August 24, 2021

Make Works; crowdfunding, product design and manufacturing

Back in June, Helen and Kaye from Make Works Scotland / Paved With Gold, members of Distributed Design (DD) 2021, brought together three brilliant speakers to discuss crowdfunding, product design and manufacture for a product or design project. Visitors to Make Works can be seeking manufacturers to create prototypes, which may well be critical to the effectiveness of their crowdfunding campaign.

The session was aimed at design students from across universities in Scotland, but attracted a global audience. They invited Martina Giulliani from Open Dot Lab in Milan, also DD members, to share her experience of launching the Careables project Glifo on Kickstarter in 2020. 

Alongside Martina, Heather Swift-Hunt, Head of Design + Technology at Kickstarter shared her top tips on how to run a successful campaign on the crowdfunding platform, and Sadhbh Doherty from Shift Design shared her experience of designing products for Tech Will Save Us, specifically with the aim to launch through crowdfunding channels. 


Here’s what we learned…


Planning your project takes time 

Regardless of whether you are launching a small campaign or one that is looking to raise tens of thousands of pounds, it’s important to prepare. There are 3 types of preparation that you can do; 


  1. Create a really good working prototype and make sure that your manufacturing plan is set, as you’re locking in your pricing and telling people how long it will take to deliver your rewards.
  2. Then you need to build your Kickstarter campaign, which includes filming your video, getting your product photography lined up and really figuring out how you’re going to tell your product story and really refine it.
  3. 30 days is a really short time and if you are looking to raise upwards of £10,000 then you need to have backers that are ready to back the project from day one. Typically, people will spend anywhere from six weeks to six months on that piece of work.


Crowdfunding is storytelling

It’s about making sure that you know your product inside out, knowing your audience and really clearly articulating why you’re making the product, why you’re the best person to make it and why people should support you. Heather says “Don’t bury the lead” – tell us upfront about your brilliant project. Martina shared OpenDot Lab’s Kickstarter Storytelling Canvas with us, which shows a really clear way to develop your campaign.


Backer Behaviour has changed on Kickstarter

Over the past year, Kickstarter has seen more funding pledged by backers to creators than any other year before. The success rate of projects in the UK has increased to over 50% making it one of the highest success rates in the world. 


Kickstarter is a great platform for design graduates to take their work into the real world

If you are somebody who’s a little more entrepreneurial and want to launch your own business with your own ideas, then Kickstarter is a really great route for that. It helps to put your ideas out there in front of people. Most Masters students will have created video documentation of their process, they’ll have developed product photography and over the course of their exploration will have written a lot about their work. Meaning that a lot of the framework is there for them to begin planning their crowdfunding campaign. The tricky thing here is to ensure that their manufacturing plan is realistic and in place.


Get an early stage prototype into the hands of your audience

This is a great way to see if there’s something exciting there. Product Designer Sadhbh said “I am a huge believer in testing early and testing often” even though it makes her nervous to show things that aren’t ready she said that you can tell instantly how people react to the product and you can save months and months of time by just doing that.

Crowdfunding is a great way to get validation for your idea

Perhaps you are looking to raise further funding for your project after the campaign, or sell a product in retail stores. Crowdfunding offers a proof of concept, the opportunity to build a happy customer base, and a chance to iron out manufacturing processes before opening up to a wider market.

The session was a great introduction to crowdfunding for product designers. For further resources check out Paved With Gold’s guide to securing press coverage before launch. Kickstarter have a wealth of Creator Resources available on their website for you to delve into prior to launching your campaign.


Words by Helen and Kaye from Make Works Scotland / Paved With Gold, members of the Distributed Design Platform.

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