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Entering Design Competitions

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Are you tired of making bad decisions as a designer? Do you want a little fame? Don’t close the door, don’t run, don’t drive past the video store, make sure you can be the last one standing. When I say; “be the last one standing”, I’m talking about you (a designer) potentially winning a design competition.

For 2009, one way you can make the leap from junior to senior – intermediate to pro, is to enter design competitions, finish in the top tier and eventually win. Now, I don’t have the formula to winning design competitions, (that’s not what this blog post is about) but I will give you the push that you should be entering more design competitions. Search them out, hit up Google, check your local newspaper, AdBusters usually has a listing every once in awhile. I can already hear some of you talented people saying; “design competitions are an absolute waste of time, they’re artificial, the best work never wins, and I’d rather be paid for my efforts or spend my time attracting new clients…”

There are lots of people with the same attitude expressed above, but if your work did receive some accolades and won, you’d automatically be on the other side of the fence. You’d be contacting the local media, telling your friends, framing the certificate on the wall, and putting the prize money to good use. You would realize how sweet it is to win a design prize. I have an extremely trusting view of design contests, I try to enter as many as I can on the premise that if I do win I will have a great promotional opportunity, and receive some peer approval. Despite the detractors, it is in fact usually the best work that wins and you never know what sort of opportunities will result. Make sure you enter carefully, try to have the best odds possible, and watch out for entry fees, although being entered in a contest with entry fees can make you strive higher than you ever had before.

Win or lose, pass or fail, the number one reason to enter design competitions, is that your creativity and inspiration will get a little jolt, and you will really have to work hard on your design. You will realize this during the creation process, and at the final stages, you should have a work that it is ready for your portfolio and that you are truly proud of.

Art Blog: WordPress or Blogspot?

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So you’ve realized that a blog might be the path to expanding your art-creation-based-lifestyle. You want to attract people in droves to look at your art, listen to what you had for lunch, and give you input on your projects. One way to do this is to have a blog, but not just any blog, you want a relatively successful one, and one that gives you the flexibility you need as an artist. You change your mind all the time, and are obsessed with layouts. You like muted colours one minute and vibrant ones the next. So what are you to do, should you be a WordPress experimentalist or a Blogspot pro?

I’ve used both and feel that I can give you a true recommendation on what would be best for you as an artist or creative designer.

The facts are these, there are thousands of blogs that call Blogspot home and hundreds that have daily readership, comment boards that are jam packed with responses to posts, and provide worthy info or breaking news in the world of sports, entertainment, etc. However, I’ve found that every Blogspot blog I come across appears dated, uninspired and a carbon copy of someone else’s. Face it, if you can’t find a way to separate yourself from the herd, you have no way to set yourself apart. On top of that you also have the evil ‘.blogspot.com’ URL which can really give you an unfavourable stereotype. Let’s make this geography become irrelevant.

Blogspot has recently allowed users to create their own domain, or use their Blogspot on their FTP, which is helpful but in some cases you will be stranded with the boring layouts, the non Web 2.0 look and still a stereotype. As an artist, if you’d like to be cutting edge you should definitely check out WordPress.

Using and learning WordPress for the first time is an uphill battle and one that might lead to a frustrating bout with your computer. You’ll find the experience rewarding in the end with your final product. You’ll be left with something that is truly yours and completely adaptable to what you want to convey, whether its content, art, pictures, video, etc. The reason I said frustrating earlier was because of WordPress’ reliance on CSS and PHP, and if you haven’t had any experience with these types of languages, you will be in for a rocky ride if you want to customize it. If you don’t want to customize it, you can simply get a theme and jump right in, add widgets and be on your way.

I would strongly suggest if you are a novice or beginner, stick with Blogspot.com and you can be posting and adapting your blog within 15 minutes, posting content and trying to come up with clever ways to make your blog successful but you will have a stereotype as a novice who can’t make the leap to having your own website. With WordPress you will be able to adapt your blog into a true website, and widgets/plugins that allow you to become successful on Google, count your visitors, share your content with others and tag posts with ease, there is a steep learning curve though. While neither system is perfect, both have advantages and disadvantages yet WordPress seems the route for the entrepreneur in all of us.

