Product Art & Design Trends – 2015

14 01 2015

Monochromatic of Puget SoundHere is what I’m seeing as key art and design trends for 2015. I polled fashion blogs, home décor sites, retailers, trade publications and a variety of sources. See how my list compares to your trip to AmericasMart. I welcome your thoughts and examples.


A mix of colors, imagery & themes

  • Farm to table
  • Metalics (the new neutral)
  • Gray (still a top neutral)
  • Library cozy
  • Natural wood
  • Octagons
  • Nature mixed with mod designs
  • Deep blue (Greek Isles)
  • Digital world influencing print
  • Retro—70s bohemian still with us but here come 80s & 90s
  • Space ‘the new frontier’
  • Opulence/luxury
  • All things royal (continues)
  • Weddings

Here’s a link to Pantone’s Spring Color Report, so you can check out their line-up.

Pantone Spring Color Report 2015

Lastly, I want to add a few notes from a fascinating conversation I had with a manufacturer recently.  He mentioned how ‘fluidity’ is really important right now because we’re fighting back from such a major recession. I see the fluidity in the neutral colors all combined together, lots of beautiful monochromatic scenes.  Then pops of color or white.

Humor is important. Optimism and inspiration are key. And, of course, looking back to wonderful days gone by and ahead to a brighter future.  I can actually see everything he was talking about in the list I gathered from a wide variety of sources.

I couldn’t get to AmericasMart this year, but I can’t wait to read about everyone’s experiences this year! How are the trends influencing your thinking and designs?

(My thanks to Sara Chapman for her Monochromatic Photo of Puget Sound, more of her photography can be found at Love That Image. Where else but Seattle should you go for images of gray…our trendy neutral.)

12 Crucial Consumer Trends for 2012

3 01 2012

When evaluating your year-end business results and projecting for the New Year, don’t forget to look at current and emerging trends.  In my blog yesterday, Easy Two-Step Business Plan for 2012, I asked the question: “What trends do you expect for 2012 that will affect your business negatively and positively?”  Exploring the latest trends will change the way you think about your art and business. And new thinking is almost always good!

One of the best ways to learn about trends is to connect with and their latest trend briefing 12 Crucial Consumer Trends for 2012.  It’s an eye-opener.  Just reading down the list I can already imagine many new ways that art will express these trends for consumers and show up on products.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the report, in which I see a direct relationship to art licensing:

“…brands that behave more humanly, including exposing their flaws, will be awesome” and

“…younger consumers in almost every market will embrace brands that push the boundaries. Expect frank, risqué or non-corporate products, services and campaigns from emerging markets to be on the rise.”

One of the challenges of being ahead-of-the-curve and on-trend is the process of interpreting the trends themselves and seeing how they relate to consumers and then translating that into art for licensing.  Again, I will refer to the experts at who understand this problem and have come up with 15 Trend Tips which are all about moving beyond looking at trends to actually interacting with them.  I recommend reading this section, even more than the trends themselves, so you can learn how to translate, discern, engage, experience, show, express and apply trends in your everyday life and in your art licensing business!  Make it your 2012 must read, and sign-up to receive their free trend briefings.

Rule #8

17 10 2011

Develop a significant licensing portfolio. 

You need a significant portfolio geared toward surface design for a variety of product categories. It is really important to have the portfolio organized before you launch into the Art Licensing arena, since you can never make another first impression.

In Art Licensing, your portfolio is going to be presented in a collection format. When we talk about a certain number of collections, keep in mind that each collection is going to have multiple pieces of art—central images, borders, patterns, and borders (or possibly some combination of them). These are the elements you and the manufacturer will choose from to pull together your product designs.

Imagine yourself walking into a mid-tier retailer during Easter season. In addition to the candy and baskets, they will have melamine and ceramic serve-ware for everyentertaining need.  Essentially the merchandiser will display small bowls, big bowls, baskets, bunny-shaped plates, large platters, pitchers and perhaps egg and bunny shaped décor items and candle holders. This is their seasonal display, or product line.

