Funded! This project was successfully funded on April 30, 2012.

Update #14

Harshing The Muse

Earlier today, backer Kristen posted a comment, and one of the things she said was "...I appreciate the quality of your work. [The Gems] came together...perfectly....I can tell that they're not going to come apart. The thought that you put into the design and sequencing created a set that is clean and beautiful. Thank you!"

Needless to say, there's still a big silly grin on my face. I'm not repeating the comment here just to blow my own horn, though. This comment catalyzed something I've been thinking about for a few weeks now. As I've continued to work both on getting my current backorders filled, and been thinking about how to move forward, one of the things I've realized is that PennyGems aren't necessarily what they seem. They are (I think) very 'slick;' once assembled, PennyGems look like something that some mysterious factory, owned by a multinational corporation, would have to manufacture. However, that really is my 'signature' style, as much as I have one: I make things by hand that look as if they would have had to have been made by giant machinery in a big factory by the millions. (The parking stickers and the Deluxe Fanucci deck found at www.ImpObj.com are some examples. There's also artwork that cam be found at http://howell.seattle.wa.us/art .)   

So it's almost completely unavoidable that most people will see PennyGems much like, oh, say, poker chips, or dice; although undoubtably somebody designed all these things, the reason they exist is because somebody expected they would be good for business. "We will make this thing with the expectation that we will sell at least quantity N at price point M, thus resulting in the company making a profit." 

A slight detour at this point: I want to draw a distinction between "losing money" and "making a profit." When I was planning the PennyGems project, I included as part of the 'cost' the expectation that PennyGems had better bring in enough money to not only pay for all the stuff, but also pay me for the time it takes to make them. In effect, Improbable Objects has one employee whom it needs to pay to do the work. In the end (and totally typical for this sort of thing), I underestimated how much time I was going to have to actually spend. I won't know for sure until I'm all done filling orders, but I think Improbable Objects is not actually going to make any profit on the Kickstarter sales of PennyGems, because what I thought was going to be my profit margin is instead being eaten by my salary. I still get to spend the money on groceries and my ISP bill, so it's all good, but the "wholesale" cost of an unassembled PennyGem is currently calculating out at somewhere between $0.24 and $0.28 each. "Full Spectrum" backers paid 28 cents each, and Color of Magic backers paid 26. What this means in the long run is that if somebody calls me up and wants to order, say, 20,000 PennyGem tokens for their board game or such, there isn't a special "cheaper" rate. My Kickstarter backers are already getting the best rate I can reasonably offer. 

What is not included in that cost is the time I spend posting comments, sending out samples, or other marketing, development, or customer service time. Which is okay, there's not heaping piles of that, but I've been an entrepreneur most of my adult life, and I know better than to just ignore that part. 

And I'm being an entrepreneur again, right? No, actually, I am not, and that is what this update/essay is all about. Imagine two little versions of me standing on my shoulders. You know, like the little devil and angel characters that appear in so many movies and TV shows? Except one of these little guys is wearing a suit, and one is wearing a smock. The suit points out that it's pretty obvious I'm not really charging enough. Increasing the price would mean selling fewer PennyGems, but making more money on each order, and since it's taking me a month to fill just the first month's orders, I'm already maxed out with every indication that there's still a lot of people who are going to want their own PennyGems once they've seen them. 

"And your marketing's pretty weak, buster. You've got no identifying marks on these things except for two tiny words on one side of one-eighth of the tokens, and it's not even one of the main colors. The name of the product itself doesn't appear anywhere, you've got no URL or Q-code or nothin like that, and you even let your customers talk you into shrinking that down and leaving it entirely off a whole bunch of them!"

"Hey!" says Mr. Smock. "What about giving the customer what they want? Isn't that a business principle?"

Mr. Suit leans back on my shoulder so he can look Smock in the eye. "And if he hadn't caved to the pressure, how many people do you think would have cancelled their backing?"

"Well, some . . "

"That," I say, picking them both up and setting them on the table in front of me, "is not the point."

Smock makes a face at Suit. "Told you so."

"Did not."

"Did too."

"Did..."

I drop clear plastic cups over the both of them, in order to get a little peace and quiet. 

"As it happens, I came to deeply regret compromising on the insignia," Suit makes a face back at Smock, "but not for the reason you might think." I rap the top of Suit's cup to get his attention. "What does it say on my business card?"

Although slightly muffled, I can still here him say "Artistic Engineer." 

"That's right. I've been a businessman for a long time. Progressive, innovative, sure, but still looking at my purpose from a business point of view. I don't regret that; a well-run business can be amazing. My shelves are covered with wonderful games that I would not have if dedicated businesspeople hadn't done the research, development, design, manufacturing, logistics, marketing, management, and support needed to keep those games coming out. But that's not what I want to be anymore. It's not what I am. What I am, is an artist."

