Thursday, 3 March 2011

A question of style...

When it comes to style, greeting cards are probably as much subject to fashion trends as anything else. So anyone involved in designing with the hope of making money from it, probably wonders whether their sales would increase if they made a conscious effort to keep up with the current fashions in design.  

Many articles and blog posts would advise us that anticipating trends is essential. But is it?

Early last year I came across a florist’s shop in town that I hadn’t previously noticed so, as I had some of my floral cards with me, I decided to go in and ask the shopkeeper whether she would be interested in selling my greeting cards, based on the assumption that occasions that call for flowers nearly always also call for a greeting card. The florist pointed to a range of cards in a rack along the back wall and politely told me that they stuck to this one range of cards.

I should have known! The cards were pretty in a very pink and feminine kind of way - just a few lines and lots of flitter - and so was the shop! The style of the whole enterprise was cohesively ‘contemporary’, from shop-fittings to the florist’s overall  – a style I remember from my teenage years and didn’t much like at the time, and now like even less as it makes me feel so old that I remember it from the first time around! My rather heavy-handed oil pastel flowers (right) in particular, would have looked utterly out of place in such an environment. But that is a style that is fashionable at the moment and as far as I know, the shop is doing well.

So should I have gone home and tried to design something in that style? 
I might have done if it hadn’t been that a few months previously, I had watched an interview on our local news with a company in Cwmbran who specialise in making Christmas decorations – all the year round! The message I took away from that interview was that the fashion in Christmas decorations for the coming year was called ‘Gilver’ – gold and silver on a black background. So I designed some Christmas cards in that style, even though it wasn’t a combination I would ever have considered using if I hadn’t seen the interview. Some of them sold, but I can’t honestly say they were any more successful than my other designs. That Christmas I noticed that only 2 out of about 60 Christmas cards that I received reflected this fashion for ‘Gilver’.

Maybe there are two equally valid ways to go?

Maybe we could design for the younger end of the market, the demographic group that is likely to be far more concerned with keeping up with the latest fashions? Or, alternatively, we could recognise that it’s possible to be ‘stylish’ without necessarily being ‘fashionable’ and stick with our own natural style?

"You do not create a style. You work, and develop yourself; your style is an emanation from your own being." Katherine Anne Porter

Some years ago I attended series of fascinating lectures at the Victoria & Albert Museum by well-known designers of the time. I’ve forgotten almost everything I learnt there – apart from one thing! One of the lecturers – I think it was Charles Jencks -  began his lecture with the questions, ‘What is ‘style’? and surprised us, earnest students that we were, with the answer, ‘Style is whatever I, and my friends, like’.

People are different! Many follow the rapidly moving cycles of fashion but just as many know what style they like and choose it, whether it is the ‘fashionable’ one or not! So we can choose which of these groups to target.

But if we choose to stick to our own ‘style’, disregarding fashion, we need to recognise the ‘niche’  market where we are likely find sales and not expect to sell in great numbers to anybody and everybody!

Quentin Blake has never been bothered by fashion – he continues to do what he has always done best, what he has become known for. I could say the same for Greeting Card Universe artists Carole Barkett, Chris Fothergill and Diana Ting Delosh, among many others. They have their own ‘style’ and their work appeals to people who enjoy that style and/or subject matter, regardless of the changing fashions.

It’s simply a case of realising the importance of finding your niche market. I have discovered that my style is mostly suited to the older age groups, which is hardly a surprise, given that I’m no spring chicken myself! So I will bear that in mind when deciding which outlets to approach. My foray into the florist’s shop now seems decidely naive and I won’t make a mistake like that again!

I’ve read that ‘insects’ are going to be all the rage this Spring so maybe a few will creep into my designs if it seems appropriate. But if they do appear, they will be in one of my own styles!

I am enormously thankful for the diversity of artists’personal styles. Just imagine how boring it would be if everyone followed the fashion trends!


Ulla Hennig said...

Interesting blogpost, Judy! I've heard somewhere that we are best when we follow our own style. So I think it may be better to do that and risk not getting some customers than trying to please and not be ourselves.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you for your comments, Ulla. I tend to agree with you, but at the same time I'm envious of anyone who is able to adapt to fashion without losing their authenticity!

Betsy Grant said...

Stick with your own original style by all means. It is beautiful and though you may put a price on your cards, your work is then priceless, since there is not another just like it! By the way, I love your yellow flowers in the blue vase!

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Betsy - thank you for your encouraging comments. I'm glad you like the sunflowers (from my neighbour's garden!). I really enjoy working with oil pastels sometimes for a change.

UmmSuhayb said...

There's a comedy duo here in Sweden I read about recently who make a joke of the current trend of home-styling, everything 'fresh and light' ie everything in stark white, like a 'Danish airport' many are obsessed with. I put it thru the Google Translate!?!:
Henry Schyffert, 42, and Fred Lindstrom, 47, is doing right now success with cabaret "bright and clean", where they include jokes about the city people's hysterical Bolette and interior security

I remember arguing with you that flared trousers could NEVER come back in fashion, of course I was wrong:)
You're probably never going to get the same satisfaction unless you keep to your own style

Judy Adamson said...

Thanks, Louise - I don't remember the conversation about the flares! But I do remember that they were mostly worn (by you, aged about 3!!) with skinny-rib polo-neck jumpers and they don't seem to have made a come-back....yet!

Di said...

Thanks for the mention in this post. How did I miss this post?

Judy Adamson said...

Easily done, Di, when we're on the receiving end of so much information and opinion on the internet, day in, day out!