Blog Archives

Kickstarter’s CEO Perry Chen and How Ideas Can Be Funded

In an era of global austerity there are still ways to fund your creative ideas. When it comes to funding, the paradigms are shifting. I’ve mentioned Kickstarter before, the site that uses the crowd funding model and draws on your fans to fund your visions and work.

Perry Chan the founder of Kickstarter recently gave a talk at DoLectures about the ethos and some of the projects behind Kickstarter. As usual my notes are below.



At a basic level, Kickstarter’s model is not new. 100 years ago it was common place for creatives to have the concept of subscribers. Much like magazine subscribers today, a creative’s fans would be subscribers, making a commitment up front that funded the ongoing body of work. In exchange for that commitment, subscribers would get first, or often exclusive, access to the work being funded. Kickstarter reignites that philosophy and fund raising model.

Th most common amount donated on Kickstarter is surprisingly small. $25 is the most common donation, but it only takes small amounts like these to allow us to do disruptive work and enable more people to have the opportunity to create. Generally because of the economics of investment, needing to satisfy the investors expected financial returns, investment has only been available to larger, risk free projects. Kickstarter changes this by bringing together many small investments. When the investment is small we can be more personal. We are happier to take the risk based on whether we like the person, whether we like what they say or what they are creating.

A unique effect of this is this is that Kickstarter allows projects with no ambition to generate a profit, find funding. In theory, this leads to more innovative work and the fruition of ideas that may never have traditionally seen the light of day. As long as the project has a following that is happy to fund the idea, it can have legs.

Multiplied together, many of these small investments can have huge value and finance fairly large projects. Over last 3 years:

  • 1 million people $95m pledged on kickstarter
  • $35m film and video
  • $20m music
  • 8 design
  • 6 art
  • 5 publishing
  • 3 food, tech and photography
  • 1 games. theatre, fashion, comics and dance

In addition to the financial gains of using Kickstarter, a byproduct of the crowd funding approach is that many of these projects have gained new followers.

Kickstarter is by no means a garanteed funding route. You need to have an established following that is will ing to support and promote your ideas, for your Kickstarter project to gain traction. In this day and age when traditional funding streams are disappearing, sites like Kickstarter are an exciting and obvious alternative path to realise your ideas.

You can find out more about Kickstarter here.

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John Baldessari’s great promotional video

I recently came across this amusing 5 minute video about conceptual artist John Baldessari. It is an inspirational bit of marketing that very much suits John’s story and sense of humour. If you don’t know John’s work the video will get you up to speed.

The key things to take away from John’s video are his three tips for all artists:

  • Talent is cheap
  • You have to be possessed, which you can’t will
  • Being at the right place at the tight time

Says it all. In fact it is pretty much what John Cleese said in his inspiration video.

You can find our more about John Baldessari here

(Source: Jack Nack)

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Neil Gaiman’s six tips on being creative and successful

Continuing my series of inspirational videos from the likes of John Cleese and Aaron Draplin.  Legendary comic writer and author Neil Gaiman shares his wisdom on everything he wishes he had known, a few things looking back he did know and the best piece of advice he got but failed to follow.

His advise applies to all those working in the arts from photographers to designers and visual artists to writers and poets. As usual I have highlighted the key points below.



  • When you start out in the arts you have no idea what you are doing. This is great! People who know what they are doing know the rules, they know what is possible and impossible. It is easier to do something if you don’t know it is impossible. Push the boundaries. [37 Signals wrote a post inspired by this point earlier this week]
  • If you have an idea of what you have to make, what you were put here to do, Go Do That. Normally you feel you have to do things before you can get to where you want to be. You have to balance your goals with feeding yourself. This can’t always be avoided but Neil advices you imagine where you want to be as a mountain. As long as you keep walking towards the mountain you will be okay. If you are ever unsure about doing something, ask yourself, are you walking towards or away from the mountain? Say no to things that are leading you away from the mountain.
  • When you start out you have to deal with failure and be thick skinned about the fact some projects wont last as long as you hoped. It is like sending out a message in a bottles and hoping it will be found. In reality you have to put out 100s of messages for one to be returned. You want everything to happen and happen now and sometimes they don’t. Make good art and keep persisting.
  • Don’t do art just for the money. If you do work for little or no money, at least you still have the work. Nothing Neil ever did, just for the money, ever worked out well. Things he has done because he was excited to see them exist in reality have never let him down and he has no regrets for creating any of them.
  • Problems of failure can be difficult, problems of success even greater. You tend to feel like an imposter and any minute now you might get discovered. You get to a point where you stop saying yes to everything as bottles thrown in ocean are coming back and you have to start saying no. The world conspires to stop you doing what you do, because you are successfull. Neil became a professional emailer and writer as a hobby. He decided to reply to fewer emails.
  • Make mistakes, it means you are doing something. Sometimes you make serindipidous discoveries from these mistakes. Whatever you do you have one thing that is unique. The ability to make art. It is a life saver that gets you through good and bad. When things get tough. Make good art

    Someone on the internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid, or evil, or it’s all been done before?