Smock is dancing around his cup making 'neener neener' faces at Suit. 

"If my primary intention is for Improbable Objects to be a business, then I would certainly support being customer-focused. Yes, it would be about making money, but as you both know, in the long run, you make money by making people happy, by giving your customers good value, by maintaining quality, by treating people ethically, by being nice."

Smock has settled down. I put the cups away so they can hear me better.

"But even though Improbable Objects looks like a business, it's not. It's a business-shaped excuse to let me sell artwork. Some artists are satisfied just with the act of creating itself. I'm not. For me, my art, whether it's a song (my college degree is a Bachelor of Musical Arts in composition), a strange clock, a trophy base, a serving tray, a T-shirt, or something else, isn't complete until somebody else experiences it. I create art because I want to share some of the beauty and fun that dances in my head, with others."

Smock leaps back to my shoulder and starts trying to peer into my ear. "It's a metaphor, dummy!" Suit sneers. "Which I'm illustrating," Smock replies.

Smock sits down on my shoulder and dangles his feet against my collarbone. "So when you compromised on the 'branding' of the PennyGems, what you really were compromising was your artistic integrity." 

"I know. 'Improbable Objects' isn't on the silver Gem because it's an ad; it's there because it's my signature."

"So why isn't it actually your signature?" says Suit.

"Because even my signature has to bow to the demands of artistic integrity. A painter signs a painting because they're proud of their creation; we all care much more about the fact that the Mona Lisa was painted by DaVinci than that it currently hangs in the Louvre. However, they (usually) sign it in a way that keeps the signature unobtrusive. In the corner, not too gaudy. No, not every artist follows that approach, but it's pretty common, and it's definitely my approach.

"PennyGems are supposed to be beautiful, both in appearance and in function. A scribbled signature would look totally wrong. My 'signature' still has to look all slick and commercial and corporate-ish in order to look appropriate to the piece. By the way, I found a Chinese firm that I think could manufacture PennyGems for me at about 8% of what it costs me to make them myself. However, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't feel the same, and I suspect they wouldn't be quite as richly colored."

"But you could cut the price in half, sell way more than you do now, and still make more per sale, even if you lost a few sales because they weren't quite as nice to fondle as the ones you make now!" Mr. Suit protests.

Smock shakes his head. "You think he's supposed to sell artwork that he knows is not as good it could be? If the experience people have is compromised, the fact that lots more people get to experience that inferior expression of art doesn't make up for that. It actually makes it worse."

"Exactly." I shrug. "It's not surprising that this creates sort of a confusing situation. I even confused myself. You know I've always loved juxtaposing the machine-perfect mass-produced feel of modern life with the fantastic; the unexpected. Every time somebody goes 'What? There's a penny in there?' my heart does a little dance of glee. What could be more common than a penny? People don't even bother picking them up off the ground any more! But I've transformed them into something wonderful. How cool is that?"

"Yea, yea, cool, whatever," grumbles Suit. "Although I gotta hand it to ya, it's also very cost-effective."

Smock gives himself a little hug of joy, then turns to Suit. "But back to the insignia issue. Get it now? What you call 'poor branding,' I call 'taking your signature off your own work."

"Oh, come on. Nobody who ordered PennyGems with less writing was doing it because they wanted to deny him credit for making them!" 

"Of course not," I agree. "We're back to the issue of how slick and commercial they look. I totally understand why people would rather have the clean un-text-y version. Artistically, I absolutely agree that they looked better without the writing. But some part of me was adamantly opposed to taking it off. I couldn't figure out why I hated the idea, though. Since  I couldn't come up with a decent reason for keeping it, I agreed to let some people have the less 'branded' variant. I couldn't bring myself to just strip it off entirely, but like I said, it took me a couple weeks to really figure out why. 

"Every time I picked up a packing slip that said 'insignia: partial' it was like getting elbowed in the ribs, because deep down, below the threshold of hearing, a little voice would see that and whisper 'they don't think you deserve to have your name on your work.'" Suit opened his mouth, but I interrupted. "Yes, of course I know that is not the message they intended. I've already admitted that. And once I dug that insidious little voice out of its dank little hole, it got a swift kick to the . . . well, a swift kick. 

"Still, I came very close to just emailing everybody who'd selected 'partial' and telling them I'd changed my mind, and they could have a refund if they weren't willing to take the fully inscribed version, but I decided that it would be, hmm, I guess 'rude' is the best way to describe it. And it would have been a lot of extra work. So I just decided to call it a learning experience, and move on."

Suit's got a calculator out. "And if every backer who'd asked for partial insignia decided they wanted their money back?"