The Power of Sketching

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Whether you have a tablet, a scanner, or a digital camera, you have the power to take your scribbles, sketches, doodles and add them to your creative processes. With the use of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop you can take those psycho-babbling drawings and make them a force to be reckoned with. Your doodles, sketches and awkward drawings are not trash, they can be edited, shifted and used to compliment other elements that are necessary to collages and hip page layouts.

http://www.laconicdesign.net/images/sketchbefore.jpg

Have you ever tried to find a background online for a piece of digital art you were working on, and just been so stumped you hit a brick wall? Well it’s time to scan, create or capture your doodles so you can insert them into your compositions. You’ll find out in a hurry that these drawings will accent your pieces beyond your wildest dreams. At the same time, they’ll give you your own signature style. A great tip is to keep paper and pens on your desk, draw and sketch like a maniac whenever you are on the telephone or at a loss for productive creativity.

http://www.laconicdesign.net/images/sketchafter.jpg

Keep your sketches, scan them and slowly start converting them into vector-based resources you can use at your leisure. An added bonus is that these sketches can also help launch projects, you may find yourself staring at your sketches and be totally inspired about what creative piece you could build next.

Can’t Find Apparel? Get it Made Custom

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If you are in a position where you would like to get into the apparel business but don’t like the mega-giants of the industry, or maybe you want to go the hardcore sustainable route. Well, just because you can’t find any resources readily, it doesn’t mean you are up a creek without a paddle. There are suppliers out there that will make your apparel from custom specifications you provide (fabric, colour, sizing, type of apparel).

You can attach yourself to custom apparel suppliers whether they are in your community or in a far away place, and you’ll be all the better for it. Here are some benefits of getting the apparel you want to sell, made custom.

1) Originality

Let’s face it, every person in the 18-25 year old demographic has heard of American Apparel, and most likely Gildan. The second you go the route of getting your apparel made custom, you become an individualist and part of a social movement that stands up for difference. Your apparel becomes different automatically without doing very much at all, and that’s an automatic bonus when it comes to marketing. Your brand can grow and people will be drawn to you if your apparel looks great.

2) Convenience

If you are lucky enough to have a company, supplier or major tailor/seamstress in your community you’re off to a great start and can have a direct contact with the people who are making your clothes. You’ll find it’s a great business relationship because you have direct control over how your apparel is made, and at the same time will greatly cut down on your shipping costs every time you need an order processed.

There are other fringe benefits to this strategy. You will be able to say that you support your local community, stand up for promoting sweatshop free business strategies, and that you allow your customers to truly get whatever they want. If you are in the position to make the switch, definitely consider it, you’ll find that getting “designing” your “own” apparel can be extremely rewarding, not only for your wallet, but for your conscious as well.

Screen-Printing? Try Solvent Free Ink

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In a world where bio-fuel, hybrid cars, recycling, and sustainable agriculture are becoming a necessity for our planet, eco-friendly screen-printing is just another smart option. Whether you are a studio, a large business, or just one person doing screen-printing as a hobby, you should consider using water based inks and dyes. Water based ink (solvent-free) for screen-printing contains neither PVC nor phthalates making it an environmentally friendly choice, this are very easy to use and they don’t really have any based issues but in case you need help, use HP Tech Support and they will manage all the process, from installing to a troubleshooting issue. Resultado de imagen para printerWater based organic ink ingredients are non-toxic, lead-free and do not contain heavy metals. The also contain no ozone-depleting chemicals such as CFC’s and HCFC’s, aromatic hydrocarbons or any volatile solvents. Best of all, instead of dangerous solvents, water based inks wash out safely with water. It is hard to find apparel that is chemically-solvent-free so be sure to ask if you ever have customized clothing made.

Going green will definitely make your business grow, give you more marketing options, and at the same time give you some extra credibility. Making the switch to solvent-free ink for screen-printing your posters and apparel is very easy and there is absolutely no price increase. Also, once applied to apparel and dried with heat application, the print is permanent making it safe for washing. With numerous benefits and new marketing avenues to travel down, you should make the switch sooner than later.

If you are looking for a supplier that can help you make the transition, try talking to Dixon Chan at G&S Dye in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He ships worldwide and would be glad to show you the ropes.

Guide to Selling Merchandise

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So you’re in a band, part of a collective or have the opportunity to sell merchandise at a venue. Definitely take advantage of this situation, especially if you are in a band that performs regularly. Perhaps you already do but sales aren’t as strong as you would have hoped. Here are some ideas, tips and thoughts to help you merchandise fly off your table and send you home with a nice fistful of dollars.

We all know that hard-copy music sales are down, and hard-copy art while attractive doesn’t necessarily sell itself with the expensive prices you need to equal the time you put into it. Whether you are musician or artist its time to find some other items to sell at your merch table. Items people will actually pay for…readily. You have the ability to add on to your gig revenue with some amazing results.

Consider this before you read onward. You probably have die-hard fans at your show or venue, and they’ll pay for anything but the fringe fans or newcomers will need some convincing so be weary of overcharging for your merch, find a happy middle ground.

