Crikey! Zoiks! & all the things you feel before launching a Kickstarter campaign by Karishma Kusurkar

*First though* check out my featured interview with Irish game website The Arcade for my upcoming game Espionage which you can read here

I'll be launching my Kickstarter campaign very very soon and by that, I mean in a few days. Crikey! It's slightly terrifying as it's not only my first Kickstarter, but also my first game and I'm very excited to be putting it out there, but also very nervous. 

Why Kickstarter?

I had thought of using Kickstarter for a project for a long time, but was trying to find the right fit and felt Espionage would be the right product to put onto it. It is a great platform for printed games eg. tabletop and card games because people go specifically to it to look for and support new releases by independent companies and individuals.


Over the last few months, I was lucky enough to attend two great talks by Paul McNally and Sarah Pannasch who released the awesome 5 Things & The Story of Sheep Farming in UK & Ireland using Kickstarter.  Although their projects are different to mine, they gave great insights into what to expect, ensuring that you are regularly updating any backers and also how it can be quite intense - so to expect that!

I have looked at other campaigns I think are great and through many articles about preparing for a Kickstarter campaign ahead of time! 


There are so many elements to a campaign that it helps to break it down into realistic stages factoring in some cushioning in relation to production, shipping etc.  I have done my best to try and estimate this, so here is my mini timeline (summarised) for what's going to be happening for the next while with Espionage:


Kickstarter will be live. The main rules for Espionage are in place and will be tweaking and testing it for another 1.5 months.


Final edits to game.  Any feedback from the final stages of game tests and feedback from backers will go into ensuring that Espionage is as good as it can possibly be - and as fun as it can possibly be, after all it is a party game!


Send to print.  I have received requested quote estimates for this and build my costing around it.  I will also be sending any other backer merchandise to print.


Finishing printed products and packaging.   


Espionage goes out to customers (just in time for the festive period and Christmas)

Thoughout the campaign and beyond, I will ensure that backers are updated with what's happening with the game and try and do some blogposts about other relevant things as well!

"Make it real. Make it happen." was one of the titles I had planned for a future blogpost but it felt apt to end this one with it because it's all very real now!

If you would like to be notified about the Espionage Kickstarter campaign when it goes live, simply sign up here:

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Why and how to create a Design Week by Karishma Kusurkar

We're getting ready for Belfast Design Week happening this November (04-10).

Through my usual foraging for good podcasts, I came across The Urbanist by Monocle which produced an interesting series on "Should a city host a design week?The series raised an interesting point - why host a design week? In what way would a design week benefit a city? This inspired me to write the following blog - a little backstory about how our Design Week started and some of the cool things that have happened. I've written about some of the things we have learned along the way and why we are going for our third one in 2017.

It started with The Design Salon

The Design Salon is a collaborative design community project that a group of us set up in 2014 (which you can follow and join in here!) to bring together local designers and design enthusiasts to collaborate on design projects and to celebrate Northern Irish design.  One of the first things that we discussed was how to make Belfast a tourist destination for Design - not comparing ourselves with enormous cities like London or NY, but more manageably sized ones like Copenhagen (Denmark) and Portland (Oregon) that have become renowned for design.  

Belfast (and Northern Ireland) - of course - has a long history of linen, shipbuilding, rope-works and more, but there are also lots of exciting contemporary happenings in the local design community that aren't discussed, showcased or celebrated enough which is why we thought Belfast Design Week would be a great platform to do this.

Design Week highlights - a few of many!

