The industry as seen by top designers.
How Does a Designer Continue To Be Successful?
Seven key but simple steps.
Pattiewack, also known as Pattie Donham (December 3, 2007)
(Note: Pattie invents products, writes books, appears on
television, has a series of videos on LifetimeTV.com and ... the
list goes on. When you visit her site, www.pattiewack.com
you'll see she is one designer who has adapted to the consumer's
changing tastes and whims.)
There are many things that talented designers can do to be
successful, and here is what I've learned in this business we call
the crafts industry.
When I look back on the last 15 to 20 years of my design
experience in the crafts industry, I am amazed at the many phases I
have worked through. My first business reached great success as we
all rode the 90's wave of embellished sweatshirts, and I was selling
oodles of iron-on lame appliqués.
My hand still has a twitch every now and then when I squeeze a tube
The embellished wearables era was good for us, but we found out
this industry moves in cycles, and we have to be flexible. In order
to continue my success in the crafts industry I had to move on to
finding new ways other than painted sweatshirts, to sell myself as a
designer. My commitment evolved into how to enhance the consumer's
experience with the unlimited array of products that were available,
and then eventually to invent new tools and designs that would
improve that experience.
As a designer we must continue to understand what the public
wants and how we can supply the right product at the right time.
Intuition and being informed is second nature to a talented
designer. Supplying the right crafts for the consumer has both
intuitive as well as pragmatic elements. Crafts are a product of
many factors including culture, geography, and cycles that turn at
an ever-increasing speed. Designers must keep their eyes wide open
and keep a daily tab on what is happening world-wide, and be smart
with that knowledge.
Someone told me that the way their large manufacturing company
does trend spotting is to go on field trips to the nearby discount
store and purchase everything they can find that seems trendy. What
are they thinking? More than likely by the time that product hits
the shelf, it already had a one-year birthday since the day of
conception on someone's draft table. It was probably shipped from
China, stored in a warehouse, and then finally made it to the shelf
where that poor dear purchased it, thinking they were going to jump
on a trend train that was another six months to a year out for them,
by the time they knocked it off and shipped it to a craft store! It
is no wonder craft products are sometimes one or two years behind
when compared to the other merchandise in the consumer's shopping
cart. That's not smart.
So, how do you get smart? Look for design clues by reading the
newspaper and industry publications, not only in the crafts but in
housewares, gifts, and fashion, too. As you know, in the last few
years crafts have been propelled into a new phase that compares to
the fashion industry trends, which are inspired by highly marketed,
celebrity-driven luxury brands.
I read recently in Future Fashion, by Julie Gilhart,
Senior Vice President of Barneys, "…this trend is beginning
to feel out-dated. The consumer is developing a taste for great
product with ethical principles."
Sure, America seems riveted to the tube by the trashy reality
shows, and which dancers will be voted off, but hopefully we are
beginning to see a shift of conscience with emerging networks such
as Current TV and Ovation TV. If we interpret the
television and fashion world into "craft-speak," then we
can understand when our industry begins to turn its marketing head
towards re-crafts, eco-friendly crafts and television how-to shows
that are crafting with recycled objects, vintage clothing, and even
bringing back embroidery and shrink plastic. The craft industry is a
mirror of the current lifestyle of America.
Be a craft designer who is willing to explore the mainstream for
a path to creating products and styles that echo consumerism. For
example, if you see that every time you open a fashion magazine
there is a buzz about huge belt buckles, see it as an opportunity to
use over-sized buckles in a design for a tote bag, a polymer clay
frame, a gift card, or wearable art. Or when you read in a
housewares trade magazine that they are beginning to make felt
pillows with mod designs and embroidered placemats with a vintage
style, it just might be a cue for you to whip out the old embroidery
floss and some felt for the next line of textile trims or craft
This so-called craft revolution makes me smile. Is it a
revolution or is it evolution? I admit the first time I went to a
craft site that claimed to be a "mafia" for the craft
movement, I was a completely intrigued. The craft industry has not
had much of a history with tattoos, blue hair, and piercings. But
the "mafia" crafts are a resurgence of the crafts our
mothers grew up teaching the now baby boomers. It is not new, but
simply the old crafts making the eternal circle with a more naive
attitude and raw acceptance by this new breed of crafters. What
should a designer do with this information? I say, we should embrace
this group as it is; one more demographic that we can learn from and
develop products for, along with the rest of our consumers.
Know Your Target.
Demographics are one of the most important pieces of information
in a designer's toolbox. If you don't know your target, how can you
hit it? Is your product aimed at the "mafia" crafter who
is planning to re-craft something for little or no money? Is your
product for the majority of crafters who are 40 to 50 years old and
spend on an average of $35 when they go to a craft store? Is your
product geared for the senior who is on a limited income? Or is your
product targeting the working mom who will buy anything that is
almost finished, but cute enough to brag that she "made it
herself"? Without demographic targeting, even the most perfect
product will miss the point.
This might be the hardest thing of all for the talented designer,
but it is the most important. After all, if you are a designer you
have the talent part figured out. But, you not only have to sell
your designs, you also have to sell the designer. Fortunately, the
craft industry is beginning to understand and embrace the fact that
good designs sell good products. Without both, manufacturers better
hope their products are something everyone needs, versus products
that everyone will want.
Marketing as a designer is getting easier though. My blog is
getting thousands of daily hits from over 100 countries, and my
newsletter is electronically sent monthly to thousands of opt-in
crafters with a push of a button. I can write instructions, receive
email, sell products on my website, be seen in a magazine article,
demonstrate crafts 24/7 in nearly 50 videos online, and sell books
at stores across the globe and in e-stores, simultaneously while
sitting in my chair in front of my computer.
Go ahead, "Google" yourself and find out what your
marketing DNA is. You might be surprised.
However, I still must show up at the trade shows, create new
ideas, do the drawings, pay the lawyers, make dozens of projects,
produce TV segments, do the paperwork, attend seminars, sign up for
the charity events, and talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. Don't forget
that being available and dependable never goes out of style, and
these habits are the best marketing tools of all.
I learned a long time ago not to take myself too seriously. I
love what I do, and I never dreamed that I would evolve from a gal
selling bags of appliqués, to a
designer who invents products and gets paid to demonstrate them in
front of millions of viewers for LifetimeTV.com. The craft industry
changes so quickly that consumers must purchase almost constantly in
order to keep up with it. That means that we will never run out of
opportunities to create more craft projects, ideas, books,
techniques, tools, videos, and more products. Isn't that great? Our
job as designers is to be the "glue" between the product
and the consumer, and I intend to have fun with it!
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