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.


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.