Guest instagram posts during BDW16


These are some of my personal highlights of Belfast Design Week 2015-17

  • celebrating some of the awesome things happening locally eg. hearing stories from local companies that have had international success such as Sixteen South, design thinking for current affairs - we did a design thinking event on Immigration in 2016, cross-disciplinary sharing of work such as that during Design Science, showcasing the work of great local designer makers in 25 Pop Up and inviting international speakers such as Jenny Lee to join us and inspire local design entrepreneurs.
  • seeing the design community embrace and join in through Design Week itself, coming along to Design Salons or sharing projects on social media
  • A very specific point - I loved the guest Instagram feeds during #BDW16 - Peter Kernohan snapping spaces and places, Simon & Lorna sharing their work from Morocco (a big ask and they were very kind to do this!), David McMillan showcasing illustration indoors and outdoors & Emma Kenny sharing some of the most special places in the city.
  • through Design Week we have all met lovely new folks and expanded our design network and friend circles - this year, we've 4 new people joining us on the team - Illustrator Katherine McDonald, Product Designer April Luong, Service Designer Elizabeth Meehan & Illustrator & Graphic Designer Mel Carroll and they've already brought fantastic new ideas to the table. 
  • creating merchandise with Bill & Coo Paper Co. and illustrating for the BDW16 brand - as a designer, outside of the organising element, it was great to get involved in the designing and creating of stationery to complement events during the week.

Collaborative merchandise for BDW16

How to set up a Design Week (or similar event) in 5 simple steps

Design Science

Fiona Bennington from Leckey Design speaks at "Design Science"  during BDW16

Fashion Roundtable at BDW16

Fashion Roundtable at BDW16

Share 6 at Established Coffee Co.

Share 6 at BDW16

  • TEAM ... Find a group of likeminded individuals - likeminded in terms of wanting to set up a Design Week. Not likeminded in terms of ideas though - diversity is a good thing and will make your week vibrant! Make use of the great project management tools out there. We are big advocates of Slack.
  • PLAN ... Schedule a series of core events. These main events will be key to your week and everything will start to build naturally around this. A theme can also be helpful to help plan your week. Is there something of particular importance to your city - eg. sustainability, politics, society or growing the economy - and if so, could you use one of these topics to theme your week?
  • AUDIENCE ... Building an audience. The focus of setting up Design Weeks and similar events is people. Who is your core audience? Is it students, entrepreneurs, general public? Are they young or old? You don't necessarily have to be niche about this, but it helps to know who is likely to attend your events so that you can market it through the right channels. Social media is great and mostly free to use to push your event to relevant audiences.
  • COSTS ... Are there local firms or folks that would be willing to sponsor your event? Could you charge an entry fee to cover costs of your event? You'll find that if you ask, many people will be willing to help in some way. It may not necessarily be financial, but they may be willing to lend you a venue, volunteer their time or perhaps to speak at your events. Be transparent about how your week is run. 
  • RECORD ... This is an important part of Design Week or anything else - record things - take notes, get quotes, chat with attendees, speakers, photograph and video as much as you possibly can.  We are doing more year on year in this regard and the idea is not only to capture the event, but to create a knowledge archive. You'll also find that doing this could open up other design projects such as books, a video series of talks or public design projects.

So there you go - it's as simple as that! Or is it. To run a Design Week, you need to set aside time, you need patience, continued enthusiasm, willingness to listen to other ideas, interaction with 99% amazing people but some bad eggs as well - don't be put off by these! With a good team and good ideas, you can soooo make it happen, so do it!  

If you've any specific questions, email me at my Design Week address or post a comment below! Oh - plus it is so easy to set up a free email account to link to your domain! We use Zoho.

Annnnnnd join us this year from 04-10th November for the 3rd Belfast Design Week!

Game, Set & Match by Karishma Kusurkar

Get your Pimms out.  It's that time of the year again when Wimbledon is on our screens.  I love watching Wimbledon - I say Wimbledon rather than tennis because I don't actually watch any of the other tennis tournaments or any other sports. 

In my quest/struggle to constantly improve myself as a designer and businessperson, I am trying to build longevity into my products by planning them better and future-proofing them or future "benefitting them" by which I mean, looking for ways of growing the same projects in new directions in the future.  Of course, it is difficult to know with a brand new project if it will do well or not but it definitely helps to have an ambitious plan in place for it.

