Monday, September 21

Lessons Learned

It's been quite some time since I've updated this blog. Why so long? Life, work, general business. I've learned that it's quite hard to keep going on a project such as this when so many other things need attention. I have thought about how to turn this blog into something more useful, something I would enjoy writing in everyday and something which may be of interest to other designers. I can only say, at this point, is that I want to do my best to update more often. With what? I'm not totally sure yet, but it will come to me. In the meantime, go take a look at my Typography students' first entries into their type journals. Their first assignment was to find naturally occurring letterforms. The links are down there on the right hand side.


Thursday, June 11

Licensing Part 2 - Getting Started

If you haven't read Part One, click here.

Licensing is not a hard field to break in to, though it does require patience and time. The first step is to determine which types of goods and merchandise on which you feel your art would work best. Does it lend itself to greeting cards, gift wrap/bags, notebooks, stickers, bedding, t-shirts, wall art, ceramics, etc. Go to the store, look around and search for things in which you can say, "My art would look great on something like that." Once you've found those items, take note of who manufactured the product. If you pick up similar items, you may notice overlap of manufacturers. The same manufacturer may create greeting cards, gift wrap and notebooks. Write this information down. Also take note of the styles of designs the manufacturers use.

The next step is to create your portfolio. You may have a great style but your work is not likely ready for submission. Look at the category in which you think you'll fit. What does the art look like? Look at your own work. Do you need to create patterns, scenes, more character driven art, etc. Best advice given to me is once I have a piece of art created, I should create at least 3 more pieces of art to go with it using the same or similar elements and color. Create a series using your original art as the basis. Personally, I create one scene and, at minimum, three patterns to go with the scene, often picking up elements directly. Sometimes I add in a cup, plate and napkin for art I think would work well on paper party goods.

In terms of stationery, think about the categories as well. You have Birthday, Holiday (general referred to as Christmas/Winter), Other Holiday (the rest of them - Easter, Valentine's Day, St. Patty's Day, Memorial Day, etc.) and Everyday (Wedding, Baby, Congrats, etc.). Does your art fulfill these needs? What can you do to have a good range? You may have new art to create to have a varied portfolio but just remember to stay true to your style. You may not have a style that's good for wedding. That's ok, just beef up another category instead.

Stay tuned for Part Three - I have a portfolio, now what?

Sunday, June 7

Tiny Art Director

I need to interrupt my Licensing talk with a brief mention about a fantastic blog. Tiny Art Director is a blog about a father (and artist) and his now four year old daughter who gives him requests as to what to draw and whose critique is recorded after she is presented with the finished piece. It is hilarious and not unlike some remembrances of meetings with difficult clients. And, his work/his daughter's critiques will now be available in book form (Spring 2010 from Chronicle). I, for one, will be purchasing said book to bring levity after a particularly rough client interactions.

Check it out.

Wednesday, June 3

Licensing Art Part 1 - Definitions

See that little bag in the middle? The one with the blue monster and orange background? That is one of my many licensed images, manufactured by Garven LLC and sold at Target. Pretty cool, huh?

Illustrating is a lonely, hard road as a career choice. There is a variety of options: comic books, children's books, editorial (magazines and newspapers), medical, advertising, packaging, etc. The biggest challenge is getting people to 1. see your work and 2. want to use your work instead of stock.

Licensing is one more way to earn an income (albeit it's the get rich slow method) and one can never have too much money, right? Licensing is allowing someone else to use your work for a particular product for a limited time. You earn and advance and royalities on your art and everyone wins. You still maintain the copyright and still maintain the right to license the work again to a non-competitive client. For example, you allow licensing of your art for a gift bag. Someone else approaches you to use it on a baby bib. You have the right to allow both to use it thereby increasing your income with the same piece of art.

Note: An advance is an upfront payment to you which comes from projected royalties. Royalties is a percentage of sales and can be based upon manufacturing, wholesale or retail sales figures. You don't receive royalty payments until the amount of money exceeds what they paid you for the advance.

One can also do Limited Use Rights which is a form of licensing. That's when a company pays a certain amount (usually much more than a standard advance) to use your art on a specific product for a specific amount of time. There are no royalties involved. This is not selling your art outright, however. You still maintain the copyright for this option as well. If the company wants to use the art on a second product, they owe you another payment.

Last way to sell your art is to Sell it Outright. Many companies try for this method as it's most economical for them. This means they pay you for a piece of art and you hand it and your copyright over to them. They are then allowed to put it on as many products as they wish without having to pay you again for it.

I prefer to License or do Limited Use Rights as I am not a prolific illustrator. I can't produce a piece a day for 365 days a year. If I did, then maybe I could Sell Art Outright and not feel like I sold a piece of my soul.

Stay tuned for Part 2 - How To Break In To Licensing

Monday, May 18

Great Packaging

At a dinner I recently attended ordered tea with my dessert. The waitress brought out a selection I had never seen before—Timothy's™. While I find the type something to be desired, I very much like the triangular packaging. I was also pleased that the tea bag itself was shaped as a triangle.
Finding a package which is suitable and aesthetically pleasing is always a challenge for a package designer. Additionally, creating a package that can be machined is equally as difficult if the end result is something other than a square. In this example, the designer was able to create a shape which would uniquely stand out in the standard tea box presented in a restaurant. It made choose this tea over packet teas. My only issue with this structure is that the tip gets easily damaged—see the Earl Grey package as an example.
This is a great example as to why a designer should always ask "What can I do to make this (insert type of project here) unique?"

Sunday, May 10

Papyrus- What will we do with you?

The SCBWI conference I attended was a smashing success. Great speakers and fabulous advice was abundant. Everything was going great until a speaker began his PowerPoint presentation and used a font so terrible I was distracted the rest of the day.

It was *gasp* Papyrus. I know you can feel my horror, but do you know why other that you've been taught to never use it?

Papyrus was developed by American designer Chris Costello in 1982 and was released by Letraset. Its goal was to feel like something handwritten on 2000 year old papyrus. Regardless of how I personally feel about the font, I can't argue that it missed its goal. The font does indeed give that feel. So what's the problem?

Papyrus has become the default font for any designer (or non-designer) who wants an elegant antique feel. This has led to the prolific overuse of the font over time. It's found on Arizona iced tea, Bakery signs, PowerPoint presentations and just about anywhere else you can think of. It also generally accepted that its usage is a clear indication that the user is not a trained designer. My students certainly know not to use it. In fact, they sometimes turn in "joke" projects using the font to see how long it takes for me to notice. The average time is .04 seconds.

When is it acceptable to use the font? It may be used for something that is representative of a 2000 year old papyrus manuscript. That's it. No exceptions. If you want an antiqued look, do it yourself by utilizing custom brushes in Photoshop. If you want it to look old, draw it by hand.