XOXO Festival: Product design in the age of Kickstarter (Notes)

[Rough cut notes of a presentation by the creative producers of cool stuff, Dan Provost & Tom Gerhardt of Studio Neat. These are un-editied notes. I’ll add photos, links later.]

If you have a problem, someone else probably has the same one.

Keep it simple: Keeping it small gives us agility. We have so little resource, we have to stay focused. So we say “no” a lot. We can obsess over tiny details

Sell your stuff for money: You need at least 1,000 true fans (see: Kevin Kelly’s seminal post, “1,000 True Fans.”),

You can’t please everyone: They can’t design for all iPhones, so decided to create products for the latest. Build constraints into your work flow.

Learn by doing:  Stanley Kubrick said, “Perhaps it sounds ridiculous, but the best thing that young filmmakers should do is to get hold of a camera and some film and make a movie of any kind at all.”

Atoms are the new bits: Enabling technology like 3D printing and prototyping were vital in creating cosmonaut.

Keep the core in-house and outsource the rest. Know what is integral to the project. Learn what to outsource. The inclination is to do it yourself, but everything else cuts into what you like to do best. (ie., bookkeeping) Time is finite: plan it.

Make it in America. “We thought we’d have to get stuff in China. But we discovered that our capacity of product is better produced in US.” (Also able to visit and have closer relationship to manfacturer.)

Patents are overrated (for us). (However, “we’re not lawyers”). Patents are bets big companies can make, but not for a small business like us. Expense to obtain and soul-sucking to defend. (Showed a Korean knock-off). We can’t spend our time worrying about this.

Retail is not necessary. “Online sales are fine for us.” They sell things on Amazon.com and their website. “Our reach is global. We have sold to 129 companies.” Contrast to: Typically, you strike up a deal w/ a distributor. The problem is in the margins. The distributor takes 50%. “Just didn’t make sense to us that the store would make more than the manufacturer. “It makes sense to us (to source all in America),” but maybe not with harder to produce or ship products.

Tell a story: Sow how the sausage gets made. We showed photos of us doing prototypes. Visits with the manufacture. (Used Instapaper and Marc Arment as an example of personified products. By offering so much transparency, people feel connected to a human.)

Respect your customers. Don’t be a pain. Don’t be annoying. For example, all our prices are round numbers. Default email for opt-in. Tiny stuff shows you are on their side. Behave like the company you’d like to deal with.

Under promise, over deliver: 75% of Kickstarter projects don’t deliver on time. We were one of those. We decided them that deadlines are not a feature. Best to avoid timelines that are extremely

The Gruber effect: John Gruber (Daring Fireball) is like the Oprah Winfrey of Apple-related stuff. He has great taste and people respect his opinion. Whatever your thing is, there’s a maven out there who can make all the difference

Passion: Should be the main motivator. Make something great. That should be you motivation. Why? If it becomes successful, you’re going to have to work on it all the time.