As creatives, we tend to gravitate towards subjects we feel strongly about and create work around them. If we are lucky, we get to see these projects leave the confinements of our screens and sketchbooks and come to life. I recently worked on such a project named Dear Library. After researching the world of public libraries for over 10 weeks, I created a Kickstarter around these cornerstones of our communities. Being the first crowdfunding campaign I launched, I learnt my share of lessons as the two weeks of the campaign unfolded before me of which some of them are:
Researching people not just the product.
My research on libraries started out very broad and I gathered many insights along the way that blew my mind. I think that tends to happen when you invest yourself in a subject and decide to step into their world, a different experience than being an outsider. However, I quickly learnt that the world of libraries revolved not only around books, media and all sorts of funding but the people who kept the different parts of the library world running. It became clear to me early on that identifying the key people in the ecosystem and having them on your side was imperative to the project’s success.
I organized this list of important people in the form of a community map and was able to reference back to it for the entirety of the project. I went back to them and asked for help throughout the key milestones in the project. That helped me foster relationships with all my advisers on the project and some of them became the strongest backers of my Kickstarter campaign. In addition to that, they became part of the process from the beginning till the end of the time that the campaign ran.
Why are you doing this?
When writing about my project for it’s Kickstarter page, I asked for the help of my peers on the text narrative and visual story. It was one of the smartest things I could have done. I gained the perspective of multiple people who looked at the project in different ways than I did and therefore were able to analyze it in ways I was not thinking of. But all of them had a common thread of advice which was to not lose sight of why I was doing this project in the first place. One adviser in particular, Nikki Sylianteng, emphasized the importance of telling my story to people to show it’s authenticity. Needless to say, she was right.
It’s an experiment and offering, don’t burden it with more.
An important mindset that I had going into the project was to treat the whole thing as an offering. Which meant that this was an experiment I am doing, a project that I think would be fun to bring into the world. If enough people found it to be interesting, it would be backed and/or funded. This is simply the coolest lesson that I learned in my Entrepreneurial Design class this semester. It is humbling to see how this concept can be applied across a variety of projects. Running a Kickstarter implies that we need people and their support in the form of money and creative trust to validate our idea. That is a big expectation on its own and the idea we want to bring to life is definitely dependent on a lot of those things. But to keep the core of it experimental is crucial so that we set ourselves up for realistic expectations in case it does not get successfully ‘funded’. That does not necessarily mean the project failed, but only that it ran for the time it did and maybe taught you a few lessons along the way. Which could be about restructuring the story you are telling about the project or maybe a different approach to marketing the campaign is needed. But an experiment is a work in progress, so to not burden it with being a complete thing to send out to the world is perfectly fine. Which takes me to my final lesson I learnt….
No such thing as perfect
An unfinished draft sent out this week is better than a perfect draft send out next week. There will always be the need to iterate and go back on things, even those that we have sent out to the world to get published and polished. But it might be too late by the time it is ‘ready’ to be seen by the world. Sometimes sending a cool idea out there in the world, even if it’s in a rough form, is better to have waited for the ‘right time’ or worse, not having sent it out at all. There is no such thing as perfect timing or the perfect version. The successful project is one which the world gets to see, the designer keeps iterating on and remains a constructive work in progress for as long as the idea keeps getting better.