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This new book from the Chicago Design Museum (ChiDM) features 50 handwritten letters in response to a broad, philosophical question.
This book from the Chicago Design Museum (ChiDM) features 50 handwritten letters in response to a broad, philosophical question.
This book from the Chicago Design Museum (ChiDM) features 50 handwritten letters in response to a broad, philosophical question.
300 backers pledged $22,455 to help bring this project to life.

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What's Worth Preserving? Book of 50 Handwritten Letters

$22,455

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Over the past year, Tanner Woodford (executive director of ChiDM) has sent hundreds of letters to a variety of people across all walks of life. In it, he kindly asks the recipient to answer a broad question that traces back to the medium on which it was sent.

“What's worth preserving?”

Responses poured in. Each was more interesting and profound than the previous, expressing its author's heartfelt, authentic and captivating thoughts through their handwriting. While the individual letters are fascinating, the sum of the portfolio is greater than its parts.

In an era of constant distractions, the process of writing a letter by hand serves as a reminder to breathe, and to be in the moment. Writing an answer to a thoughtful question promotes reflection. Unexpectedly, the project also produced other rewards like a discussion with John Massey on astrological philosophy, an original piece of art from Debbie Millman, and a one-year supply of strawberry preserves from Matthew Hoffman.

For more, check out WBEZ's Morning Shift, WGN Radio's The Download with Justin Kaufmann, Columbia Chronicle's "Design Museum launches book Kickstarter" and The Oregonian's "5 things Tanner Woodford knows for sure about design."

 

   

Every Sunday morning, Woodford sends a scanned response to members of ChiDM in a private newsletter. The letters are then transcribed and archived on a password-protected, members-only website. In addition to a one-year membership to ChiDM, backers at the $100 level will receive full access to the online archive, and an original, rare and collectible press sheet from the book's production. (This members-only content series is continuing in 2018 with a weekly campaign that contains the oldest objects in Chicagoland's vast collections.)

Other rewards include: Digital PDF ($10), Book ($40) and ChiDM Membership ($100).
Other rewards include: Digital PDF ($10), Book ($40) and ChiDM Membership ($100).

 

Largely centered in Chicago, responses came from across disciplines and borders. In alphabetic order, respondents include: 50,000ftDuffie Adelson, Justin Ahrens, Lauren Boegen, David Bohnett, Borough+Block, Christen Carter, Ivan Chermayeff, Elizabeth CraneBart CrosbyRob Dewey, Daniel EatockDave Eggers, Joseph Michael Essex, Chris Froeter, Seth GodinJane Goodall, J.P. Graziano, John Greiner, David Hiller, Matthew Hoffman, Dr. A. Hope JahrenSusan Jackson KeigKim Knoll, Edwin C. Krupp, Leon Lederman, Alice Legendre, George Lois, Jeanne Long, Russell Lord, Brian MansfieldVictor Margolin, Debbie MillmanMartha MurrayChristoph Niemann, Art PaulWallace Paprocki, Jodi Picoult, Bobby Reichle, Mig Reyes, Bud Rodecker, Jessica Barrett SattellLouise Sandhaus, Matthew Shlian, David Spadafora, Jonathan Solomon, Elissa Tenny, John Tipton, Hunter Tura, Brad WhiteJason White and Alisa Wolfson.

(Note: Please be patient as we work through the editing process. This is not a full list of letters that will be published, and in fact, not all of these letters will be published. Responses are being actively solicited while we continue editing the publication.)

People who have answered "What's worth preserving?" in their handwriting so far.
People who have answered "What's worth preserving?" in their handwriting so far.

 

The first response came from Dave Eggers of McSweeney’s and 826 Valencia, who suggested "it's worth preserving the knowledge that good design comes from good designers (not robots)" on a custom, hand-drawn letterhead.

Dave Eggers is the Founder of McSweeney’s and 826 Valencia.
Dave Eggers is the Founder of McSweeney’s and 826 Valencia.

 

Later, President Elissa Tenny, the 15th executive and first woman to lead the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, shared thoughts on "the pursuit of the question." All Kickstarter backers will receive this complete note (and others) in project updates.

Elissa Tenny is President of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Elissa Tenny is President of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

  

Bestselling author Seth Godin sent a giant novelty post-it note with a short list on it that included both "lemons" and "giving a damn/making a ruckus."

Seth Godin is the author of 18 bestsellers.
Seth Godin is the author of 18 bestsellers.

 

Proceeds from sales of this book support ChiDM, a 501c3 non-profit organization that strengthens design culture and builds community. For ChiDM, the book is a critical step in a broader effort to promote cultural discourse, preserving ideas alongside those that have them. 

