Inspired Projects – Kickstarter Spotlight

Launched in 2009, Kickstarter, Inc. is an organization rooted in “bringing creative projects to life”. It capitalizes on the power of special interests on the web through a non-traditional collective funding model. Creative projects in everything from fashion to music to photography to design have been launched through Kickstarter, with over 71,000 projects to date and 7.1 million people contributing over $1 billion in funding. Whether the project is big or small, tens of thousands of creative individuals use Kickstarter as a resource to find financial backers for their projects. As long as the project reaches its funding goal by the established deadline, the project can move forward (an all-or-nothing funding model). It is up to project owners to establish creative “prizes” and provide incentives for backers to fund their projects.

At a base level ($20, for example), backers could receive a copy of the physical or virtual product resulting from the project. At intermediate and high donation levels, the incentives increase accordingly to encourage backers to part with more of their hard earned money. As of this writing, 44% of the projects on Kickstarter have met their financial goals, so evidently this funding model is successful. It’s a brilliant win-win scenario for the project creators and their small army of financial backers.

Within all of the thousands of projects on the site, there are a few graphic arts-related gems that were successfully funded through Kickstarter. These exciting projects launch age-old products, traditional letterpress techniques, and customized print production to new creative levels.
swivelCard: Smart Business Cards

swivelCard is a creative take on a very classic printed piece. The swivelCard team reinvented the traditional business card, making it more relevant in today’s digital universe. The product folds in half, exposing a USB memory stick that can store data. This Kickstarter project was wildly successful with backers contributing more than $115,000 to the project’s owners, who initially asked for only $10,000. With a pledge of $59 or more, backers received fully-functional, NFC-enabled swivelCards of their own, which is likely why the total contribution amount was so high. Will this product eventually make every other type of business card obsolete? I don’t think so. However, this project provides hope that there are creative ways to reimagine static printed products. Find out more at

LetterMPress: A Virtual Letterpress on Your iPad
VirtualLetterpressLetterMPress is a comprehensive app that allows users to typeset and “print” custom letterpress works (saved as images to an iPad’s photo library). Users can select a typeface and size from a virtual type drawer, arranging letters and symbols as they desire. They can then layout “furniture” and use lockup mechanisms to secure the type in place. When switching from Compose mode to Print mode, the user can select the ink colour, ink film thickness, and paper to “print” their project. Finally, by turning the hand crank to move the inked-up roller across the press, the printed page is revealed! A bonus feature within the app is a training manual for users to formally learn how to run a Vandercook proofing press. Lastly, as incentive for contributing to the Kickstarter campaign, high-rolling backers who contributed $2,500 or more not only received a beta version of the app, but also their initials in authentic wood type in a shadow box, a framed print, and more! Check them out at

Bound Custom Journals
The ability to create a customized travel journal was important for Bound Custom Journals founder, Joel Sadler, but he was unable to find a company to execute his vision. Bound Custom Journals was born to enable users to “assemble” a completely custom hand-made journal (size, page count, material, format) from a growing library of content. Content ranges from standard note pages to checklists to games and maps. This is an exciting new take on beautiful, custom printed pieces that showcase the ever-relevant power of print in an ever-more customizable world. The project managed to attract backers who funded the project and almost doubled the pledge goal. In exchange for their funding, backers were offered everything from one vote for the type of maps the company would offer to a “one-of-a-kind, crafted from special materials, never to be made again Bound Custom Journal, delivered to you, in person, by us, anywhere in the world + a documentary of the making and transport of this magical journal”. Wow! Unfortunately no one took them up on this offer (in exchange for $10,000!), but thanks to the Kickstarter platform, you can now create your own bound custom journal at
The Kickstarter community has grown rapidly and in diverse ways across a range of creative industries, including the graphic arts field. New projects are being added by everyday people who want to pursue creative ventures in the areas of production, typography, traditional processes, and new technologies that bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds. Kickstarter is now available in Canada so kick it up a notch at and support local creative ventures (and receive some cool perks, too)!


Diana Varma is an Instructor at the School of Graphic Communications Management at Ryerson University and the Owner of ON-SITE First Aid & CPR Training Group, a health & safety company that provides training to the Graphic Arts Industry.