Kickstarter tips

March 16, 2015

Ian Lynam Parting It Out Kickstarter

It’s been a while since the last update — the Kickstarter campaign for my new book Parting It Out, a collection of essays about graphic design and culture, came off without a hitch and the book was successfully funded. The whole experience was pretty amazing, and I documented the entire campaign using Kickstarter’s Updates section of the project — you can read the greater narrative here. Within, there is a ton of writing, links to recent presentations, a free ‘zine of Japanese signage, and a whole lot more. (Hate that this website is still not responsive? Read it here on Medium.)

A number of people, notably professional and academic colleagues, have asked me to share my advice about running a successful Kickstarter project since my project was funded, so I have put together a short list of suggestions here for folks even considering undertaking a campaign. Some of it is practical, some of it is pragmatic, but hopefully all of it is helpful in one way or another.

1. Homework.
Read this: http://craigmod.com/journal/kickstartup/. Know what you are getting into and how you might approach it. There is a ton of writing about crafting successful Kickstarter projects online, but none has had the grace, poetry, and applied thinking as Crig’s essay on the topic to date.

2. Kickstarter campaigns take a lot of time.
You’ll need at least 20 hours a week to work on your campaign. (I spent 50 hours per week.)
Why? Because there is all of the stuff that you will need to be doing in the background that makes for a successful campaign, notably:

A. Reach out.
Bugging every single person you know to share the campaign with their networks (which is the non-creepy way of asking people to indirectly back your campaign)…

B. Platforms.
…this means: Twitter messaging, Facebook messaging, direct emails, phone calls, physically intimating that friends might want to back your project, and calling good ol’ Mom and Dad.

C. Blasters set to “stun”.
Writing newsletters and using a service like MailChimp to deliver them—do one at the start of a campaign, one at the mid-point, and one a few days before the campaign ends—my campaign suffered because I didn’t do one final email newsletter. “しょうがない”, as they say in France, but I surreptitiously kick myself for it daily.

D. S-T-R-E-T-C-H.
Thing about stretch goals before you launch! I fucked up on this, and the stretch goals weren’t appealing to everyone. KNOW what you are offering people going in, and say it!

E. Use everything.
Collect every piece of possible PR you can get and deploy them, i.e.:

Ben is not a “famous” graphic designer (note: fame is extremely relative in graphic design), but I love his work, he’s a great guy, and I believe in him. Bonus: his Facebook post is honest and funny. Use every little thing you can get your hands on! (And be appreciative when folks help you out! Thank you, Ben!!!)

F. Make content early.
Before you launch your campaign, go absolutely crazy in terms of following as many people on Twitter as possible that are somehow vaguely related to your focus/campaign goal and delivering one piece of strong, original content daily that is completely unrelated to your upcoming campaign, then retweet at least one thing that you really think is smart/interesting/engaging daily. Be interesting! (Note: I only kind of did this, but it makes sense how it will help in terms of audience engagement. I was a super-slack Twitter user before, but I see the power of it now. Sounds so 90s, but it’s true! Do your due diligence prior!)

3. Editorial tone.
For everything, manage *how* you are saying what you are saying—use “I” when needed, but try and use “we” as much as possible—the collective “we”—what are people going to get out of backing your campaign? For example, look at all three of the 99% Invisible/Radiotopia campaigns—the voice that they used was a rallying cry and made their campaign super-successful!
The best written language is akin to spoken language—I just wrote the way that I write and it was all honest and came from the heart.

I also did what I tell all of my grad students to do—grab your phone and talk what you want to say into a mail or memo to yourself using iOS’ voice recognition/dictation feature. You’ll get to the end goal so much faster, and it will sound like you, not you typing.

4. Friendliness.
Check out Frank Chimero’s The Shape of Design Kickstarter to see how to do things right. I am of the opinion that each individual only really gets one chance to do a big Kickstarter before alienating their personal network (unless they figure out a really smart way of positioning a different project really well). Make your campaign as inviting as possible!

