The Kickstarter Diaries, Pt. 1: How 3 Design Projects are Chasing Dreams (and Funding)

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We don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that designers qualify as power Kickstarter users. Last year, Frank Chimero grabbed blog headlines all over the Internet when he raised more than $100,000 to create a design book. And there are countless other design-related projects up every day—from ideas for new products to new typefaces. But we were curious what the process looks like from the other side of the donate button.

So we’ve picked three awesome projects kickstarting right now, and we’re going to follow them from start to finish. And perhaps pick up a few insights for anyone else thinking about Kickstarting a design project.


The path for Jennifer Sukis’s (pictured at top) 41-day road trip. She’ll camp and sleep on couches as she interviews people who made big, bold life changes. The end result: a book.

To Be Brave

Who: Jennifer Sukis, senior designer, frog design

What: A cross-country road trip to interview folks who ditched safe life paths to go in totally different directions—ones that felt closer to their values. Think finance executive turned yoga studio owner and academic turned baker. Sukis will turn these tales of transformation into a book.

Why: Many young designers would envy Sukis’s career path. She was a partner in a successful design firm, Principle, before moving on to a position at frog. But, lately, she’s been wondering what’s next. “I hit a point where I wasn’t growing,” she says. “I didn’t like being less interested or interesting about my work.” So she’s embarking on a design research project where she hopes to discover her own next path and inspire a few other people along the way. Her epic, 41-day road trip kicks off April 13. As Sukis puts it, she knows this adventure (and leave of absence from frog) is the right move because she’s “scared to death of it.”

Kickstarter Tip: “Take yourself out of the equation,” she says. “It’s really important that it’s not about you. Your clients are your donors. You are creating a product.”

A selection of finalists from the 1st Chicago International Poster Biennial in 2008.

A selection of finalists from the 1st Chicago International Poster Biennial in 2008.

3rd Chicago International Poster Biennial

Who: Lance Rutter, a designer and President of the Chicago International Poster Biennial Association (CIPBA)

What: A Kickstarter campaign to help this poster biennial become self-sustaining. There’s no entry fee for the competition, and the public events are generally free. This is the only poster biennial in the United States endorsed by ICOGRADA.

Why: The amazing work in the first CIPBA back in 2008 immediately turned heads in the design community. But as many designers know, it’s hard to pay the bills with posters—especially when you’re exhibiting rather than selling. The first two biennials were boot-strapped by going hat-in-hand to friends in the design community. “We started a little bit under the water, and we’ve been trying to catch up ever since,” Rutter says. “We’re on the cusp of making the biennial self-sustaining.” A Kickstarter donation would help support programming and allow the group to explore a traveling exhibition (a potential source of revenue).

Kickstarter Tip: “The video is really important,” Rutter says. “It’s what people relate to.”




We’ve all had close encounters with lackluster (and sometimes confusing) ballot designs. But what if election officials had a series of field guides to make voting better?

Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent

Who: Dana Chisnell, principal researcher, UsabilityWorks

What: A series of field guides to help public officials make easy, incremental improvements to ballot designs across the country.

Why: After the 2000 election ballot debacle, there was a lot of focus on ballot design. Voting systems were updated across the country, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. “AIGA’s Design for Democracy Project turned out the perfect ballot,” Chisnell says. “But this is completely overwhelming to election officials who don’t know anything about design.” These administrators are often working in a system filled with rules and regulations and aren’t able to accept InDesign or Photoshop files. And that’s where the field guides would come into play. They provide easy, achievable ballot design techniques that can be implemented one at a time. And help eliminate voter confusion.

Kickstarter Tip: “Pick a funding level that you think is achievable and actionable,” Chisnell says. If you don’t meet the goal, you get nothing, but blowing past your goal merely gives you extra funds.

So what are you waiting for? Skip your afternoon coffee run and give a few bucks to a worthwhile Kickstarter project right now.

Michelle Taute is a writer who is obsessed with paper fortune tellers.



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  1. 07

    […] you’re a regular around here, you may have caught part one of our Kickstarter Diaries series a few months back. It introduced Against the Grain readers to three amazing design projects trying […]

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    […] the Editor) Last Spring, Against the Grain reported on Austin designer Jennifer Sukis and her Kickstarter financed adventure in travel, meeting and […]

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    […] the Editor) Last Spring, Against the Grain reported on Austin designer Jennifer Sukis and her Kickstarter financed adventure in travel, meeting and […]