feature uses an algorithm incorporating thousands of data points to check whether a project is ready to launch — things like the project’s description, rewards, funding goal, and whether the creator has previously launched a project.

If the project qualifies for Launch Now, the creator can go live whenever they’re ready. If the creator wants to connect with someone at Kickstarter, we’ll review the project and offer our feedback and advice.

If a project doesn’t qualify for Launch Now, the creator will need to share the project with us for a review before it can launch.

If I choose to get feedback on my project, who will I be getting feedback from?

We have an enthusiastic team of Community Managers standing by to help. Each one specializes in one of Kickstarter’s categories — most are actually creators in their fields. They’ll offer tips and guidance, and do their best to set you up for success with your project.

So Kickstarter has actual human beings available to help?

Absolutely! We always have. We’ve dedicated a lot of time, love, and energy over the past five years to supporting creators and their projects. It’s a huge privilege to help people bring their ideas to life. Feel free to get in touch with us!

Anything else I should know?

The health and integrity of the system are our biggest priorities. Our Moderation and Trust & Safety teams are working every day to make sure everyone on Kickstarter is following the rules. And these streamlined rules still expect the same things from projects that we did on day one: make something to share with others, and be honest with the people around you.

We’re always looking for ways we can better serve creators, backers, and the public. That’s why we’re so happy to announce both of these changes — and make it a little simpler for more people, and more diverse ideas, to thrive on Kickstarter.

If you have feedback on today’s changes, we'd love to hear it. You can share your thoughts with us here. Thanks so much for being a part of Kickstarter.

Traveling Down the Danube

Danube Revisited is part road trip, part history project, and part creation of new work. The project will take nine photographers on a trip in a truck, retracing photographer Inge Morath's iconic journey down the Danube River. They will also bring with them an exhibition of Morath’s own photographs; in addition to this, they’ll collaborate with women artists along the way to generate new work.

The project came together when the awardees were in Austria showing work they’d created. The gallery’s founders, who knew Morath, told them stories of her journey and the genuine connections she’d fostered with her subjects. The group was also given Morath’s unpublished diaries. From here, the idea for a traveling gallery that would retrace the journey was born.

The artists are Olivia Arthur, Lurdes R. Basolí, Kathryn Cook, Mimi Chakarova, Jessica Dimmock, Claudia Guadarrama, Claire Martin, Emily Schiffer, and Ami Vitale. We talked with Arthur, Basolí, Martin, and Schiffer about the project, how it came to be, and what it aims to generate.

How did you come up with the idea for the project, and how has it evolved since?

Emily: The idea for the project began in 2012 when Lurdes, Olivia and I had a show together in Austria at the gallery that represents Inge Morath. We got along fabulously, and someone suggested that we teach workshops together. We were learning a lot about Inge from the gallery owners who knew her well, and we discovered that her Danube work was her favorite and most beloved project. We talked a lot about how the communities that Inge photographed didn't often have the opportunity to see her images in their exhibition form. We thought it would be really interesting to take Inge's images back to their origins, and to honor Inge's legacy by continuing her project. Somehow, the idea of converting a truck into a mobile gallery and going on an epic road trip emerged, and we decided to make it happen. We invited all of the Inge Morath award recipients to take part, and Claire Martin jumped on board to help with the project development, grant writing and coordination.

Lurdes: That’s the nice thing about meeting photographers you admire in person in the Facebook days — especially for photographers, since it is a quite lonely profession. You get a feeling, you share it, and though many ideas stay dreams, we trusted in the power of this collaboration since the beginning. 

You are not only creating work, but also traveling with Inge's images. Is this, in a way, a history project?

Olivia: It is a legacy project really. It started out as an idea to honor Inge's name, as a sort of tribute for the help we had been given in her name. So in a way it is about extending someone's legacy on to the next generation. I know that at Magnum they created the Inge Morath Award because they felt that Inge was really supportive of younger photographers and wanted to add to that, so its about bringing something around, completing the circle.

Claire: Another aspect that incorporates a historical element into the project is the concept of the truck being able to return Inge’s photographs from before and after the fall of the Soviet Union to the same villiages that Inge photographed in, connecting the people of these places with their own history. The mobile nature of the exhibition also means that towns that otherwise may not have the opportunity to receive cultural projects of this scale are included.

Lurdes: Yes, historical on the truck exhibition element, but dialoguing with the present (by socialising it and by photographing the River again), so it is historical, but also contemporary. This is how we contribute to her legacy. Also dialoguing with local people, both general public, old (in the pics) and younger, and also with specific photography audience… All these interactions makes it quite special to us.

Emily: It’s been really exciting to read Inge’s diaries and to get to know her as a person. Ordinarily, when you win an award you don’t have the opportunity to connect with the person whose name it honors in such a personal way.