    Make good art. Still make good art.

  • Do what only you can do, when we are starting out all we can do is copy. What you have that no one else has is you. You mind, voice, story. Do as only you can.

    When you feel you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much about yourself you are probably starting to get it right.

    You don’t know what will become a success. Often things you think will be a complete failure are a big success and vice versa.

  • Get work however you can get work. You keep working because your work is good, you are easy to get on with and get it in on time. People will tolerate 2 out of the 3. So your work can suck if you are pleasant to get on with and get it in on time.
  • Steven King once advised  at the height of his success, with a popular comic and his novel with Terry Pratchit, “This is really great, you should enjoy it”. Instead he worried about it, next idea, story etc. and didn’t stop and think: this is really fun. He had an amazing ride and missed part of it. Enjoy the ride as it takes you to amazing and unexpected places. This is the best advice he was ever given but never followed.
  • There is luck and it helps! We are in transitional world right now. The models which allowed creatives to put work into the world and put a roof over their head are changing. No one knows what the landscape will look like, even two years from now. Distribution chanels are in flux. On the one hand this is intimidating but also immensly liberating. Gate keepers are leaving the gates. Be as creative as you need to be. Youtube can give you a bigger audience then television ever did.
Neil sums it up with a great final line:
“Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.”

View more inspirational videos here.

(via Brain Pickings)

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Three key ingredients to seeing more in your everyday life by Michael Wolff

Following on from the recent movies on creativity by John Cleese and Aaron Draplin comes a video from Michael Wolff. Michael is co-founder of design consultancy Wolff Olins and Intel recently put together a short video about the his three key ingredients to seeing more and finding inspiration.

As usual I have made some notes on what Micheal says below the video for convenience.


Michael knows what he looks like but doesn’t know what he looks like to others. A certain packaging is needed to present ourselves to the outside world.

When he attended school he obtained a wide education. Now designers get segregated into discrete subjects, so less likely to have the holistic education that Michael had.

He is highly tuned appreciator, he takes delight in everything he sees and says you need to have three muscles of seeing that allow you to see more in your everyday life.

  1. Curiosity – why is it big? why is it the colour it is? why? why? why?
  2. Appreciation, not just questioning but noticing. Take it all in.
  3. Imagination, enabled by the first two. Putting things together in unique combinations. [Much like the Juxtapositions talked about in John Cleese talk]

Professionally, his role is about helping clients find their voice and identity, not forcing his own design preferences on them. His first role was redesigning a magazine about muck spreading and cow dung and he redesigned the look using fonts that move people emotionally.

Michael suggests seeing is a musclar exercise, as is curiosity. If you are preoccupied you won’t notice anything.

Be obsessively interested in everything.

View more inspirational videos here.

(via PetaPixel)

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Designer Aaron Draplin Shares His Creative Manifesto

Veteran Graphic Designer Aaron James Draplin recently shared 50 things in 50 minutes that he lives by. The video is not only funny and inspiring but also contains some excellent advise. Although aimed at graphic designers a lot of what he says can equally be applied to photographers and artists in general. It is worth watching (below) but as usual I have included my notes; his 50 points, if you don’t have time to watch below that.

