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Charles Adler

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Charles Adler is a co-founder of Kickstarter. He served as Kickstarter's Head of Design through 2013. He now serves as an advisor. Before Kickstarter, he co-founded the online art publication Subsystence as well as Source-ID, an independent interaction design studio.

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform. The company’s stated mission is to help bring creative projects to life. Kickstarter claims it has received over $1 billion in pledges from 5.7 million donors to fund 135,000 projects, such as films, music, stage shows, comics, journalism, video games, and food-related projects. Kickstarter has an ever-expanding userbase.

Time named Kickstarter one of the "Best Inventions of 2010" and "Best Websites of 2011". Kickstarter reportedly raised $10 million funding from backers including NYC-based venture firm Union Square Ventures and angel investors such as Jack Dorsey, Zach Klein and Caterina Fake. The company is based in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn.

Companies and Investments

Kickstarter (co-founder)

Lessons Learned

Someone said to me a few weeks ago, while we debated whether design can change the world, “change happens regardless of design.” To which I realized, it’s not about always creating change (or future dysfunction), but how we apply ourselves to shape the change ahead (or future function).

That being said, designers working on the web should act more like industrial designers or urban planners rather than graphic designers. We’re designing for communities to co-exist with a virtual built environment.

Being an entrepreneur really has to do with an individual’s confidence in their ability to execute on an idea, and to have an idea worth betting your life on. I believe there’s a level of insanity that goes into being an entrepreneur because the cards are stacked against you in the most profound ways. There’s never enough time or money, the majority of those around you tell you that what you’re working on is illogical, and you never know enough at any given moment. At least in the early days, before a product gains traction or revenue. It’s a leap of extreme faith.

Persistence and patience are both incredibly valuable traits as an entrepreneur, but it’s not the only thing. Tenacity, ingenuity, a level head, and an ability to see clearly through a storm. But empathy is an often lost component and quite possibly the most critical. One’s ability to recognize how others are impacted and react. This plays critically into both team building and product design.

Designers can certainly carry these traits. And if they have a keen sense of direction, and a sensibility to transfer their process for decision making for design and apply that to everyday business challenges, that’s certainly viable.

Inspiring Quotes

Midway through my dad interrupted with something to the effect of “you must have done something before driving this cab” to which the cabbie responded, “Yeah, I used to be an architect.”

Charles Adler\'s father

Graphic design will save the world right after rock and roll does.

David Carson

Charles Adler's Quotes

I’m always thinking about and continually fascinated by the following topics: enabling makers with tools to create; our natural environment for future generations; and how learning and education are not interchangeable terms.

Charles Adler

I certainly don’t wear my dropout status as a badge of honor, but I do reflect on it as an example that anyone can do anything in this world. Perhaps it’s more a nod to my comfort with taking some level of risk in my life. That said, how many college dropouts are there in this country? Quite a few. So I really don’t think there’s much behind that common correlation.

Charles Adler

When I discovered this “field,” there wasn’t one. We all made it up as we went along. I’d like to think that we’re still in the early phase, feeling our way, exploring the dark a bit.

Charles Adler

Influential Books

Ernest Hemingway - Big Two-Hearted River

Don Norman - The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition

Henry Dreyfuss - Designing for People