Something insane is happening in the creative industry and all of you need to know about it. Two recent events have completely changed the career prospects for Web Designers and Developers: 1) Frank Chimero’s Kickstarter project and 2) Natasha Wescoat’s live painting sessions.

Let me explain …

Frank’s Story …

Frank Chimero is a talented designer who thought “You know, it’d be awesome to write a book.”

Photo of Frank with a painting of a city behind him

Instead of going the traditional publishing route, he decided to ask for funding to write the book before he’d even started. He used a site called Kickstarter which allows people to ‘back’ projects by pledging money and if the goal is hit, then the money is paid out and the project begins. He announced the project with this tweet:

Announcing The Shape of Design, the book. Back me on Kickstarter? kickstarter.com/projects/30453…

He decided to set the goal at $27,000 and insanely, he crushed that goal in less than a day, and now, two days later he’s up to $51,000. I’m not sure how he came up with the $27K figure, but I assume he added up the costs for his time, the printing and shipping.

Let me share one more interesting project, before I share my conclusions …

Natasha’s Story …

Natasha Wescoat is a very talented painter.

One of Natasha's painting that's a tree with bright circles for leaves and an orange sky

Natasha paints live on uStream and Justin.tv. As she works on a piece, viewers watch and by the end, there is often a bidding.

Here she is starting the painting …

Ustream video of Natasha starting a painting.

and then finishing it about 3 hours later …

Ustream video of Natasha finishing a painting.

What’s the huge shift?

The power of crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter, and the entertainment draw of Ustream have created a brand new channel for designers (and developers, which I’ll cover in a minute) to get paid for doing something they love.

This model allows anyone with talent and a decent following (Twitter, Blog, Facebook, etc) to leave freelance and client work behind. They can simply move from  project to project, knowing that it will be a success before they even start, while also determining the subject matter of the work.

It’s similar to the patronage model, but you get to pick the creation. Wild.

Natasha has learned to combine her talent (painting) with live entertainment. There’s something very intriguing about watching someone live-paint, knowing you might be able to purchase the work at the end.

So how can you take part in this revolution?

  1. Put in a good 2-3 years of hard work, building your following on Twitter, Facebook and your blog. Frank has around 13,000 Twitter followers, which is a decent chunk, but isn’t impossible to attain. You can’t expect to just click your fingers and succeed like this. Gotta do the time.
  2. Be damn good at what you do. You’ll need to build a reputation and being kick ass and creative. Obviously no one is going to want to fund you if your work is sub-par.
  3. Have an idea that’s creative, original and valuable. Just because you’ve achieved #1 and #2 above doesn’t mean any project your throw up on Kickstarter will succeed. The project has to stand on its own two feet.

What about Developers?

I also believe there’s an exciting opportunity for Developers here as well. Imagine this scenario …

You spot a much needed tool or service. A new framework, iPhone app, plug-in, etc. You decide you can create an awesome solution and you can dedicate a couple months to building something awesome. You create the project on Kickstarter and everyone who funds you gets a copy of the app/software/etc and a few exclusive goodies.

I’m hugely excited by this new model and it’ll be interesting to see what other projects crop up.

I can’t help thinking that two folks who should’ve done this are Ethan Marcotte (a book on Responsive Design) and Elliot Jay Stocks (with 8faces). I know Ethan is publishing a RD book with A Book Apart soon, but he could’ve completely controlled the project on his own if he wished. Getting published by a respected source like Zeldman and Co is awesome but it would’ve been interesting to see him, Cederholm or Keith do their books via Kickstarter instead.

Love to hear your thoughts!