Promotion. This is often called marketing, and I am fine with that term, as marketing has come to mean just one of the marketing Ps, Promotion. And there is a reason that promotion is just part of product, price, place, and promotion, and probably the last part. It is nigh on impossible to promote something when the other three Ps have not been defined or clarified.
(There is also the flipside consumer, cost, convenience, and communication.)
In this instance, I am struggling to define what my product is. Is it the individual piece that seeks to lie within both graphic design and art. Is it an exhibition of a series of pieces, is it the actual philosophy, the endeavour?
It is probably a little of all or all of all. You can’t really have one without the other. For this week, the artefact might be the prints, but they are examples, research really. The product is the overall oeuvre and (for lack of a better word) philosophy. Thus it is the following:
1. Creation of work that I believe falls in this arena
2. Identifying work by & establishing contact with other practitioners
3. Exhibiting and disseminating this work and writings on the subject
4. Promoting and publicising points 1-3
For the sake of this week’s challenge and the final brief, let’s assume that I am creating a run of prints to use in order to generate some income, but more importantly to manifest my philosophy for the Fabrik, which in a way, still is exactly the points 1-4.
Creating the work
The fun part? Maybe.
As previously mentioned, I bought a few arbitrary letterpress blocks from eBay
Before I continue, I had considered creating an alphabet from letters on liquor stores or other signs, but that sounded like such a clichéd (get it?) exercise; how many times has that been done? I would like to return to the liquor stores for personal reasons, (I mean the liquor store exercise) but for this project, I focused on taking former graphic design work-horses and seeing how they could be manipulated, put into different context, different scale, different process to get different outcomes. As previously mentioned, I bought a few arbitrary letterpress blocks from eBay. Part of this process means that you don’t have much control over the subject matter.
I bought quite a few, but settled on the two below to work with; primarily because the greyhound was the smallest one that printed well, and the Zane Grey was the most ‘graphic design’ of them, it having been, I am assuming, used for some kind of advertising piece for the movie. That one didn’t print well at all, which has more to do, with my janky setup than with the piece itself, I think.
Instead of printing the block and scanning the resulting print , I just scanned the block, then turned it into a bit map and flipped it so it read correctly. I briefly considered keeping it mirrored, to celebrate and show the process, but quickly decided it would always just look like a mistake.
I managed to get a usable print from the greyhound. Again, it isn’t great, but it should work for this experiment. I scanned the print and created a black and white version.
Off they went to Arena Prints as the screenprinting lab I normally use is currently undergoing maintenance. So rush charges, rush shipping and two days later, I received my screen.
They are very unimpressive as jpgs online, they are a bit more satisfying in person. There is very little difference from the originals, there is not enough transformation; maybe the colour monoprint gets closest, I like how the screenprinting is obvious in the print. The scale makes a difference, which is hard to demonstrate. It isn’t a dead-end, but certainly room for improvement. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, there is a there there. Plus, I am over $300 into this now, so I really want to make this work.
So let’s pretend for a moment that these prints either are or will become exactly what I want them to be. Now what? well, clearly, I put them on Instagram and just wait for all the accolades to come rolling in, soon to be followed by riches and fame.
Even if these aren’t exactly the result that I wanted, I don’t think waiting until I do achieve something that I like before sharing is the right thing to do either. I am not ashamed of them, I even quite like them, but more importantly, they are a step in (the right) direction, and they are useful for that reason. So I did put one on Instagram where I have 3 followers, one of whom is Alec. I should say that this is a new account, for research purposes, not my actual account. At some point, I can start adding everyone in my contacts and rules of engagement mean that most will follow me back, but i want to see what happens if you just keep posting and posting if there is any chance to grow it with content, not contacts. My guess is no.
If I really wanted to, I could probably get a few of my friends who do have large followers to post some Instagram story or post; something along the lines of, if it were Steve ‘Yo, the homie did some sick prints, come scope them at the shop or check out his Insta’ Or, I could send some free ones to people and hope they like them and post about it.