If you want to see your art on these products in the future, you are not going to create one piece of art to slap on all of those different shapes and sizes of products. You need to think about developing a cohesive collection of art—the images, borders, and patterns—that will all work together to create this product line. You need to think and prepare even more, because you need to show the manufacturer how all those artistic components work together and apply to their line of products.

It takes quite a bit of work up front to develop these types of complete collections, let alone 10-30 of them. But, frankly, the more collections you can create, and the more significant your portfolio is, the more licensing business you’ll do. There’s no doubt in my mind that the more you have to offer and the more people you contact, the more deals you’re going to get. That’s just a truism of sales.

Rule #6

6 10 2011

Educate yourself about retail channels.  

It is important to have a clear understanding of the types of licensed products you want your art to appear on, as well as which type of retail channels, and retailers, carry those types of products.

Art licensing doesn’t mean you need to be in Wal-Mart. And while the landscape is always changing, today there are more products featuring licensed art sold in specialty retail channels (Spencer’s Gifts, Hot Topic, etc.), independent retailers (privately owned gift or card stores), and upscale department and chain stores (Bloomingdales, Nordstrom’s, etc.). And less than half of licensed art on products are sold through mass-market channels.

You need to think about where you want your product to ‘live at retail,’ and then plot your strategy for getting there. You, as the licensor (artist), need to make a decision as to where your art fits on products—what type of products, retail price points and retail channels are best for your style of art, and the brand you want to build. And when you make that decision, then you have to stick with it and be determined to make it happen.

There are a lot of manufacturers out there who will get you in department stores, but they also have distribution in drug stores, deep discounters and even ‘dollar’ stores. It’s up to you to ask about a manufacturers’ channel(s) of distribution and to come to an agreement as to where your product will be distributed.

No discussion of retail channels would be complete without the dual acknowledgement that retailers today are being held hostage by the economy, corporate mergers and price-driven consumers, while at the same time acting as the gatekeepers who hold the key to distribution (or not!) for manufacturers. This means retailers are both unusually stressed and powerful at the same time.

Regarding your art licensing business, keep in mind those retailers—whether brick and mortar, catalogs, or online e-tailers—allow or prevent the flow of products to consumers. So, they can help you reach consumers, or they can prevent your licensed products from reaching the consumers’ hands.

Today there are more and more online retailers who can take your art from production all the way to the consumer. But online sales of art licensing products are still miniscule compared to the level sold at brick and mortar retailers.

So, retailers still have the ultimate power. But years from now we may be stating something entirely different here. Understanding who the gatekeeper is—who has the power in an industry—will absolutely affect your marketing plan and how you create and manage your business.


26 09 2011

Know your skills.

Art talent isn’t enough to make it in the Art Licensing industry. Even more interesting is the fact that you may do very well in Art Licensing for any number of other reasons. For example, your art skills may be good; they may even be awesome!  But you could be incredibly successful in Art Licensing because you can market yourself better than other artists. Perhaps you have the innate ability to capture the attention of various media outlets, or you have a large following of active and demanding fans (which would be is very appealing to manufacturers).

I’ve seen artists make lots of money because they appeal to a certain niche audience (not a small niche, but one that’s large enough to warrant mass market attention) that is peaking and has a current need for art. Maybe an artist loves creating holiday themed art, for which there is always a need. Art Licensing is a commercial industry, so artists who have a distinctive style, enjoy creating a certain theme, and who also appeal to huge audiences have more potential for income than others.

Other skills that affect your Art Licensing business potential are:

Technical Skills

You definitely need computer and technical skills, or access to them. If you don’t have them, you need to get them or find a partner that does, because people will no longer put up with artists not having internet access, high resolution scans, layered files, etc.

Product Design Capabilities

If you can envision your art on products, then show your art to manufacturers on product mock-ups to help them. This is a really important skill set today and is going to help put you in the league of serious art licensors.

Trend Watching

Not everybody is going to be a trendsetter, because that takes a lot of forward thinking.You may have that, or you may just love to watch trends, and can keep up with them. Either way, don’t avoid learning about trends and seeing how your art can interpret them.

Entrepreneurial Abilities

Artists need entrepreneurial skills more than ever!  And we’ll talk more about this later…

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