Jeff Sheldon is a designer-turned-entrepreneur and the founder of Ugmonk. He produces high-quality products with fresh, simple designs. We had connected on Twitter a couple of years ago, and in November of 2016, he reached out to me about a product idea that he wanted to launch on Kickstarter.
I worked with Jeff to produce and direct a product video to help him raise the funds for the manufacturing of his biggest product endeavor, Gather. Gather is a minimal, modular organizer that cuts clutter. When Jeff first told me about it, I couldn't quite picture the appeal of the product. But as soon as I saw photos of the product mockups, I knew that he had come up with something that had the customer appeal to reach far beyond his own audience.
Jeff’s branding and product photography style is very distinct, and when we started planning the product video he came prepared with significant visual inspiration and ideas. Originally, there were a lot of colors in the conceptual imagery, but we ended up narrowing the color palette to reduce setup and filming time during production.
Because Jeff came prepared with significant aspirational content, Dropbox Paper was an incredibly useful tool for project planning. Everything -- the script, inspirational visuals, and mood board -- were all organized in Dropbox Paper. Below you can see some reference images we started with.
Jeff had spent over three years designing and prototyping Gather, and simultaneously, how he tells the product’s story. He wrote the entire video script himself. Jeff has always written wonderfully compelling copy for his website and products, and he did an excellent job of highlighting the product and features. I gave him minimal notes before we locked the script.
Jeff recorded the narration before we started production. I used this voiceover to cut together a storyboard animatic of the entire edit. He had a list of product videos that had similar camera angles he wanted to use, so I sourced those for the animatic. I also borrowed visuals for the intro scene from an Apple commercial.
I did some rough Photoshop edits for a couple of the desktop shots. Jeff had some images of his desk setup on Unsplash (a free stock photo website), which was very useful for this. I also used the Unsplash photo of Jeff's desk as a stand-in for the desktop shots in the video. For the front-facing shot of the model in front of the colored background, I borrowed from a prior project that I directed for the agency Ueno. Below you can see some screenshots taken from the animatic.
The final result was an animatic that matched the final edit with near-exactitude. Jeff filmed his own interview at his house after the animatic was finished. Since I knew which exact moments we wanted him to appear onscreen, we filmed just those portions. Jeff and I set up a FaceTime call while he filmed so I could direct the angle and placement of his camera in relation to the room and windows. Jeff had filmed a couple of his prior product videos in the same office, so I had plenty of reference footage for camera placement.
Filming and Production
We spent two full days filming all the studio elements and a half-day filming the interior home scenes. Since we were filming in Nashville and not Philadelphia, Jeff’s hometown, I had to re-create Jeff's desk in the studio. He brought his speaker and miscellaneous knick-knacks to set dress the desk. My friend Brett Warren (no relation) owned the same iMac as Jeff and generously provided it for filming. To recreate Jeff's monitor stand, I referenced the instructional guide that he had written a few months prior.
We had multiple tabletop surfaces made of different materials that we could quickly swap out for different looks, which you can see at the beginning of the video. My friend Emily Carlton and her boyfriend were generous enough to come by the studio to model their hands on the screen, which you can see at the beginning of the video. My friend Anna Russell also modeled her hands and her face on screen for the product use demo.
Even though about 90% of the edit was taken care of by the time filming was completed, much finessing still needed to be done. I also had to create animation overlays and color grade all of the footage. We ended up going through 16 revisions to get to the final video. Most of the changes were small, but each revision made for an even better product video.
I love sharing the process of what I'm working on in the moment, but often I can't talk about what I'm working on until it's both finished and released to the public. What made this project unique is that Jeff wasn't trying to keep everything secret until launch day. He teased the product with an abundance of behind-the-scenes photos and product shots. This helped build up anticipation and excitement about the new product leading up to the launch day.
Within 47 minutes of launching the Kickstarter project, it was completely funded. In 24 hours it had passed $100,000 in funding. We reached $250,000 in funding 1/3 of the way through the campaign. The final amount raised on Kickstarter was $430,960. We got some great press write-ups on sites like Uncreate and GQ. Product Hunt was also helpful with building momentum.
Unfortunately, Kickstarter doesn't allow you to accept product orders after the deadline is met. However, Indiegogo has a nifty feature that lets you import a project from a competitor's platform. Jeff was able to raise an additional $15,534 in pre-orders on the Indiegogo platform.
If you want to learn a little more about the process of planning this launch, you can listen to Jeff's interview with Dale Partridge, eCommerce Influence, and GrowthLab. He discusses the whole project in detail, and if you’re planning a product launch yourself, I’d highly recommend listening to these interviews.