When I first started working as a textile designer, this industry was quiet….eerily quiet. There were no blogs or online training programs, only a few books and magazines and textile designers were far and few between. Over the past ten years this industry has dramatically changed and textile (or surface) design is on the tip of every designer’s tongue. Graphic designers, illustrators and even some fashion designers, like myself, have flocked to this industry and really, who can blame them? We have the coolest job in the design industry, am I right? So what does this mean for the designers out there?
It is time to step it up.
There is a significant void in the marketplace for strong textile designers who not only create high quality artwork, but who are also capable of running a professional textile design business. It is no longer enough to know illustrator, or how to create a repeat, your business has to go above and beyond in every way possible. Running a “professional business” can mean many things to different people, but in my experience a successful design businesses has: focus, authenticity, consistency, and an understanding of how to successfully communicate with clients.
Many textile designers never take their business to the professional level because they lack focus. Too many of us try to design for every market, every client, every trend, every style. This market is so vast that if you try to appeal to every client, you will appeal to none at all.
For example, I was recently looking for a textile designer who specialized in the childrenswear industry. I searched and I searched, but I never came across the expert that I needed. I found plenty of designers who dabbled in this field, but no one (that I could find) was marketing themselves in such a focused way. Experience, expertise and confidence are comforting to potential clients. We all want to know that we are working with the best that the industry has to offer.
So how can you begin to fill this void?
Try reflecting on your recent work. Was there a print collection that you couldn’t stop working on? (There is such a thing as too many print coordinates!) Was there a particular aspect of a project, such as trend research or production, that you didn’t want to move on from? Is there an area of the market that you can’t stop researching?
Can you think of an example? If so, take this newly discovered focus and run like the wind! Learn everything you can about this particular market, style or specialty. If not, keep looking. You may need more time or experience and that is just fine. When you are ready to move forward you’ll be able to do so with focus and conviction.
This industry is hungry for more leaders, more experts and those willing to take their business to the next level. I make this statement as a print buyer, client, interviewer, blogger and mentor. I see what’s going on out there and there is a place for you and your business!