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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Art Licensing: POD E-Stores - The Best-Kept Secret of Birthday Card Designers

E-Stores (online/electronic stores) are becoming more and more popular on the Internet. Consumers have found that it an efficient way to search for products with the best prices, find products that local retailers no longer stock, and search for unique and personalized products for gifts. Depending on the type of product(s) sold, owners of e-stores can take advantage of printing on demand (POD) to keep a low inventory, and sell personalized products. Personalized products appeal to a smaller number of consumers (niche) and usually are not available in retail stores.

The e-store Blow Birthday Cards is a wonderful example on why Internet POD stores are created. As founder and CEO, Jerry McLaughlin explains, “Somewhere around my 50th birthday I realized that I wasn’t doing a good job of sending real birthday cards to my good friends. I always meant to, but I often missed the opportunity. Too busy with work, too busy with kids, not enough time to get to the store, etc. I wanted to be the person that always remembers to send a card, because my friends are very special. I knew I needed a system if I was going to be able to change my ways. I created Blow Birthday Cards so I could always get a birthday card on time to each of my special friends – and now I do :) “

Below is an article by Jerry about why he thinks an POD e-store with unique greeting cards is fulfilling consumer wishes that is lacking in retail stores.

The Best-Kept Secret of Birthday Card Designers

By Jerry McLaughlin
Founder & CEO of Blow Birthday Cards

Birthdays are a gift – a once a year chance to tell our friends and loved ones that they are special to us without either of us having to feel weird about bringing it up.

But even on a day dedicated to celebrating a special person in our lives, saying what we want to say can be hard. So, for the same reason that the President has speechwriters, we rely on birthday card designers to awaken shared memories, make us laugh or blush, and give voice to our deepest feelings.

But is that what birthday card designers are doing for us today?

Not so much. Yes it’s true that Americans bought 1.7 million birthday cards today, just like they do every day. But most of those shoppers say they would have liked to find a more special card.

What makes a birthday card special?
A special birthday card recalls for both the giver and the recipient a specific shared memory, revels in a shared sense of humor, or reveals a sincere feeling.

To evoke a shared memory we need a specific trigger. For example, let’s say you and your wife shared your first kiss on a camping trip with friends; you know she’ll appreciate a card that captures a couple kissing outside of a tent or a whimsical camping scene.

Why aren’t we making specialized cards that customers crave?
The historical root of the problem is in the high cost of running a retail store. Every successful retailer knows space in the store is precious. So before they dedicate some of that precious space to a birthday card design, they’ve got to expect to sell a lot of that same design. Therefore they have to offer designs that will appeal to almost everyone that comes in looking for a birthday card. The result is a lot of cards on the shelf that are suitable for anyone, meaning they are special for no one.

Designing for online is different
In my view, too often independent designers are trying to out-Hallmark Hallmark. They are designing cards that will have the broadest possible appeal. But rather than fight the big card companies head on, designers can make cards that reference very specific interests, objects, activities, experiences, or sentiments. These specialized cards don’t appeal to everyone, but they appeal very strongly to enough buyers to make the designer very successful, and appreciated. The watchwords of the successful independent birthday card designer are “specialized” and “insightful”.

At Blow Birthday Cards, we also focus more on finding great designers than on finding great cards. We look for designers whose birthday cards have visual or verbal elements that relate to some narrow interest or specific aspect of life. For example, we prefer a yoga card to an exercise card. The more specialized the card, the more perfectly it will fit someone.

Writers (more than) welcome
While visual artists have created some great birthday cards, people that think of themselves more as storytellers have designed many of the best birthday cards. The great birthday card is an effective communication, like a great advertisement.

So-- what’s the best-kept secret?
In a country with 330 million birthdays this year, a card that is so specialized that it is perfect for someone you know will be perfect for 100,000 other people too. Those are the birthday cards customers cannot find in stores. Those are the birthday cards that sell online. Those are the birthday cards customers really want.

Note: Blow Birthday Cards is a member of Art Licensing Show (ALSC) and artist members can connect with Jerry McLaughlin. Artist "profile members" can also show him their art on the ALSC website.

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example:

Monday, September 5, 2016

Art Licensing Editorial: Do artists need to create collections?

In the art licensing industry, the most heard answer to questions asked is "it depends". And that is also the answer to the question on whether artists need to create art collections. A collection has many meanings and the following discusses the reason why some types of collections should be created while others may not be needed.

• What is a collection?
A collection can be images that are organized in various ways, or complimentary images created for a specific product, or complementary images and associated designs created for use on multiple products. All these type of collections are useful when submitting to manufacturer art directors (ADs) for licensing consideration and for placing on websites so that ADs can easily find the art they are interested it.

#A - images organized by themes etc.
The advantage in organizing art into collections of themes, seasons, holidays, or occasions is that it is easier for ADs to find art they are interested in licensing and thus the more often they will visit the artist/agent website. Also ADs request art for particular seasons, holidays, and themes. So if the art is already organized into those collections it is easier for the artist to find and submit the art.

