Nobody Cares if you Fail

Unless you’re already a major success, people don’t really care if you fail. Worst case scenario, they just don’t pay attention to you. That’s a blessing. To be able to create and test things out without the terrible consequences of public scorn is an opportunity.

Cold, Cooler, The Coolest

By now, we all know about The Coolest. If you’ve backed it on Kickstarter and are expecting your own Coolest, you’re also likely planning a few extra outdoor trips before the summer sun burns out. Kudos to the team at Coolest for helping peel us away from our screens just a little bit more. 

I’m intrigued by the product, but more so, I’m intrigued by their Kickstarter history. This isn’t their first swing at the ball and, as you can see, their first was a whiff. There could be dozens of reasons why it didn’t work out initially. They launched their campaign in the winter, likely because they figured they could get product into people’s hands by summer. Maybe summer wasn’t on anyone’s mind (or just depressingly far away) at the time and it made it hard to really consider a purchase. It could also be their more focused approach and clear messaging. There’s also a good chance that the much lower funding goal was encouraging to backers. 

They went from just over $100,000 in backing funds, and ultimately a failure, to over $5.5m in just days. This type of dramatic increase in success is a huge lesson for those who are building products. There’s value in recalibrating, iterating and relaunching. 

It’s a simple lesson in theory and difficult in practice but the principles ring true. Over the last week, I’ve been working in my free time on building Display into an attractive idea. I’ve tried to communicate with people directly for collaboration, gauge interest through Reddit, and establish flowing content on Tumblr. In the meantime, I’m working on putting together original content and figuring out my process on how I’ll do that regularly. I’ve run into a number of speed bumps, but most of them have been related to my positioning or language. 

I’ll be taking a few lessons from Coolest. It’s a great sounding product but the story of their growing success seems to be of greater value. As I build Display, I’ll be looking to find meaningful triggers that indicate that I’m either headed in the right direction or that I need to rethink my approach.

Just Say It, Do It, Show It or Prove It

There’s a serious problem in design that I think carries over to everything else we create. We struggle to just say exactly what we want to say. This happens for a number of reasons. Sometimes we haven’t figured it out. Sometimes, we fear perceptions are off. What if someone disagrees? In school we learn to write with attention to detail and by using supporting information but often carry those habits too far and over explain our ideas. I still write the occasional post that sound like I’m handing them in for a grade. It’s decent writing, but not for the context or audience. 

Great design is all about communication, but it removes itself from the audience by using experimental formats to send the message. This is a good thing, as It can be an opportunity to open the viewer’s mind and help see the content in a new light. Design is a powerful medium. For this reason, great design requires clear messaging. The concept can be abstract. The message has to be clear. 

The same clarity is important in creative work that goes beyond the visual. Products, games, organizations, exhibits… all have their own way of reaching audiences. Those with clear messages are most easily adaptable.

I once heard some great advice that said “it’s less about showing something new than it is about showing something familiar in a new way”. We live in a noisy world and are constantly battling for ways to clear out the things that stuff our mind-space with useless frill. The best way to show your readers, listeners, players and viewers that you respect them is to honor their time by being clear. Show them you trust them by giving them something they can grab on to in a way they’ve never experienced. Let them discover something powerful without requiring them to wonder what they missed. That kind of relationship is impactful and lasts a long time.