Kickstarter, Design and Typography with Sam Barclay

About one year ago I was teaching a year two Graphic Design class at the University of Ulster, Belfast, when one of the students produced a book he had 'backed' on crowd-funding website Kickstarter.  That book was I Wonder What It's like To Be Dyslexic by Sam Barclay and it was absolutely outstanding, I spent the next twenty minutes flicking through it in admiration. Purely typographic, superb layout, simple colour palette and above all else, it communicated a message about a subject becoming more prevalent in society – dyslexia. A really stunning piece of graphic design that took the world of social media by storm during it's Kickstarter campaign; featuring on blogs like It's Nice That, Huffington Post and Daily Mail, amongst others.

The first version of I Wonder What It's Like To Be Dyslexic by Sam Barclay

The first book initially made over £55,000 on Kickstarter, a whopping £40,000 more than the required amount. A testament to how much this project grabbed the attention of those affected by dyslexia, those curious about it and those who simply admire great typographic design. Unfortunately I missed out on the first campaign but was delighted to hear Sam has re-invented the book and Mark II is now running on Kickstarter in a brand new campaign. I always wanted to find out more about this cool project so was delighted when Sam agreed to a chat about it for my blog. 

Sam Barclay

Hi Sam, so, where did the idea for I Wonder What It’s Like To Be Dyslexic come from?
I was at university, and I decided to do one of the ISTD (International Society of Typographic Designers) briefs in my last year. I was trying to pick the best brief available and settled on a brief called Book Still, which wanted us to explore the idea of a book – whether in a printed or digital format. Everyone in my class were redesigning already existing books; but I didn’t really fancy that. I preferred to think about it in terms of how we read books rather than just redesigning a book itself. Initially dyslexia wasn’t in there at all, and it was only until I started messing around with a different short story about a guy in USA who made millions and he literally could not read a single word, then the idea of dyslexia popped into the equation. At the same time I had thought about redesigning the book The Prestige, a fantastic piece of work – but I couldn’t make my mind up as to what to do. Feeling slightly frustrated and not being able to see where to take the project, I headed out with a mate for a pizza; we chatted about where I could take the brief and what I could do to make this project awesome. He suggested that I should explore the idea of how we read and interact with books further; to use my passion for typography to show how language could be manipulated and prove how dyslexia affects people, like me. In the project I try to show how I spell words and see words; after this the project then just fell into place. I researched myself and my dyslexia and also undertook loads of typographic research. From here I started to realised how closely linked typography is with dyslexia. I’m actually surprised this subject isn’t talked about more to be honest. Thankfully the project really worked and I received a Commendation from the ISTD guys – unbeknownst to me, the highest mark available from the ISTD. I feel honoured to have received such a grade from guys who are so respected in the area of typographic design. 

So, how did the book make it from an ISTD project to a £55,000 Kickstarter sensation?!
Well I finished university and all I wanted to do was to get a job in a good design studio, to learn more and build on my university education. My parents kept on at me to get it published but I didn’t really see a way of it working. I couldn’t see the potential in it, not sure if that was lack of confidence in myself. My brother then mentioned Kickstarter to me so I just thought – sod it, what have I got to lose? So we worked for a couple of months to put the campaign together and then it just took off from there. It’s Nice That picked it up, Huffington Post then picked it up from there and it just exploded. It was kind of like the scene in Breaking Bad (spoiler alert!) where Walt Junior had set up the donation website for his dad and the computer just kept beeping when donations arrived. Well, that was like my Kickstarter the night it featured on It’s Nice That and Huffington Post. I had to actually turn my phone off and didn’t check again until the next morning.

I'm sure that must've been very exciting, was it also slightly nerve wrecking – a 'Where does this end' type scenario? 
Yes, it was amazing. When I started to hear stories from the people who backed the project; people living with dyslexia, telling me I had affected their life, that was mind-blowing. Hearing that you have affected someones life in such a profound and positive way, was the driving force for me to make it work and to make it the best it could be. That kept me working from first thing in the morning to late at night everyday. We were constantly promoting the project and I pretty much spent every hour working on the Kickstarter campaign. The buzz of being in the Kickstarter community is very cool.

As someone who nailed a Kickstarter, any advice for would-be Kickstarter campaigners?
I would definitely suggest getting your costings right from day one. The most important part of the campaign. Especially your postage and packaging, the biggest costing that you need to get one-hundred percent right. I spoke to someone who, very nearly, got their postage charges wrong and were almost out of pocket. So, costing is priority number one for a campaign.

Version Two of I Wonder What It's Like To Be Dyslexic

So you liked Kickstarter so much that you're doing version two?
Yes! I have updated the book, added new content and redesigned certain elements of the book. And thankfully, it seems to be doing well (at time of writing it had already hit it's goal with 10 days to go!) The best thing about doing the book has been hearing the stories about where it ends up. I literally packaged and posted this thing from my house and to hear about it in far flung places like Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and Russia, just incredible! I have enjoyed designing something for such a good purpose and have loved becoming part of the community that surrounds the book. Really looking forward to getting the second one printed and posted too.

A big thank-you to Sam for taking the time out to do the interview via Skype a few weeks back. There are not many people who successfully fund a Kickstarter campaign, never mind two! An amazing achievement, which is thoroughly deserved. A great project. Check out Sam's website here and the REEDEENG project website here

You can still back book two at this link >>> Book Two

This is the original Kickstarter campaign >>> Book One