10 of the Best Design Kickstarters Of 2014

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1. Mythical Alphabet & Cryptozoology Icons Posters

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Mark Gonyea’s impressive posters have always taken illustration right up to edge of abstraction. These two were outstanding examples of his work, documenting 26 mythological creatures and cryptids (yes, there is a difference), one for each letter of the alphabet.

While these creatures of might and magic are usually presented as fearsome beasts, Gonyea manages to make them friendly without losing their essential otherworldliness. From the living-shadow look of bigfoot, to the Domo-kun-esque gaping maw of Xing Tian, Gonyea unflinchingly embraces the weirdness of subjects without losing their charm.

Gonyea currently has another poster series Kickstarter going, “Name That Game,” which reduced various boardgames to minimalist graphic components. Not as delightfully odd as the Mythical Alphabet, but another great example of his crisp, graphic style.

2. Alchemy of Tea: An Illustrated Diagram of Popular Tea Recipes

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Tea drinkers will often say that the brewing of tea is as much art as it is science. Indeed, one might go so far as to say that the way dried leaves and hot water combine is more akin to magic. SweetTooth Design decided to split the difference with their clever diagram poster, the Alchemy of Tea.

Breaking down not just the various types of tea but how those types are turned into, say, chai instead of a cup of earl grey, SweetTooth Design’s flow-chart is as informative as it is easy on the eyes. The poster was available in both red and black, because we all know how that choosy folks are about their tea.

3. The Art Of The Sandwiches

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Sandwiches are one of the great unifiers of the food world. They can be high or low-class, extravagant or simple, served hot or cold. Their endless varieties means that everyone can have a favorite. But can sandwiches, in all their splendor, be a teaching tool?

Yes, according to design duo Jeremy & Gabrielle. They used playful illustrations of the magnificent sandwich to exemplify four artistic styles: Abstract, Cubism, Minimalism & Psychedelic. The result is a collection of prints that not only celebrate bread-based foodways, but also exemplify important movements in art history. Successfully funded, one can only hope that these four images are but the first of a series of sandwich-related art-history tours to come.

4. Bilbiotheca

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History is full of people trying to improve upon the Bible. Adding testaments, taking away apocrypha, adding and removing flowery language. In this way, Adam Lewis Greene’s Bibliotheca project is hardly unusual. But what sets Greene apart is not what he’s doing, but why. Bibliotheca is an attempt to present the Bible not as a dense encyclopedia, but rather as a work of literary merit. Greene’s intent is to give the Bible the clean, minimalist design a work of literary merit deserves.

Breaking the Bible into four volumes—he’s including the Apocrypha as an optional fifth—and typset in a sans-serif font, Greene is hoping to remove the unwieldiness of the way the bible is presented. Strangely enough, by removing the pomp and circumstance of the massive tome, Greene has increased its metaphorical weight. The set of clothbound hardcovers, in their various shades of gray, carry a seriousness and austerity that reflects their subject matter. Considering Greene raised over one million dollars for this new version of an old book, perhaps such a make-over was necessary.

5. The Moment Watch

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Now that carrying around computers in our pockets is old news, everyone’s scrambling to make “smart watches.” Usually, this concept resembles something you might find Dick Tracy wearing: a large, blocky piece trying to get as much as possible out of the limited real estate on the top of one’s wrist.

Momentum Labs had no use for such antiqued notions, choosing instead to use the whole circumference of one’s arm as a screen. Their Moment watch utilizes a QWERTY keyboard, a messaging system that connects to your phone, and, of course, a clock, all rendered in graphically pleasing line-art. Finally, we have a smart watch that looks properly futuristic.

It’s the 21st century, for crying out loud! Let’s not take our gadget inspiration from a 1930s comic strip detective.

6. Readydesk

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In an age where everyone is trying to find an inexpensive standing desk, Ben Larson & Joe Nafziger’s Readydesk...ahem…stands apart from the pack. The Readydesk keeps its cost down by being a third of the size of its competitors, crouching on top of that sturdy hunk of wood you’ve been sitting at, before you knew any better.

Looking like it was made from an erector set fashioned by IKEA, the Readydesk is an adjustable, lightweight, inexpensive solution for those who wish to think on their feet. Plus, you don’t have to get rid of that desk you probably paid a lot more for.

7. EDC Ink

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When Blank Forces set out to create the perfect pen, they had very specific criteria: it needed to be a very compact, it needed to use standard, easy-to-find refills and it needed to be able to take a beating. Once all those were taken into account, the Every Day Carry Ink pen was born, a beauty in stainless steel and brass.

Not content with offering merely a rugged, minimalist pen, Blank Forces offered the option to laser engrave patterns—some geometric, some whimsically organic—on the pen’s shaft. More than just an aesthetic addition, the patterns also provide a textured grip for a more sturdy hand.

8. CinniBird

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No one is ever going to argue that cooking isn’t art, but it can be frustrating for, say, an illustrator and painter to not be able to translate her or his skills directly into food prep. Fortunately, Balazs Oltva has created the CinniBird, a “spice pen” that allows you to draw directly onto food and drinks.

By controlling a flow of ground spices out of its plastic beak, the CinniBird allows for line-art decoration to add to your culinary masterpieces. Finally, an easy way to put suggestive doodles on your loved-one’s latte.

9 -10. CMYK Playing Cards & Hard Work Book

Design powerhouse Hundred Million—the folk’s behind last year’s Kickstater must-have, the Sugar Skull Spoon—gave us not one but two clever products this year, CMYK Playing Cards and the Hard Work Book.

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CMYK playing cards have conceit that will delight designers but gain little more than blank look from anyone else: cyan, magenta, yellow and black have replaced the traditional hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades. Instead of numbers on each card, there an indicator of the percentage of ink on each surface. Decorated only by crop-marks and production bleeds, this deck is an inside joke winningly realized.

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Having suitably played around, Hundred Million got back to work, making a notebook that would survive, well, anything. The Hard Work Book consists of 256 waterproof pages made from calcium carbonate, with an isometric and golden ratio print guide. Those hearty pages are safely sandwiched between heavy-duty hard board covers and a fabric-covered spine that allows the book to open flat.

While there are many amazing designs to be found on Kickstarter, it says something that the one of the best assists you in designing something yourself.

Honorable Mention: WoodyMac Building Blocks

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WoodyMac appears to be the perfect Kickstarter project. Wooden blocks with embedded magnets, allowing you to build without having to worry about “gravity” or “stability” or “basic architectural good sense.” Who wouldn’t want a piece of that? Plus, their Kickstarter is littered with pictures of the actual product, proof that the thing will exist, and does what it claims. What could go wrong?

Plenty, it turns out. Sergey Paul Chuklin, WoodyMac’s creator, tried twice to get his blocks off the ground. The first attempt was scuttled by Chuklin’s inexperience as retailer, as he discontinued it earlier this year when he realized international shipping, as he had calculated it, would leave him bankrupt. Attempt number two failed again, as Chuklin discovered that there are surprisingly exact rules and regulations involved when manufacturing with magnets. Again unable to properly fufill to his backers, Chuklin canceled the Kickstarter.

Will WoodyMac rise again? It’s impossible to know. But it’s worth knowing that having a successful Kickstarter is about more than just making something cool.

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