Had any of you done a collaboration of this scale before?

Olivia: We didn't even know each other before (and we were only in Salzburg for two days). The crazy thing is that even after two years of emails and calls, I have still not met Claire, so we all still have a lot to learn about each other. I think also none of us have worked on something of this scale before. We have learned a lot about how much work goes into such a project. Of course initially we had to consolidate our ideas, what was it that we actually wanted to do/would be able to pull off. We had four opinions in three different continents and it was a lot of to-and-fro — lots of different opinions and ideas and enthusiasm pulling the project in different directions, and eventually finding the right way.

Lurdes: I have been working on [an ongoing] massive group project of five photographers since 2010. It is an editorial assignment, but the basis is to make a documentary on a social issue in Europe. I am the only woman, [and] I can see great differences in the group dynamics and in the relationships between members now that I have been working for over two years with three other women. It is very interesting.

Emily: Despite the endless important details that we have to plan, our communication is amazing. We are all really committed to the project and to each other, and we’re willing to adapt our ideas to benefit the greater good of the project.

I’ve spent the past three years working on a collaborative public art project in Chicago called SEE POTENTIAL (also launched via Kickstarter). That has been a lot to coordinate, but doesn’t have nearly as many logistics to plan as this project does.

"Dancer Bucharest, 1958," by Inge Morath
"Dancer Bucharest, 1958," by Inge Morath

Can you talk about the importance of women artists supporting one another?

Claire: It’s my understanding that Magnum Created the Inge Morath Award in part because they were all so touched by her in their work and lives within the collective, but also as the first female member of an agency that still today is near 90% male. Hopefully an award in her name, for women, would act as an effort on the agency’s part to diminish its gender bias. All the Inge Morath Award winners involved in this project have benefitted greatly in our careers from this award and we want to give back. We hope to to break the narrative of the male perspective by creating a project that celebrates a woman's point of view. One of our goals has always been that this is a project by women, for women and in the legacy of a pioneering woman.

Lurdes: We are supporting each other and female documentary photography, but we are [also] giving a key importance to local photographers, which is the way we refer to all these photographers living in the Danubian countries we are hoping to join during our roadtrip and that will be part of the final show.

Emily: Women—particularly female photographers who travel frequently—feel that they must choose between their career and having a family. We work in a field that is dominated by men, so often women feel as though they have to downplay the aspects of their lives that are different from their male counterparts. It’s quite the opposite with us. This plays out in small ways (such as the group tolerating a screaming toddler during Skype calls) and larger ways (such as making it possible for the mothers in our group to bring their children along on the journey, and hiring a babysitter so they can go off on their own when they want to).

What part makes you the most nervous? The most excited?

Olivia: Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the volume of work that goes into pulling all of this together. It has been a good lesson for me of coordinating with others because as photographers we are somehow always working alone or as an individual within something. This was and is really collaborative and that is both exciting and daunting. we will, no doubt, have a lot of opinions to share when we get on the road.

Claire: The collaborations—between all of us, locals, institutions, sponsors and project partners—are what makes it so great, but also so volatile. With so many people involved, there are so many opinions, so many objectives to appease, so many big misses and big wins, changes of plans and shedules to accommodate, but this in it’s essence is also what makes it such a dynamic project. It’s been a thrill to work on something like this. The nerves are the result of taking risks to achieve something big and deeply rewarding.

Emily: I worry about how my one-year-old daughter will handle the travel, and about whether it is fair to separate her from her father for so much time. I am most excited to shoot and participate in the critique of our new work as it’s being created. I think the dialogue we will have about our images will push or work to new levels.

Lurdes: Since it is my first time with such a big collaborative project and coordinating it without much experience—what has made me nervous is having to follow or push people, institutions, partners, etc. At the beginning it was fine, but as work increased, it has been quite hard sometimes since we all have our own daily work. What excites me the most is to put the gallery-truck on the road and to finally meet all these girls and share photography live, not through a screen anymore.

Claire: Yes, to get away from the computer is the most exciting thing!

Meet the Team: Sam C. and Stephanie

We thought it would be nice to introduce ourselves. So every week, a couple members of the Kickstarter team will be saying hello, and picking out a few projects — past or present, successful or not — that they're especially fond of. (They will also be posing for GIFs. The GIFs are mandatory.)

This week, meet Sam C. and Stephanie:

Sam Cole (@samuelcole)

Job: "I'm an engineer at Kickstarter, which is just a way of saying that I help make the tools people use to create and discover projects."