The following are possible ways to organize art into collections.
1. Themes - coastal, beaches, nautical; patriotic; birds, birdhouses; butterflies and insects; flowers and gardens; food and wine; inspirational sayings; Lodge
2. Seasons - fall, winter, spring, summer
3. Holidays - Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Fourth of July
4. Occasions - anniversary, baby birth/shower, back to school, birthday, graduation, wedding

#B - images organized by product type
Some artists organize their art on their website into collections by the type of product that it was created for. For example, the product collections could be greeting cards, gift bags and wrap, decorative flags, fabrics, and tableware.

#C - images formatted various ways
A collection can be one main image that is formatted various ways such as vertical, horizontal, square, and round. Formatting an image different ways takes time but it could increase the likelihood in being licensed. For instance, the greeting card industry produces cards that are vertical, horizontal and sometimes square and round although vertical images significantly out number horizontal images. And, many decorative flag companies sell doormats and mailbox wraps besides vertical flags so they need both vertical and horizontal images. By submitting various formatted art to card companies may mean getting a deal or not. For instance, if the image was submitted only as a vertical format and the AD decided that the image would look better as horizontal then it may not be licensed. And, by submitting images in both formats to flag companies, additional products (mat, mailbox wrap) have a better chance in being licensed instead of only a flag.

Artists typically create art that is vertical since it is the most used format for products. It is true that companies sometimes ask for changes when they are considering licensing an image. But not all companies have the time to wait for images to be reformatted and instead they license art that has already been formatted numerous ways. Also, if the art is already formatted it is ready to go when artists wish to submit art for coasters, plates, etc. (square and round), OR placemats, serving trays, cutting mats, rugs, etc. (horizontal). Thus, having art formatted several ways can be a time saver in the long run and also increase the possibility in licensing the art.

#D - series of complimentary images for a product
This type of collection is two or more images that compliment each other. It is created for one or more specific type of products such as boxed greeting cards, calendars, fabric for the quilting industry, dinnerware, coaster sets, paper party ware, wall d├ęcor, gift bags, etc. Creating this type of collection is time consuming and since it is created for a specific type of product(s) it may not be usable to be licensed for other products.

#E - series of images with complimentary images for use on multiple products
When art collections are discussed in the art licensing industry, this is the type of collection that is often implied. It is a series of images including patterns, icons and borders that compliment the images for use on multiple products. Some successful licensed artists recommend that the collection consist of 1. at least four central images; 2. one rectangular, circular, oval, and square frame; 3. at least three borders with different widths; 4. at least several repeating patterns; 5. several backgrounds; 6. at least six or more supplemental icons, 7. text if it is appropriate. The intention on creating this type of collection is that most of the art is already finished before submitting to ADs so the art is ready for multiple products with minor editing needed. And, the art has a better chance in being licensed because the AD can choose from a selection of looks instead of only one.

The drawback in creating this type of art collection is that it is VERY time consuming resulting in artists not being able to create as many different images and have less art to submit for licensing consideration. Also, not all of the recommended components in the collection as listed above can be used on all products. It is a waste of time in creating them if they will not be used. Thus, I recommend that if you want to do this type of collection you create a modified version of it depending on the kind of products the collection are intended for.

• Are collections necessary?
As discussed in #A and #B, it is very useful to organize art into collections. Thus, I recommend that art be organized into at least #A collection.

To increase the opportunity in licensing art for more products, it is probably a good idea to create collections as discussed in #C unless there is no need to format art in various ways. For instance, surface designs are created as repeating patterns for fabrics, scrapbooking and other paper products. There are few opportunities to license repeating pattern designs for products that require formats other than square and maybe vertical so it is not necessary to format the designs as round or horizontal.

Many artists think that all the art they create will be suitable to be licensed for ANY kind of product. Unfortunately that may not be true. Art that is licensable depends on whether it incorporates the current trends, themes and art styles wanted by consumers. Not every product or even each manufacturer in the same product industry uses the same specifications so the art may be only licensable for one, a few, or many types of products. For instance, intricate and collage styled art that was created for jigsaw puzzles (i.e. a bunch of children playing in the snow) would not be licensable for many other products such as decorative flags, tableware, shower curtains and bathroom accessories. Therefore, there is no reason to create a collection of art as described in #E if the art is not licensable for a wide range of products.

However, collections are necessary if the artist wishes to license their art to manufactures that sell products as collections that are listed in collection #D.

• Conclusion
As mentioned in this article, it depends on whether artists should create collections of their art. Some should be created such as #A while others like #E may not be needed; at leased for all art. Creating collections, especially for #E, is very time consuming and if the art is not suitable for a wide variety of products it is a waste of time creating them.

Some artists intentionally begin their licensing career by creating art for only one product industry such as greeting cards, or fabrics. Others may discover by accident that their art tends to be more licensable for one industry than others. So there is no need to create collections #D or #E. However, once they are successful in licensing their art for the one product and decide to branch out into other industries, it may be time to create collections for art that is suitable for a variety of products.

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example: