The first fully crowd-sourced open book

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Unsplush is looking to crowdfund its first fully crowd-sourced open book. So far, the startup has been doing really well.

The idea was born two and a half years ago, when Unsplash, now an online collection of high-resolution photos, were making a website and needed a nice photo to get it just right. They spent hours scouring ‘stock’ photography sites, but nothing hit. So they decided to team up with a local photographer and shoot our photos instead. They ended up using only one, so instead of letting the rest of the photos go to waste, we put them up on a $19 blog, called the site Unsplash, and gave them away for free.

They figured that if they had such a hard time finding good, hi-resolution photos, maybe a few other people were facing the same thing. The startup didn’t have to wait long to see that they were right. As soon as the website was finished, something that they never expected happened.

Within a few hours, those first photos were downloaded over 20,000 times. Unsplash hit the top of a few news sites and was spreading through the design community. Then something even more unexpected happened. People started submitting their photos, very good photos.

 “One of the things we’ve constantly been amazed by over the past few years is not just the quality of photographs that are submitted every single day to Unsplash, but also seeing what people do when given freedom to do whatever they want with those photos,” say the founders of Unsplash.

Unsplash is growing more and more every day, the same thing for its users. Because all of the photos on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero, they can be used for anything you want, without attribution.

“We grew up contributing to the open source community, and it just made sense for us to include photography in this sharing economy,”  says the company on its website.

In the past two and a half years, Unsplash photos have been downloaded more than 50 million times and used as a source of inspiration for writers like Deepak Chopra, companies like Apple, and musicians like Owl City.

An Unsplash photo in the streets of Tokyo. Unreal.

An Unsplash photo in the streets of Tokyo. Unreal.

What started as ten photos from 1 photographer has grown into a community of more than 30,000 photos from 8,000+ photographers. With almost half a billion photos viewed each month, Unsplash is now one of the fastest growing photography sites in the world.

Why make a book then?

“While we may have started it, Unsplash has only become what it has through the generosity of contributors. Because of this special group of people who have submitted photos copyright-free, we all have access to an unprecedented source of quality photography—a source of endless inspiration. We had to find some way to thank the people that made this happen,” Unsplash explaines.

While the Unsplash site is all about open access to beautiful photography, its founders stress that it’s been incredible to see how these photos have inspired people to make other things. The ability to create is in our DNA. Give anyone a spark of inspiration and they have the capacity to make something incredible. They wanted to find a way to showcase not just Unsplash photos but show how those photos connect to other forms of creation.

In the end, they created a 250-page, hardcover 9X12” book featuring more than 100 photographers handpicked by our community accompanied by original art pieces and essays from some of the world’s most innovative creators.

Then Unsplash reached out to supporters and people in its community to get their insight on different aspect of creativity, from how they find inspiration, to how they stay motivated, to how they create a meaningful life for themselves.

Some of the essays in the book are written by:

  • Lawrence Lessig (Founder of Creative Commons & 2016 Presidential Candidate)
  • Jeffrey Zeldman (Founder of A List Apart & the Godfather of web design)
  • Kirby Ferguson (Acclaimed filmmaker, writer, and creator of the Everything is a Remixseries)
  • Tobias van Schneider (Net awards 2015 Designer of the Year)
  • James Allworth (co-author of the New York Times bestselling How Will You Measure Your Life?)
  • Lauren Bath (Chef-turned-acclaimed travel photographer)
  • Dann Petty (Award winning designer and founder of the Epicurrence conference)
  • Stephanie Georgopulos (Writer and editor of Human Parts)
  • Paul Jarvis (Bestselling author, acclaimed designer, and freelancer guru)

Each of the book’s five main chapters focuses on a different aspect of the creative process: from inspiration to incubation, to finding space, and reflecting on what you’ve done. We wanted to capture deep thoughts on each of these topics and present them in a unique way.

“And while we’ve had a guiding hand in the process, the elements in the book have been entirely sourced from our community, with all decisions made through surveys and feedback—from the photos selected, to the title, cover, price, and materials used,” the company says.