"I'm not sure, I haven't totalled it all up, but it probably would have been well over $10,000 that had to be returned. That wasn't an especially significant factor in my decision, though."

"Wait a minute." Suit points a tiny little finger at me. "If you're more concerned about making art than making money, that means you might just decide to quit making PennyGems even if there are still people who want them, right?"

"Pretty much. I mean, hey, if I'm making enough money, then I'll probably keep doing it just so I can afford to keep making other things too. But yea, if and/or when it gets to the point that PennyGems are only profitable if I spend all my time making and marketing them, or if it stops being fun, then odds are that PennyGems will disappear from my catalog of improbable objects."

Suit looks skeptical. "Okay, so how come you don't just throw these things in a jar, call it Art, and sell it in a gallery?" 

"Because part of the intention behind this particular expression of artistry is that it's supposed to make some other art even better. Games are fun, and games with really good bits are more fun, and these are really really good bits. Thus: pennies are transformed, hand-made appears super-slick-manufactured, game fun is enhanced; it's all part of why I worked so hard to figure out a way to get PennyGems out into other peoples' hands. It just seemed tragic to have only one bag of PennyGems in the whole world, and PennyGems in a jar aren't doing what they're supposed to do. The same reason I'd hate to have a book that I didn't intend to read at least once."

Smock turns to look at me. "So the icons are all clean and simple because that's artsy, instead of being all functional?"

"No, they're clean because functional is artsy. It's kind of an artistic two-fer. Or lots-fer, or something like that." 

"Artists," Suit snorts. "And has it occurred to you that this update of yours is way too long? You're gonna bore your backers to tears. Good thing it's too late for them to get a refund."

"Hey, he's also a talented essayist. Quit harshing his muse!" Smock pokes Suit lightly in the chest.

"Oh, please. You hippie."

"Philistine."

"Fluff-head."

"Republi..."

* * *

It got pretty ugly after that. 

Comments

    1. Lee%20reception%20icon%20large.small

      Creator Beverly Block on May 30, 2012

      Merriam-Webster includes as a meaning of Engineer:

      "c : a person who carries through an enterprise by skillful or artful contrivance"

      That describes perfectly what you do, and I think Artistic Engineer is a brilliant term for it.

    2. Crushexpert90-90.small

      Creator Julia Gosztyla Ziobro on May 29, 2012

      Hey Dave,

      Go watch the videos I shot. Think about explaining to me:
      - the materials in the cutting head on the printer, and why, and why they cost what they do, and why/how they wear with different materials
      - the nozzle system on the domer... in fact, the whole damn machine, from repurposed IV pump to dual pumps, to mixing tube, to the connections to the nozzle, to the aluminum nozzle and bracket that you created
      - the curing cabinet why and how
      - why pulling faster works better when weeding (as you explained it to me)
      - what you are doing that's subtly but critically different from how it would be done in mass production
      - the other related projects you're dreaming up, and their hows and whys
      - the challenges of the submersible project
      - the complex interplay between vinyl and ink at various coverage levels; drying and shrinking; optimum production throughput to minimize risk of spoilage while maximizing use of all machines and your time

      I think you are supremely well-qualified to consider yourself an Artistic Engineer. Want me to go write you a recommendation on LinkedIn? :-)

    3. 2010-headshot.small

      Creator Dave Howell on May 29, 2012

      @Alexander: Hmm. I apologize for any offense I have given. Nobody's raised that concern to me before. I've been trying to figure out how to describe what I do for years, and that's the closed I've come so far. Just plain "artist" makes people leap immediately (and understandably) to painting, and I definitely don't do that. I'm usually working with multiple types of materials, and frequently there's a sculptural or dimensional component. "Carpenter" implies wood, which is not usually one of my media. I've had friends call me "jack of all trades" or "Renaissance Man," but I'd feel like a total egomaniac if I put *that* on my business card. "Knave of some trades" is more like it.
         I believe that a Mechanical Engineer would be an entirely different field of study, with different qualifications, than, say, a Software Engineer or an Electronic Engineer. Can you suggest a way I could establish my qualifications for being an Artistic Engineer?

    4. Me.small

      Creator Amanda Milsom Reid on May 29, 2012

      Offensive? Really?

    5. Space%20cowboy.small

      Creator K.C. Skedzielewski on May 29, 2012

      I can honestly say that I waffled between the choices a few times before finally choosing full insignia, for 2 reasons. 1, I was only getting 20 of each, so then with 4 out of them being odd, I really didn't want any odd ones. 2 I felt that if you wanted them to have the insignia on them, that I should yield that to you, and have you give me what you wanted me to have. Now after reading this, I feel a heck of a lot better about my choice, ;-)

    6. Hex_kickstarter_avatar.small

      Creator Karl R. Olson on May 29, 2012

      Favorite Update ever. My friends and I still can't figure out the problem people have with the logo.