Proceeds support ChiDM. Photo: Geoff Adler, Peyote.
Proceeds support ChiDM. Photo: Geoff Adler, Peyote.

 

This book of 50 letters is the first edition. It's published by ChiDM, created by its executive director Tanner Woodford, edited by Christopher Jobson of Colossal, with a project video by Bowie. Thanks to Sonnenzimmer for contributing a custom-designed portfolio to this campaign. This book is made possible through the enormous support of our generous and inspiring Kickstarter backers.

Returned to sender.
Returned to sender.

 

Risks and challenges

In May 2014, the Chicago Design Museum launched a 30-day Kickstarter campaign for its first exhibition in a new permanent space. In the first 29 days, the campaign had raised around $30,000, toward a $50,000 goal. With panic-induced persistence, we raised an additional $24,000 in the final hours, fully funding our project. Tens of thousands saw the exhibition because of the community's support, and we've since installed seven more exhibitions in Block Thirty Seven.

Though we hope this campaign is a little smoother, our first experience thoroughly impressed the risks and challenges of running a Kickstarter campaign upon us.

We've learned a lot, and are excited to try this again.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tannerwoodford/chicago-design-museum2014-summer-exhibition

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    PDF: 50 Letters Book (download)

    When the first-edition printed book is published, you will receive a link to download a high-resolution PDF.

    Includes:
    • Digital Download (PDF)
    • 1000× Thanks
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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Portfolio: 5 Risograph Prints

    When the first-edition book is published, you will receive a limited-edition portfolio of 5 random Risograph-reproduced letters, and a PDF of the book.

    Includes:
    • Risograph Prints
    • Digital Download (PDF)
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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    Early backers: 50 Letters (signed)

    The first 100 backers receive $5 off the 1st edition copy of the new 50 Letters book. (To thank you for being one of our first backers, this reward includes an option to have the book signed by Tanner, or customized for someone you love!)

    Includes:
    • 50 Letters book (1st edition)
    • Digital Download (PDF)
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    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    Book: 50 Letters (1st edition)

    Receive a first edition copy of the new 50 Letters book, published by the Chicago Design Museum, and made possible through the enormous support of our generous and inspiring Kickstarter backers.

    Includes:
    • 50 Letters book (1st edition)
    • Digital Download (PDF)
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $70 or more About $70

    Supersize: Book + Press Sheet

    Receive a first edition copy of the new 50 Letters book, and an original press sheet from the book production process.

    Includes:
    • 50 Letters book (1st edition)
    • Press sheet (untrimmed, unfolded)
    • Digital Download (PDF)
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Supporter: Membership + Press Sheet

    This level includes a one-year membership to ChiDM. Every Sunday, we send one handwritten letter to our members in a private newsletter. Backers at this level will receive this and other membership benefits listed at ChiDM.com, along with an original press sheet from the book production process. (If you already have a membership, we'll add one year to it! Membership is valued at $60 annually.)

    Includes:
    • 50 Letters book (1st edition)
    • ChiDM Membership (1 year)
    • Press sheet (untrimmed, unfolded)
    • Digital Download (PDF)
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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Collector: Book + Risograph Portfolio

    Receive an exclusive portfolio of 25 random replies from this campaign, reproduced by Risograph. This level also includes a signed book, an untrimmed press sheet, and a ChiDM Membership.

    Includes:
    • 50 Letters book (signed)
    • 25× Risograph Prints
    • Press sheet (untrimmed, unfolded)
    • ChiDM Membership (1 year)
    • Digital Download (PDF)
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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Featured: ChiDM sponsorship

    In addition to the above, become an official sponsor of the Chicago Design Museum, including: Logo featured on gallery sponsor wall + website; Logo featured in exhibition publications; Recognition in all exhibition marketing; Recognition in all press and media relations; Acknowledgement in social media promotions; Complimentary tickets to premium events.

    Includes:
    • Museum Sponsorshop (1 year)
    • 50 Letters book (1st edition)
    • Press sheet (untrimmed, unfolded)
    • 25× Risograph Prints
    • ChiDM Membership (1 year)
    • Digital Download (PDF)
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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    Producer: Recognition in Book

    As a thank you for helping us get this product off the ground, we'll add your company logo (or list your name) in a dedicated section in the back of the book (with ChiDM approval.) Limited to 2 backers.

    Includes:
    • Logo (or name) printed in book
    • 50 Letters book (1st edition)
    • Press sheet (untrimmed, unfolded)
    • 50× Risograph Prints
    • ChiDM Membership (1 year)
    • Digital Download (PDF)
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Funding period

- (44 days)