CONNECT

5 Aug 2015

Giving back to gain: The Kickstarter campaigns we've backed — and why

As our posts on the degree shows, Code Club, and outsourcing development show, Everywhere is as much an outwards looking, digital design community-conscious studio as we are a self-analytical, inwards-looking one. That's why we consciously look to support Kickstarter campaigns that support our developing practice, field and industry.

Kickstarter probably needs no introduction, but to the uninitiated it's a crowd funding website that gives a small number of people the power to bring someone's vision to life. Hence it's slogan 'Power to the People' — that's 8.4 million people so far, who have pledged (at the time of writing) over $1.7 billion to fund 83,000 creative projects.

Everywhere has backed six such campaigns over the last three years, and we want to share what those were and why we plumped for them. There have been books, a documentary, a web magazine and a couple of journals, and the theme that connects them is that they're documenting the current state of our industry. They're starting debates about the work we create, and giving future generations printed artefacts to show some of the thinking behind today's digital work — and the people involved with creating it.Looking inwards again, they also of course provide inspirational material for everyone in our studio to discuss.

We feel good about giving back to the community by backing these people and their projects directly — and about doing it via a truly disruptive digital business!

Here are the six projects we've backed.

BOOK: 'The Leader's Guide' by Eric Ries

Eric Ries promises pledgers supporting 'The Leader's Guide' both a copy of this book and his next. The book will give them exclusive access to exercises, tools, a users' guide and curriculum, all of which he's so far only used with his corporate clients. It's an experiment to see what happens when these ideas 'escape into the wild' so that Ries can learn from others' experiences of his tools. It'll also only ever be available to people who pledged — it's never going to be sold in bookshops.

'The Leader's Guide' was meant to be published as a hardback and as an ebook, but after his campaign began Ries responded to his backers' requests for k, so that's in the mix too. There'll also be an online community open only to those who backed the book on Kickstarter.

Why we backed it

This is our most recently backed project. We loved Eric Ries's first book 'The Lean Startup' and thought the incentives for this one were genius. We already use some of the tools that we were offered a discount on through our pledge in the Developers pack and can't wait to see the book in print later this year.

What Ries raised

$588,903 with the help of 9,677 backers. His funding target was $135,000.

The Result

Ries called the process of raising almost three times his target over 30 days, 'fun (hectic!) and educational'. The community he created through Kickstarter amounts to nearly 10,000, and because of the nature of his project, they'll be sharing their experience, and learning from one another. After the campaign Ries chose BackerKit to deliver the stretch goal bonuses, upgrade specials and other content available head of of 'The Leader's Guide', because its software allows backers to update their own shipping information and assist in delivery surveys and collecting backer data for the book itself.

Ries is now embedded in the editorial side, mapping out his content, research, and editorial calendar. We're looking forward to being part of his backer community, which he promises 'will support everyone's entrepreneurial endeavours long after copies are received.'

We'll write a post about 'The Leader's Guide' once we've received, read, and digested it.

DESIGN JOURNAL: The Manual, Everywhere

The campaign

To explore the 'why' questions behind designing for the web, The Manual already had three issues out in the world. But its publisher Andy McMillan made a case for changing it with Issue 4 — to move it on from being exclusively a printed book.

He and his team wanted to take it online and remove the editorial copyright so that it's available freely and openly to everyone. They wanted to make it format-ready for whatever device each reader wants to view or listen to it on. Finally, they wanted to switch it to 'pay what you want'. So it can be read for free, or by voluntary subscription.

McMillan admits it's an experiment and a gamble, but it'll allow The Manual's team to build an ad-free, generous sharing space for ideas and conversations around design for the web.

Why we backed it

We had previously bought the first three printed editions of The Manual and had been impressed with the diverse nature of the articles from key people in our industry, as well as its attention to detail and finish. We believed it was possible for a similar feeling to be created digitally, and we wanted to be part of making that happen.

The Manual raised

$43,220 thanks to 616 backers. Its funding target was $40,000.

The result

Issue 4 of The Manual was printed and went out to backers across the world — including us! Limited edition logo tees created with Cotton Bureau also went on sale. The ebook, audiobook, and web editions of Issue 4 also became available to subscribers and backers through themanual.org. Its creators were proud to fulfill their promise to 'meet readers where they read'. Issue 5 is now in production.

DOCUMENTARY: What Comes Next is the Future

The campaign

Matt Griffin, founder of Bearded [http://www.bearded.com], explained that he and his team wanted to make a film about the post-desktop web, saying that the more funding they could get, the more interviews they could do, and the greater the quality the film could be.

Griffin offered a snapshot of the film he wanted to make as a trailer. Here are some of the brilliant quotes therein:

'Mobile devices have humanised the web much more. Something in your hand and pocket, something people can feel more comfortable with — but yet understand less.'

'There's a continuous loop of learning and iterating. People can see and interact with what you create immediately.'

'You can see how other people are building things and how you are, and then you can learn from each other.'

