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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Art Licensing: 2011 Trends

Many color and design trends in art licensing seem to be influenced by the fashion industry and then trickle down to crafts, scrapbooking, home decor and finally to the various gift industries. Thus, some of the colors and design elements seen in fashion and clothing design become prevalent years later in licensed art such as exotic animal fur designs, textured backgrounds, stylized floral & leaves, and more recently a grungy-collage art style. Therefore, by following the fashion industry is a good way to determine what design elements and style "may" eventually become popular for product art.

Other trends, originate with events and social concerns existing in the U.S. and around the world such as the Olympic games, museum exhibitions, major movies, the economy, etc. Artists that are attuned to these events, create the right art, have existing connections with manufacturers and convince them to produce trend forward products will be at the forefront of these future trends. For instance, the first artists that created red and purple motifs were able to easily license them when the short lived Red Hat Society mania hit in the mid 2000s. And artists that had teddy bear art before the 100th anniversary of the teddy bear in 2002 received lots of licensing deals. More recently some artists saw art licensing opportunities with the consumer interest in Green America and created art for recycled and ecology related products. But of course, some artists just so happened to have the right art when a trend emerged such as patriotic art stemming from the aftermath of 911.

Pantone is one of the major color trend setters for various industries (fashion, home decor, etc.). And these industries follow Pantone and other color predictions each year. For instance, the Atlanta gift show last January had an abundance of turquoise colored products displayed after Pantone announced that turquoise was the 2010 Color of the Year. The 2009 color of the year was mimosa (bright ochre). Pantone stated in myPantone tweet site that "Each PANTONE COLOR OF THE YEAR reflects the Zeitgeist (defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history) & provides an emotionally relevant color inspiration for the year." They have not announced the 2011 Color of the Year yet but I assume that there will soon be a proliferation of products with the color once it is made known.

Not all trend predictions become true. But below are links to a few articles on the expected trends for color, art and home d├ęcor in 2011.
• "For Spring 2011, the Fashion Color Palette Takes an Inspired Journey of Exotic Hues"

• "2011 Color Forecast by Sherwin-Williams Paint Company"

• "Interior design trends for 2011 will reflect on ancestry"

• "Home Design Trends For 2011 Stress Green, Art And Timelessness"

In my opinion, it is not imperative for you to predict trends in order to be successful in licensing your art. Trying to predict trends can be iffy. You can be ahead of a trend or misread it while the art created for it languishes in your studio. It is more important to be true to your art style, learn what your customers (manufacturers, retail stores, and consumers) are looking for, continually create new art, and make your art fresh and new looking. However, I must admit that I do follow trends to a certain degree and use ones in my new collections that makes sense for my art style. Read art licensing agent, Suzanne Cruise article "How to Keep Art Fresh & New: Reworking Old Art for Today's Greeting Card Market" for information and examples on evolving art and links to other articles on this subject.

Make sure that you read the comments to this article.  Licensing experts have "chimed in" and have posted important information. Thanks to all who took the time to post their questions and the experts who shared their knowledge! ! !

I welcome any comments. Please write them in the below comment section.


  1. Hello! I just love your blog! Your blog is one of the few I truly follow in order to get more information about art licensing and other interesting articles. The other ones are listed in your sidebar ^_^. I'm just starting to know the illustration business and there is so much information out there that it can be difficult to sift through the information.

    Like trend watching. At first I only have a link with this when I think about fashion. But it makes total sense that it applies to the illustration business as well. I agree that you need to pick the elements you want to display in your art and stay true to yourself when you create something.

    Thanks so much for everything!
    Take care, TJ

  2. Joan,

    You're awesome! This is very valuable information.

  3. Hi Joan,

    Thanks for the article and links colour trends is still something I'm trying to get my head around. I've noticed that the colour forecasts for fashion versus home/interior are quite different. Do you have any experience on which is more likely to be favoured in Greeting Card designs? Or are greeting Card colour trends unique again?
    Thanks again for all the great info and advice!!
    Brooke Luder

  4. Hi Brooke,
    I'm not the person to ask about color trends for greeting cards. I'll try to get Kate Harper (greeting card guru) to chime in. And any comments from other card designers would be appreciated.

  5. Hi Joan,
    Your article on trends is excellent. It helped to understand that the fashion industry trends often trickle down to crafts, scrap booking and home decor and this insight gives us newbies a starting point when we design the next collection in our portfolios. Thank you Joan.

  6. Hi Brooke. I work for a geeting card/stationery company called Carol Wilson Fine Arts. I would agree with Joan that the gift industry is the last to follow the color trends. I follow the home decor trends since they're closer to the bottom of the "trickle down" and therefore closer to the gift industry or greeting cards.


  7. To Anonymous about greeting card trends...I think the most important thing about cards is the colors should not be dark (avoid browns, blacks) but rather they should be bright and uplifting. If you scan any card rack you will see that. Sometimes stores don't like the color green either. There is also the issue of not crowding the card with too many colors. Adding black accents (outlines, tiny parts) is a nice accent.

  8. Hi Joan,
    Thanks for the great article and links! As a product development person I follow trends but I also study demographics. I believe that great new products arise organically from consumer needs, and the best way to predict upcoming consumer needs is to study the macro trends which affect the different generations (e.g. baby boomers, gen x, millenniums). Remember when eye glass trays were popular a few years ago? That was when someone realized that the bulk of the baby boomers were hitting the age where their eyesight was changing, predicted increased sales of reading glasses and further predicted that people would be looking for attractive places to put their new eyeglasses. Trying to determine what different demographic groups will be needing, in combination with studying trends, can give a savvy designer an edge when it comes to licensing-- if they have the ability to think about the types of products that they want to see their art on. I don't know if everyone is aware that it is possible to license BOTH a product concept AND the art that is applied to that product. Thus designers who have the ability to concept new product ideas and then show how their art will look on that product certainly have an advantage. From an art licensing stand-point it helps if you come up with product concepts which are enhanced by your own surface design style.

    Thanks for all you do for the Art Licensing community-- you are AMAZING!!

    With appreciation,
    Joanne Fink

  9. Pantone is ONE source of information. Keep in mind, PMS (Pantone matching system) was designed to aid Designers, manufacturers, printers, factories, etc. in their communication efforts. Having a visual reference, ink formulas, etc. helps the process of getting a product off the drawing board and into the consumers hands in the way the Designer intended. It was not developed as a trend source but Pantone has evolved over time and, while continues to meet the original intent, it also delves into trend directions. They are not the ultimate source or voice. The Color Marketing Group is a color trend collaboration of world wide product designers in all industries including homegoods, fashion, consumer goods, textiles, etc. For further reading, visit their website.
    These are the professionals who collectively decide what colors are next, based on their experience, geographic location and process development (industry capabilities, new techniques, etc.) They discuss not only color, but what is influencing color trends worldwide. Pantone people do attend and participate in these events, along with many, many others. No one person or company proclaims certain is a huge group of designers coming together, in summit like meetings held the world over. If you are a working professional designer with proven experience, you can join CMG and participate in this. I was a member last year and will be re-joining this coming year. As a member, you receive "report backs" from the summits, even if you don't attend. Keep in mind, the information you receive from them is proprietary, not for publication or sharing. As a member, you will have the advantage of knowing what is next. It is expensive but depending on your circumstances, joining can give you an advantage over your competition, especially if you design for home goods which have a longer product cycle. For greeting would not be worth your money. As Kate said, happy color is all you need to know for social expressions.

  10. at my work, we follow cmg and pantone.

  11. Indeed a pretty valuable information you got here. You just gained a new follower. Keep posting :)