Guest Blog

Jun 27

Written by: Guest Author
6/27/2011 10:33 AM  RssIcon

As I began my art licensing career and attended my first SURTEX show in 1988, I soon realized while the retail consumer is your end customer, and the retail store buyer is your secondary customer, the manufacturer is your primary customer. Knowing what manufacturers want and how to maintain a continuing relationship with them is the ultimate way to achieve your goal of forging a career in art licensing. So along with talent, a unique style, and a business sense, working well with manufacturers ranks as one of the must-have qualities an artist needs. Here are ten steps that I think will help guide you as you work with manufacturers:

1. Format your work for the manufacturer. You will need a website with an on-line portfolio, plus a presentation portfolio or iPad portfolio for personal presentations to manufacturers.

2. Organize your work. Manufacturers are always busy and their time is limited so the better organized your portfolio is the more time they can have to look rather than just search. Group artwork first by theme, such as kitchen, bath, children’s, holiday. Then by subjects such as, Kitchen: roosters, chefs, vegetables, wine. Holiday: Christmas, Halloween, Easter, etc. If you have different styles that you work in, organize them with a title for each style and then into the themes and subjects as mentioned.

3. Realize why manufacturers license and add this to your thought process as you design. Manufacturers are looking for art to add value to their product. They want something unique that resonates with their desired demographic. If you create work that is like other artists or is repetitive and does not change, then you will be lessening your potential to license your art.

4. Work closely with the manufacturers’ Design Director. I will admit that some are good and some are weak but they are your customers. Listen carefully to what they say. A good Design Director can be your best advisor and friend. To a weak Design Director, let him or her know that you are there to solve their problems. Ask for direction. Whether you are successful or not with a manufacturer, always ask what they are looking for. You may receive advice that will lead to your next big success.

5. Provide graphic services. You either need to be skilled at Photoshop or hire someone who is. Manufacturers need artwork digitally provided to them as they request it.

6. Be aware of the manufacturing process. Your work on product will never match your original work. As art is digitized and reproduced in many printing and manufacturing processes, your work will become transformed into a product that you may not regard as your own creative expression. When this happens you must take a step back and consider that the manufacturer is doing their best to bring a quality and sellable product to market for a reasonable price. Sometimes your art becomes just an inspiration for the product. You must be willing to work this way to license your art to manufacturers. You can make suggestions to the manufacturer on how to improve the product. Layout and color advice is generally welcomed by the manufacturer. However, each manufacturing process has its limitations and this will always get in the way of an accurate translation of your art work.

7. Negotiate your contract to your benefit. Work with a lawyer to prepare a contract that is mutually beneficial to you and the manufacturer. You need a contract that compensates you and protects the rights of your artwork while not being too binding on the manufacturer.

8. Showing new work. Each season a manufacturer needs new work. They also remember what they have seen. Be sure to keep up with your design work so that you have new designs each time you meet with a manufacturer.

9. Follow up. After each meeting be sure to follow up with designs requested along with a note of thanks for the opportunity to show your work.

10. Keep accurate records. Be sure to keep track of artwork sent, payments due, payments received, and images licensed in each category. Yu do not want to make the mistake of licensing the same design to competing manufacturers and, on the other hand, you can benefit by telling manufacturers about design placement on complimentary products.

You can find out more about my approach to art licensing at my website and you can see my work at


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