 

5. It takes a village.
Don’t rely on just that one person with an amazing social media presence who you are indirectly connected to to help out with social media—reach out to as many people as possible. I lucked out in that Ilovetypography shared the campaign and a whole bunch of folks I don’t know jumped on-board. Without that, and Adrian Shaughnessy’s plugs, and Stefan Bucher’s plugs, and the hundred-or-so type designers who shouted out the project, and everyone at VCFA‘s shares, I’d have been sunk.

6. Personalize your news
If a ton of folks back your campaign, it is very hard to thank each person individually via updates (though it’s natural to thank everyone individually via Kickstarter’s message center), so be sure to shout out individuals’ contributions when hitting benchmarks. I thanked most individuals who contributed to getting us to every new thousand dollar-mark after the initial flurry of activity that most campaigns experience. This just fed further activity in the campaign, helped support a sense of community, and got people individually invested in the campaign. The dude that got us to our $25K mark, the inestimable Erin Lynch, was an early backer of the project, but he felt personally invested in the campaign and upped his contribution to ensure we hit our goal.

Never underestimate the power of individuals. I said this in Update #12, but it’s a really valuable takeaway:

A community is a local economy.
Never underestimate the power of this.

6. Don’t sink. 
Kickstarter/Amazon are going to take 8% of your campaign money. Think about how much money you actually need for this project, then add a third of that at the very least. Printing for my book is going to cost around $15,000—$17,000, and frankly, I am not sure how much the poster printing and shipping is going to cost, but I made sure to pad the numbers so that everything will be covered safely (and by that, I mean that there is an extremely slight margin of error—I won’t be going to the Bahamas on other folks’ money).

The worst case scenario for me was if the product was only partially funded. I had enough available cash to cover it if I needed to, and my wife would have used her bank account to put the money in. Have a backup plan if your project is going to potentially be under-funded. Think about cost/risk and what you can do if things don’t go super-well. It seems shitty in terms of ‘gaming the system’, but a lot of people do it.

This all being said, I was fortunate enough that I didn’t have put any money into the Parting It Out Kickstarter campaign—I worked my tuckus off to get the word out (sweat equity!), and I am lucky enough to have a support network that funded the project. I am going to make this book as sick as possible in order to ensure that every single person who backed it feels like they got their money’s worth and that the rewards truly freel like rewards!

7. P.R.
A Kickstarter campaign is great for funding, but even better for PR—it really helps get a project a ton of PR. I approached it like that initially, and when it grew legs and started to seem truly viable (which was pretty much overnight), I switched my communications to being a bit more sales-oriented. At the absolute least, how can you effectively communicate and convey your project to as wide-ranging an audience as possible (without being annoying).

8. Be general.
My campaign suffered because it was for a specific book. If I’d pitched it as starting a new design publishing company, I’d probably have gotten ten times the funding that I did. Kickstarter as an entity gets behind projects that are more general in scope. A book of design criticism is so laser-focused that they threw me a bone by putting my project on the Design search results page for 2 weeks, but only because it was a project from Tokyo—probably not because of the actual content. How might you rewrite your project to appeal to a more wide audience?

9. Live live live.
Do as many presentations to as many different audiences as possible. I did 3 presentations at 3 very different events, and people jumped onboard because of it. There were significant spikes after each one—social media alone will do it, but by doing a presentation and making a video of it, you can use that as further PR/content for your Kickstarter campaign. I had a friend record one of my presentations and edit it, then I put it up on YouTube and Vimeo. (It got about 100 plays, which while not huge, really helped.)

10. Catch and release
Time-release content from your project, or curate ancillary content. Give them as thank you gifts. Throughout the campaign, I included excerpts from my book. This got people even more interested and invested.

