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I’ve marked today as the day I’ve seen the largest number of ‘WTF’s ever recorded by man… in the field of product development. Three new policies for product design and hardware projects were set in place by Kickstarter as described in their blog post, Kickstarter is Not a Store. It’s a game changer for those wanting to launch a project on Kickstarter, but even with these ridiculous (albeit well-intentioned) policies that enforce what you can’t do, there are still things you CAN do.

How to Kill the Experience

Here are the three new policy changes (emphasis added):

Product simulations are prohibited. Projects cannot simulate events to demonstrate what a product might do in the future. Products can only be shown performing actions that they’re able to perform in their current state of development.
Product renderings are prohibited. Product images must be photos of the prototype as it currently exists.
Offering multiple quantities of a reward is prohibited. Hardware and Product Design projects can only offer rewards in single quantities or a sensible set (some items only make sense as a pair or as a kit of several items, for instance). The development of new products can be especially complex for creators and offering multiple quantities feels premature, and can imply that products are shrink-wrapped and ready to ship.

They end it by saying, “We hope these updates reinforce that Kickstarter isn’t a traditional retail experience and underline the uniqueness of Kickstarter.”

This kills the uniqueness that is Kickstarter. No traditional retail experience LETS YOU EXPERIENCE A DAMN THING except pushing the BUY button. On Kickstarter you get to see the product development process – inspiration, passion, sketches, concepts, engineering, renderings, prototypes, manufacturing, 3d prints, re-tooling, what works, what doesn’t work, the blamed anticipation of getting a product you’ve been a part of seeing the development on, receiving it three months after the date promised and the excitement that remains.

As all thoroughly thought out decisions… ahem, their intentions are not misdirected. Adding disclaimers–a ‘Risk and Challenges” section to warn backers of what they are getting into–that’s great. Let people who think they just landed on Wal-mart read what they’re getting into. But it’s more like they’re trying to save the developers from themselves… and at the same time thwarting any effort they’ve put forth in developing realistic renderings of the products. How many projects wouldn’t be on Kickstarter if these policies had been in place from the beginning? I love the comment Josh Holloway left:

A very incomplete list of successful projects that couldn’t have existed if these rules were in place:
Capture, The Oona, TikTok + LunaTik, Infinite Loop, Isostick, Trigger Trap, Elevation Dock, Nesl, Brydge, Synergy Aircraft, Taktik, Nifty MiniDrive, OUYA, POP, Oculus Rift, Slim, Instacube, SmartThings, LIFX, and of course, Pebble.
That represents about $1.5MM in revenue for Kickstarter.
Just an observation.

A very astute observation Josh. One I would be surprised if Kickstarter overlooked. But how could they? “This is going to affect a lot of projects,” and “We’re going to get a BIG backlash from this” just HAD to be part of the internal discussion about such stringent regulations. But there is hope.

What you can still do

Even with these new policy changes there’s one thing for certain–One thing that Kickstarter failed to articulate in their blog post–YOU CAN STILL CREATE SIMULATIONS AND RENDERINGS FOR YOUR PROJECTS. You just can’t put them on your product page. Don’t let these policies discourage you. Here’s what you can still do:

  • You can still link to your own website (which you damn well better have in place before creating any renderings)
  • You can still describe the design process and what you used in developing your product
  • You can still update people daily on the status of your project, including links to renderings and simulations
  • You can still promote your renderings and simulations outside of Kickstarter
  • You can still successfully fund your project even though Kickstarter is throttling your efforts

One other oddity to note, there’s no mention of 3D printed prototypes. So, model your object and instead of rendering or simulating it, 3D print it and snap some photos. That’s a better representation of the pre-production engineering design concept right? I think not. I’ve emailed them for clarification asking the following.

Are any renderings and simulations prohibited, or is this prohibited for projects that only have simulations and renderings to show? In other words, if photographs of prototypes are shown, can simulations and renderings be shown as well?

Why are mock prototypes considered to represent the end-product better than a rendering of the engineered design?

Can people use renderings and simulations in their campaign videos and images to show the development process they went through?

Your thoughts? Is this a good move? How is this helping/hurting people launching product designs on Kickstarter? What else can they do to present ideas to people?

Kickstarter clarified some of the new policies in this Hardware and Design FAQ.

Kickstarter announced that it’s prohibiting product renderings in the Hardware and Product Design categories, but “rendering” can mean a lot of things. What does Kickstarter mean?
To clarify, we mean photorealistic renderings of a product concept. Technical drawings, CAD designs, sketches, and other parts of the design process will continue to be allowed. Seeing the guts of the creative process is important. We love that stuff. However renderings that could be mistaken for finished products are prohibited.


