Guest Expert Interview: Chris Olson

This month we have the privilege to welcome Chris Olson, experienced surface pattern designer and marketer, to the Textile Design Lab as our guest expert. Chris partners with brands to help them develop a marketing strategy through social media, webinars, and events. Projects include custom-branded content through design, writing, and editorial direction. Chris will be sharing some of her favorite marketing tips for surface pattern and textile designers on Tuesday, October 24th in the Textile Design Lab, but she is here today to tell us more about her work and her thoughts on social media.

Chris Olson on Surface Pattern Design Marketing

What drew you to social media and what do you enjoy most about this way of marketing your work?

I think social media marketing gives artists a unique opportunity for sharing both their art and the story behind the art. A studio scene or glimpse into the process of developing your artwork is just one of the many ways to engage your audience. By including social media in your marketing plan, each day you have the opportunity to introduce your brand to new clients and customers.

If you are only sharing your artwork and never commenting on posts and never sharing posts by other artists, you are missing out. Your brand will benefit when you engage often–not just sporadically–with your followers. Even if your studio is miles away from other artists, social media allows individual artists the opportunity to be part of a supportive and inspiring community without geographic boundaries.

What are some of the biggest challenges with marketing artwork and designs on social media?

As the manager of your brand’s social media marketing you are wearing many hats including brand strategist, photo stylist, art director, strategic storyteller and, of course, textile designer. You may be more comfortable in certain roles. However if you participate frequently on your favorite platforms you will develop expertise in marketing your brand. In my first job out of college, I was a book and magazine designer. Over time my job description expanded when my boss realized I had a talent for writing captions and marketing materials too. Chances are your design talents will also overlap with essential marketing skills.

We all want our artwork to be noticed by our dream clients and customers. In order to accomplish this, staying current on social media strategies and understanding the changing algorithms can be challenging. Social media platforms change over time. The algorithm on one channel for getting noticed may be totally new next week. Although that is frustrating—even to the popular kids on the block—keep in mind the evolving algorithm might end up working in your favor.

If you hear about a new development in social media marketing—do some fact checking. Don’t assume a short caption or tweet truly explains the issue. And double-check the date of the source. If you are getting advice from an article written over six months ago it may not be current and it may contain out-of-date information that will lead you to use ineffective methods. This can be especially true on Pinterest. Although a pin featuring a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe does not have an expiration date, a pin with a specific strategy for finding new followers on Instagram does. (If you can’t determine the date of the source, if it is pinned from a blog post, then go to the comments section and the dates are usually included when a comment is made.)

We will dive more into the topic of understanding how algorithms and analytics can help your marketing in a future post on Pattern Observer.

Do you have any tips on figuring out the best hashtags to help get your posts seen?

Be authentic and think strategically when selecting hashtags for captions. Copying and pasting the same hashtags over and over will not build engagement. This repetitive content can even lead to LESS engagement. On LinkedIn hashtags are not functional as a rule and do not encourage participation.

On Instagram and Twitter check out niche hashtags. Listen to what the community is saying and join the conversation on posts by others in a niche hashtag community. Remember, just using a niche hashtag on your posts and never commenting on other posts will not offer all the benefits of a design community online.

Chris Olson Surface Pattern Design Marketing

Have you noticed any current trends in social media marketing?

The best social media design is not a one size fits all matter. If your favorite artist or designer is successful with a specific branding format, this does not mean it will be the perfect fit for your brand. Once you understand the elements that make your designs shine, then you can begin to make a content strategy for branding and sharing online. Because of the grid layout on Instagram, this platform is a great place to experiment with elements of design and find out what works best for your brand.

Could you share your thoughts on what types of content get the most views?

The answer to this question is very specific to the platform and very time sensitive. In other words, what is working now according to the algorithm on each channel evolves over time. Right now, video tends to outperform images on Facebook and Instagram. Even in paid and boosted posts, video outperforms a photo.

How long does it take to build up a following and how much time do you think is needed to maintain a successful Instagram account?

I was the social media manager for Instagram at Pattern Observer for three years. During that time the reach and overall engagement grew at an amazing pace. Initially Instagram was a reverse-chronological feed of posts from accounts you followed. In other words, each time you opened your Instagram app you would see the most recent posts first. In 2016 Instagram changed this format and introduced an algorithm similar to Facebook. The idea behind the shift on the Instagram app was to enhance the user experience by helping people find the posts from the accounts they followed that would be most interesting to them. At the time, many critics thought Instagram would be ruined by the introduction of this new algorithm. There is some good news: people adapted to the shift. Initially the change created some panic among many users, but Instagram still works–just in a new way. On Instagram currently the algorithm boosts posts that gain more likes and authentic comments. And since comments take more effort on behalf of the user, these are weighted more heavily than likes.