1) Buy the Right Stuff

You’re going to have some overhead costs involved with this endeavour, so make sure your decisions will pay off. Apparel is your key to a strong merch table. T-Shirts are your best bet and will garner the most interest. Stick with the brands Gildan and American Apparel if you can. They are the most widely available and most respected within the industry. You’ll get these for under $10 a piece (even with the design printed) so don’t fret about the money yet. Stick with some popular colours, especially black and don’t take too many risks. Darker colours are better than lighter ones as a general rule, and make sure you focus on offering 15 Smalls, 50 Mediums, 25 Larges, 10 Extra Larges if you are ordering in blocks of 100. As a general rule, blocks of 100 are better than blocks of 50 because you never know what type of size interest you will have.

2) Design the Right Stuff

My suggestion is to get someone else to design your apparel if you aren’t well versed with Adobe Illustrator as you want a nice vector design for this project. The good thing about vectors is that they are not made of pixels and will not degenerate when playing around with sizing, making them perfect for screen-printing. If you can’t find someone to help you, design it yourself but send the design around to get some input. People won’t wear just anything…

3) Sell it the Right Way

When your on stage or near a mic, do a shout out that you have awesome merch for sale and keep it somewhere in a high traffic area, no matter how much of a nuisance you might be for people trying to meander around it. It’s all about exposure. Once people have come to your table you don’t want to deter them with high prices, so for t-shirts use $30.00 as your ceiling, and $20.00 as your basement. If you can afford it, try selling posters, key chains or lower priced items at your table for people who can’t spare money on apparel. One way not to move merchandise is to have everyone in your posse wearing it. It makes you seem like you don’t know what you are doing at all, and people will see it as lame if nothing else, so try to shy away from that method of getting the word out if possible.

In conclusion, for your t-shirts pick a design that works on some black apparel, charge $20.00 – $30.00 and offer some fringe products at a lower cost.

5 Art Marketing Tips

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It’s a fact, your creativity has no boundaries and your art can sell, you just have to properly test the marketplace and know what sells and what doesn’t. This article covers any type of art you create, and the tips available should benefit you whether you sell figurines, posters or paintings which are very popular, and now the latest trend is to past a photo to painting, just get start with the step of commission a painting and we will send it or have it done. You should realize that simply because you think your works are trophies doesn’t mean they’ll move, and with that said, will people tell their friends? The key is for you to specifically diagnose your target market and what would they like to see. If you aren’t willing to do that, you’re wasting your time. Selling works at a college versus a Christmas expo are two entirely different beasts.

Here are some ideas to elevate your art selling and marketing to a higher level.

1) Go Viral

Get your name into circulation! Realize that you are competing with many people who are trying to achieve the same art selling goals as your self. Solution? Get your name out there! If you are planning a sales booth or table at a college, poster the campus weeks in advance, and come up with creative ways to virally market such as handbills or advertisements in places where others haven’t thought of, sometimes the least likely places for advertising are the best. If you are trying to dream up ways of advertising within your community, try random flyers door-to-door with small samples of your art attached. Sometimes the best way to drum up business is to give things away for free.

2) Set a Time Budget

Don’t let marketing get the better of you and always remind yourself that your art comes first and selling it is second. Marketing yourself and your art is important, but don’t invest more than 40% of your time into it. Know your boundaries and make them work for you. It’s a greater benefit to yourself to hone your skills and boost your portfolio.

3) Submissions for Publications

Remember how you are trying to get noticed? There’s no better way then ending up in print media or an online zine! If you find yourself lucky enough to be offered a spot in a newsletter, magazine or book take advantage of the opportunity even if you aren’t going to get paid for it. Exposure means everything in this business and you should be humbled. The trick to this strategy is find resources where you see “Entries Wanted”. The bonus with this strategy as well is that editors and people managing submissions are going to see your art, rejection or not.

4) Learn to Network Effectively

First thing to remember. It’s not a quick-sell scheme, and it’s not selling. When looking for networking opportunities, stay close to your main target audience, and don’t branch off any further than you need to. Clubs and organizations are great if you are lucky enough to find them. If networking is for you on a face-to-face level, collect more cards than you hand out. Listen more than talk. Ask open-ended questions. Perfect your 30-second “what you do” speech.

Once you’ve made a good connection, keep it alive. Give contacts a hot lead, mail an article they may find of interest, or recommend a book. Most importantly, do things without expecting a return. You won’t see the results overnight, but the long-term benefits are well worth the wait.

5) Establish a Web Presence

The Internet is a great marketing tool for selling your artwork because it brings you out of your geographical locale. Set up a website that showcases photographs of your artwork and start an e-mail subscription list. Send out notices when you finish a new piece and include links to any articles or profiles connected with your work. This is also a great place to post reviews that professionals have written about your art.

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