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Techlife » 2012 » September

September 2012

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Super vision. Check. Super plans. Check. Super funded. Check. This is the story of a Chicago designer with the plan to take over the world.

Matt Marrocco and Ryan Stegman

Matt Marrocco and Ryan Stegman

Meet Matt Marrocco, unassuming product designer who raised more than $300,000 in 2012 from people who want to learn to draw. Matt launched the “I DRAW ____” series first with the successful book “I DRAW CARS” and then in his second product he donned a cape, mask and ignited the world of crowd funding with the book “I DRAW COMICS Sketchbook & Reference Guide”. Matt used Kickstarter, a platform for raising money for projects. Tefchlife caught up with Matt right after his amazing project was successfully funded. He was changing into his super hero costume , but we both averted our eyes after all we are both professionals.

I DRAW COMICS book exterior

Techlife: Hours ago you just closed a successful round of funding for your book project “I DRAW COMICS.” The goal was $10,000 and due to the help of more than 6,400 people ended up raising more than $245,000 on Kickstarter. How do you feel?

Matt Marrocco: Honestly, a little overwhelmed.  If I hadn’t done a Kickstarter already I think I’d be freaking out.  It’s a lot to manage – keeping in communication with all of the pledgers, solving the myriad unique shipping and logistics issues and making sure everyone is happy.  All that aside from the most important goal – successfully delivering on your promise and shipping product.

TL:  Let’s rewind a bit; the project launched August 19, 2012 and ran for just 30 days. How far in advance did the planning for “I DRAW COMICS” start?

MM: Conversations with Ryan (Stegman) and my manufacturer began late last year, I believe.  I was still handling some issues with the I DRAW CARS stuff that needed a lot of attention; once that was all ironed out I was able to focus on a new creative endeavor.

TL:  Previously you successfully launched  “I DRAW CARS” on Kickstarter as your first project. It ran for 30 days raising more than $55,000 from more than 1,400 people. What made you choose Kickstarter?

MM: Kickstarter seemed new and exciting – crowd funding in general is still in it’s nascent stages and has HUGE potential.  I think when I saw how successful the Lunatik watch project by MNML was, I just wanted to do that.  I wanted to make a thing that people wanted and deliver it to them.  Period.  To go through the entire process from the very front end ideation phase, to then physically fulfilling orders at the end of the Kickstarter was an incredibly educational experience.  And yes, fun.

TL:  How is “I DRAW CARS” doing outside of Kickstarter?

MM: Great!  We’re always being picked up in more and more schools, and always fulfilling orders.  My wife has become our marketing/sales/fulfillment department full-time!  So I guess she’s going to be busier with the “COMICS” book now.  Maybe she’ll need an intern?

I DRAW COMICS inside the book

TL:  Did you ever consider a traditional publisher when you first started or is the goal to build your own publishing empire?

MM: I never had visions of starting a publishing empire – I just wanted to see what it takes to get a book made and ship it.  It has been a great education going through that process, but I don’t know whether that means I want to be a publishing house.  We’ll see.

TL:  Have you been contacted by publishers now?

MM: We have, yes.  It’s something we have to think about – no plans yet.  We will be sending samples to many of them once we have product in hand.

TL:  How did “I DRAW CARS” do as “I DRAW COMICS” campaign began gaining momentum?

MM: Well naturally with more exposure, the other products under the “I DRAW” umbrella have had a decent uptick in sales.  There are also many pledgers who have added a “CARS” book to their “COMICS” pledge – something we encouraged from the beginning.

I DRAW COMICS story lessons

TL:  Have you had an celebrity backers for either project?

MM: One notable celebrity for the Comics project was author Joe Hill. My wife and I were peeked when he took notice and pledged. I think she cried a little.  Many well-known artists and designers have pledged for both – hard to name all of them.

TL:  What was the biggest difference outside of sheer numbers between the two campaigns?

MM: We’ve had a lot less shipping-related questions this time around and I’m not sure if I just worded things better in the campaign, or if it is because there are more American pledgers.  We’ll see when I get the surveys back.

Also, in spite of our big numbers, there was very little blog coverage this time around.  A lot of the blogs I follow are design-related, and think they maybe thought comics just don’t speak to their audience?  In any case, there were a few highly reputable comic blogs that posted it, and any other attention was mostly from twitter and the Kickstarter platform.

TL:  The transparency of raising $300,000 in 2012 must have family and friends asking questions. What’s the most interesting?