Aaron Draplin’s 50 Points

  1. Enjoy the moment
  2. Love where you are from
  3. Move somewhere wild
  4. Frequent Eateries that use decimal points in their menus
  5. Know your fucking condiments (keep it simple)
  6. Get out there and get dirty (go explore and find things)
  7. And then, share what you find
  8. Work with your friends
  9. Know your tools, and be thankful they exist
  10. Go wherever they’ll send you
  11. Shed any goddamned sense of entitlement
  12. Provide proof of bonifide graphic art existence (using multimedia)
  13. Fight for the long dogs [All dogs are descended from dachshunds]
  14. Lose the crutch [there is no excuse for creative block, if you are on the clock make it happen, don’t find excuses]
  15. Exhibit a little humility
  16. Quit spending yer money on bullshit
  17. Be wary of certain business professionals (In order: Telemarkers, TSA Agents (transport security in US), Pickpockets, DMV Employees (US Dept. Motor Vehicles), Horse Thieves, Tax Collectors & Web Developers)
  18. Pay off those fucking school loans now
  19. Laugh at stuff
  20. Turn yer back on organised sports
  21. Dream up a plan (Then figure our how to pull it off)
  22. Get cosmic (Put things into perspective, we are tiny in the universe)
  23. Take colour theory very seriously (Nothing says I don’t quite get it like the colour purple – don’t use it)
  24. Make room for some magic [See John Cleese interview last week & be prepared for when it comes]
  25. Say what you mean
  26. Get it on vinyl (Records rock)
  27. Be ready for when they call you up to the big league
  28. Learn an instrument
  29. Be the client (invent something)
  30. Go by car (take it slow and see the country)
  31. Know what really matters in the end (help your friends and family)
  32. Buy things made in America England [Sorry Aaron]
  33. Question stuff constantly
  34. Know who’s got the power
  35. Collect cool shit
  36. Grab yer social media by the throat (Make your posts count)
  37. Savour the little stuff
  38. Support yer local rock bands
  39. Know all the shades of being professional (prove yourself by being professional but keep it fun)
  40. Don’t worry about awards (but if you are invited to go judge, bite their hand off; take the hotel and abuse expense account)
  41. Quite saying the word “dude” (THis isn’t the 90s anymore, let that be reserved for your uncle and your dentist)
  42. Make big ass posters (Then sell a shitwack of ’em)
  43. Go pantless
  44. Get free (have an exit plan)
  45. Treat the UPS guy, mail lady and printing pressman like they are gold. (Treat the people you rely on well)
  46. Know what you love
  47. Don’t forget about the things you hate
  48. Learn to roll with the good, the bad and the ugly
  49. Work hard and love this shit
  50. Be thankful for everything

You can find more about Aaron Draplin and his company here
 View more inspirational videos here

(via 37 Signals)

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How the internet is changing art

I often blog about how the internet is changing how we create and experience art works. I came across an interesting video the other day by PBS Arts: Off Book that takes a look at how three Internet based companies (KickstarterCreative Commons, and The Creators Project) are helping artists fund their project and gain recognition and audience for their work.

The key messages from the video are:

  • Kickstarter is a distinct project that helps artists find funding and build an audience. Projects have gone on to get book deals, be displayed in Whitney Museum, receive Oscar nominations, be selected for the Sundance Festival and SXSW. Work funded on Kickstarter is not just limited to novelty internet creations but work that has gone on to have cultural significance.
  • Creative Commons is a non profit corporation that makes it simple for artists to choose the freedoms that their creativity can carry. In a digital world many are not looking to profit from their work and don’t care about copyright. Creative Commons tries to bridge the gap between copyrighted and public domain so that those that create art for the love of it, can still gain value through attribution.
  • The Creators Project aims to enable artists that create physical art works and art experiences to digitise and share that work online with the internet community. Brining together the original creator’s content with fan submitted images, stories and remixed/inspired work, it allows these art pieces to live on beyond the original event.

(via Laughing Squid)

You can visit the featured sites here:

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Everything is a Remix: How Creativity Begins With Copying

I came across this documentary on PetaPixel yesterday and thought I would share it. Everything is a Remix is a short film by Kirby Ferguson that puts forward the idea that most things we celebrate as original and creative are based on previous work by others. Kirby presents a fascinating argument backed up by some convincing evidence and then goes on to describe how the original motivations of intellectual property mixed with human nature have lead us to the litigious world we now live in that stifles creativity.

It is an excellent documentary that is well worth watching.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

If you enjoyed watching that, you can also support Kirby’s next project “This is not a Conspiracy Theory” on Kickstarter.

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Erik Johansson’s talks at TED about the philosophy and secrets of his photography

I recently discovered the work of Erik Johansson who shares a lot of my beliefs about photography, then yesterday I happened to stumble upon a TED video he did last November. It’s only 6 minutes long and well worth the watch, as not only does he talk about how he started creating images like this, but he also shows some of the source images that make up his work

More recently he has worked on an interesting project at Sergels torg in Stockholm where he created a giant trompe l’oeil in the center of the square and is currently working on a project with Google. More details on Erik’s Stockholm project can be found in his blog.

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Simon Sinek’s inspiring TED talk on why certain people inspire

It has been a while since I shared an inspiring TED talk. There are plenty of them on there, but I watch this one the other day by Simon Sineck and it really inspired me to to think more about why I do things. It also inspired me to buy his book and the last one that did that was Ken Robinson’s excellent talk on how schools kill creativity.

The premise of Simon’s message is that leaders and those that inspire start with why they are doing it. Sounds simple and common sense, but surprising few people have the ability to think this way. Simon puts it far better than I do, so over to him:

Side notes

I know I only recently changed the design of my website but it was a temporary move. I uses an off the shelf template rom the excellent, to get me by until I got around to designing a new one. I’ll be updating the site in the next few days but the improvements will be mobile browser support as well as project pages, which the current theme lacks. For the techies amongst you I am using the Skeleton framework as the core for the layout so that is scales based on the device width.

Oh, I am now also on Pinterest, which is a great way for me to classify things that inspire me, so feel free to join me on there.

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