I released Moji no Hakkutsu / 文字の発掘, a small, as-yet unpublished zine of photos of vernacular signage, lettering and street typography in Kyushu in the south of Japan, as a thank you gift to *everyone* who contributed to the campaign—backers and folks who shared the campaign alike. You are invited to download it here in one of two formats:

Moji No Hakkutsu by Ian Lynam / Screen
Ebook spreads version – perfect for tablet or desktop viewing – low resolution! 4.3mb PDF

Moji No Hakkutsu by Ian Lynam / Print
Print imposed version – you can print this out as a double-sided booklet, fold and staple! – print resolution! Zipped. 4.2mb PDF

There’s something that just feels good about showing thanks to the world for supporting your project—and that goodwill will come back tenfold. I’m more interested in thanking everyone, because I have more than a few friends who shared the project, but for a number of reasons couldn’t back it. I just appreciate everyone’s support.

11. Identity.
Give your campaign an identity. I very intentionally used one typeface, 3 colors, and made everything feel extremely branded. Set up a scheme of visual mnemonics to hang your campaign on. You’ll be happy you did, because people will remember it.

12. Leverage.
What famous people or at least infamous people can you get on board to help out in terms of PR? Having YACHT Tweet about my campaign helped so much, as did getting my pal Evan Mast from Ratatat to agree to let me use some of his unreleased music for the Kickstarter video.

13. Don’t rush.
I thought about this campaign for a year and a half before jumping in. If I were to do it again, I’d do a lot of stuff much, much differently. Consider every possible facet and come up with a total media plan.

14. See what other folks think!
The great thing about Kickstarter is that you can draft your campaign and share it with advisors before you launch. I tweaked mine to death over the course of a month(!) before launch with input from a half-dozen people who are excellent designers, marketers and writers. This is helpful from the perspective of launching a carefully-crafted campaign, as well as creating a handful of advocates who will immediately go to bat for you and who will continually share the project and back it over time, as they will see it as part of a collective project. (‘Sup, AQ!)

15. Family.
Get family onboard. Families want to see their members’ projects go well. The picture above is me, vaguely drunk, presenting at PechaKucha Night in Tokyo, pointing out the folks who have backed the project, but the folks inside the magenta circle are the most important ones: my amazing mom and dad. They gave what they could, as did my mother-in-law and father-in-law, my amazing nephew, my wonderful cousins, and a number of other family members. Nothing makes you feel better than knowing that people closest to you support you and your vision.

So, that’s pretty much it. The Updates in the Kickstarter campaign itself also have a ton of advice embedded, as well—in particular, the last one, which features some great advice from Craig Mod, my good friend and mentor for the journey. It was a long, strange month but I am really glad I partook in this Kickstarter campaign—I learned a ton, and most of it was wildly unexpected… which is how life should be.

On to other news…

I wrote an essay for Red Bull Music Academy about the life and times of the late graphic designer Barney Bubbles. You can read it here.

 

We launched Perpetual Beta, the new blog for the MFA Program in Graphic Design at VCFA, the program which I co-chair along with Silas Munro. We’ve spent the past few months putting this together, and I am stoked that it is out in the world! Check out the magic within—tons of graphic design essays, mind-blowing visual work, and interviews with faculty and critics associated with our university.

I have a new essay called “Weddings” published in Modes of Criticism 1, edited by Francisco Laranjo and featuring essays by Randy Nakamura, Cameron Tonkinwise, Kenneth FitzGerald, and others. The raison d’être for the book is best put by Francisco himself:
At a time when it is fundamental to be critical, the word has become ubiquitous, cool, vague and open for debate.

Upcoming: I will be giving a lecture and workshop for the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators’ Japan about typography and narrative in Omotesando on May 8, 2015. The lecture and workshop will be open to the public (¥1500 for non-SCBWI members), and it’ll be worth it! I’m going to be bringing a big box of vintage Letraset and we’ll be doing some manual typesetting fun together!

