Don’t Forget to Listen

We did a little traveling this past week and presented art to a couple of our clients at their offices. These meetings are usually fun, not only as opportunities to show portfolios but also as a chance to meet the rest of their staff, discuss in depth what may work for them, where they see their category going and how we can work with them to everyone’s best advantage. I found a couple of comments made during these meets to be particularly blogworthy:

The first meeting was with a supplier of paper goods to mass market retail accounts. It’s a tough market, but at the same time this market consumes a lot of designs due to the wide variety and rapid turnover in these stores. We were talking about the huge numbers of submitted designs this company receives, how they review them and their lack of time to do so. The art director was lamenting that many artists contact them and request that they go view designs on the artist’s website – “sorry, but I don’t have time to do that” was the comment. Hmmm…

The other meeting was with one of the major gift companies (They were not going to attend Surtex because the last couple of years they did not see good results from the show). We had the pleasure of meeting a VP of Product whom we had not previously worked with, and it was interesting to note that she first wanted to discuss how we work, how receptive the artists are to direction and how the project information pipeline works in our agency – and it appeared that this may be almost as important as what we had in the portfolios. Hmmm…

So, what can an artist take away from this? First and foremost, you need to refine your presentation, whether submitted or in person – send or show only what is really good, appropriate and can be easily reviewed. Portfolios should be well organized, concise and should “flow” from beginning to end. Edit, edit, edit. We change out the portfolios for every meeting or show to focus on what those particular clients may use – and nothing more. These people are busy – your goal is to get in front of them with a short but memorable presentation and then get out of the way. Second, they want to work with designers that have a professional attitude – it’s not about you, it’s about them and their product, so make sure that is the message that comes across.

4 replies
  1. Kathy Weller
    Kathy Weller says:

    I love this post! It’s so important to have the talent to start wit. But knowing how to work with people, understanding your client, being easy and accommodating, and catering to the needs of the specific market, plus knowing the technical language on file deliverables et. al. — all these things are just as important. It pains me to say that, but, in the big picture, it’s generally true. You can be the greatest most talented artist in the world, but if you don’t have the skills you need to survive and thrive in the market, or the interest in learning to be flexible and accommodating to your clients’ needs, none of it matters.

    But the good thing is learning is FREE – it takes a lot of interest, time and effort, but it doesn’t cost a thing.

  2. BJ Lantz
    BJ Lantz says:

    Being responsive, personable and easy to work with has always worked well for me throughout my career both as a graphic designer, then as a licensing artist. And, while I revise my portfolio and edit it at times, I don’t see how I can do so for each and every meeting when I attend a show. There’s simply no time. I do, however direct the potential licensee to what I think they might be most interested in. That being said, I am always amazed at how often they go for something I would never have thought to show them if I were distilling the book down for just that presentation.

  3. KathrynAntyr
    KathrynAntyr says:

    Hi Jim,

    I just discovered your blog and I’m finding your posts to be very informative. I’m currently exploring the seas of licensing as well as book publishing. Thank you for sharing your expertise!

    Kathryn, Collage Diva


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