Teaching the Ups and Downs of Product Design Through Kickstarter

Creating products is a long, hard process. Ted Burdett teaches college students how to do it by guiding them through Kickstarter projects.

Teaching the Ups and Downs of Product Design Through Kickstarter
SAHN is one of the many student projects Burdett is bringing to Kickstarter.

Creating products is a long, hard process. Ted Burdett teaches college students how to do it by guiding them through Kickstarter projects.

For the last few years I’ve had the pleasure of leading seniors from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Design in a professional practice class named Entrepreneurial Product Development. These students tackle the enormously challenging and intimidating task of developing a design from scratch, seeing it through production, and delivering it to backers.

Each year, around this time, the whole class launches their projects on Kickstarter, embarking on a 30-day emotional rollercoaster. This class isn’t just about product development, or learning how to make a Kickstarter; it is about exploring what it means to practice design independently, and what it’s like to form relationships with the people designers rely on—manufacturers, collaborators, customers—to make concepts into realities.

This is a really fun class, and I often think, “Dang, I really have the best job!” I get to see group after group of talented people face the unknown, brave it, and come out on the other side more confident and self assured. If that isn’t inspiring, what is?!

This year EPD is a little different. There are the obvious pandemic and election year reasons, but actually, the course is most significantly different because of something positive: This year, the New York based retailer Uncommon Goods partnered with our class to provide support, mentorship, and the opportunity for students to launch projects into the marketplace beyond the crowdfunding platform. At a time when students are dealing with serious impediments to creativity—limited access to studio space, prototyping tools, and peer collaborators—Uncommon Goods, a B-Corp and longtime supporter of Kickstarter creators, stepped in and helped to provide a unique learning opportunity for this class.

Working with Jamie Hoffman, a senior buyer, and Jessica Hurwit, a senior industrial designer, the class has been developing projects around the theme of mindfulness. While they all touch on the same theme, each of the projects our students have launched reflects something unique about the creator’s background, design point of view, and values. I’m so excited about this launch because it represents so much optimism: This work shows that even in the hardest of times creativity can thrive, we can progress toward our goals, and build a better future. Please join us and celebrate the achievements of the UIC EPD class of 2021 by visiting, participating in, and sharing this collection of projects.


by Melissa Arias

It is common to struggle with the balance between the tasks that keep us busy and the tasks that keep us healthy. Melissa has created a decorative object that represents that balancing act in physical form and helps us to remain conscious of the way we spend our time.

Journey Note

by Katie Bewley

The writing prompts contained within this journal not only inspire self reflection, they inspire interaction; tucked into removable envelopes, messages can be passed onto friends (or your future self!) bringing a new kind of engagement to the act of journaling.


by Alexis Woo

It takes intention and perseverance to cast off unwanted habits and adopt new ones. The design for SAHN is based on research into habit formation practices and a rigorous exploration of form. Alexis wants to help you form healthy routines with this attractive, tangible, and analog habit tracker.

My 2Do

by Alden Garcia

Everyone can use a little organization in their lives—even kids! Inspired by her own children, Alden created an engaging checklist to make life for the little humans a bit easier.

Make 100 WorryMonsters

by Anastasiia Grishina

Anastasiia wants your worries to disappear—the Worry Monster literally gobbles them up. Her design represents a new way to journal, helping you to free your mind and feel at peace.

Carved Wooden Incense Stick Holder

by Sunkyung Lee

At a time when we are all stuck at home, Sunkyung took a trip through photos and memories to last summer when she studied furniture design in Denmark. This sculptural object, crafted by the designer herself, is inspired by the Scandinavian summer.

Good Vibes Booklets

by Kat Rumas

A diehard zine enthusiast, Kat created these interactive booklets to help people connect with friends and family. Loving messages and beautiful graphics come to life with the included colored film and transparent grid viewing tools.

Pause Necklace

by Giovanna Herrera

Mindful breathing is an act that anyone can incorporate into their day to improve health and mental wellbeing. Giovanna’s inconspicuous necklace helps you to focus on your breathing anytime, anywhere.


by Sammy Lien

SUNA is a canvas for creating sand art. It is portable and sized to fit on a desk. In an age when it is common to feel Zoomed out by the end of the day, Sammy made SUNA to help us take a break from the screen and play in the sand.


by Bryce Mathews

u52 is a personal growth box, made from mycelium. At the end of its life, the box is buried to provide nutrients for the plant of your choice. Bryce made this to allow users to visualize their personal progress for years to come.

Words of Reflection

by Spencer Melgreen

With this deceptively simple mirror decal, Spencer hopes to help people start off their day on a positive note. Here is a hint: It involves steam, a mirror, and positive vibes!

Breathing Map

by Nurul Hana Mohammed Rafee

Given the large number of people who suffer anxiety on a daily basis, Hana believes that a small tool like the Breathing Map can make a big difference. The Breathing Map is intended to help us find solid ground when life gets overwhelming.


by Daisy Ruiz

Inspired by her passions for food and sustainability, Daisy created this decorative wall fixture for drying flowers and herbs at home. BIRB maximizes air circulation for effective drying and comes with a guide full of ideas for dried botanicals projects.


by Graham Voetberg

Goal setting can help to find order in the chaos of life. Graham wanted to create an experience that celebrates the act and that would yield an object that keeps us engaged with our goals. This DIY mobile kit encourages you to reflect on your goals and keep them in mind through the year.

5 Senses Coaster

by Yunjung Heo

The form of this glass and coaster set provides a tactile experience and focal point for conversation while you’re consuming your daily tea or coffee. Yunjung wants us to set down our phones for a second and bring attention back to the tea / coffee ceremony.

Ted Burdett is an Industrial Designer, Educator, and Entrepreneur. As Clinical Assistant Professor of Design Entrepreneurship at the University of Illinois at Chicago, he works with students at the intersection of design and venture, emphasizing independent creative practice. His studio, Strand Design, has launched numerous Kickstarter campaigns in addition to collaborative campaigns run with clients.