Instagram continues to evolve. As I am writing this article, marketing experts are commenting on the newest developments on Instagram regarding paid promotions and how your posts are selected to reach a wider audience.

To answer the time management question, my word of advice is finding shortcuts or ways to save time does not always help you. A good rule of thumb is to avoid using automated solutions. In fact, on Instagram your account can be cancelled if you use automated posting apps. Read and follow the app terms of use and platform policies. This will explain what is allowed. If you strive to keep your account authentic, you will develop a marketing strategy that will benefit your brand over time.

Chris Olson Surface Pattern Design

What would you recommend to a newbie getting started on Instagram and Facebook?

Community over competition is a mantra worth following if you want to survive for the long haul in your design business and on social media. All of us–the newbies and the rock stars—face creative block and even failures. When this happens, nothing helps you get back on your feet quicker and stronger than talking to others in the community. This is exactly why the forums on Textile Design Lab are often the helpful hand that can be career changing.

Facebook has private groups that also allow individuals to share ideas and concerns that are relevant to a group topic in a private setting. Remember, you don’t have to share all the messy details of your so-called disaster, just start the conversation. Asking for advice can open doors to great friendships and even career partnerships.

And if that huge “disaster” happens—perhaps your newsletter subscription stops growing or an Instagram post only gets seen by 20 people–chances are someone else in your community has faced a similar issue and found a way to move forward.

Do you have a favorite platform and why?

It changes every day. That is exactly why I like social media marketing because the challenges and new discoveries continue to keep me interested. Each channel—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn—has a unique style. Depending on the account management, the audience for each platform can also be unique.

What would you say to those who are social media shy?

Think of social media as a way to keep in touch with your design community. Discuss the challenges and share success stories. Make thoughtful comments on the posts by others. Share the best ideas and images that represent you. That is how your brand will survive.

Taking a risk and sharing your art in the online world can seem daunting, but you will find amazing courses, podcasts and mini tutorials for social media marketing to help get you started. Before you enroll in a course or follow a tutorial, make sure it is current.

Here are a few online resources that stay up to date with trends and offer helpful guides and courses: Pattern Observer online courses, Textile Design Lab, Skillshare, Braid Creative, Being Boss Podcast, and Mediabistro.  I have used the resources in this list and I found them very beneficial for expanding my skills and introducing me to experts in the field.

Just as expanding your artistic expertise is important, learning new marketing skills will improve your brand. A few content suggestions to try: learn how to create a video post, promote your work with a Facebook ad, or join the conversation with Instagram Stories. All of these are great ways to grow your brand’s presence and widen your audience.

Can you tell us about your upcoming presentation in the Lab? What will you be covering?

I will be sharing some of my favorite tips for content creation and editing—including my favorite apps—to enhance your marketing in the Textile Design Lab later this month.

Want to learn more? Join us in the Textile Design Lab for the live presentation or say hello to Chris via her website.

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The Repeat Downbeat

Set Layout by Samantha Wheatland

Set Layout by Samantha Wheatland

Our Surface Pattern Design Mastery course is starting on October 23, 2017 in the Textile Design Lab. That means that this week’s focus is on the four most popular layout styles within the textile and surface pattern design industry. Why do you need to know this? It’s simple—knowledge is power. When you know the pattern layout options available to you it’s easier to find the perfect layout for your motif more quickly. So let’s dive in.

 

First up—set layouts.

A set layout is when motifs are arranged on a grid, in either a straight or half drop repeat. While popular in all markets, set layouts are most common for use in home decor, wallpaper, quilting, and paper products. To create more dynamic set layouts you can layer patterns, like Samantha has done, or you can experiment with color pops. Set layouts are the first pattern layout style that we cover in our upcoming Surface Pattern Design Mastery course, because they are the easiest to create using the Illustrator Pattern Making Tool.

I love this set layout by Samantha Wheatland. What makes this pattern so beautiful is that Samantha has actually layered two set layouts.

 

Tossed Pattern by Ali Brooks

Tossed Pattern by Ali Brooks

Next—tossed layouts.

A tossed layout is one in which motifs are arranged in a scattered, but balanced way. Imagine that you toss a handful of autumn leaves up into the air, watching them fall to the ground. They land in a scattered pattern. Some facing up; some facing down. Some turned to the left; others to the right.