In the spirit of Wimbledon I have decided to share a simple way of project planning as well as some of my goals for my new card game Espionage through 3 sections: Game, Set & Match.

GAME : From idea to product; making your project happen

A lot of ideas remain just that which is why this stage is vital in seeing them become a reality.  This stage is all about the concept, the design, the testing and then creating a final product.  Espionage started off as an idea at the end of last year and over the last few months has become an actual real life thing. This is the part I am currently at - Espionage is in its prototype stage and I am in discussion with manufacturers to produce the game.  

Espionage early stage moodboard - I find creating one of these helps to clarify initial ideas.

Espionage early stage moodboard - I find creating one of these helps to clarify initial ideas.

SET : Bringing your product to your customers and building your audience

Espionage will be on Kickstarter this summer.  It is the first Kickstarter campaign I will have run and from what I have heard from other designers that have used it as a platform, it is quite full on - yikes!  After the cards and packaging are ready for Espionage, I plan on distributing them to any backers - hopefully there will be some.  I will be showcasing and selling Espionage locally including events such as Belfast Design Week and to look at retailing it online in addition.

An Espionage secret location card - it's a rickshaw not a tuktuk! Photograph by Kyle Malcolm  

An Espionage secret location card - it's a rickshaw not a tuktuk!

Photograph by Kyle Malcolm  

MATCH : Expanding your product and adding new features

Once the product is out there, I plan to continue adding to it.  For Espionage, the stage the game is set on is global. The first Espionage set contains location cards featuring secret locations from all over the world.  My intention if I take Espionage forward into expansion packs is to create country specific location cards and add to the character selection. I also have plans for adding new elements to the game such as a collectible map to pin locations.  

Espionage: Ideas for the future Photograph by Delfi De La Rua for Unsplash  

Espionage: Ideas for the future

Photograph by Delfi De La Rua for Unsplash  

& then back to Game! - I hope I can get through a few of these and that someone gives me a massive trophy.

The Procrastination Conundrum by Karishma Kusurkar

Procrastination can be good and also very very very bad.  Procrastination in its best form can lead to great side projects which can sometimes lead on to bigger things.  The amazing Jessica Hische - one of my design heroes - is a serious advocate of the side project and so am I. In fact, here are some of mine.

From my project Spaces + Places

From my project Spaces + Places

Procrastination can also become a challenge, particularly if you are spinning lots of plates all at once, in terms of projects. As a multidisciplinary designer, it is often very easy to lack the discipline required to bring projects to fruition.  The book of ideas that I have is useful and exciting but can also be awfully distracting at times.  The problem I've encountered the most over the years is that whilst I love the ideas stages and the creative/design stages, I find myself trying to avoid some of the more boring parts and well, let's be honest, who doesn't.  

To keep myself and my projects on track, here are some of the things I have learned and which I hope you'll find useful and help keep your procrastination at a useful level.

1. Juicy numbers. Keep an eye on your finances. I absolutely hate it when creative folks claim that because they are a creative, they don't need to be financially astute - it's such an excuse! You don't need to be amazing at maths to keep control of your business costs, returns and invoices, you simply need to be co-ordinated and if you can afford it, get someone else to do it for you.  I have found that using Wave Apps to track expenditure and send out invoices is really useful and the basic account has most things you need PLUS it is free.  Beware of Wave's reminder notices though, they aren't the most delicately designed and could make your clients feel like a criminal because of the big stamp of "unpaid" written across them. To prevent client criminalisation, I recommend simply resending an invoice if it is unpaid.  That said, it is my only really criticism of them. Wave suits my needs perfectly. 