      The Pennygems are a hit with the friends and I ran out of business cards on the first night.

      Would also love a Nickelgem variant in larger quantities (preferably with the awesome logo).

    7. Crayolad20.small

      Creator Alexander Keith on May 29, 2012

      As great as your product is I do wish you would stop bringing up that you call yourself an Artistic Engineer, because unless you're actually qualified as an Engineer it's very offensive to those who are Engineers or who are training to become Engineers.

      Sidebar: You should try and get on the show Unchained Reactions, you'd do brilliantly.

    8. 2010-headshot.small

      Creator Dave Howell on May 29, 2012

      @Ronald: Well, if you're not going to use them, then you've got nothing to lose anyway, but I think you'll find if you're careful, that you can pry the labels back off the pennies, and re-arrange them to suit. The plastic will want to flex, but try to pry it off so that it says fairly flat, and be sure to press down the edges when you apply it to the other coin. And believe me, it was made abundantly clear how strongly some people feel about the insignia during the first few days after this project launched.

    9. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Ronald Whited on May 28, 2012

      @Dave: I wish I had thought of that before I put them on. I had assembled the insignia ones and tried to use them before I decided that the insignia just wasn't for me.

      Regardless of whether we all agree on the insignia branding or not, it has been brought to your attention that it is an issue that people feel strongly about and that was all I cared about :)

    10. Flag.small

      Creator Ross Thompson on May 28, 2012

      I didn't order enough to get the option of partial insignia, but I wouldn't have even so. Mostly because I wanted them all to match, but also because I thought they deserved the branding.

      Ironically, I can see the text far more clearly on the actual gems than I could in the pictures or videos. But maybe that's just because I know to look for them. Certainly no-one I game with has mentioned them as a negative.

    11. 2010-headshot.small

      Creator Dave Howell on May 28, 2012

      Belatedly, @Jason: "Could you imagine playing a card game where every card had in 1/2 in letters "goto.mywebsite.com" across them? It wouldn't be popular."
         {Dave gets out his ruler....}
         As it happens, I have a deck of cards for a card game sitting nearby where every card has the name of the game on it, in letters just over 1/2" tall. It's called "Magic: the Gathering."
         Seriously, though, there are many many examples of objects with more 'branding,' or bigger more obvious signatures and insignia, as well as all kinds of things with *less* branding or smaller (or no) insignia. I signed my Hugo bases on the bottom, and my clocks on the back. The bases, as a commissioned work, were much more about the design, and the organization commissioning them. The clocks are much more clearly art pieces, but I still keep the signature where most people will never see it. Paul Revere stamped his mark into every silver object he made. PennyGems, alas, don't have a convenient "bottom" or "back" that is normally unexposed.

    12. 2010-headshot.small

      Creator Dave Howell on May 28, 2012

      @Ronald: by the way, even though you don't have the partial insignia, and you don't like the writing, that doesn't mean you have to only use seven colors. Just build your silver PennyGems with blanks on both sides, and throw away (or give away) the icon sides. The same trick works for anybody who super-desperately wants more than eight kinds of Gems. You can have sixteen kinds if you pair up blank with blank and icon with icon.

    13. 2010-headshot.small

      Creator Dave Howell on May 28, 2012

      @Stoll: Hmm. On the one hand, black and white do very much want to pair. On the other hand, they have totally different icons. On the third tentacle, I suspect the alternative will be that I'm forced to pair one of them with an actually color; magenta, for example, and that's pretty weird, too.
       
      @Beverly: White and silver are the same "color;" a surface that reflects nearly all the light that hits it. I think there's room for a gray between them, but I really really doubt there's going to be room for two grays. Even silver can look almost like black if it reflects somebody's black shirt. If I had printed PennyGems on non-metallized 'normal' white vinyl, then I could easily have twenty or thirty colors that were all clearly identifiable from each other. The shiny-chrome (aka 'metallized smooth silver'), by mixing in large amounts of environmental color (you mostly see what the Gem is reflecting, much more than you can see the color itself), makes it much much harder to keep the colors distinct.
         I think it's a pretty safe bet, though, that, color differentiation problems notwithstanding, we all like the chrome vinyl better. Shiny!

    14. Missing_small

      Creator Stoli on May 28, 2012

      For the sister colors, why not state that white and black should be paired together. Then you only need to come up with a full color pair in the new set, since the black and white are already out there.

    15. Lee%20reception%20icon%20large.small

      Creator Beverly Block on May 28, 2012

      You could pair gray with the black and white with the silver (though I suppose differentiating those could be tricky)...