It’s the first fully crowdsourced open photography book regarding its creation and compensation.

For the past few months, the startup has been working with Montreal-based design studio DeuxHuitHuit, crafting a gorgeous book that perfectly blends photography, illustrations, and essays with crisp physical materials.

Whether you read it from front to back or randomly flip through the pages, the Unsplash book has been designed to be a resource for anyone who makes or has the drive to make. The company hopes this book is something you can return to time and time again.

But if the photos are all free, why raise money?

“Presenting photos in the best way possible through print is expensive, but from the start we decided that it was important that this book gives something back to the community that created Unsplash,” the company explains.

After covering the costs of producing the book, Unsplash is planning to share profits made from this Kickstarter campaign with the book contributors. Here’s where the money will go:

To help with some of the cost and so they can give more, they’ve partnered with some companies who share the vision of this project and want to help see this book get made, including Luc BelaireSlack, ShopifySquarespace, imgixBench, and InVision.

And while we won’t be able to feature every Unsplash photographer in the book, even the amount we’ve set aside to cover our own costs will be reinvested back into Unsplash to help make it better for the thousands of photographers and millions of people who use it every month This is our chance to say thank you.  And the more funds we can raise, the more we can give.

Unsplash has prepared some perks for their supporters, just to say thank you. Here are some of them:

Unsplash Book supporter badge

Show your love for Unsplash and get a verified Unsplash supporter badge on your account. Unsplash currently has close to 1 million monthly members, and this will be one of the only opportunities to get the supporter badge.

Unsplash postcards

Printed on high-quality card stock and featuring some of the most popular Unsplash photography, this pack of five 4-1/4″ X 6″ postcards is perfect for saying hello to an old friend, writing a love letter, or just hanging on your wall.

The Unsplash Book

Designed from scratch by Montreal design studio Deuxhuithuit and featuring photos, essays, and original art pieces from 140+ contributors, this book is our pride and joy. Every major decision during the creation of this book was opened up to the Unsplash community making it the first ever fully open source photography book. Hundreds of hours have gone into this 250-page hardcover beauty, and we couldn’t be happier with how it has come together.

‘Make Something Awesome’ t-shirt

Custom designed and printed in Canada, this t-shirt embodies the ethos of Unsplash and is only available to Kickstarter backers.

Made-in-North America Unsplash sweatshirt 

This isn’t your dad’s old college sweatshirt. The company says it worked from the ground up creating the best fitting, softest, most comfortable crew neck sweatshirt possible. Every single detail from the stitching to the sizing to the subtle Unsplash logo was pained over. Only available through the Kickstarter campaign.

Curate a collection

For anyone in the creative community this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to add your name to the celebrated list of past Unsplash curators including:

  • Guy Kawasaki – Author, former Apple Fellow
  • M. G. Siegler – General Partner at Google Ventures
  • Chris Brogan – New York Times Bestselling author
  • Dale Partridge – Wall Street Journal bestselling author, founder of Sevenly
  • Brit Morin – Author and founder/CEO of Brit + Co
  • David Heinemeier Hansson – Creator of Ruby on Rails, Founder & CTO at Basecamp

The Kickstarter campaign will be the only time we will offer this opportunity to become an Unsplash curator.

As a special bonus to the Kickstarter community, Unsplash reserved one spot in the first chapter of the book for an essay submission from the community. You’ll get your words published alongside the other contributors, be a part of the first and only Unsplash Book, and be included in the profit share.

Head here to submit your essay. Deadline for submissions is December 2nd.

Unsplash highlights that this project is very important and unique for them.

“We came to Kickstarter because the community here is phenomenal.It’s a huge part of our new, connected economy where we work together to make awesome project ideas become real. Whatever you can give to this campaign will not only help make the Unsplash Book happen, but will act as a source of fuel for other creators around the world. It’s not always easy asking for financial support for a project, but thinking of money as another resource for creating and nurturing creativity in someone else is the greater goal we hope to accomplish.”


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The first fully crowd-sourced open book