While designing the Hartford Metro Map, I guessed it would be popular enough with local folks to merit a run of about 100 prints. I’d seen Kickstarter and was attracted by a few dimensions of its model:
- It removes the risk from the project.
- It handles the credit card transactions.
- It offers tools for organization and promotion.
Any artist/designer can appreciate the uncertainty in releasing a finished work for public approval. There’s always the possibility that no one else will be as excited about it as you are, making for an expensive flop if the printing is done beforehand. Particularly at my current level of skill and notoriety (little & none), this was a concern. Kickstarter alleviated that concern.
Asking for money is also tough. To get around that, Kickstarter’s system again made that a non-issue. From the perspective of the backers, they are also protected in that no money changes hands if the project fails to get funded.
Lastly, online media provide amazingly easy and cost-effective channels to promote projects to large networks. Twitter, Facebook and blogs have enormous reach, and each medium makes it simple for others to share a meme with their own networks. It’s that snowball effect that proved so powerful and essential in the success of the Hartford Metro Map.
In addition to the product being compelling and my great fortune in having several influential & enthusiastic friends, I trace the success of the project back to a few of its specific qualities and decisions made during its creation. First, giving proceeds to charity made backing the project attractive regardless of its deliverables. Second, it was rooted in the vibrant Hartford community so that it appealed to local pride and sense of place. Third, there was a focus on affordability, so that backers could easily justify a small outlay to support the project. And finally, the addition of the American Apparel T spurred a whole round of increased pledges, resulting in the project being funded after just 17 days. People love t-shirts.
In hindsight, I should have had more faith in the project getting funded. Specifically, the time frame for funding should have been much shorter in order to maintain urgency and get the finished product into the hands of backers as soon as possible. For the Hartford Metro Map, I think I good window would have been four weeks. The price points turned out to be pretty good, despite my initial worries that they were too expensive. After an initial wave of support for the map, adding the t-shirt rewards later helped keep up interest in the project and attract new followers. Whether it would have been better to start with several rewards in place, I can’t say, but I think having legitimate news to share was a plus.