    16. 503cef22dce880782b3d0b7dd2191ceb_large.small

      Creator Tyinsar of Axanar on May 28, 2012

      Yes, I suspected that the font size might be an issue. I too thought of the engraving on the edge but short of getting your own mint ... (and how awesome would that be!)

      I still think a logo like http://www.flickr.com/photos/29262556@N05/7284402016/in/photostream/ (a little abstract) might be nice in the dot - as a finishing carpenter once told me: "If you can't hide it decorate it and call it a 'feature'." I look forward to seeing the final - unrushed, fully fermented (at least that's the way my final results always feel to me) design of your logo.

      Anyway - I'm going to shut up / try to stop distracting you and go back to a quiet (and slightly giddy) anticipation of these wonderful little marvels of design.

      P.S. Thanks for the updates. 8-)

    17. Crushexpert90-90.small

      Creator Julia Gosztyla Ziobro on May 27, 2012

      "My plan is to have a brother/sister Gem for each of the existing ones, so there will be a pink one (pairs with red), a brown one (pairs with orange), a chartreuse one (pairs with green), a cyan one (pairs with blue), a lavender one (pairs with purple), et cetera. I'm not sure what to do with black and white yet, but that's why it's still in R&D. "

      OMG. You *are* going to get another $140 out of me. Crap! LOL
      White -> burgundy or maybe really bold candy-cane style silver (white)/black stripes, like a lighthouse
      Black -> 50% grey
      Red -> pink
      Orange -> brown
      Yellow -> amber (can you imagine that one? nom nom nom)
      Green -> chartreuse/lime green
      Blue -> turquoise or robin's egg blue
      Purple -> violet or lavender (fuschia is too close to pink/red)

      Kids, there's a 100% blank side on EVERY gem! If the shapes/logo annoy you, flip them over to their crystal-clear just-colored side. We've played a few games with ours now, and one player called the silver one the "eyeball" because of the colored iris (the words) and now it's stuck. I've noticed that players seem to strongly prefer the shape side, or not, but nobody has complained yet (except that they don't have their own)!

    18. Yay_avatar.small

      Creator Kristen on May 27, 2012

      @Dave - re: pairing with black and white = dark gray and light gray?, dark burgundy and pale (sky) blue?, cordovan and peach?, mallard teal and light cyan?, forest green and pale rose?, steel blue and light silver?

      :-)

    19. 2010-headshot.small

      Creator Dave Howell on May 27, 2012

      @Carl: Man, I don't dare stop for a moment or I'll be completely overtaken by my backers. Let's see . . .
       
      (1) Yes, I've become aware that some people picked partial because a mere eight kinds of PennyGem aren't enough. As other people have commented, the insignia's rather subtle, so you don't really get a ninth type; it's more like 8 1/4. As a result, currently fighting for the top slot on the R&D list is an auxiliary set of PennyGems which you'll be able to add to the core set for a total of sixteen different kinds. My plan is to have a brother/sister Gem for each of the existing ones, so there will be a pink one (pairs with red), a brown one (pairs with orange), a chartreuse one (pairs with green), a cyan one (pairs with blue), a lavender one (pairs with purple), et cetera. I'm not sure what to do with black and white yet, but that's why it's still in R&D.
       
      (2a) I have, in fact, already created a logo, although it hasn't been released yet. I'm still putting the final touches on it. Dropping it into the dot is definitely something I'm planning on testing, although I think that punching a hole in the dot is going to look more obvious to me than the current ring-of-dust look. But, that's why one tests these things.
       
      (2b) I suspect that if I put anything on the *blank* side, I'd really be looking at a mob of villagers with pitchforks outside my walls. The current edition of PennyGems (ed. 9.87, if you're curious) has the ring in 4.5pt type. I don't think I can get much smaller. Some of the gems were printed in the printer's "fast" mode, which is 360x720dpi, and the degradation to the type was . . . unsatisfactory. I've had to switch back to 'standard' mode to get 720x720 dpi in order to keep the type from looking scruffy. I don't think I can push it much smaller before it will decompose into little black blotches.

      Artistically, my 'perfect' solution would be to laser-engrave the edge of the penny. Under the current manufacturing scheme, there are obviously some obstacles to this approach.

    20. 503cef22dce880782b3d0b7dd2191ceb_large.small

      Creator Tyinsar of Axanar on May 27, 2012

      Hmmm, Very interesting and insightful posts Dave. (And I see some great replies as well.)

      And here I was seeing the Token of Appreciation as the signature in the set - and it's such a lovely piece I almost ordered extra for myself (just because it is so awesome). Also, like Timir I was seeing the work itself as bearing the stamp of the maker.

