The 'Visionnaire - Fine Writing Instruments,' to which I am not going to link, are a set of fountain pens on KickStarter that have generated a lot of buzz, both positive and negative.
From what I've seen, most of the positive feedback can be boiled down to "hey, that looks decently classy" or "oh man, I totally forgot fountain pens still existed!"
The price point also seems to be a winner for backers, laughably (we'll get back to this, don't worry!).
The negative reception, on the other hand, covers a bit more ground. First and foremost, there is a lot of doubt as to whether Morgan of BHG Design actually designed the pen. Many of his supporting claims about the design & manufacture of the pen are highly questionable, if not frequently inaccurate, misleading, or evasive. Compound this with the designer's admitted lack of knowledge in the field and a glossy campaign devoid of humanity. That's one nasty doubt-cloud for a kickstarter!
Now, when I saw this project weeks ago, my first thought was "don't I have a few Chinese pens just like that?" Yes
If you spend enough time going through the various Chinese pen manufacturers' catalogs, you'll find enough evidence that the Visionnaire is far from original. This might be the first time these components have all been in the same pen at the same time. It miiiiiight even be true that the mystery Chinese manufacturer is making new components for the Visionnaire, but that strikes me as very unlikely. I believe the backers' best-case scenario is that Morgan "designed" this pen from a wide array of pre-existing components. And as you can see, most of these highly similar pens are less than half the price of the Visionnaire (including shipping)!
One of the quickest claims to get shot down was the "Handcrafted in Germany Nib" - The nib is certainly not handcrafted in Germany, it's a (cheap) Chinese nib found in many different pens. The project page has finally been updated to reflect such.
That's not to say it's a bad nib, though it certainly lacks character. I even have one of those nibs in my Dani-Trio pen made for Sharper Image back in the '90s:
Here we've got a strikingly similar clip to the Visionnaire. The same clip that was sketched out and supposedly designed according to the campaign.
Another bad sign.
At this point, I think it's fair to be highly skeptical of the originality of the design.
Ok. Let's move on to the rhetoric used in the Kickstarter campaign.
"I decided to create the ultimate pen"
"Just like...a wedding ring...should have the same sense of value"
That's a high calling. For what?
Comparing this pen to the likes of a Parker or Montblanc is pointless. It has no internal filling mechanism, no choice of nib size/style, no legacy of invention, no lavish materials used in its construction.
It should instead be compared to entry-level fountain pens of a more practical nature. Let's compare it to a Lamy Safari or a Pilot Metropolitan or TWSBI 580. Both of the former are made of durable materials, have swappable nibs, are widely available from reputable companies, and cost significantly less than the Visionnaire. If we compare it to a TWSBI 580, it's also lacking an internal filling mechanism.
So let's double back to the Visionnaire's construction. It's being manufactured in China (supposedly) based on the design of Morgan, located in the US. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with many Chinese manufacturers. However, most of their brands are notorious for having significant quality control issues (loose fittings, faulty converters, misaligned nibs, etc...). Considering the project manager has admitted to being unfamiliar with fountan pens, yet he'll be the one doing the quality control, this makes the problem more complex.
I've backed plenty of Kickstarter pens, all with different design+manufacturing situations. KarasKustoms has a product designer in-house. Now&Then Eco seemed to be bi-coastal, working in the US and in Taiwan with their manufacturer. Chad & Joe from BigIDesign are 'located' in Chicago but work out of China, near their manufacturer. In their Kickstarter campaigns they all demonstrated a working relationship between design & construction teams, showing multiple stages of prototyping, video/photo of the manufacturing in-progress, etc.. All of those campaigns took the time to distinguish themselves as people - people who would be working to produce your product, correct problems, edit as necessary, and deliver the goods. The Visionnaire's pitch has been so glossy and theoretical that I just can't trust it. Maybe Morgan just wanted to have a stylized & professional pitch? But that's not what I've come to trust on Kickstarter.
All that aside. Here's how I feel:
Best-case scenario: The Visionnaire is a fresh creation from Morgan & his manufacturer that just happens to be very similar to products I already own. It turns out to be well-constructed (but with a nib I invariably swap out or grind down). Then it moves to open resale. If resold at the proposed retail $80, it invariably falls flat compared to competition with significantly more options and historical presence.
Worst-case scenario: Why should I pay exponentially more for a "palette swapped" Hero or Jinhao pen that already exists? If this is little more than a re-branded product, what am I kick-funding? I certainly wouldn't kickstart Kroger to re-package Cheerios as their in-house Big K cereal. I'm clearly not investing in an inventor, in a machine shop, in a legitimate design firm which I can trust. And I'm certainly not investing in a guy with a vision.