The tossed layout is one that I recommend all designers begin to use. A great example is the one here by Ali Brooks. This is a tossed surface pattern design layout. While popular in all markets, tossed layouts are most commonly used in stationery, quilting, home décor, and children’s. Adding texture, similar to what Ali has done, is a great way to add more depth and interest to your tossed layout. I love the rich earthy details and colors that Ali chose to accentuate her fall motifs. It’s magical in a way.

 

Stripe by Jp Spanbauer

Stripe by Jp Spanbauer

Third—stripes.

If you have attended one of our TDL art critiques you probably know that I am obsessed with creating new and innovative interpretations of classic patterns, such as stripes. So when I saw this stripe pattern by Jp Spanbauer I almost fell out of my chair.

Let’s start with the stripe—it’s beautiful! The subtle wave and the color gradients are stunning. But, I really appreciate the storyline that he has created for the customer. Where is this hiker? What is he seeing? Where is she going? Jp Spanbauer has taken a pattern layout style that we all know – stripes – and pushed it into something spectacular.

 

And lastly—allover layouts.

An allover layout is when motifs are arranged in a compact and balanced way. Motifs are often overlapping and there is very little open ground. Allover layouts is a catch-all category. If you see a pattern layout in your research and you cannot pinpoint exactly what style it is, it is probably an allover pattern layout. Allover layouts can be even further categorized into allover florals, textures, etc…

Allover pattern by Bryna Shields

Allover pattern by Bryna Shields

Take this lovely texture by Bryna Shields. I would call this a textural pattern, but it could also be categorized as an allover pattern. This is actually the reason why we cover both layout styles in Surface Pattern Design Mastery. They are both so popular. With this pattern, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the bold color usage, movement, and dramatic expressiveness from the first time I saw it after it was posted to the #patternobserver feed. She could have spaced out the marks and brushstrokes, allowing for more room within each design, but she chose to layer the marks. This created a more energetic and engaging pattern.

These four layout options are all exciting for a designer; however, they don’t always come naturally. Thankfully you can learn to master them all during our upcoming Surface Pattern Design Mastery course. In this 6-week course you will discover how to turn your sketches, paintings, and illustrations into eye-catching surface pattern design layouts in less time. Plus, you’ll have access to our new surface pattern design layout templates, which allow you to create sophisticated patterns in minutes, not days.

To register for this members-only course, pay just $42.00/month to start your membership. No commitment. Cancel anytime. A small investment for a large return on fewer frustrations. Grab your spot here.

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Surface Pattern Design Layout Chart

Surface Pattern Design Layout ChartWhen your pattern designs are flowing you feel great. Things click. Everything aligns and you are completely in sync with the rock star that you are. Then there are those “other times.”

“Other times” is code talk for struggles and challenges. When these things surface and you grow impatient, maybe even irritated. It can feel overwhelming and definitely frustrating. During these times you can honestly feel lost, like there’s no way past the hurdle. But there is and every designer has this happen to them at one point or another in their career. It’s inevitable, really.

It’s what you do when this happens that makes the difference. What do you do when it happens to you?

You might:

  • Keep adding motifs to your pattern in the hopes that more motifs will make for a more dynamic pattern
  • Publish or submit the pattern “as is” because you are just sick of looking at it and want to move onto your next idea
  • Question the artistic style of the motif, the color palette, and even the trend, and quit working on the pattern because it seems impossible to get just right

I’ve done all of these things in the past. So if you have, too, know that you are not alone.

But what I’ve found is that sometimes it just takes a different approach. While experimenting and investing time into our work is essential, we can go about it smartly and with fewer frustrations by knowing our pattern layout options.

This is where the Surface Pattern Design Layout Chart helps. It allows you to begin sparking new ideas with a fresh approach that leads to what you really want—the amazing pattern to appear before your eyes that you know you can create.

Here are what some designers have said about the Surface Pattern Design Layout Chart:

“This is perfect! A good reminder of what is possible, especially when you think nothing more is possible!” -Hollie Baker

“Many thanks! Very useful and inspiring.” -Rocco Fiumara

“Thank you! This is going on my pin board immediately.” -Jessica Halford

In this chart, you will have access to a brief overview of the most popular Surface Pattern Design Layout options, along with some simple ways that you can make your patterns more eye-catching. Not all layout options are included, but this is a great starting point. I hope this free resource sparks new ideas when you are stuck or feeling frustrated.