  • Publishing Genius 2.0 — "This is a great tiny press that publishes great books (like Fun Camp). Hopefully all books will be made this way one day. <3 these guys."
  • Treachery in Beatdown City — "A socially conscious turn-based brawler? Awesome. This project almost didn't make it, and it really stressed me out."
  • Grandroids — "OMG, my whole life revolved around the Creatures games while I was growing up. I was so psyched to see that the creator was working on another game and he was using Kickstarter to fund it!"

Stephanie Pereira (@happeness)

Job: "I'm part of Kickstarter's Partnerships team. For the past 2+ years I've looked after art and artists, and I'm now very excited to be focusing on international and civic partnerships."

  • Danube Revisited: The Inge Morath Truck Project — "I love these nine ladies and their incredible project to travel and make and share art along the Danube river this summer so much. I am actually hoping to run away with them."
  • Radio Diaries: New Season — "Part of PRX's crazy beautiful Radiotopia family. SO excited for this project."
  • The Kuramoto Model (1000 Fireflies) — "Fun little public art meets technology meets flash mob on wheels project from a Nuit Blanche style festival in Minneapolis called Northern Lights. More like this please."

How We Built a Window Display at the MoMA Design Store

What if you could walk inside the Kickstarter website? Well, you'd probably have something pretty close to our collaboration with the MoMA Design store. It's a window display designed to recreate the Kickstarter online experience for the real world, and it features a number of notable Kickstarter design projects. It's kind of like climbing inside your computer.

We spoke to Kickstarter designer Alex Proba about what it was like to put the installation together from start to finish. 

Basically, at the beginning when we started doing it, we were like, "What should the concept be?" It’s Kickstarter and MoMA, but is it just about Kickstarter? No. I tried to see who we are and what we do. How can we make a platform offline that showcases the creators? Yancey [Strickler, Kickstarter CEO] was like, “I always wanted to have a physical website." For me, that was a good starting point. It’s so analogue and cute that it’s kind of awesome. I started designing and drawing up the first presentation. I started with the phrase “Everyone is capable of making incredible things.”

I was looking through different window installations, and got curious about motion. I thought maybe it as something we could do in an analog way. It was also a good time to introduce the new [shade of green] for Kickstarter, which we changed the week before the install. It was a cool experiment to see if the colors actually worked in real life—same with the patterns and textures. We started to do those a lot this year. At the Art Book Fair we had a [marble] notebook pattern. We were thinking about materials that were nice and approachable, like painted wood and cardboard and all these things. I just kept looking at the project page and was like, “Okay, what’s important here? The backers.” The money is actually not important, but the title is very important. I just kept thinking, how can you transform the Kickstarter page to real life? [We pulled up] an image of Walt Disney standing next to a carousel.

To get the idea rolling and get the CAD drawing done, I had to come up with sizing. I went to the store and measured everything they had from mockups, then I made a CAD layout for both [MoMA Design] stores. I had to find a company that did window displays. There was no way to produce the spinning carousel and have someone else produce the browser replica because it all has to fit together.

A lot of designers, the first thing you do is draw on paper to get the idea down. We thought of a pattern, then I made all these files of how big the carousel was, how it was installed with the motor, how it attached to the walls. I contacted a group called Guild; they are in Gowanus and have a 40-thousand-square-foot shop with everything—production, technology department, printing department, everything. I emailed them and they were up for it. I shared my stuff with them, and they were like, “Yeah, no problem. That’s easy to do.” I was like, “Oh my god, you’re saving my life.”

After that, it was me going to Guild and making sure the first prototype was right, how the quality of the wood—at one point I was working on the type, like what’s the size of the the type, the color of the text…then, two weeks later, we did a six day install of both windows. I was there the whole time helping. I was standing mostly in the street under an umbrella directing where things were going. I was there from 9 AM-8 PM every day. That was a challenge. Once the store closed we couldn’t be inside, which is why it took six days. I thought we were going to be done in two. From Guild’s side there were probably eight people, and then me and one person from MoMA. It was nonstop. I [put the project together] in a program called Sketch Up. I made it for visual purposes, for people to understand what was in my head. Guild came back and said, "Okay, here's what it would look like." They took my drawings and made them 3D. It's really cool to see.

Ten Creators, One Question: What Was the Craziest Moment?

Sometimes, something wild and unexpected happens between the moment you click "Launch" and the moment the project you created comes to fruition. 

Here's what ten creators had to say when we asked them about the craziest moment of their Kickstarter experience.

darkpony, Drawing for Dollars (aka the first-ever Kickstarter project to reach its funding goal): Well, one thing unexpected is Kickstarter blew up and went crazy and became the most amazing thing since sliced bread! And one day about three years after I finished Drawing for dollars I got a Google alert from some post that Yancey [Strickler] posted about how my project was the first completed project and I was like, "Oh yeah, that was me!"