 

kind of like spitting 2015 tour

February 8, 2015

Printed posters and social media image posts for Kind of Like Spitting‘s 2015 US Tour.

02.04.2015: Parting It Out

February 4, 2015

Howdy folks,As many of you may or may not know, I’ve been working on a book for the past couple of years―a pretty massive collection of essays about design and culture called Parting It Out. Well, I’m finally in the end zone, and I’m launching a Kickstarter project to help fund it.

You can see it here:
Parting It Out Kickstarter page

This book is probably the most important project I have done to date. As a project, it documents finding my voice as a writer, a design critic and a memoir writer (without the drama that usually involves). I think it’s a good balance of design theory and pop culture writing with just enough personality injected so that I can stake a claim to a very specific type of writing in the continuum of design literature. (And while I have done this via writing for magazines and blogs, said formats just don’t have a very long shelf life, whereas a book does.)

I am writing, of course, to ask you to potentially contribute to this project, but just as importantly, to ask you to help share of this project with your friends and communities, be that through social media, email, conversation, or what have you. The more people that learn about this project, the higher a chance of it of actually getting funded.

I try not to lean on my friends for favors too often, but this is what it is. I won’t be barraging you with newsletters or emails about this project, however I will be making the most of Twitter (@ilynam), Instagram (http://instagram.com/ianlynam) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ianlynam) to document the journey. After the Kickstarter campaign ends, you will be able to continue to see progress here (though it directs to the Kickstarter page presently):

http://part.ianlynam.com.

Thanks very much for taking the time to read this. If you have the time to check out the Kickstarter page, you’ll learn all about this book project in-depth. There’s a fun video there with an unreleased(!) soundtrack by Evan from Ratatat, links to content, and sample images from the book.

Your pal,
Ian

Google Tokyo wayfinding

January 26, 2015

We designed the wayfinding systems for Google’s Tokyo offices. I documented the process in an essay called “Faith/Void Split” which was published in Slanted. In lieu of photographic documentation of the hundreds of signs I created, I have excerpted the essay here. :

It is a Monday in April, 2012. I am on the 50th floor of a giant office building in the middle of one of Tokyo’s largest financial centers, staring at the ceiling and trying to think of how the fuck I am going to come up with a wayfinding plan to make navigation of 600-plus offices, meeting rooms, and cafeterias spread out over three floors easier for the 1,000-plus people that work there. They’re already lost as hell in the two floors they currently occupy, and the addition of a whole new floor of offices has brought the mandate: get it to all make sense somehow. 

 The past few years have been a flurry of time lost to stopgap solutions with no apparent results. Every single one of my previous visits to the site has revealed employee-after-employee squinting, scrutinizing, craning necks sideways, and attempting to make some sort of sense of the never-ending parade of laminated floor plans set with 4-point type, as well as a lack of depicted physical orientation. The new signage system must be big, bold, and obvious. It must use numerous mnemonics including color, two languages, and some semblance of form-making. The site is gigantic, and for some reason, I have been chosen to make it happen. This in itself is a really cool thing: it’s one of those star projects that every designer dreams of—the budget is reasonable and it’s something so big that there’s a decent timeline. As long as I don’t fuck it up, it’s going to enhance the value of our rinky-dink little studio a thousand-fold. It’s going to be very interesting for these reasons, along with a variety of others, most notably in that I have no natural sense of direction. Perhaps this somehow makes me the most suitable candidate for the job—essentially, if I can figure it out, then so could anyone. 

Now, when I say I have no natural sense of direction, what I mean is that I constantly ride my bicycle around Tokyo blindly, unable to geolocate myself in any fashion, even with the help of Google Maps on my phone. I leave our home office an hour prior to meetings just to be safe if I have never been to a particular meeting place. I have lived in Tokyo for the past seven years, and this does not bode well. 