2. Bold moves. Procrastination can hit the hardest when you're feeling your lowest.  Be confident with what you do but open your door to other good ideas.  If you are like me and you work a lot on your own, it can be easy to lose confidence in yourself and start second guessing things, be it yourself, your projects, why you ever became a creative in the first place and everything else under the sun. This can lead to delays in projects, it can make you feel miserable and if you aren't able to talk about your work, others certainly won't have reason to.  This doesn't mean you've got to be annoying about it and flog your wares constantly, but do post about your projects online and tell people about what you are doing.  People are always interested and in many cases, very supportive.  If they are not supportive, try and listen to their reasons as to why they aren't. It could be that they have a genuinely helpful idea packaged up wrongly or that they are simply morons. Do give them a chance though before you discount them - and you can discount them, it's your business after all and you make the final decisions.

3. Keep your hobbies.  I love reading and I used to read a lot of books, but I confess, of late I have mostly been reading Reddit (at this point, I could definitely create a side business creating memes of puppers and doggos).  What made me conscious that I hadn't properly read a proper work of fiction in a long, long time was a literary quiz I involuntarily became involved in, in which I was terrible... really really terrible.  I was acutely aware that I did not remember a bunch of stuff that I really ought to have known. Then I remembered I hadn't read a novel in a long time.  The card game I am working on -  Espionage -  is directly linked to things I have experienced and in particular, books I have read.  This in turn made me wonder whether I was closing off future creative opportunities by casting aside my hobby of reading.  

I procrastinated making this instead of improving my writing

I procrastinated making this instead of improving my writing

I'm not totally uncultured, I get my fix of stories from podcasts but they are all factual and any business or design reading I do is also non-fiction. All of these too are an influence on my work but sometimes there's nothing better than curling up with an awesome work of fiction to get your imagination going and maybe that is some good procrastination right there.  

I know you never asked for these tips, nevertheless, I hope they prove useful in your endeavours no matter what stage of your career you are at.  Thank you for persevering with my blog - I am finding my feet with these posts and trying to create content that is hopefully interesting and helpful to someone.   

This is my current blog description:

"Karishma's thoughts and stories on multidisciplinary design, collaboration and ideas."

Stay tuned for more of the above.

If you've got a topic or a burning question that you would like me to explore, do send it my way.

A Game of risk by Karishma Kusurkar

& the history of how Espionage came to be. 

So I've come up with a card game called Espionage - which you can read about here.

Over the past few months, many people have asked me what I am working on and when I reply - "why, a brand new card game" the reactions have been one of the following:

  • confusion (but do you not design bags? why?)
  • excitement and confusion (yay! but why?)
  • incredulousness (card games like Rummy? why?)

As you can see the common theme above is why, and so here's the journey of why and how Espionage came to be. Sit down, grab yourself a mug of cocoa, it's going to be a long one.

Chapter One : Tiny Telegrams

Karla of Bill & Coo Paper Co. and myself met during Belfast Design Week 2015. We found our styles of working - mine patterned, textured, illustrative and hers clean, graphic, bold - worked really well together and came up with a special collection of stationery boxes called Tiny Telegrams (pictured below).  We created a limited release of these boxes which flew off the shelves. We were very pleased. 

Chapter Two : Beloved Wes Anderson

As a follow on from the Tiny Telegrams boxes, Karla and I worked on a few more projects together - 25 Pop Up, custom stationery for Design Week and souvenirs for our special event "The Grand Budapest Hotel with Annie Atkins" { I love all things Wes Anderson}. Design Thinking is something that people have more recently become quite interested in looking at in a more in-depth way and I wanted to create a series of stationery cards to do with Design Thinking (and I am in 2018, so watch this space).  

Chapter Three: The School of Life

No, this is nothing to do with the annoying folks that say "well I went to the school of life" as a way of mocking those that have been riddled with student debt to learn a specialised subject only for it to become irrelevant or for them to lose interest in it a few years later and then be mocked by someone unburdened by the crippling student debt and sadness.

The best way I can describe The School of Life is a mashup between design thinking, self-help and lovely illustration. I ordered two boxes from their collection - one about life called Know Yourself and one about lovely and unusual words called Untranslatable Words. "Hüzün" is one of these words. You'll have to read/ scroll to the end to see what it means. After sketching out an initial plan for my design thinking box, I felt I needed more time to think it through properly and create serious focus groups, so it's still happening but in the background for now.