Tori Bush, Swoon's Musical Architecture for New Orleans: Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth) and New Orleans musician and veteran Music Box performer Rob Cambre collaborated on a series of recordings. Rob and Thurston met almost twenty years ago and have always spoken of collaboration. New Orleans Airlift was delighted to bring this union to fruition and to give them [our project space] The Music Box as their playground. We watched and listened in awe as they moved through the instruments of our town. This was an amazing and completely beautiful moment.

Peter Platzer, ArduSat: Seeing the rocket liftoff from Japan carrying Ardusat onboard was an amazing high for me, and our team. To see something we conceived of, from drawings on scraps of paper at its inception, to space was awe-inspiring. And in just over 12 months! Unreal.

Ted Southern, Final Frontier Design's 3G Space Suit: It was really cool to get an email from an early aviator/space suit developer Wiley Post's granddaughter. She was very encouraging and supportive. Also, we were blown away by an international pledge for a suit, which is nearly impossible to deliver. Space suits are considered weapons by the US Dept of State, so their export is closely controlled. However, he understood the restrictions and genuinely was interested in supporting our cause.

Max Temkin, Cards Against Humanity: The craziest moment was seeing the project funded almost immediately; Kickstarter let us know pretty quickly that Cards Against Humanity was going to be a pretty special project. It was also pretty crazy to see the first games get unloaded from a truck onto my parents' lawn.

Brian Dwyer, Pizza Brain Pizza Museum: When the head of PR at Pizza Hut in Dallas, Texas called me personally to congratulate us on a job well done, and said if we ever need anything, not to be a stranger. That, and actually opening the doors to the public. Nearly 1,600 people showed up to the grand opening. Not exaggerating. We didn't know what the hell to do with such an overwhelming positive reception! I doubt I'll ever witness anything like that again. Such a fantastic celebration of life.

Molly Dilworth, Paintings for Satellites: It's hard to choose just one. The day Terry Burger took me up in his beautiful little plane to shoot the pool I painted in Salina, Kansas was pretty special. His plane was used to shoot photos in WWII, so I was able to shoot out the open window while we were flying. After I got my shots he flew me up to the wind turbine farms in Wilson, which were so alien it was like flying through a science fiction movie.

Robert Douglass, Open Goldberg: Kimiko Ishizaka (the pianist, and my wife) and I had gone shopping late one night during the fundraising, after working long and hard all day to get the project going. While we were at the store, news of our project got posted on the website Slashdot.org. All of a sudden my iPhone started beeping and buzzing with new backers. Shopping took twice as long because we had to check the pledge level every aisle: Vegetables - 5%, Milk - 15%, Cereal - 23%, Wine - 31% and so on. That's when we first really understood that we were going to succeed, that we'd get that opportunity to make the recording and score, that people understood and believed in what we were doing.

Paola Prestini, Oceanic Verses: People from our Kickstarter campaign kept in touch with the piece! Many who I did not know. I also loved the comments, bad and good, and especially from people who said they typically did not love opera, but really "got" Oceanic Verses. I love the sense that it was the people's opera. It represented trained and untrained synthesis, which is something I am very interested in.

David Lang, OpenROV: The craziest moment was racing against the clock to get the kits out before Christmas in 2012. Eric was in Antarctica, so I threw a "party", meaning I invited a few dozen friends, fed them beer and put them to work. Miraculously, we finished the job.

Interview: Allison Orr of Forklift Danceworks

Allison Orr, the choreographer whose work was the subject of Andrew Garrison’s fascinating documentary Trash Dance, creates massive-scale dance productions that often involve people with no background in dance movement (such as public power and sanitation workers). On behalf of Forklift Danceworks, where she is artistic director, Allison has run two Kickstarter projects (here and here). We asked her a couple of questions.

When did you start doing public works on a massive scale?

The Trash Project (documented by Andrew Garrison’s Trash Dance) was the first piece that we produced for 1,000+ people. We did The Trash Project for the first time in 2009. Before 2009, I had done large-scale outdoor events, but those dances saw audiences of about 500 or so. So The Trash Project was a huge leap forward in terms of scale.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a series of dances with baseball teams. The first performance goes up in May with the Huston-Tillotson Ram’s on historic Downs Field in Austin, TX, and this dance is exploring Negro League Baseball history in Austin (Downs Field was home to the Austin Black Senators - one of Austin’s Negro League teams). I am also traveling to Kyoto, Japan in September to create a dance with the Women’s Professional Baseball League. I can’t wait!

What’s the next project for Forklift Danceworks?

We are in the planning stages for some really exciting projects with two City of Austin departments (like our previous projects with Austin Energy and Austin Resource Recovery/Sanitation). We are continuing to think and strategize about how to deepen our exploration of community-based dance making. The work never ends!