Editor’s Note: We thought it would be interesting to show, in detail, how a Kickstarter is run. Natasha has agreed to document her entire process in a 6 part series so you can see what is involved with setting up your own crowdfunding campaign.
I’m Natasha, the designer behind TechnoChic DIY tech-craft kits at TechnoChic.net. In just 4 weeks I’ll be launching my new DIY light-up paper bow tie kits on Kickstarter (That’s March 7th!) and all the details are coming down to the wire. Last week, I focused on finalizing my prototypes and preparing for user testing with the final design. I’ll share with you my past design process and goals for getting ready for my big launch. This is the second week on my journey to launch – if you missed last weeks post, check it out here.
Finalizing the prototype
This was a really fun week. First and foremost I’m a designer, but running my own business means I typically spend less time designing and more time planning, balancing spreadsheets, selling and shipping. This week was a chance to sit back and do what I do best!
The DIY light-up paper bow tie kit has been a work in progress for a long time. I originally designed the DIY bow ties (along with my DIY light-up paper flowers) as a quick and fun activity for Maker Faire, and have been bringing the project to workshops and events ever since. Every time I interact with makers building my bow tie, I look for opportunities to improve the design. For example, the first version had very small holes to thread the LED through and after watching a large group of people build it, I realized that the holes were too small for some makers to see. After trying a few size adjustments, I have a design that’s better for farsighted people and also easier for everyone. This iterative process is based on user-centered-design principals and is so valuable to the development of a product.
Now that I’m preparing to finalize the design, I’ve reflected on all the lessons learned from each user test and added consideration for marketing, merchandising, manufacturing and cost. Here are some of the things I was looking for:
- Is it very easy to build?
- Is the size appropriate for kids and adults?
- Is the design visually appealing / sharable?
- Is the design durable?
- Can the design be manufactured easily?
- Can it be manufactured within budget?
- Will it fit in existing packaging?
Here are some action shots from this week:
Testing a few different bowtie sizes – 3 bears style. The first one was too small – the second one was too big – the third was j-u-u-u-u-st right.
Starting the process of designing the foil patterns using sharpie. I always start with a pen and paper before I go to the computer. I know its technically not necessary to get the job done, but using a real pen and paper is therapeutic for me. It helps me slow down and focus on the design challenge before going to Adobe Illustrator and its overwhelming amount of possibilities!
My first illustrator designs with foil. I started to understand how much of the surface should be covered in shiny.
More foil tests in different colors and sizes.
Pattern focus study. Can you help me pick the winning designs? Look for the survey at the end of this post. :)
Preparing for Manufacturing
My design challenges took a new turn this week as I transitioned from a “project” that was individually made to a “product” that will need to be specified for professional manufacturing. The manufacturing process requires that I have steel rule dies made to cut the paper into the bow tie shapes, and foil stamping dies made to stamp the shimmery foil design on the paper. Both dies have limitations and costs associated with how intricate the designs are, so as I create my final prototypes I want to be thinking about manufacturability as I go. I have experience having dies made for me in the past, so I do have an idea of what they should cost. Next week, I’ll dive into the numbers and meet with my manufacturer to ensure everything is possible.
You may be thinking – why are you concerned about manufacturing before you even have your campaign funded? And that’s a good question. It’s very important that I do this work now. I consider Kickstarter (as most creators do) to be a promise to my backers. I’m asking for a lot – for them to believe in my idea and to believe in my ability to follow through with it. I won’t know if I can follow through unless I have the entire production plan in place. And if they are taking their risk on me I want to be sure that I have done everything in my power to make a promise I can keep – including that I will have enough money to produce the product I said I would!
Kickstarter backers should see backing a campaign as risky but rewarding. In my last campaign, I had everything ready to go with a printer/die cutter. I spent a few months sending back and forth designs and asking for pricing. I asked about their capabilities and timelines. In the end it turned out that the final costs were more than the estimate and the deadline I set was not possible. Lucky for me, I found a new printer/die cutter (and even better- in my own neighborhood!) that was able to step in at the last minute. If I hadn’t found them I may have had to let my backers down. My point is, anything can happen but if you have a good plan, you can still make it to the finish line even if you end up on a road you didn’t expect.
Preparing for promotion and the final test of the design.
There is a catch 22 when you’re launching a new product on Kickstarter: your prototypes don’t look as nice as your production run will, but good images are key to attracting the Kickstarter backers you need to go into production in the first place! It’s a “chicken or the egg” situation. To combat this, I’ve decided to focus less on photoshopping “picture perfect” images and instead focus on the fun of building and wearing the bow ties. (Kickstarter recommends showing real prototypes over renderings anyway!) I’m also starting to plan for images and content that is “sharable” the goal is to encourage backers and fans too share the campaign too.
I’m very excited that bow ties look great on video. Here’s a quick one that I shot on my phone. What do you think?
Last week I asked for volunteers to be user testers for the final design. Thank you so much to all who signed up – I’m overwhelmed with excitement – there are over 200 of you! I will be choosing the 20 final testers based on volunteers who represent a variety of locations and ages, and those chosen will hear from me soon! You’ll be the last line of feedback before the production of the product and I’ll also need your help to photograph the fun! Looking for other ways to participate? I need your help by lending your opinion about my designs:
Please help my design process by sharing your feedback on my bow tie pattern designs. Your opinion will influence the final production of this product. Thank you so much for your support!
A personal note
Since these posts are like a Kickstarter reality show, I thought I would end by sharing my feelings about the campaign and how the process is going:
This week, I still feel that I have the ability to make the campaign happen on the schedule I committed to. However, I have started to feel the urgency of all that needs to be done, and the fragility of the plan. Could one major hiccup throw me off? (oh my!) I was under the weather for a bit last week and trying to make up for that lost time was stressful, but not too bad. I’ve been getting a normal amount of sleep. I ordered takeout 0 times. Let’s see how I do next week! :)
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