MM: HA – my family is happy for us, of course.  People seem to think I’m going to all of sudden quit my job and just start selling books 24/7.  Although that is an attractive proposition, my first love is still product design.  Publishing, sales and branding are hobbies – they do, however, pay me more than my design job.

TL:  While you are making a profit (I hope), what costs are you seeing?

MM: There are costs associated with everything – from running a website, to planning logistics, to order product.  I would say the biggest cost is time.  My wife and I spend an ENORMOUS amount of time discussing projects, product details, timeline, cost, etc.  When I’m not at work, I’m working with her on this brand so any time I get to relax and not think about anything is welcome.  I think we need a vacation.

TL:  Do you see opportunities to streamline the process?

MM: I think getting on board with a publisher could be a step in that direction.  Someone to handle a lot of logistical issues we deal with on a daily basis would be nice.  As well, there are other projects in the pipeline that we’d love to get started.  They require a certain amount of attention, so until we get into the swing of the new product addition we’ll have to hold off on development.

TL:  Did you make any mistakes? If so, what were they?

MM: One big mistake is thinking I can just do everything.  There are some things better left to professionals, so when I can I try to hire those people to do those things.

TL:  What advice would you provide to anyone thinking of using Kickstarter?

MM: 3 things:

TL:  How did  you conceive the the concept of working with an automobile artist and a comic artist for each project?

MM: Hiring a pro to work with me seemed the best way to make the whole thing legit.  For instance, I can draw a car and a figure(kinda), but I’m not the person to be telling people how to do these things.  When you have a professional (and in Ryan’s case, a WELL KNOWN professional) working with you, it adds an air of validity to the project that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

TL:  What’s next for the “I DRAW” brand? Will you continue to use Kickstarter?

MM: We’ve got lots of exciting ideas in the pipeline – stay tuned.  Kickstarter is a great place to generate funds, but also to simply get the word out!  Many projects don’t’ really need the funds, they just want the social bump that having a kickstarter gets you.  I’ll have to cross that bridge when I come to it.

Here’s the video Matt made for the project:



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Balloon Classic 2009 by Jerry Bolton c/o Aunty Monkey

I’m often asked by readers about reading. “How do you find the time to read?” “You must read a lot?” “What’s your secret to good reading?” Truth is I am a slow reader. If I don’t concentrate fully on my reading I find other ideas will creep into my mind and whole paragraphs go by before I realize I was off somewhere else and not comprehending the words in front of me. I then re-read those paragraphs once again. But the point is I read.

Those of you who have read to this point must like reading or you might be stuck in a jail cell or a hot air balloon and this is the only written word you have in your possession. For the latter group, welcome to Techlife. I don’t welcome the people who like to read, as they need very little motivation.  This column is aimed squarely  at the prisoners and balloonists of the world. You see prisoners and balloonists share the confines of a small space and limited contact with the outside world. In addition these two groups have niche interests so while they might read a general consumer publication they also might enjoy something written just for them.

Where do you find your niche?

Techlife reads c/o Google Reader

Techlife reads c/o Google Reader

Here’s where it gets interesting, in the past 30 days I have read more than 1000 articles.  (In reality the reading occurred on 22 days during the past 30, as I do take days off.) Diving deeper into the stats, I have only gotten to read 10% of the content from across 115 subscriptions. You likely imagine my postal worker cringing as he gets my mail each day. Lest you forget prisoners and balloonists, this is Techlife  and these subscriptions are all digital,  portable and free. Try Google Reader to see your own stats, and enjoy the in-sync mobile web browser version too. It’s my first bookmark on my smartphone.

Let’s assume our incarcerated readers are trying to better themselves. Finding a new interest and pursuing it with a passion might help a parole board see how you are a changed person ready to re-enter society. Construction would give you a chance to get hired and learn a skill in a trade. Start reading anything and everything on construction. Using a site like Technoorati you might find a site like “Green Building Elements” or  “A Daily Dose of Architecture.” Each site added to your list of subscriptions means more writers, more content and varied view points on the niche areas you are targeting.

115 subscriptions might seem like a lot, even if I am only reading 10% or less of each one. But finding unique sources on your own niche topics is how you become an expert? Use the sites you uncover to lead you further jumping off points. On “A Daily Dose of Architecture”, you will see on the left sidebar 10 entries under bookmarks leading toward new publications. A bit further down the sidebar offers the “66 Most Popular A/D Websites” and then below that “33 Favorites (not in the above list of 66)”.

Where do you go next? Balloonists your turn to reply.


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