      Like some others I ordered a "partial insignia" set because:
      1) It might give me more options when playing with them (that extra color Jan spoke of). Since I'm still excitedly waiting for mine to arrive I don't know if this difference is even easily discernible enough to be useful or if the difference will be a minor distraction (Even though this was my main reason for this selection).
      2) Like many others I prefer the clean design. If I was playing a game called "Improbable Objects" I would be fine with branding on all the pieces. And, for an unthemed game (like Pente) the branding is also OK. But I think it might feel out of place if I'm using these in a themed game (like Dune).

      If you do another run of these - and I really Really hope that you find this to be worth your while - please let me offer a couple of suggestions I would appreciate and support:
      1) Create a logo and drop it in the middle of the dot - something like: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29262556@N05/7282878812/in/photostream (very very rough & quick but they incorporate both your initials and that of your company - do with them as as your artistic side will).
      OR
      2) Print your information in a ring on the current blank side (or replace only the dot with this). Make it small enough and dense enough that from any distance it looks like a ring (or empty circle for game purposes) but from very close (or with minor magnification) it can be read. With most artwork the signature should be unobtrusive. Since these are small to start with it is logical that the signature would be that tiny.

    21. 2010-headshot.small

      Creator Dave Howell on May 27, 2012

      @Daniel: ""Improbable Objects" is entirely useless for identifying you or Penny Gems,"

         Yea, I know. I screwed up last September: I *thought* I had registered the domain "ImprobableObjects.com," but I didn't actually do it. I figured that out in February, one week after somebody else picked it up. Doh'p. And I've been so busy making PennyGems that I just haven't had the time to work on my site, so it doesn't really have a lot of search-engine-optimization applied to it yet. I do expect that to change, though, if/when people start talking/posting/blogging about PennyGems and linking to it. It's all still quite new, and it takes time to wear grooves in the Internet. I am fairly confident I'll start floating higher in the Google/Bing results over the next few months.

    22. Yay_avatar.small

      Creator Kristen on May 27, 2012

      @Dave just above = /smile

    23. 2010-headshot.small

      Creator Dave Howell on May 27, 2012

      @Francis: The point of the update is mostly to help people anticipate and understand what some of my upcoming decisions will be based on. It's certainly not intended to establish one design being more 'worthy' than another. The border between 'art' and 'design' is nebulous and fractal, and I have no doubt that we could find myriad examples were an anonymously designed object was more 'artistic' than something presented as Art. Then there are non-anonymous 'signature' designers like Michael Graves. It's all very fuzzy. I think there is, indeed, a very good case to be made that I'm really (just?) a designer in this case, and I have no doubt that some percentage of my backers will remain firmly convinced of that. That's cool.
         In a sense, the fact that you don't really see the point of the update is actually the point of the update. Mr. Suit says "Don't post that! Laying a guilt-trip on your customers is a terrible idea, and so is starting arguments with them!" Mr. Smock disagrees. "One thing great art can do is change people's view of the world. If you cause some of your backers to reconsider their approach to art and design, if you make some people stop and think, then post away!"
         So yes, as long as you approach this update from a commercial/industrial/design/business perspective, it's not going to make any sense, because the essay, like the gems, are coming from an artistic perspective. That is not supposed to have any value judgement attached, by the way. If you don't see how this is all supposed to be 'art,' that's fine. If you *do* understand it, but you think it's weak or lame, that's fine too. Without a doubt, there are people who will think PennyGems are nice, but not even close to being worth what they cost, and there'll be some people who think they're just dumb. (I found a post made during the campaign on another site where one guy was downright offended that anybody would offer, or waste money on, crap like 'blobs of plastic stuck onto pennies' instead of helping the hungry or something like that.)
          Maybe the take-away is just "Oh, geez, I guess I'd better get used to Dave not acting like an intelligent businessman, 'cause he thinks he's DaVinci or Christo or something." If so, so be it.
         Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go shopping for a beret.

    24. 2010-headshot.small

      Creator Dave Howell on May 27, 2012

      @Rusty: No, it's certainly not the case that "nearly half" wanted partial insignia. Most of the backers didn't back at a high enough level to choose. However, if I just count backers at Double Rainbow or higher, then 85 chose "full insignia" and 114 chose "partial." So, for those backers that were offered the choice, 57% chose partial. I rather expect that what they plan to do is not mix them together; if they just use the non-inscribed ones, then they'll all look the same.
         As for "nearly impossible to see," well, how were they to know that? It looked pretty darn obvious on the flat artwork samples I posted, after all. And, as some of the other comments here illustrate, what is practically unnoticeable to some people is glaringly obvious to others.

