Ok, so Ted asked everyone to put together a blog with some advice for those who are coming into the EPD class in the next year. I thought I’d break it down over time, just to try and give some idea of focus over time, and then wrap up with a big three.
Over the summer
Your on break, chill, relax and don’t worry—the class isn’t going to eat you. Don’t feel like you have to go crazy coming up with ideas. One thing you can do over this time, which can super help you for next year, is go out (or stay in), have fun, and find things you enjoy. Checking out kickstarter can be cool, in terms of keeping track of trends and stuff, but don’t plan out your year in advance.
Coming into the year
Ok, so it’s your senior year (🙀). Thing’s are going to get hot pretty fast, in Thesis and EPD. Just kicking off the year, make a super simple promise to your self to be organized as much as you possibly can. Use all the tools you can get your hands on, like your calendar and reminders on your phone. Get a notebook for the class. The more you stay on top of everything, the easier it’s going to be, especially in the second semester when everything gets a little spicy.
KISS. I can’t remember where I heard this, but it’s from somewhere dumb for sure. Keep It Simple, Stupid! Ok, so I’m not calling you stupid, more just saying don’t make it more complicated than you can handle. A great way to think of this project is a sketch process. Something to get the creative juices flowing. You are probably going to make this yourself, and you probably want it to be fairly easy to make. Think of all the awesome tools you have at your fingertips at the school—the print lab (laser printing, riso printing, cutting, binding), the wood shop (CNC, woodwork, etc), the fab lab (3D printing, lasercutting), even those more hidden assets (go check out the art building for all the awesome stuff over there). Just think about your skills using them to make something super easy or simple to reproduce. You want to come out of this project having easily produced and shipped your rewards to people so they’re super excited about your next project.
For me, with this project I just wanted to make something, offer it kinda cheap and learn as much as possible. BTW, don’t forget, you don’t have to be the person making something awesome. If you know someone who makes awesome art that you think would be cool as postcards, ask them if they want to provide the art for some of the profits and work on it that way. B.Chan did this for me with my Kickstarter and drew some awesome designs I took and printed on the risograph to use as thank you cards. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even pay her 😳 (just gave her some madddd credit on the project page).
Planning the main Kickstarter
Right, time for the big one. It’ll be the second half of the first semester and you’re scrambling. Don’t scramble too much. Chill. Take a breath.
Ok, now gogogo!
Seriously, before you start thinking about what your gonna design/make and how its going to change the world, I’d take a few minutes to keep the previous project in mind—KISS and think about resources. In this instance I found it really helpful to think about two things: what I wanted to spend my time doing, and who I had awesome access to. I have cats, a huge number of people in the city have cats, and there are a bunch of cat shelters and cafes in the city. Having access to a community and testers gives you a HUGE advantage going into this, because you will for sure find some people who want some testers for free for some feedback.
That’s probably the next thing here—prototype, test and evaluate. Do it quick. Use cheap materials—try just building out of cardboard or paper or whatever. Take as many photos and videos as possible (ask testers to do the same—they’ll be helping build your campaign page for free). Get to that community some how. Find out where they meet, where they live online—and then show up in those places. Learn the lingo, make friends and find the things they want.
Feburary/March will SUCK. Those are real bummer months. Plan to not have crazy stuff going on here. Seriously, once you get over this hump, everything is downhill.
The Three Big Things
I think the biggest thing that can help you during this class is being aware of the resources you have at your disposal. That includes your personal skills, equipment at school, classmates, fellow students, Ted… but then even bigger—people and communities you have access to, events that are going on in Chicago. I approached my kickstarter by thinking about my biggest resource, my cats—they’re testers, models, and easily bribed with ‘nip, or treats, plus they’re always in my home (they literally cannot escape). Let your resources drive the project.
It’s a super good idea to come into the class having some kind of idea knowing what you want to get out of it. Ted’ll say a bunch that the focus of the class isn’t to get funded necessarily, but to learn the process. Take ten minutes and just do a mind map or whatever, and figure out what you want to get out of the class. Are you super focused on working with a specific type of manufacturer, do you want to do something which engages with a specific topic, are you really interested in exploring the social media and marketing side of the class? Figure out your goals and let those drive the project—i know that its hard to balance this with the previous one, but I would say don’t be discouraged to work in cast iron because you don’t have access to a forge. If you really, really want to do this, use your resources to find someone who can help you get to this goal.
Don’t freeze. It can be super easy to get overwhelmed, but try not to freeze—doing nothing for a week or a month because you are anxious or have some kind of fear about something will 100% bite you in the ass. There are definitely solutions to pretty much any problem, even if it includes pivoting a little to change the idea. That’s all part of the process and not failing, be flexible and roll with the punches. Failing in this class comes from not trying.