Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New designs

A couple of new designs. The "Chewing is for Amateurs" is something that popped out of my mouth this past weekend at an agility trial as my old gal Viva was sucking down treats. Real Men run Agility is a shirt for the guys who are brave enough to step into what is a predominantly woman's sport in the U.S. The weird thing is, I have no idea why it's dominated by women. In Europe, there are just as many men as women running dogs in agility but here women outnumber men by a huge amount.

But guys, there's nothing more sexy than somebody willing to get out there and laugh at himself and his dog. And playing silly games with your dog? Big turn on.

Featured artist and design

With some rather draconian changes over on Cafepress, we're getting a big influx of new designers over on Zazzle. That's exciting for all of us, because the more overall traffic that is driven to Zazzle, the better it is for everyone. My design and site this week is a newcomer to Zazzle, Retropolis Travel Bureau. Be sure to check his overall front page layout, which is a superb example of using html to highlight the feel and theme of his work without overwhelming it. The artwork itself is nothing less than spectacular, an homage to art deco at its finest with a bit of black humor thrown in. I love the intricate shadings and attention to fine detail.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Quick Product Create, blessing and curse

The advent of Quick Product Create in the Zazzle marketplace has caused some consternation in long-time Zazzle users, and it's easy to see why. Unlike Cafepress, where you put your design on anything and everything, in Zazzle the philosophy and site structure works best to show a design on one thing then allow customers to customize. What's too often happening with Quick Product Creat (QPC) is the same design is slapped on everything available in the Zazzle marketplace, regardless of whether it fits well. Then searches clog up as people have to scroll by page after page of the same design to be able to see what other designs might be available. It can be a nightmare.

Fortunately, there's a way to use QPC responsibly so your designs are highlighted and your work is at least somewhat streamlined. Here's how I handle it for the DDGraphix site.

First, I made a set of templates. I did that by creating templates in Quick Product Create using the guidelines in the Zazzle seller blog. Don't worry, it's easy.

The very first thing to do is set yourself up a "Templates" section. Under "Products," click on "Add New Product Line." I actually put my "Templates" section under "New Products," but put yours wherever it makes sense to you.

I used "all products" to set up my initial set of template items. Then, before even completing the template process, I went through and slimmed that offering down. I went with one male model, one female model, and one child model. I left in a magnet, button, and key chain but just one of each. I also left in vertical and horizontal stamps and vertical and horizontal cards. I ditched neckties, it's not something I'll use. Obviously your own choices may differ, but think of trying to distill to one of each orientation of paper products and one of each type of model for clothing, etc.

That becomes my main template for all new items I want to use Quick Create on. I'm now ready to actually put a design on many products. When deciding whether to use Quick Create, I first make sure that it's appropriate to put the same categories, description and tags on all the items. If I need to do special tags and descriptions for each item then QPC isn't the right thing to do.

Once the main design is loaded and you hit to create products, your real work begins. Because if you want your design to be successful, you need to be prepared to prune your offerings and modify the ones left. Let's take this Doberman design. The main design is just a black and white Doberman head. It's vertical, so the first thing I did was toss out the horizontal stamps, cards, etc. that QPC had pulled from my template. Then I went into the Customize feature on each item. I worked on size, added some background colors, etc. My goal is to show my potential buyers how good the design looks in a variety of products but not overwhelm them with pages and pages.

Another great use of QPC is to highlight a design you have available in several color combinations. In the case of this stylized agility design, I did it in many colors. I want to display different colors on different products, and in the description I will be sure to mention that it can be available on ANY product in any color.

If you put your quality time into this main section of QPC, it will reap you huge benefits. You can then move to the best feature of QPC, the ability to assign a description, category and tags to a number of different items all at once. Be careful in your description and don't be afraid to add extra info. I always point out that shirt styles can be changed for instance.

QPC really can be useful, but it should be used with understanding and respect. Don't spam your site with lots of products, but do use QPC to apply a design thoughtfully to a smaller subset of products.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Agility crazy

This stylized design was so fun to draw, and I think it will work really well on a huge number of products. So day I've been using Quick Create, along with the design itself in a lot of colors, to start creating a whole new line. I'm also making sure I add a spot for people to customize with their breed name so they can personalize their shirt. I'm showing three bright colors here, but I also added more subdued colors (and a couple more shockers!) It's important to design for a variety of audiences, and I see this particular design as being very appealing to men as well as women, so I wanted to have subdued *and* bright options.

More on how to properly use (and not abuse) Quick Create soon!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Featured Design

I've had Tanya Bond's Charming Critters site as one of my favorites for awhile, but hadn't yet featured any of her designs. I love her two Robins. Perhaps because my name is Robin and I have a special affinity for birds. These are English Robins, different from our larger, sleek American Robins but so charming. I especially like Tanya's loose, impressionistic brushstrokes and the way her animals come to life. I hope everyone reading this checks out Tanya's entire gallery.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Rounding out some categories

I did a nice set of flower design mugs a couple of months ago for my sister. She's married to a career military man, and one of her favorite sayings, popular among military wives, is "bloom where you are planted." In a life where they are on the move every two or three years, military families constantly shift from the known to the unknown. New place, new people, new friends. The stresses, especially for young families, can be tremendous.

Mary's three children are all either in college or graduated now, and they are at their last posting before her husband retires. But I love the design and I think it applies to any of us who have had to deal with upheaval and shifts in our lives. Since being laid off from my job, I too have tried to take that mantra to heart and make the most of where I am in life, even if it's not exactly where I expected to be right at this moment!

Today, with spring and Mother's day nearing, I expanded the designs from mugs to shirts, stickers and cards.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New design series!

Here's the first of my new design series for bumper stickers. This is the uncropped design; the real design does not have an actual wavy bottom.

Those of us with purebred breeds are facing an ever-increasing onslaught of prejudice, pushed in large part by Animal Rights activists who would like to see ALL dogs (and cats) eliminated as a species. Breed-specific laws are not only unjust and unfair, they are also ineffective. In each of these so-called "vicious" breeds, the great majority of the dogs are wonderful family companions. Many of them are therapy dogs or do assistance work. Targeting an entire breed for the problems of a few dogs, almost all owned by very irresponsible people, is discriminatory and unnecessary.

Instead, dog laws should be tightened to apply to ALL dogs and to severely punish irresponsible owners who allow any dog to attack or maim humans. There are vicious Golden Retrievers, Labs, and Spaniels, yet these draconian breed-specific laws do not cover those breeds. Thus, many problem dogs go free while other wonderful dogs are condemned to death because of the law. Further, breed-specific laws infringe on our rights as American citizens to have the freedom of choice of which dog best suits our lifestyle.