Last week, I questioned whether Kickstarter was the appropriate 'marketplace' for Dario Antonioni's "Botanist Minimal," suggesting that the bench had somehow transgressed the scope of Kickstarter as a crowdfunding platform. After all, the concept is already realized in full and Antonioni is simply raising funds to, er, jumpstart retail production.
Of course, I'm not one to challenge his choice of funding (especially if/when it hits the $20K mark)... much less the team at Kickstarter, who effectively co-sign on any projects that make it to the campaign stage (i.e. go live). Nevertheless, it's worth examining Raleigh-based T-shirt purveyors CityFabrics, who are arguably in a similar situation with their campaign for "Wear You Live." (Ironically, "Botanist Minimal" is offering T-shirts as lower-tier rewards, a typical reward for large-scale projects.)
First things first, the design itself is pretty nice: while I don't agree with some of the cropping decisions, the "figure/ground" effect is atypical enough to feel fresh, imparting just a bit of abstraction to otherwise familiar imagery. The "thumbtack" pin is also a nice touch.
The best part about this small business project has been the interaction with our community. This type of map is so simple that it allows anyone from elementary school students to grandparents the ability to visually tell a story about their place. This Kickstarter project is an attempt to share our civic-minded, story-telling tools with more and more people. It's our belief that the more people talk about their place, the more people will be involved in their community.
Yet there's still a sense that you're paying for a product more than an idea—which is not to say that it's a bad product or a bad idea, but to suggest that, for better or for worse, Kickstarter may be opening the doors to a broader range of creative projects. (For what its worth, "We Flashy" boasted some kind of technical innovation—"Wear You Live" is simply a piece of graphic design.)
Nevertheless, Kickstarter has not strayed from its original purpose as a frontier for emerging or otherwise underfunded designers to find an audience, at once a relatively low-risk alternative to VC fundraising and a previously unexplored space between never-to-see-the-light-of-day speculation and full-fledged production (and sometimes profit). In fact, the very nature of the platform provides valuable lessons in marketing—i.e. the "elevator pitch," in video format per Web 2.0 convention.
And therein lies the beauty of Kickstarter: it's a padded proving ground where the designer him or herself gets to choose how high the stakes are. Whether it's a documentary, a book, a software platform (for design or even a restaurant, Kickstarter is intended to be (what commenter Scott calls) a "classic win-win" for creatives and backers alike.
We chose Kickstarter as our platform to test our idea on a national scale. When we start to talk about having an actual inventory of 4, 6 or even 10 cities, logistics get crazy while trying to account for different sizes, colors, styles and even products. We see the crowd-ordering/crowd-funding potential of Kickstarter as a tremendously potent tool in helping us launch our line of civic-minded tees, build an inventory and give us the confidence to create a comprehensive, online platform for civic dialogue.
So really, it's up to the backers to answer the question: only 680 of you (40 per city) have to say "Yes" to make large-scale production a reality. Again, this is the nature of Kickstarter: it's the literally a way to vote with your dollars, and in this respect, full funding is all the validation that anyone could ask for.