Download your free guide here.

To your creativity,
Michelle

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The Repeat Downbeat

Textile Design Lab design trend

Textile Design Lab design trend

The Spring 2018 runway shows are in high gear and my Pattern Observer head is delightfully spinning with ideas. There are always so many trends to pick up on, but one that has really caught my eye is the use of extremely BOLD prints and patterns. Pattern sizes are increasing and bold pattern mixing continues to be a popular trend.

This bold styling is reflected in this month’s TDL design challenge, which our studio designers will be working on, as well. The overarching idea for this month’s trend is a super bold, almost punk take on classic back to school/fall patterns, and creating contrast within your design. Think super sweet florals paired with a bold stripe, or the flowers made bold through color or scale. Classic plaids or stripes can be enlivened and made modern through a palette of punchy primaries, or by adding distressed textures.

Pattern by Carla Lucena

Pattern by Carla Lucena

In our TDL design challenge I presented a cleaner, more vector-inspired take on the trend. However, how you choose to interpret the trend is up to you and your customer. As I was checking out our various Instagram hashtag feeds I began to see so many interpretations on this trend. It was so exciting and it confirmed that this is a trend that is definitely worth our attention for the Spring and Fall 2019 seasons.

This pattern by Carla Lucena first caught my eye. Carla is a master at complex, bold geometrics. I love how she layered the simple diamond geometric with the scalloped, wave inspired pattern that brings more details and a beautiful sense of movement to the piece. I am a sucker for texture, so I also appreciated the weathered look present around the edges of the pattern. It’s lovely and if you’re thinking what I’m thinking – wow, I really want this hanging on my wall – you’re in luck. Carla has a beautiful selection of prints to choose from on her shop.

Illustration by Farah (@paintstobrushes)

Illustration by Farah (@paintstobrushes)

This piece by Farah (@paintstobrushes) caught my eye for several reasons. 1) I love buildings and slightly abstract representations of buildings. But most importantly, 2) I thought this was a wonderful take on the bold pattern trend. I love how the bold red, blue, and yellow that were chosen for this piece are slightly softened by the use of watercolors. I’m also drawn to the soft, organic touch that Farah used when creating the shapes and applying the colors. If your customer would be turned off by the clean bold look seen on the runway, using watercolors or painting your geometrics may be a unique spin on the trend that works for all.

If you want to apply this bold trend to existing motifs that you have already created try using a bold color palette or a bold layout style from our Surface Pattern Design Layout Chart. This chart gives you access to a brief overview of the most popular Surface Pattern Design Layout options, along with some simple ways that you can make your patterns more eye-catching. Not all layout options are included, but this is a great starting point and it’s free! I hope this resource sparks new ideas when you are stuck or feeling frustrated. After all, I predict that it may be time for you to go bold.

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“Back to School” – Our Latest Chelsea’s Challenge in the Textile Design Lab

Back-to-school

This month in the Textile Design Lab we are challenging our members to design around the theme of back to school for the Fall 2019 season. The overarching idea for this trend is a super bold, almost punk take on classic back to school/fall patterns, and creating contrast within your design. Think super sweet florals paired with a bold stripe or classic plaids enlivened and made modern through a palette of punchy primaries.

In the full post in the Lab we offer four inspiring mood boards complete with recommended Pantone colors. We encourage our members to integrate as many or as few of these concepts as they like into their collections with the primary goal being to build a cohesive, portfolio-ready collection of 3-5 patterns within a four week time period. Lab members can take advantage of our weekly live art critiques to help them along the way, as well as posting their works in progress on our private forum for feedback.

Back to School Trend_ARGYLE

Finished collections for the Back to School challenge are due on the Textile Design Lab forum by Monday October 30th, so there’s still plenty of time to participate–sign up for a Lab membership here to join in on the fun! Once you are a member you will have access to fifteen different e-courses including our popular Photoshop for Designers 1 and 2 courses taught by Sherry London, as well as guest expert trainings, design tutorials, and much more. You’ll also have the opportunity to join our Sellable Sketch group study that kicks off today, where you will learn the ins and outs of the collection development process. The Sellable Sketch is our most popular course and provides the perfect foundation for our monthly Chelsea’s Challenges. Head over to our Textile Design Lab community and join us to get inspired, learn new design skills, meet other designers from around the world, and build your portfolio!

 

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At Pattern Observer we strive to help you grow your textile design business through our informative articles, interviews, tutorials, workshops and private design community, The Textile Design Lab.