Ari Kuschnir & Scott Thrift: The Process And Problems Of Creating A Product [PSFK 2013]
Ahead of the PSFK 2013 Conference in NYC, the co-founders of m ss ng p eces and The Present discuss their experiences developing the world's first annual clock.
As part of the run-up to PSFK CONFERENCE 2013 in New York this April, PSFK will be publishing a series of short interviews with speakers to give a taste of what will be discussed in this meeting of creative minds. Ari Kushnir and Scott Thrift, co-founders of m ss ng p eces and The Present — the world’s first annual clock which they funded using Kickstarter. They chatted with PSFK about the development of their project and the trials and tribulations they faced as they undertook each step of the creative process.
First of all, how did you come up with the idea of an annual clock, and how did it grow out of m ss ng p eces?
Ari: As an overview, Scott and I started the creative production company m ss ng p eces 7 years ago, and have since added two additional partners, Kate & Josh, and a growing roster of directors that I oversee.
In late 2011, Scott crystallized an idea for a cool new product, an annual wall clock that tells time in seasons called ThePresent, and put it up on Kickstarter. At the time I thought of it as an experimental side project that Scott was pursuing and expected to sell 100 or so to friends. Kickstarter changed all that when it received almost 100k in funding! We realized we had to rethink its potential, and its viability as a separate business.
We are in the process of separating m ss ng p eces and ThePresent as entities, which in turn presents an interesting duality–one company produces branded content and commercials while the other one is a physical product. Scott and I plan to discuss both entities onstage because one of the first things Piers asked us was why a production company was making an annual clock? …Great question!
What are the trials and tribulations you have encountered in developing your product?
Ari: The first ‘trial’ was that neither of us had any experience creating a physical product/object. M ss ng p eces has always been focused on telling stories through commercials, films, documentaries. We knew how to use film & video as a medium. But an actual physical product? We had to learn fast once we realized it had serious potential. After that, the main ‘tribulation’ was that an annual movement for a clock didn’t exist. You can’t buy one on Amazon and have it shipped to you! We had to have it designed and engineered for the first time, and to make things even more difficult, we couldn’t find a single US company capable of engineering this never-before considered clock movement. We finally found a great company in Germany who have been wonderful to work with.
Were there any unique challenges that you faced in creating an item of this nature?
Scott: I think managing your own expectations on how long it can take to make something like this happen is the biggest challenge. Being new to all this, I thought this would come together in a few months until I realized how incredibly complicated the process was. People’s expectations of a designer product, for example, and how it gets made are skewed to a certain degree. We’ve encountered every challenge you can think of from sourcing materials, to contacting vendors, to making the clock in the US, to crafting the first annual movement–every single step of the way there has been some challenge.
That’s how it goes though, right? When you try to do something totally new, it’s always going to test everything you have in you.
How much did you rely on audience participation, versus getting support from your backers, as you embarked on your journey?
Scott: When you go into a Kickstarter project, you need make a decision early on whether you’ll hold a vote from your backers to find out what direction you should go in. Luckily, all of my backers trusted me, and my judgment, so I wasn’t leaning on the audience to help me to define the product in any way. I was fortunate to have their utmost support.
Ari: Scott did a great job in updating the backers with a video every month—we think this had a lot to do with why people trust him to make the right decisions. They are beautiful pieces of storytelling that kept all of the backers very involved in the entire process. He detailed the challenges along the way, and in the end, people actually want the video update series to continue beyond Kickstarter. The video and the storytelling have become part of the overall experience, which is how our expertise helped the process along. In fact, we are going to have even more fun now that we don’t have to stress about the production. Keep your eyes out for videos we’re producing to promote the project, that’s the fun part for me!
Thanks Ari and Scott!