If you were ever interested in creating your own product or if you're just curious about how we came up with our designs; this blog post is for you!
It is mid February 2017 and Sabrina, owner of a boutique coworking space in Vancouver called L'Atelier Coworking is thinking of ways her business could survive the upcoming commercial rent increase. After a failed attempt to start an online shop selling standing desks units, Sabrina determined that buying products she didn't really care about at wholesale price and reselling them was not the best way to go. She came to the conclusion that making her own products; things that she actually loved, would be more satisfying and bring higher returns. With the help of a friend: Matej Rodela, she sent out a survey to her coworking community assessing their needs: what objects would make their work days feel better?
The idea of a journal was born. Having tried undated planners before, Sabrina was sure that the undated format was the way to go because it would reduce paper waste and give users more flexibility.
Upfront, Sabrina knew she wanted to design a product that would help people balance productivity and wellness.
1- The first draft:
Using her less-than-professional photoshop skills, Sabrina drafted a few different layout options and tried them out over the course of a few weeks. The first revelation was to use an entire spread for each day which would grant users more writing space. Here was the best one:
2- Bringing a Professional on Board
Now that she had a rough idea of what she was looking for, Sabrina contacted a few different graphic designer knowing that her top choice was typography specialist Alicia Carvalho. With Alicia's help, we came up with much more professional layout and designed a couple of different variations for testing. Alicia also came up with the super cool logo mark that we're using till this day as well as a mood board and branding guidelines.
Sabrina's messy draft, translated into this graphically beautiful 1st layout:
3- Testing on the community: the first prototype
With this base daily page design, we printed 20 booklets that were tested by member of L'Atelier Coworking over the course of two weeks. We ended the testing period with a Focus Group Session and pizza. We asked lots of questions: what kind of covers people wanted, what did they like and dislike about the current draft layout, what problems they would like us to solve, how thick would they want the journal to be etc...
4- Preparing for the crowdfunding campaign
This was probably the longest and most difficult phase: the raising money part. Thankfully, both Sabrina and Matej had previous experience with crowdfunding... but nothing can really prepare you for how difficult it actually is!
Sabrina and Matej chose kickstarter as their crowdfunding platform and after doing extensive reacher on how much production and marketing would cost, they set their goal at $17,000.00 cad.
5- Second prototype
Before launching on kickstarter, Sabrina and Matej knew that good product photos and a good video would be KEY to a successful campaign. Except making 1 prototype only was nearly impossible, printers required bulk printing. Finding a way around this problem, Sabrina and Matej ordered 10 book copies of their journal layout and handmade the elastics and pockets to make it look as close to the final product as possible!
6- Marketing and Crowdfunding
If you're considering launching a crowdfunding campaign, feel free to reach out to us. There are so many things we wished we did differently and making our goal was no easy task. We ended up surpassing our goal and raising $20,000.00 cad in pre-sales but that wasn't without any sweat or tears.
You can see our kickstarter page and video here!
One thing that helped our campaign was to partner with a charity. We chose Covenant House Vancouver and created a special tier where supporters could donated journals to Covenant House. After the crowdfunding, we also started donating $1 for every journal sold.
Mark Savard from Covenant House Vancouver was present at our Kickstarter launch party which was so much fun! The party took place at L'Atelier Coworking of course :)
7- Communicating with the Printer
Once we had the funds, it was time to place our first order of 1,500 copies! Except ordering wasn't as strait-forward as we thought. There were so many details we still needed to sort out, mainly choosing the cover. We also had a bit of a set back with the label on the spine. Because we were pressed on time, we had to make decisions quickly and effectively, which meant making a few compromises on the design elements we wanted. We actually never saw the dark gray fabric in person, we ordered it based on a photo online because we had to place the order quickly with the hopes that the journals would be ready for Christmas... spoiler alert; they weren't!
Here are photos of the first proofs that were sent to us by the printer:
8- The Wait
By the time we finalized our order, it was already early November and unfortunately, the journals didn't arrive until the 1st week of January. Many of our backers were disappointed not to get their copies before Christmas but there was really nothing we could do!
Thankfully though, the wait as worth it and The Focus Journal Version 1 was officially born!
We were thrilled that the journals started to make their way to the 4 corners of the world. We literally had orders in about 20 different countries and we were receiving great feedback. Our online sales were coming through from referrals and it was time for us to start thinking about selling them in stores.
We didn't anticipate retail sales at first so we ordered the labels after the fact. It was really difficult to get into retail stores at first. We didn't have experience with retail and didn't really know how to approach them. However, once we had our first retailer got the first one to trust us (Hunter & Hare), it became a bit easier to get other ones on board. We approached Walrus Design, L'Atelier Home, and Indigo, which were all welcoming and exciting about our product.
9- Version 2
Once we were mid way through our stock, we started thinking about ways to improve our journal. We reached out to backers and early adaptors, sent them surveys and invited them for another round of focus group sessions.
We listened very carefully to the feedback and made adjustments accordingly. This time around we weren't in as much rush because, although we were running out fast, we still had a bit of inventory left.
Given that version 2 had a more complex production process, it took a little while longer to arrive than V1 but again, the wait was even more worth it!
10- Will there be a version 3? What's next?
We're pretty satisfied with version 2 and in our eyes it is as close to perfect as we can get! However, we're all about constant improvement and we would love to hear your thoughts: how can we make the journal even better? Feel free to email us: email@example.com