February 2012

To Crowdfund or Not to Crowdfund?

by Andy Polaine on February 27, 2012

in General, Links

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about the new Swiss crowd-funding platform, wemakeit.ch. In the post I suggested that this is a big opportunity for graduating students looking to strike out on their own rather than having to find investors for their idea. I still believe this to be true, but Don Lehman wrote two excellent posts over at Core77 discussing the pros and cons of crowdfunding.

Don launched a successful Kickstarter project for his Stylus Caps – caps that turn your favorite pen (Sharpie, Bic, Pilot) into a touchscreen stylus. In his posts on Core77 he shares his experience:

As I was literally knee-deep in boxes of Stylus Caps that were to be shipped to 1,796 Backers who helped me do something I never would have been able to do on my own. All I could think was, “People need to know what it’s like to do this.” There were a ton of surprises along the way that were unique to running a crowdfunded project that I had no prep for. To say that I would do things differently the second time around, would be an understatement.

The crazy thing is, every project creator is unnecessarily blazing their own trail. That’s because there hasn’t been much open talk about what its like to run one of these projects. Why or why not, you might want to crowdfund, how to prepare to launch your idea, how to communicate with potentially thousands of people who have pre-ordered your idea, how to run the project on a day-to-day basis, how to deal with shipping.

The second “Should I Do This?” post takes a sober look at what it takes to get a design idea actually made and shipped. Having the idea and sketching out the concepts and making a 3D rendering are the easy part. As always, ideas are easy, getting things made and shipped is the hard part. Crowdfunding lets you sell before you’ve even done the hard part, says Don:


The scary part is that instead of having one investor holding all the cards (probably not good for your morale), you have many people invested in your project and they’re all talking about it online.

The public aspect of crowdfunding development means that you need to keep your Backers in the loop of your progress. This can be alternately amazing and incredibly stressful. You’re not only dealing with the ups and downs of getting something made, but you have a large group of people invested in your success, watching and critiquing your progress in real time. Basically it turns the design process into real time performance art. Most will be fully supportive of you, but an extreme minority will be highly critical of every misstep (SPOILER ALERT: You will have missteps.) in a very public way. To put it more succinctly, its the absolute best parts of the Internet, mixed with a dash of the absolute worst parts of the Internet.

Nevertheless, Don and many others’ experiences of crowd funding suggest that it really is a great way to go, especially with a small to medium size idea that you know how to get manufactured. One key word of advice from Don is to really have had some experience taking a product all the way from design to launch. So, those of you also studying design with design management, for example, may be well placed to try out your chops.

Most of all, though, as Don suggests, this is uncharted territory. Even if you’ve done a crowd funding project before, as more people become aware of what it is and how it works, things are going to change and we need to capture the experience:

We need to build on what has been learned. Crowdfunding is still in its infancy and too important to the future of design for us to not be talking about it. So here is my mission: Describe what it’s like to run a product design project in 2012, the early, wild west days of Crowdfunding.

Social Edge

by Andy Polaine on February 22, 2012

in Links

Social Edge is Social Edge is a program of the Skoll Foundation that was inspired by Jeff Skoll’s commitment to connecting people with shared passions. “Social Edge is the global online community where social entrepreneurs and other practitioners of the social benefit sector connect to network, learn, inspire and share resources.”

Social Innovator

February 22, 2012

Social Innovator aims to “bring together the people, experience and issues involved in designing, developing and growing new ideas that meet pressing unmet needs.” < blockquote>”This material is intended to guide and support the practice of all those who can contribute to this social economy: policy‐makers who can help to create the right conditions

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Ninja Blocks

February 20, 2012

Ninja Blocks are a great Kickstarter project for anyone wanting to connect together their hardware world with Web services. From the Ninja Blocks blog: How it all works Ninja Blocks are simple but powerful open source hardware backed by an amazing web service called Ninja Cloud that allows your Ninja Block to talk to your […]

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If… Behavioural Heuristics and Design

February 20, 2012

If… Behavioural Heuristics and Design is a excellent, long, but well-explained post by Dan Lockton on behavioural heuristics. Important for designers, because, he argues: There are lots of models of human behaviour, and as the design of systems becomes increasingly focused on people, modelling behaviour has become more important for designers. As Jon Froehlich, Leah […]

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February 15, 2012

Makego is a new iPhone app from interaction artist and designer, Chris O’Shea that turns your iPhone / iPod Touch into a toy vehicle. The app is basically a little animation of a top-down view of a racing car, ice-cream van or a boat. You make a vehicle in paper, LEGO, etc. and then put […]

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Touchpoint Observatory: Badly Hand-Drawn Signs = Ruined Branding

February 14, 2012

You have spent thousands on your corporate branding, you keep a tight reign over the usage of your logo, you ship out expensively produced marketing materials to your franchise affiliates and… they ruin it all by creating crappily hand-drawn signs and sticking them in the doorway of the shop. This is a trend that I […]

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kooaba Shortcut

February 10, 2012

kooaba Shortcut is “a shortcut between real life and the Internet: take a picture of what you are reading in a newspaper or magazine and instantly get connected to the digital version. It also works with ads and billboards with the Shortcut icon.” Pretty cool. I’m working on a project at the moment looking at […]

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Touchpoint Observatory: Service Sold in a Box

February 10, 2012

When companies struggle to get their heads around service, they often end up marketing services as if they were products. The above image is for television delivery from a big German consumer electronics chain store called Media Markt. Not just service, you will note, but “power service.” I’m not quite sure what that means – […]

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Andrew Hinton describing Path’s failure as a UX failure

February 8, 2012

Andrew Hinton describing Path’s failure as a UX failure: This is in part what some of us in the community are calling the failure of “user experience design” culturally: UX has largely become a buzzword for the first list, in the rush to crank out hip, interactively interesting software. But “business rules” which effectively act […]

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