Warren Buffet talks about how investors, particularly fund managers, make their decisions on how to go forward while looking in the rear view mirror to see how things were. It’s the same kind of thinking that we are all guilty of – in so many areas of our lives – but it is definitely a hindrance in the world of art and licensing where much has changed over the last few years (or months…).
Say you wanted to illustrate children’s books – typically you would develop a portfolio or possibly a “dummy” book, get it in front of some literary agents and if you were lucky some editors, hopefully get hooked up with an author or publisher and be on your way. Not so much anymore – in this time of transition you have content streaming into the market through self publishing, blogs, videos, portfolio websites and even spam mail. While the future of paper books is in limbo the digital applications are multiplying every day – along with the questions about how are they distributed, paid for, copy protected and more. Are you looking forward to see how you can work in that world, or backward at the old practice?
Say you wanted a giftware collection for that cute set of characters you created, so you made up a few portfolio pages with mocked up figurines and maybe some other products, brought them to the (pick one) trade show where you hope to meet a manufacturer who would tell you what they will do with them. Not so much anymore – their question to you will likely be “What can/should we do with these?”, and they will want to know the story behind the collection, and how will this connect with their customers? Figurines and collectibles are a weak market now, so you will have to show them more functional products…were you looking forward and saw that coming, or will you be caught by surprise?
Say you bought yourself some coaching, a set of product templates, organized all your designs in the portfolio just like they said you should, and then noticed that your portfolio looks pretty much the same as the hundreds and hundreds of portfolios in the show, and no one is really paying much attention. But hey – those booths with an innovative new twist on product, unique designs, and perhaps an engaging story to tell are busy all day long…can you see what happened? Can you see why doing what everyone has always done may not work anymore?
We are in a business that changes constantly – trends, colors, type of product, clients, retailers – some are constant and some are shifting sand. The result is that we are always playing “catch-up” in art licensing, which is not necessarily a bad thing as long as you realize that IS the name of the game, adjust your attitude accordingly and keep looking down the road for what’s next.