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GCU Community Newsletter #12 – July 21, 2011

July 21, 2011

A little panic going around as GCU announces it’s new Marketability Standards (unfortunately, Mindy’s forum thread was lost). Not to worry; check below for an article about marketability and what it means to you, both as an artist and as a business person. And we’ve gleaned Mindy’s original forum post from Google, so you can read it below!

Hidden Gems: Birthday Humor - Sharon Fernleaf

Last week ,our Artist Interview with Sandra of Sandra Rose Designs gave us insight into a successful artist, while Doreen Erhardt’s weekly column, A Dash of Inspiration – a Cup of Creativity was for the birds ;-). Our Community Challenge: Guest Bloggers ended with John H. Johnson winning the prize. Finally, the weekend Critique Clinic offered help and advice to GCU artists.

Until next time, don’t forget to pass the love around!

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What the Heck is Marketability Anyway?

What makes a shopper in a store reach for a certain card in a rack? What makes a shopper open their wallet and put down their hard-earned cash for a piece of colorfully printed card stock? There are as many answers to these questions as there are stars in the sky, but it all boils down to one word: appeal.

Commercial appeal, that is.

What’s that mean? Simply put, greeting cards that are well designed, attractive, and suit the purpose for which they’ve been created have commercial appeal. While the appreciation of art is subjective, therefore not every design will appeal the same way to every shopper, a marketable card ticks the boxes for many consumers and entices them to buy.

GCU’s new Marketability Standards have been created to raise the bar for artists, enabling GCU to compete on an equal footing with the “Big Boys” in the greeting card market. The review team will not only be looking at new cards, they will be taking a look at older cards, too. And some stores may end up deleted.

This does NOT mean that if a card has never been sold, it will be deleted.

This does NOT mean your store is in danger of being snatched away without warning.

This does NOT mean you should stop designing cards because you’ve never had professional training.

Here is the text of Mindy’s original Forum post (found through Google’s cache):

On the heels of our recent landmark of reaching 500,000 cards it is due time for GCU to turn an honest and critical eye to our existing collection and new cards.  To date GCU has accepted virtually all submitted work and artists.  Today we are introducing a MarketabilityStandards policy.  Based on GCU’s evaluation of marketability and commercial appeal, GCU will begin saying “no thank you” to cards and ultimately some artists. 

The Marketability Standards and Guidelines raises the bar on card designs to increase professionalism and marketability and ultimately a better experience for our shoppers.  This will up the overall product quality on GCU which reflects on all artists in our community as shoppers view GCU as a single store.  Our goal is to provide a selection of greeting cards to the buying public that are competitive,  professional, and equal to the highest level of design. 

Although we’d like to say this process will be clear cut, objective and quantitative, in practice that is virturally impossible.  By nature it is subjective and heavily qualitative.  However here are some of the elements that we have established as standards and guidelines that our reviewers will be looking at.  These will soon be reflected on our GCU Wiki page with image examples: 

  1. Subject Matter –  poor, random, unrelated, not professional 
  2. Image Quality – clarity, color, lighting, angle, cropping, shadows, composition,  misuse of filter, out of focus, exposure, particularly with photographs 
  3. Overused Image 
  4. Unrelated Image – not related nor appropriate to occasion/category, gender, relation, age, etc. 
  5. Any Reason – on a case by case basis we reserve the right to not accept a card considered to be lacking in commercial appeal 

The review team will begin to apply these standards to newly submitted cards.  No cards will be grandfathered in so GCU will also begin weeding through existing cards and saying “no thank you” to those deemed to be lacking in commercial appeal.  Ultimately the direction is for new artists to submit sample work for evaluation before opening a GCU storefront. 

This is an excellent time for all artists to look at their body of work with a critical eye as well.  Schedule your own “Weed out Week” where artists look at their own cards and remove those designs that you feel do not reflect your best work or do not shine with professionalism and polish.  Consider using your family and friends and peer artists as honest and frank critics and participating in the GCU Community BLOG Critique Clinic.

We realize many artists will not be happy with this new policy.   This is another corner for GCU and artists to turn and we will all feel the growing pains.  However we are confident that this is a fair and necessary step as GCU grows and strives to be the leader in online paper greeting card sales.

Thank you in advance for your understanding and support!  Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

And to clarify what is meant by overused image, here’s another quote from the same lost thread, also by Mindy:

At this point overused will go hand in hand with images or subject matter that is unrelated or inappropriate to the card/occasion.  For example: a lovely pine cone may be fine for winter birthday, christmas and father’s day but not so much for baby naming ceremony or congratulations on moving for example UNLESS of course the artist has done something in design or verse that makes the connection.

What can you do to give your designs more marketability? Here are some tips to help you create greeting cards that have commercial appeal, and should comply with GCU’s new Marketability Standards:

Photographers Should – Only use photographs portraying subjects that are in focus, well exposed, well cropped, sharp, creative and dynamic. Be certain the photograph you choose suits the category you’re designing the card for (in other words, a depressed looking mongoose is unlikely to be make a successful birthday card UNLESS paired with a clever verse). If you put text on the front of the card, make sure the composition is correct. Go easy on filters and effects – while such designs may look “cool” on your computer monitor, they will print poorly.