Chapter Four : An Orange Man appears

I decided that I wanted to create a series of different boxes under the label "Ob.Jet" - design thinking, politics and tourism boxes that would each have luscious original artwork and created in a unique way.  Around that time, an orange man was gaining momentum. Referring to an orange man in Northern Ireland can mean a few things so I'll be more specific - Trump.  Trump was making headlines and getting people riled up.  He went from a joke candidate to - and currently and shockingly still is - POTUS. 

Chapter Five: A Visual Game for an Audio World

The rise of Donald, alongside some of the other "spy" goings on - WikiLeaks, Edward Snowden, Alexander Litvinenko - in the news also led me to prioritise the politics box in the Ob.Jet collection.  I started looking at political satire, caricatures and other things. I'd been a big fan of The Bugle Podcast ever since I listened to about 100 archived episodes when I painted my mum's kitchen in 2012 and constantly borrowed my husband Andrew's collection of Private Eye magazines (but mainly to read the jokes).  I wanted to bring some of these influences to the box.

Chapter Six: King Ottokar's Sceptre

From ages 0-7, I grew up in Pune, India and for a while stayed with my grandparents in Koregaon Park. Their house was full of things the whole family had collected from over the years - Aerosmith cassettes, James Hadley chase novels and Tintin comics. I loved Tintin and have probably read through most of the comics. What I loved about Tintin was his adventuring to so many different parts of the world - I particularly loved Djakarta with the silent d, a really lovely word - the style of the drawing of the comics and the characters - especially opera singer Bianca Castafiore.  I wanted to bring the active and ligne claire style of drawing in Tintin to my political box. 

Chapter Seven: Congratulations, it's a baby game

I steered away from calling Espionage a game for a while as a/ I am not a game designer and b/ I wasn't really sure if it was going to be a game. I had always played classic games and remember obsessively spending summer camps playing "Spit." My stint in hospital in 2011 involved a serious amount of Scrabble playing as well - though this game is nothing like Scrabble. Over the past few years, more contemporary card and boardgames had started to take off in a bigger way outside of the core games community - I'm certainly no hardcore gamer by any means.  Party games like Monikers and Cards Against Humanity were firm favourites of our friends and provided the perfect middle ground between going dancing or just sitting still for the night in a pub.  And so, after playing games whilst thinking about my political box, I though the two fused nicely into a card game and Espionage: The Card Game was born.  

Chapter Eight: It's really good + it's really shit

I made the rookie mistake of designing my game the wrong way round. I started with the look, feel and concept of the game and then slowly got round to working through the game play. As many in the gaming community would say, "WRONG!" So yes, the next time I am making a game, it will indeed start with the game play - alright guys?! I have since figured out the game play and gone through several iterations of the game which I continue to work on. Espionage is a political game, it's a spy game but it's also meant to be super-straightforward to play. The elements I am currently working on are making it more deliciously "spy-like" and also adding some more strategy.  The game testers so far have been casual gamers and more intense gamers. They've been UX designers, coders, students, financial advisors, scientists, video game designers, photographers and beyond. People have loved certain parts and wanted less or more of certain elements of the game.  There have also been a couple of extremes of opinion on the game. But in conclusion to the tale of Espionage as of 22.06.17, if we have "It's really good" + "It's really shit," it equals "it's really good shit." Oh yeah! 

So there's the history of Espionage and how it came about.  See? It makes perfect sense.

If not, refer to the further FAQs below.

Why are you designing a card game?

Because I'm a multidisciplinary designer and I have the freedom to design whatever I want!

What if no one buys it?

Then I will apply for a grant of the exact amount I spent so far to commission a giant installation of card games in a House of Cards style and set fire to it. 

What if it is really successful?

I'll be very happy and have some very special expansion packs planned as well as some other goodies.

When will it be released?

It will be released in Summer 2017! 

& here's what "Hüzün" means!