If you know the backstory of the MAX100 project, then skip past this paragraph, otherwise, here's a quick version of how this all got started. In the Spring of 2010, I started an illustration project on a whim. A way for me to reconnect to my illustration background after years of doing strictly design. I've always been a Nike shoe guy and thinking back on all the pairs I've owned, I thought I'd give that a shot. I had a lot of fun with that and then decided to take my favorite, the Air Max 1, and reinterpret it every day for about a month. This was the AirMax1-a-day project.
I took an interesting detour into paying tribute to my favorite designers and illustrators for a few weeks. That is actually what opened up the possibilities of the project and convince me there was opportunity to keep going and do something interesting. I had a grand idea to reach 100, but once I got to about 45, I hit the wall and ended up stopping at 50.
Over time, I kept getting a lot of interest in the project. Later that year, I did a few one-off blurb books as some gifts for clients and friends. Something about seeing them in print and bound into a book made me want to do something else with the project.
I had seen some designers have success on Kickstarter getting their projects funded, particularly Simple Scott's Designing Obama and Frank Chimero's the Shape of Design. The Kickstarter model is so appealing, because the largest investment is your time. I had already begun a phase two of the project and had grown the entries from 50 to 60. I thought i was positioned well because I had enough assets to really give people a flavor of what the project would be, but could really emphasize the partnership aspect of Kickstarter, by inviting people into the process as I worked towards a completed 100.
the Kickstarter Experience
I began to build the project itself in Kickstarter. Making decisions on what the final book would be, where it would be printed and what my rewards would be. I had a lot of ideas that I ended up scrapping, because they stretched the project too thin. I kept my focus on the illustrations themselves and cut out anything that didn't tie directly to those. The Kickstarter backend was super easy to use and I spent the next 2 months or so writing, creating imagery and planning out the costs and rewards.
Once I had everything pulled together, a super talented friend of mine Adam Boozer out of Charleston, SC had agreed to help me with my video. He had a simple but great idea that we could pull off filming in a day, so I drove down about 4:00 one morning, shot all day and then headed home. Our biggest challenge of the day was getting people to allow us to shoot at various places. Somehow our desire to shoot in a butcher shop for a book of 100 shoes seemed strange. We were also really fortunate to have the band Metavari allow us to use one of their tracks for the video. Once the final video was delivered, all that was left was to push the button and launch the project. Somehow I expected some long involved process or waiting period or something. The project was live immediately. It was a very exciting and very scary feeling.
Oh yeah, I had actually agreed to do 40 more shoes. Somehow in the excitement of getting the project live, I failed to actually get excited about doing the rest of the illustrations. I spent almost a full week doing early morning sketch sessions in the coffee shop, before I felt like I had been hooked back into the project.
Ideas weren't the problem. In a project like this where it is stylistically so open, the biggest challenge for me was having a clear vision of how I wanted to execute the ideas. One thing that really helped me personally was to continue to invite people into the process through the Kickstarter project blog, Twitter and Dribbble. I got a lot of encouragement and motivation from hearing support from Sneaker fans and designers.
There were many I started and didn't finish and many that never made it past the idea stage. Some I really loved as ideas but just couldn't figure out how create them (I'm looking at you, shoe carved in a tree).
I also went back into some of the original designs and illustrations and gave them another look with further refinements and improvements.
The Finish Line
I think one of the biggest challenges of the project was to stay level and keep focusing on the work. The way I had set the project up had become one of my biggest obstacles, creatively. In the beginning, the support was rolling in and I was very motivated. As the project went on over the course of 60 days, there were times of very little new backers and it really let the doubt creep in. Some days I woke up really high on the project and other days thinking it was a really dumb idea.
I ended up getting a really big push of funding towards the end, as most Kickstarter vets will tell you to expect. I reached my goal and then made it a bit over. It was a really great feeling and I ended up spending the last week of the project and then 2 more after that wrapping up the final illustrations and the layout of the book. Those last few weeks are a complete blur as I juggled finishing the book, family, work and getting ready for family vacation. One distinct memory is being in my office alone one morning as the sun came up, holding my camera out on the end of my arm to take my headshot for the back of the book, in a complete rush to get the book art out to the printer. A ridiculous moment.
While the Kickstarter project was wrapping and the book was entering production, I worked on getting a MAX100 site up and running to allow people to view the project and pre order from the extras.
What 1,000 Books Looks Like
The books were shipped to me from Oddi Printing in Iceland and were estimated to take about 3 weeks. Over this time I had plenty of opportunity to imagine what 1,000 books looks like and if they would actually fit in my house.
The truck pulled up into my driveway one afternoon and dropped a nearly two ton pallet of books. I guess I was expecting white glove service. We hauled the books inside and over the next week, we got to work on the organizing, shipping and fulfilling. Our laundry room became MAX100 central.
I had set myself up with a system from Endicia.com so that I could prep everything to ship at home and just drop off orders in batches to the Post Office. Between prepping, packing and getting postage on the books, it took about 8 days (including some late nights and a lot of help from my wife and oldest son). Each morning began with a drop off at the post office. I got to know the carts there very well (they call them hampers, FYI).
One of the coolest and most satisfying things about the entire project has been hearing from everyone once they've received the books. I've gotten a ton of comments and photos and have appreciated each and every one.
Early on in the Kickstarter project, I was approached by afew store in Dusseldorf Germany. They've been a great partner. They created a MAX100 area in their store and are selling books and prints. They even created this awesome pair of MAX100 AM1's as a promotion piece.
Thanks to all who have supported the project. Especially want to thank my friends and family, Adam and Nate for providing the video and the music, the creative community and Marteinn and Oddi Printing for doing such an excellent job with the project. It's been one of the most rewarding experiences of my creative life.
If you want to check out all the entries or buy your own copy you can at the MAX100 project site.