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Web Feature | Economy

Contraptions and Curios from the Kickstarter Case File

Above: Established video game designer Tim Schafer’s idea to rekindle the adventure game genre is about to become the most-funded Kickstarter project of all time, with $2.3 million in funding at the time of this post. Click the play button to watch Schafer's pitch.

The idea is simple: you pitch a project, ask the world to help kick-start it with a buck, and offer them something in return.

It’s called crowd funding, and it’s an idea that has gotten a kick start of its own in recent years. Several companies have revved up, seemingly overnight, to help broker such deals for creative or entrepreneurial people. The current darling of the bunch even scored the perfect name – Kickstarter.

Kickstarter targets creative people – artists, musicians, inventors and so forth. The company is careful to point out that its approach is not suited for those who want to start a long-term enterprise – no venture capital here. Rather, it’s a way for individuals or groups to raise money for specific projects. That means deadlines and deliverables. It means musicians create an album; inventors build a product; filmmakers release a DVD. And backers get updates along the way, in some cases being invited to participate in the creative process, and in every case being offered some incentive to contribute – a printed T-shirt, a backstage pass, the product itself.

Projects run the gamut from serious to outlandish, from miniature to monumental. The crowd funding fuss can alternately be blamed or thanked for pushing a RoboCop statue on the city of Detroit, staging an encore for a trash truck ballet, giving an uber-popular Web comic new life in print, giving angry Internet activists a chance to print the SOPA/PIPA bill on a roll of toilet paper, and developing a unique font just for the city of Chattanooga, Tenn.

One of the keys to success, according to the guide on the Kickstarter website, is to have an established and extensive social network (or be a celebrity). Nataly Dawn, for instance, made her fame on YouTube as part of the video-centric band Pomplamoose. When she asked fans for $20,000 to help record her first solo album, she got more than $100,000 instead (you can check out one of her songs here).

Regardless of what you might think of crowd funding, however, it’s tough to deny that some great ideas have emerged – and come to fruition – on sites like Kickstarter. Here are some of the projects we found inspiring, curious or just downright cool (in no particular order).

LowLine: An Underground Park on NYC’S Lower East Side
Innovative, inspiring and cool!


Swoon’s Musical Architecture for New Orleans
Whimsical and fun.


TikTok+LunaTik Multi-Touch Watch Kits
I want one. Simple as that.


“Finding Vivian Maier” – a feature length documentary
Mysterious and haunting.


REVERENCE – a photography project from the creator of the Academy award-winning documentary “Born into Brothels”
Creepy but beautiful.


+Pool: A Floating Pool in the River in NYC
Uh, yeah!


Gremolata & Cancellaresca Milanese – a new metal typeface for letterpress
Esoteric? Maybe. But somehow deeply nostalgic.

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