MCAD has a really cool event coming up on Tuesday evening, September 11. The best thing of all? It’s free and open to public. Here are the details: Visiting-Artist Lecture: Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost, Cofounders of Studio Neat, New York City, Tuesday, September 11, 2012, 6:30 p.m., Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Auditorium 150 (Map: Getting to MCAD.)
Tom Gerhardt (at right in photo) is an internationally recognized artist and designer who works across a broad range of disciplines. As a hardware and software developer at Potion, Gerhardt helped to create interactive installations for some of the nation’s most prestigious museums and retail spaces. And as an artist, his work seeks to reconcile modern man’s dual citizenship in the physical and digital worlds through projects like The Mud Tub, an organic interface that allows people to control a computer while playing in the mud. Gerhardt and his design partner, Dan Provost (left), created the “Glif,” one of the world’s first crowd-funded commercial products. Gerhardt and Provost also founded Studio Neat, a design practice based in New York City.
The two just published an ebook on their experience and philosophy of designing and launching crowd-funded products: “It Will Be Exhilarating: Indie Capitalism and Design Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century, As Observed by StudioNeat.” (Download a DRM-free copy of the ebook at that link, in a bundle of ePub, Mobi, and PDF formats. Also available in the iBookstore and on Amazon.)
Founded in 2010, Studio Neat launched its first of two successful Kickstarter projects late that year, helping pave the way for a new era of independent hardware manufacturing. It also recently entered the software world with its first iPhone app. “We’ve learned a lot in a short period of time,” say the cofounders, “and we wanted to share this information with the world. So we wrote a book. ”
The book was written to offer guidance and inspiration for those charting a similar path. It covers topics such as running a small business, creating hardware products independently, launching a Kickstarter project, and tips for promoting your products. “Everything is told through the lens of our own experience,” the authors said.
It’s a short read, and I found it very readable and inspiring. “It provides the needed ‘kick’ to start making stuff. There isn’t a better time than now,” say the authors. Here’s how one famous Internet luminary endorsed the book:
“There is no recipe for passion, no 5-step guide to making your idea real, but there is good, solid advice, and this book is filled with it.” – Clay Shirky, author
Last week, BoingBoing published an excellent post by Glenn Fleishman, a Seattle-based writer, that captures the passion of Tom and Dan: “Indie Capitalism relies on crowds — and you can do it, too.”
Tom and Dan describe themselves simply as “two designers who enjoy making simple things and making things simple.” The Glif, the duo’s first product, represents a new way of approaching consumer products, and it wouldn’t have been possible without a few thousand people who believed in the designers. “Not too long ago, the Glif was just an idea with nowhere to go,” they said. “We knew it was going to be something people might like, but we needed a way to share it with the world. Typically, if you want to make a physical product (especially an electronics accessory) you have to be, or sell to, a large company — but we didn’t like that idea. We wanted to stay close to the Glif and, more importantly, to our customers. So, after much thought, we decided to put the Glif’s fate into the hands of the masses and begin a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money required to make it a reality.” (Kickstarter is a web site that connects creators with people who are interested in helping them out.)
“Our contributors on Kickstarter pledged money towards our goal with no guarantee that we would ever be successful,” Studio Neat’s cofounders said. “They took a leap of faith, backed our project, and $137,417 and 5273 backers later, here we are. The Glif became a full-fledged, crowd-funded product.” It was one of the first successful launches of a consumer product on Kickstarter, and, at the time, #3 on the list of most funds raised.
Here are the products of Studio Neat to date:
Please join us at MCAD on Tuesday evening to meet these two fascinating designers and entrepreneurs!
UPDATE: We’ve just confirmed that Tom Gerhardt will be our guest on this Friday’s Minnov8 Gang podcast.