Andrea Marks, Oregon State University
Brad Tober, Boston University

This lightning talk will introduce a new research project (related to user-centered design) focused on a specific audience—the backers of Kickstarter projects. We will share the project goals, research methods, and several case studies with the intent to prompt discussion and solicit feedback from the audience. Our research study connects three areas: data visualization, graphic design, and entrepreneurship. In particular, this investigation intends to explore the way in which the design of the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform is primarily creator-centric, without fully acknowledging the needs of backers as both users of the platform and critical participants in the success of crowdfunded projects.

Our central research question asks, “How might we use data visualization as a tool to give backers of crowdfunded projects predictive agency through a clearer understanding of the variables associated with success or failure of the campaign?” While creators of crowdfunding projects are provided with a range of resources—including data- and analytics-driven tools—to help ensure project success, the other necessary participant in a crowdfunded campaign, the backer, is given little to no data to make informed decisions.

Our initial hypothesis is that the design and display of a data visualization would improve backers’ understanding of potential risks, which would lead them to make more informed and successful funding decisions. While this research has direct application to the structure and success of crowdfunded projects, we anticipate that the outcome of this project could also be relevant to the broader areas of design, business, and the digital humanities.


Andrea Marks is a professor of design at Oregon State University and a faculty member in the College of Business, where she teaches classes in entrepreneurship, design and innovation. Prior to joining the College of Business, she was the coordinator of the Graphic Design Program and developed coursework in typography, design and writing and design history. She is the co-director and producer of the documentary film Freedom on the Fence, the author of the book Writing for Visual Thinkers and has curated several poster shows. She has contributed to books and journals including, Icon Magazine, Becoming a Graphic Design and Digital Designer, Citizen Designer and Design and Culture. She is the recipient of numerous grants including an NEA Design Arts grant for her project Women of the Bauhaus. Andrea was co-chair of the 2014 AIGA Design Education Conference New Ventures and has served on the AIGA Philadelphia Board of Directors. She received a BFA in graphic design from University of the Arts in Philadelphia and was awarded a Fulbright International Education Fellowship for her post-graduate work at the Basel School of Design in Basel, Switzerland.

Brad Tober is a designer, educator, and researcher whose work investigates the potential
 relationships of emerging code-based and interactive visual communication technologies to both design practice and pedagogy. His practice-led research is characterized by a speculative approach to design that recognizes that forms of and methodologies for contemporary practice that spans design and technology are best developed through flexible and exploratory processes. Prior to his current position as Assistant Professor of Design + Visual Analytics at Boston University, Brad spent five years as Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Brad holds an MDes from York University (Canada), a BFA in graphic design from the Savannah College of Art and Design, and a BA in mathematics from the University at Buffalo.