'The free-flow of ideas, information and thoughts was previously impossible.'

'Anyone can create content. At a minimum on Twitter or Facebook. But you can create a responsive website without even knowing what those words mean. And you can publish from anywhere in the world.'

'We're back to our roots, it's about accessibility and functionality and ease.'

Why we backed it

Though there are many short films produced by our industry, these are usually backed by multinationals looking for exposure.

That's why we liked this one — it's an ambitious project by a small digital design studio like ourselves in the US. In fact, it's something we've talked more than once about doing ourselves. Interviewing key and prominent people who are involved in the day-to-day work will mean it's relevant and informative on its release.

Griffin raised

$63,306 thanks to 618 backers. His funding target was $55,000.

The result

Griffin has been able to invest in some better equipment and is currently conducting interviews to supplement those already shot. The Kickstarter campaign has meant he's been able to interview more people and those with higher profiles.

MAGAZINE: The Great Discontent

The campaign

Ryan and Tina Essmaker launched The Great Discontent in August 2011 as an online magazine focused on 'beginnings, creativity, and risk'. They didn't know if anyone would read it as it was longform content — not that widely written then — but have since published over 115 interviews (usually one a week) that are now read by people in over 170 countries.

Through the way they've curated their site and the people they've chosen to feature on it, the Essmakers have always encouraged their readers to take risks. Their own risk is now in front of them: they've given up their day jobs to focus on The Great Discontent full time.

They want to make a printed magazine from what they've published online, so people can keep it and hold it and physically share it and value it.

They're collaborating with a print designer Frank Chimero, a Brooklyn-based designer they interviewed for TGD, to create this.

Why we backed it

Everywhere has been reading TGD's weekly posts for the last two years or so — and at times what we've read there has pushed us along through some difficult moments. We're always inspired by the range of answers and different perspectives gleaned from its wide range of interviewees, despite the same questions being asked at every interview. It's good to see digital move into print for a change, rather than the other way around. It means we have a physical archive to read which is refreshing when so much is kept in online archives.

The Essmakers raised

$105,097 thanks to 2,272 backers. Their funding target was $100,000.

The result

As a backer, we received the first issue ahead of those that became publicly available in July 2014. It's a truly beautiful piece of print and Issue 2 is now available and can be bought at thegreatdiscontent.com/magazine.

BOOK: Helvetica, Objectified, Urbanized: The Complete Interviews

The campaign

Gary Hustwit is the director of the documentaries 'Helvetica', 'Objectified' and 'Urbanized'. Over the past eight years he's interviewed many designers for the film, but much of the footage has gone unwatched, and many of the conversations have be confined to the cutting room floor.

People who have watched the films have only seen 3% of the complete footage shot — over 100 hours of unreleased interviews. Hustwit and his team have decided to publish the complete interviews in a book.

They're hoping it'll be a resource for designers, design educators and design lovers. It's going to be a big paperback of 400 to 500 pages and will also be available as a digital ebook for iPad and other devices.

There'll also be a one-hour ‘best of' film of the unreleased stuff.

Why we backed it

We really enjoyed all three of Hustwit's films and felt compelled to back this project just to get our hands on the material that wasn't included in them.

Hustwit raised

$92,132 thanks to 1,447 backers. His funding goal was $55,000.

The result

Due to the amount of work involved in transcribing the full interviews, it was a little delayed beyond its original launch date, but now that we have the book in our hands, we're immersing ourselves in the thinking of the inspirational people within its pages. It's admittedly a slow process — it's such a long book! — but that's also part of its beauty for Everywhere.

MAGAZINE: HOLO — Emerging trajectories in art, science and technology

The campaign

The team behind HOLO believed in print and knew it was a romantic platform for talking about technology. They wanted to tell the stories of a new breed of artists and designers exploring the potential of technology and creating astounding, previously unimaginable work where technology is tool, medium and collaborator.

All these projects are underpinned by a fascinating practise and also a backstory. These backstories tell us not just about media craft, but about human nature as well. Yet these narratives don't show up in tweets and reviews and blog posts.

The HOLO team wanted to tell these stories in more involved ways — to counteract the web's ‘spin cycle' with a slower, more methodical approach. So HOLO is about people interrogating technology and focuses on the things missing on the web — the faces, the personalities and the anecdotes as the compelling elements of the work.

Their goal was two issues a year, of 200+ pages each, so more like a book than a magazine, that will live on bookshelves.

Why we backed it

This was a very inspirational project from the team behind the Creative Applications Network [http://www.creativeapplications.net] and we saw it as an opportunity to back a journal that would bring together the thoughts and personalities behind some of the most inspirational projects and studios out there, and be a great reference point for our own studio. Taking those people away from the screen was a nice idea.

The HOLO team raised

$71,494 thanks to 944 backers. Its target was $35,000.

The result

The team found the final cleanup of their first 226-page tome gruelling, and its schedule was pushed back. But in April 2014, two metric tons of its inaugural blue issue were finally shipped. We've found ourselves dipping into our copy again and again.