 I have always been like this—perhaps it’s the result of my country bumpkin childhood or my copious drug intake in my teens and twenties, though I doubt it. I have no idea. My mom grew up in the same small town I did and she gets around fine. She can drive from her new home in Prescott, Arizona to Los Angeles without a map, whereas I got insanely lost last time I was there just trying to get to the liquor store. I wish there was some Roland Barthes-ian post-Structural/poetic aspect to all of this, but there just isn’t. I have lived the past 39 years hopelessly lost and there is little doubt that this will continue until the time I’m interred.

This project was the result of going to a site and looking at how the humans who inhabit a site were interacting with their environment. One day, I had a meeting at Google and after haplessly attempting to decipher their wayfinding system, ambled upon the appropriate meeting area and waited outside.

While waiting, I watched diferent Googlers try to find where they were going and I started timing them—the average time they tried to decipher the old wayfinding came to an average of 30 seconds per person. For a company that prides itself on its engineering as much as their design, this seemed off…

I proposed a wayfinding system based on the greater scheme of the giant round building that the Tokyo division inhabits—round paths with bilingual stops akin to a nature trail.

Now, Googlers find their way quickly and immediately through their Tokyo offices via a quick visual scan. I tested the times last time I was there—people barely looked at the signs, and if they did, the maximum time was for 5 seconds.

Typodarium

January 16, 2015

Typodarium 2015

I have some typefaces in the 2015 Typodarium type design calendar.

It’s obviously a little late for this.

Oh well.

CalArts 2015

January 15, 2015

calarts1 calarts3 calarts2

Tee shirt design in for CalArts’ Graphic Design Department’s 2015 T-Shirt Show.

KDa website

January 14, 2015

Klein Dytham architecture Tokyo

We just re-launched a responsive redesign of Klein Dytham architecture’s website.

Klein Dytham architecture

January 14, 2015

KDa 3

New responsive website for Tokyo-based architecture and interior design practice Klein Dytham architects.

01.07.2015

January 7, 2015

Raker typeface family

We just released Raker, a new 40-member family of typefaces.

 

Raker typeface family

Raker was born out of a love for retro science fiction aesthetics as evidenced in films like The Clone Returns Home, Moon,and Alien, while simultaneously being a text typeface with a humanist influence and solid spacing.

Raker typeface family

The family includes 4 cuts: Raker, Raker Display, Raker Stencil, and Raker Display Stencil. Each cut includes 5 weights of Roman and italic characters—Light, Regular, Medium, Bold, and Heavy.

Raker typeface family

Each weight of each cut has been lovingly spaced and kerned, and all weights support Western, Eastern and Central European languages. Hidden pattern glyphs are included, as are standard ligatures.

Raker font family

All italics are true italics and extensive currency support is included. All weights of all cuts have been extensively hinted for the best performance on-screen.

Raker typeface family

Raker was designed to function as a fun, futuristic family of typefaces that will suit a wide variety of applications. And even better, it’s on sale at Wordshape until March 1st for $49 for all 40 weights!

John Mullin Photography

We just hit the button on a responsive website redesign for John Mullin, professional photographer and art educator. We’ve worked with John for years and were excited to relaunch his site with webfonts, some snazzy javascript, and a few CSS tricks. John is one of the United States’ great contemporary photographers, as well as the protegé and former assistant of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Kozue Niseko

We also just launched a responsive website design for Kozue, a new luxury building project in Niseko, Hokkaido being managed by Nisade. The Kozue website features webfont implementation, some fancy javascript, adaptive CSS, and solid, sedate design. You can check it out here.

Néojaponisme 2014 roundup

We also just published our annual round-up of what’s been happening in Japanese popular culture over at Néojaponisme. 2014, we hardly knew ye!

Kozue Niseko

January 7, 2015

Responsive website design and development for Kozue, a new luxury condominium project in Niseko, Hokkaido being managed by Nisade. The Kozue website features webfont implementation, some fancy javascript, adaptive CSS, and solid, sedate design. View the website here.

|