"In 2008, graphic design played a bigger role in introducing and selling the Democratic candidate than it had in any campaign in the past two decades." - The Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/09/how-one-hard-to-spot-visual-detail-could-help-shape-voter-perceptions/262070/)
As the campaign came to a resounding success in the election of President Obama, Scott Thomas, the then design director for the campaign, wanted to create something that could celebrate the volumes of art and design that surrounded the momentous election and capture their significance in history.
With the vision brewing and looking for funding, Scott came across a platform called Kickstarter. The now ubiquitous crowdfunding site, was still in its infancy at the time but something about it clicked for Scott immediately. If Designing Obama could be successfully brought to life by a community rather than the publishing industry, it would truly be the book of the campaign, embodying the spirit of by the people for the people.
The book’s fundraising goal, $65,000, now pales in comparison to today’s multi-million dollar projects but at the time it marked a turning point for the Kickstarter. Unlike previous projects, it was grand in its scope and funding goal. It was not going to be a small run publication but a professional case-bound book featuring the voices of Steven Heller, Michael Beirut and the American people. If individuals could fund a legitimate publication they would establish a new method of communication outside of the publishing industry’s vernacular.
Initially, our target audience was the people who inspired and participated in the election but through social media we reached a greater, international audience interested not only in Barack Obama, but also in design, branding, art and politics. And so, Designing Obama, went on to become the highest funded project of its time and, arguably, Kickstarter’s first blockbuster.
The success of Designing Obama campaign on Kickstarter propelled the site from hosting small projects, to large scale, state of the art projects. It raised the bar for the quality, size and scale of art and design projects especially, inspiring Craig Mod, Nick Despato, Cards Against Humanity, and Scott Wilson (who raised more that $900,000) to bring their big ideas to life. Backers no longer just had purchasing power, but a vote that decided what objects would exist in the world.