Instagram is free, so definitely worth using. It’s great, great when it works, but everyone is trying to get noticed on Instagram and everyone is liking and commenting and following, etc. It is a bit of a cacophony of ‘LOOK AT ME’. So what are other options?
I could try selling them on Etsy. Promotion, however, also has an effect on positioning. I have nothing against Etsy per se, but even if I ended up selling a lot, it almost devalues my intention. It isn’t about just selling, in fact, it isn’t about that at all in the beginning.
I could sell at the already mentioned Clean Aesthetic (or similar) which has more of an edgy, local SoCal art and design vibe.
I could try to get interior designers to use this work in their designs, there is a slight possibility of that happening, it would help if thematically the prints and interiors matched up. It would also help if I already knew some, which I do, but it seems so crass to use friendships to make money. And money would really be all it is Money and an Instagram tag, there is no sort of exposure really.
Art Book Fairs, Conventions, etc
There are annual Art Book Fairs, the LAABF, and Otis’s MFAGD Art Book Fair, though they can be cost-prohibitive to have a booth, although the latter might give me a discount. They are certainly good places to go to make connections.
I could hire an agent, there are two problems with that. It is incredibly difficult to find someone to represent you, even more so if you have just three prints currently, and the other, less important one is that hiring an art agent, pulls the work firmly into the art world.
Gallerists and Galleries
Similar to agents, however, I do know at least one gallery, maybe a few more, that might be tempted to show my work, however briefly, maybe between (major) shows. This is actually something I am interested in; not for the sake of fame or saying you have had a gallery show, but this would be a way of leveraging the galleries contacts and finding a similar-minded audience. I think it obviously would somewhat benefit me, but these are fairly small and unknown galleries, it isn’t a direct stepping stone to Art Basel, but it could be a relationship worth building.
Competitions, Group Shows, calls for entries
Competitions of all ilk, be it ‘Call for Artwork’ or actual competitions are a good way of getting work in front of people. And there are competitions for almost everything and seemingly all the time, though obviously of varying quality. There are sites, multiple sites, dedicated to aggregating them.
Not something I want to do for a number of reasons, time being one, but instructional videos on youtube are hugely popular. There are few things that you can’t find instructional videos for, and if you happen to be the best at explaining some arcane or archaic skill, you will find followers. This video on how to finish a dry-wall joint has over 13 million views. 13 million. Fortunately, I know how to do that, so did not watch it, and thus was not lulled to sleep. Thirteen. Million.
Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, etc might be of interest, but they are merely a platform themselves, and for a Kickstarter to be successful, it would have to be promoted itself, and the process can be very time-consuming. Patreon and Liberapay are interesting, but perhaps also not a perfect fit for this venture.
These can be a great way to get work in front of people whose eyeballs you do not command, but like everything else (that is free) it is also difficult. Everyone wants to show up on a blog. It is the same as getting into a magazine. It is not that you only have one shot at it, but it will help if it is appropriate content, a targeted approach; and I get the sense from magazine and blogs that they don’t operate like Woodward and Bernstein, they aren’t chasing down an artist no one has heard about, some initial momentum on the artist/designers part is necessary. Relationships help, I think I once knew someone at Design Milk…I do also have an acquaintance to the creator of Clever podcast…hang on, I think they are the same person… going to email her now.
The work and the development of the work will open up opportunities, not that the universe is on my side, but in the sense that, as the work develops and contacts are made through friends and acquaintances the correct channels to pursue will become evident. I certainly prefer less of a shotgun approach to this
Online advertising, social media strategies can be successful, but it bears remembering that a lot of online businesses, such as gaming companies spend vast amounts on experiential marketing to gain customers and raise their profile, the growth of event marketing must be somewhat paradoxically tied to the plethora of digital and online promotional outlets.
Btw, I am liking that colourful print of the greyhound more and more now.