    25. 2010-headshot.small

      Creator Dave Howell on May 27, 2012

      @Cheryl: Please do NOT feel badly about having chosen 'partial insignia.' I had actually decided to not ever write this essay, mostly because it seemed to me that either (a) I'd come across as a whiner, or (b) I'd make a bunch of my backers feel bad. And then the darn thing spilled out of my fingers anyway. If one of my backers thinks that I'm just way too concerned about that writing, and leaves the inscribed silvers in the closet, that is their right and prerogative. I tried to convey that there isn't inherently a "right" and "wrong" way to look at these things, just that there are some different ways.

    26. Mr.smith.small

      Creator Francis Cermak on May 27, 2012

      I'm so lost as to what the point of this update is. Penny Gems are cool little tokens. They are not, to me, some kind of art that deserves a signature. Everything needs a design. Why is one design more worthy of a sig over another? The guy with the Hydra Dice KS project isn't signing his dice designs. You want to brand your gems? Go ahead and do it, but this public lamentation and guilt trip to the people who exercised the option that you gave them to not get branded ones is just self pity.

    27. Paintall.small

      Creator Rusty Q. Shackleford on May 27, 2012

      Frellin computer! Stop reposting that every Single time this page comes back up after FF crashes >.> Well, hopefully someone else can delete those, as I can't.

    28. Paintall.small

      Creator Rusty Q. Shackleford on May 27, 2012

      See... You can't be telling me nearly half of the backers wanted Partial Insignias... That's just insane. First off: It makes some of the gems look different than the rest of the same color. Second off: It's nearly impossible to see and even when seen doesn't obstruct the rest of the image. Third off:

    29. Missing_small

      Creator Daniel on May 27, 2012

      I chose the partial label, and I think PennyGems are great. My Seattle board game group likes them, and I'm sure you'd have more customers if you did another run regardless of whether they had signatures. The reason I chose partial label is because "Improbable Objects" is entirely useless for identifying you or Penny Gems, Google or Bing won't lead me to anything useful based on that, even if go to Etsy and search for Improbable Objects, I get nothing, and www.impobj.com or etsy.com/shop/seasnarke couldn't be guessed from that. I'd be much happier with a signature that was both artistic and functional.

    30. Yay_avatar.small

      Creator Kristen on May 27, 2012

      I chose full label because I liked the idea of giving you full credit. I totally understand what you were saying earlier about seeing this project as art, and I wanted you as the artist to have the credit! In my mind they don't detract from the gems at all.

      To me, this is like Eurogames, where the creator of the games is a BIG THING and their name is displayed prominently. One of the hallmarks of Eurogames is their quality work; another is their creativity. PennyGems are surely an example of both of these!

    31. Lee%20reception%20icon%20large.small

      Creator Beverly Block on May 27, 2012

      Man, if there were Hugos for gaming, I'd nominate this update for Best Related Work in a heartbeat. I just wish my group had ordered earlier -- I'm headed for Origins on Tuesday, and would have loved to have the big bag full to show off!

    32. Curt.small

      Creator Alarian DarkWind on May 27, 2012

      For me I guess I didn't see it as a signature. I saw/see it as an ad. A signature is something that someone who is familiar with an artist is going to recognize. An ad is a website URL. It says "Go to this address and buy my products. That's why I went with the less option. Could you imagine playing a card game where every card had in 1/2 in letters "goto.mywebsite.com" across them? It wouldn't be popular. Or a board game with 2" letters with the web address printed all the way around the border? Imagine the Mona Lisa with 4" writing "Go to my shop at 415 Front street Paris for more products" The signature or logo needs to be unobtrusive that doesn't take center stage on a product. Something that people who want to know more can google or whatever but doesn't hit you in the face every time you look at it. I thought the bonus Nickle gem you gave us would have been plenty. And since you were throwing it in for free, I had no problem with the advertising on it.

      By the way I LOVE my penny gems. They are awesome! Everyone that's seen them, even non-gamers think they are really cool.

    33. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Ronald Whited on May 27, 2012

      First let me start with the fact that I love your pennygems and appreciate the work you have put into them. I've gotta second Marc though, in my case using the logo'd tokens as a signature really doesn't work. I don't use the logo'd tokens at all, I can't make myself throw them away but they aren't going to ever be used for their original intent. I use them for my roleplaying games and the text printed on the object like that just ruins my verisimilitude. In the same manner I would never use a mini figure with a visible signature, it just takes me out of the game when I notice it. I would have gotten the logoless version but I couldn't afford that much money. All having a logo on them meant is that I'll be using 1 less color of pennygem. If all the pennygems had logos I wouldn't have backed the project.

      In my opinion you don't need a logo on the pennygems to spread the word. I love the pennygems I have, and when my gaming group oohs and aahs about them I spread the word of your website and this project. Word of mouth is the most powerful advertising.