  • Seems like such a dumb move by Kickstarter, but in reality, a pretty smart one in the long-run. I mean selling vapourware over the open market is never a good idea, unless you can say in court “Caveat Emptor” and win civil suits by angry customers.

  • Charles

    Very Good Points. Photo-Realistic renderings provide a method of enhancing design presentation to clients & customers. That is the way it works in the real world every day. I just drew a part that is less than 2mm and a photographs are almost impossible, so for my client I made full screen 360 photo-realistic renderings of the item and they loved it!! Product model renderings really are no different than an architect’s concept drawings. A prospective investor should be award the Photo-Realistic renderings are there to help them understand the product concept, if Kickstarter wishes to require notations on every computer rendered image that is their choice; however, if investors see them as a promise they should not be investing. It is unfortunate if Kickstarter really has banned all rendering from their site… one can only hope the intelligent folks at Kickstarter will clarify that they meant computer generated renderings must be accompanied by real photographs of items and/or more detailed descriptions of manufacturing hurdles & timelines. In some ways it is sort of fun to see photographs & videos of crudely build working prototypes, it shows the passion of the entrepreneur … but only if one can also see concept Photo-Realistic renderings of what the FINAL product COULD look like with the proper funding… isn’t that the whole purpose of Kickstarter?? Wasn’t Kickstarter created to allow investors to become involved at the ground level and helping designer fund their items to become all they can be?? How can a designer show what their idea can be if they can’t show a future concept images?? You can still fix this Kickstarter and save face … Allow renderings but require the words ‘Photo-Realistic Rendering’ to be printed on every rendering image and video. Then let investors invest at their own risk… if you are not a store, then make that your tag line… KICKSTARTER – We Are Not a Store We Connect Entrepreneurs with Investors. Let the design process flow and the better projects will rise to the top and show more real photos because if that helps them gain funding, then they will do it.

  • Lee Lloyd

    No, Kickstarter was NOT created to let entrepreneurs find venture capital for their startup. Kickstarter was created to help artists connect with their friends, fans, and supporters, to raise money for specific creative projects. In fact, when it first launched, the NYT dubbed it “the people’s NEA” and Kickstarter kind of ran with that.

    This new aspect, of businesses using Kickstarter as a vehicle to get millions in funding, with no fiduciary strings attached, is a recent development, that I think frankly runs a very high risk of turning Kickstarter into a name synonomous with scams and fraud. If Kickstarter doesn’t do something to change the way the site is being used, I think it is right on track to become the new Ponzi Scheme in the popular consciousness.

    If Kickstarter really wants to become the place to “connect entrepreneurs with investors,” then they need to completely rework everything about their model, to give the “investors” some stake in the business, and to obligate the “entrepreneurs” to some sort of fiduciary responsibility. Otherwise, it will become just a platform for unscrupulous people who know how to generate hype, to get free money, with no strings attached.

  • Well said.

  • JG

    It seems that Kickstarter doesn’t understand how product development is done, how investments are sold or they are simply incompetent and unable to know how to do the job they claim to be doing as a business model.

  • Andreas Hopf

    The thing with renderings is, though, that they can all too easily promise the unachievable. The WWW is swamped of design-blogs depicting things that defy the physical reality, with “can-do-ism” as I’d call it. Renderings are easily done even by the unskilled that can’t probably oversee how difficult the realisation of their concept may be. A crude but physical prototype at a smaller or larger scale can often prove more, especially when shown handled or used by a real person to put it into perspective. But, yes, on the other hand if kickstarter asks for quality prototypes, it is adressing people that won’t probably need their crowdfunding scheme in the first place. A conundrum? In any case, they seem to be changing the game by putting up not well contemplated barriers.

  • Agreed, but sometimes prototypes require funding…

  • You misquoted the poster in your first line. Not cool.

  • Josh M
  • Edgar C.

    I went though all of this. After studying the KICKSTARTER phenomenon over the past year and documenting success and failure rates, I thought I had it licked and figured out. I had (and still have) a great product, my business partner and I spent well over $10K in time, professional video production and other production costs only to have them reject our entire submission on what we thought would be our launch date.

    Their reason? It was “too as-seen-on-TV type of a product”! When in fact it was a geek-friendly iOS and online accessory that they’ve prostituted the entire world with! Super frustrating and discouraging. Fortunately for us, we have a Plan-B…

  • That’s terrible. There’s always Indiegogo … but how lame is that. Ironic how a ‘liberator from the grant system’ has turned into a grant-system … although success is STILL not guaranteed.

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  • Zsolt67

    Hi Edgar

    I know this is old post but did they reccomend something to modify and resubmit it or they completly rejected?
    And did you launched your product?