How to make your design project go viral

Viral design project: Hate Mail

Hate Mail: The Definitive Collection

You've got a killer idea for a project. It's going to be brilliant. People will love it. But there's a problem: how do you fund it?

For illustrator Mr Bingo, the project in question was a high-end book - the definitive collection of Hate Mail, his surprisingly successful hand-drawn postcard service, in which people who tweeted their address and paid a small fee would receive a customised piece of abuse. (You can read the story here.)

The solution, equally surprisingly, came in the form of a rap video – as Bingo told a packed audience on day one of TYPO Berlin 2016.

The video was the key component in a perfectly executed Kickstarter campaign that saw Bingo offer a series of unusual rewards to backers, ranging from being custom-trolled for a week on social media to the chance to "get shitfaced" on a train with the illustrator.

Viral design project: rap video

A still from Mr Bingo's debut rap video. "The Kickstarter taught me: make art for people, not companies. I’m gonna spend the rest of my life trying not to have clients,” he told the audience at Typo Berlin

Shot in a variety of grimy locations around London, the video took months to plan and choreograph. The lyrics alone took two weeks to craft ("Tupac could do an album in a night," Bingo pointed out).

He sourced a production company, Oldie, to shoot and edit the video, persuaded a 17-year-old rapper and his track-suited friends to appear as extras and got a man from Lancashire to donate a postman's outfit.

So why go to so much effort? In short: to convince people to back you. "The video sells your project," he told the TYPO 2016 audience. "It’s a mini advert for what you’re doing – so it’s important to get it right.”

And he was right. The project hit its £35,000 funding target within nine hours. When the funding period ended less than four weeks later, he had raised more than £135,000.

Bingo doubled the print run, added a foil stamped book mark (pictured below), paid the people who had given their time to the project, donated some to charity and spent most of the rest on making the rewards, posting and shipping the book.

Of course, not everyone can donate six months to making a rap video – and there are no rules to guarantee a project goes viral.

But there is some good advice you can follow to increase your chances. We caught up with Bingo to get his top tips for making a project go viral.

01. Make it shareable

Viral design project: Hate Mail Instagram

Comedy is a key vehicle for Mr Bingo to promote his services - although it helps that he has 27.9k Instagram followers and almost 40k on Twitter

"Sometimes you don't know how things are going to go – some things completely fly, and some things you think are going to be good and they don't," says Bingo.

"The key is making something that's really, really sharable, because that's what the internet does – it shares stuff. You want to make something that hundreds of thousands of people want to show their friends, or share to make a boring day at the office more interesting."

02. Transcend age, gender and race

"A shareable thing for me means making something funny," he adds. "But it could be something that's interesting; a news story like the Panama papers for example."

"I can't do stuff like that, but I can do humour – I try and do something that's funny and that everyone likes so it transcends race and gender and age, and everyone can share that joke rather than it be for a specific audience."

03. Make an effort

Viral design project: Hate Mail postcard

A typical Hate Mail postcard. "People are more willing than you think to buy stupid things," says Bingo

"Try and make effort with it. Try and be different. And ask questions – people love questions," he explains. "If you tweet something that's a question, people love to respond to it. Start discussions. Be provocative."

04. Have a go

"If you think you can do better than what's out there, it's worth having a go. I looked at book projects and Kickstarter, and thought I could do a better version. I then spent a lot of months trying to do something better. If you think you can, then you probably can – whatever it is."

Typo Berlin 2016 runs from 12-14 May. This year's theme is 'beyond design' and we'll be reporting from the event throughout the three days.

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Julia Sagar
Editor-in-chief retail

Julia is editor-in-chief, retail at Future Ltd, where she works in e-commerce across a number of consumer lifestyle brands. A former editor of design website Creative Bloq, she’s also worked on a variety of print titles, and was part of the team that launched consumer tech website TechRadar. She's been writing about art, design and technology for over 15 years.