    34. Missing_small

      Creator Jan Karell on May 27, 2012

      I'm kinda with Cheryl. When the survey came I just thought "cool, I can get some without the text, I guess I can dig that. (It's almost like an ninth colour!)". And after reading this I almost feel bad about it.

      I like reading the post-updates a lot. I can't wait to get my hands on my pennygems.

    35. 150px-marcwatson.small

      Creator Marc Watson on May 27, 2012

      I'm one of those OCD design guys that prefers the clean look of things. I ordered the ones with less branding, and will be giving away or reselling the ones with writing (I bought a large amount to distribute to some friends, so it's not that I'm doing it entirely because of that, I'd just rather that others ended up with the branded ones). And even though my penny gems won't tell people where to get them, when people are playing games with me, I can still tell them where to go. Word of mouth marketing is still powerful.

    36. 1128-12933.small

      Creator scottie4442 on May 27, 2012

      I have my PennyGems made up and my game groups has used them 10 or 12 times already. Everyone in the groups absolutely luvs these things and the first thing they all asked was where did I get these and how much were they, they all wanted sets of them. I told them about the kickstart project and your website, and then showed them the signature on the silver PennyGem, everyone of them told me that they did not notice that was even on there. I have no problem with an artist signing his work in fact when I back projects on here that is one of the things I ask for extra, how much to have the designers sign their creation, to me it makes the item more valuable. These things are the "BOMB" at my gaiming sessions and I would order more right now.

    37. Crushexpert90-90.small

      Creator Julia Gosztyla Ziobro on May 27, 2012

      Awesome update. I want to say that I chose full logo because I WANT you to get credit for your work, and I wanted it to be easy for me to tell people where they're from.

      We own over 600 games, and I say without any hesitation at all that they are by far the nicest game bits we own. They are in fact, art. They tickle every magpie nerve in my body (shiny, sparkly!) and they feel perfect... warm, soft, firm (how can they be both? but they are), bright, slightly sticky but not TOO sticky, fun to stack, beautiful as a handful in terms of balance and weight.

      EVERYONE admires them, touches them, runs their fingers through them and makes little expressions of joy and jealousy.

      I am ready to buy more, sir. I am willing to pay more for them, so it's slightly less a pure labor of love (count ALL your hours, please). And now for the controversial bit... I want two kinds that you're not making now.

      One is that I would like a custom sheet of a single token, or maybe two different ones. Just like 20 of each. Maybe too much of a pain in the ass, I'm not sure.

      Also, I really love the heft and size of the nickle-based ones. I would be beyond thrilled with a SET of nickel-sized tokens, even if they cost 35 cents each (though I will admit that my budget would require a smaller set than $140).

      And please make a "signature" line that actually has your SIGNATURE on one of them (especially if it's not just a squiggle). :-) And put Improbable Objects on a second one of the tokens in the set. Ya got two choices here, take it or leave it. Worked for my mom, works for me.

      And awesome essay. I love long updates! One of the coolest parts about Kickstarter for me is getting to "know" the artists, at least those who share enough to feel some warmth from them. To wit: Ogre. Steve Jackson was all over those comments and updates and people hung on his every surrrrrrrrrrrvey, myself included. Don't be shy, and don't apologize. Those who want an anonymous, mass-produced item have by and large already gone elsewhere already. :-)

    38. Icon.small

      Creator Paul Stefko on May 27, 2012

      I just want to say that was the best Kickstarter update I have ever gotten. Kudos.

    39. Wildcherylfigure.small

      Creator Cheryl Orosz on May 27, 2012

      I was already unsure I did the right thing when I answered the survey saying i wanted 'partial' insignia. Now I'm really sad I did. I wish I knew how to take it back without making your situation worse in terms of workload. :-/

    40. Missing_small

      Creator Timir on May 27, 2012

      I think actually, you're looking at this in entirely the wrong light. You're considering this as if it's the small words on a painting that make you know it. I don't know the Mona Lisa because I've ever even looked for Davinci's signature on it. (Did he actually sign it?) I don't know War's for his signature, (though sometimes his can be a little big :) I could continue to list artists but I won't.
      I know them for their style. I know them for their art, and in a sense, for their products.
      Every person I showed this kickstarter, thought these were beautiful and awesome. I can't wait to have them so I can show them around. Maybe not everyone is like me, maybe they won't remember improbable objects off the top of their heads. But I know I will.
      It's not the logo on one token that will make you know, and it's not what you should be proud of.
      It's your work. And these are awesome.

      ------
      (Also, I'm one of the people that asked for all of them with the logo, because I happened to think there was something cool about one token having the writing.)

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