Hidden Gems: Birthday Humor - artist Angela Castillo

Illustrators Should – Ensure your design’s composition is correct and pleasing to the eye. Choose your font for front of card text with care – it should match the tone of your design, and be readable even at a small size. When drawing people, keep in mind that many shoppers don’t generally like cards with “real” looking people on the front (unless it’s a cartoon panel with a point) – to give your people blue, purple, green or other outlandish colored skin to make them more cartoonish, or substitute animals. If a viewer can’t immediately distinguish the subject of your design (in other words, if they think you’ve drawn a fish when you’ve actually drawn a cat), then go back to the drawing board.

All Artists Should –  Consider the recipient when designing cards (feminine, masculine or general) – for example, a birthday card with a vase of flowers is unlikely to be sent to a male recipient, therefore you don’t need to include male relations if you’re doing relationship specific cards. Don’t mix religion with secular subjects (in other words, don’t create a design with Santa Claus holding baby Jesus unless you mean to be humorous – you won’t please either market), and be careful when designing with religious subjects as mistakes in this area may offend. Avoid overuse of effects including text effects and shadow, which may not print well, and don’t always look professional.

Our own community Critique Clinic is open Friday-Saturday-Sunday every week. It’s a place where artists can submit a card and receive an honest peer review and critique, along with suggestions and tips on how to improve. Even if you don’t want to submit a card, stop by and see what other artists have submitted. You’ll probably learn something new.

Don’t be afraid. These new standards have been put in place to help you, and don’t forget the community is here to help, too. Now’s the time to go over your old designs with a more critical eye. With all the tools at your disposal, you’ll be have a store filled with polished, professional looking designs that sell.

Hidden Gems: Birthday Humor - artist Corrie Kuipers

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Mindy’s forum announcement about the new Marketability Standards crashed and was lost yesterday, however you’ll find the original text quoted above thanks to my partner, Nene, and her Internet detective skills.

Tanya (Moonie) at Moonlake Designs has made a small collection of high quality photographs available to any artist who wants to use them. See her Forum post for all the details.

Websprinter continues to maintain her very helpful list of Free Art Programs.

There is a GCU artists’ group on Facebook? We encourage you to join, post cards for your fellow artists to admire, share news, and have fun!

DID YOU KNOW you can “like” this newsletter or any post on the GCU Community blog, or include them in your social bookmarks? Or Google +1 them! Just click the title of the post, which takes you to the permanent link page. At the bottom of the page you’ll see buttons for social sites like Facebook, Reddit, StumbleUpon, etc.

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The next Newsletter will be published on July 28, 2011

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2011 2:56 pm

    I think this is great news. Usually sites that do not jury and accept everybody and anything are mediocre. Today, you have to be keen to sell and GCU going for higher standards is great. I’ve been weeding through my cards for a few months now and changing images,text,inside verses too. You can’t help but change and get better as you grow and some old cards just don’t make the grade. Good job. One thing that frustrates me is when I find a great card and a great artist and they’ve opened their store in 2008 for example, and have 12 cards and have disappeared. It does not want me to follow them. Where did they go?

  2. July 21, 2011 7:16 pm

    On the whole this makes sense. The only thing that makes me wary is the part about don’t mix secular and religious. If I do an inspirational horse card with a bible verse who decides if a horse is secular? Just because the verse doesn’t say horse in the verse will I get rejected? And I’ve seen a fair bit of Santa Clauses and even ornaments holding the baby Jesus. I found them adorable.
    This is iffy territory. A christian horse lover – or cat, dog or whatever may love that card combining their beliefs with their favorite things. And if religion is supposed to permeate your lifestyle, you’d really have to know a religion well not to know which things are truly ‘secular’.
    Maybe instead of blocking them you should narrow them into a special category or something. Because there is a market – it’s just not as big. But then, isn’t that one of the cool things about GCU? You can request cards and find hard to find cards like Happy Birthday to twin boys? I’d hate to see us lose that aspect of it. It would wipe out us ‘niche’ artists and designers.

    • July 21, 2011 7:36 pm

      This is more to do with symbolism, T.A., not objects.

      As to things being rejected by the GCU review team – that’s up to them. I’m not a reviewer. This is an artist community.

      Not to say you CAN’T do mix what you please… you’re free to design as you wish. If you want to cater to a very tiny niche, go ahead and have baby Jesus holding a menorah in the manger if you think you’ll sell any. These tips aren’t official rules – they’re rules of thumb.

      Corrie

  3. jen cosgrove permalink
    July 21, 2011 10:16 pm

    Tremendously helpful! Thanks for resurrecting the original post too.

  4. July 21, 2011 11:07 pm

    Great points Corrie…this IS a “must read”! The weeding has begun (it’s a painful and emotional process for us too).

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