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Questions to ask yourself if your pattern designs aren’t selling

Design and Shine Podcast episode title questions to ask if your pattern designs aren't selling. Girl sitting and looking at laptop, with concentration on her face


In this episode of the Design and Shine Podcast, we are going to be talking about some things to think about if you are not selling your designs.

So if you’ve been working hard, you’ve been creating lots of designs and then you hear crickets then I want to give you a few things for you to ask yourself and to consider.

One of the most important elements that I believe you as a surface pattern designer need to develop in order to be successful is your critical design eye. If you are not creating designs that are successful then you are going to have a much harder time trying to sell them. Learning to critically assess your designs is a really important skill for you to work on.

Develop your critical design eye

It can be a real challenge knowing what’s working and what isn’t in your designs. How do you know how to make something better if you don’t have the experience yet. You can only work with the experience you currently have and if you’re just learning then it can be really hard. While learning the technical processes and skills is the very first stage of creating a design, it is only the beginning and just learning those steps is not going to make you a successful designer.

The thing is if you spend hours of your time on youtube or google you will be able to piece together the technical process to create your designs and learn the ins and out of the design software. That is something we can all do really easily do and you may be even doing that right now. 

But, just like taking a photo, anyone can take a photo but not everyone can create a great photo, one that has a beautiful composition, and has thought about the light and the framing of the shot. The same goes for pattern designs. It’s so easy to technically create a pattern design. That’s ultimately a simple process but what’s much harder is creating one that really works. 

That is well balanced, has thought about the way the motifs relate to one and other, has a well-resolved colour palette and is really coherent.

Being able to really SUCCESSFULLY create a design or collection involves developing YOUR critical design eye and that can be hard to do by yourself but it is essential in becoming a successful surface pattern designer. If you’re not able to really critically look at your designs and make decisions about what is and isn’t’ working then your designs will only ever be average at best. And I see this all the time. And then what happens is people start trying to sell their designs or get design work and wonder why they’re not getting any work or why their designs are not selling.

Find a mentor

If you can, I highly recommend having a mentor help you with this process and this is something that I do with my Pattern to Product mentoring students. I love critiquing their work and love even more seeing the improvements they make after the feedback they’re given. Developing your critical design eye on your own will take a lot of time to develop today so if you can, get some critique, support and guidance in this area from someone experienced. will really shortcut that process for you

So, in essence, the first question to ask yourself is are your design good enough?

Have a marketing strategy

The other area that a lot of people fall short of is not marketing their designs or marketing their designs to the wrong category. Remember that if you are wanting to create your designs and sell them then marketing is an essential part of that as it is with any business. If you are wanting to create a successful business then you have to remember that there are business tasks that need to be done and that includes marketing.

Just as you spend time each week on creating designs, you need to set aside time for marketing them.

First of all, objectively look at your designs. Think about what category they fit best. There’s no use in trying to sell your designs to a category they won’t work. For example, if you have really cute, animal prints it would be unlikely a high-end Womens apparel company would be interested in purchasing them. Your designs may fit across multiple categories and that’s fine but make sure you have a clear idea about which category or categories your designs would work best. 

You then want to think about creating a list of potential clients within those categories. Once again, choose companies where your aesthetic would work. You don’t want to waste your time or their’s and then you want to start approaching those clients and following up with them also.

Within your marketing strategy, you of course also want to think about posting on social media and ensuring that you have a schedule and strategy for that.

So the next question I’m going to ask you is, do you have a marketing strategy?

Be persistent and consistent

The last thing I want to talk about is endurance. This is a long game, not a short game and those who are successful are consistent and persistent. For example, you can’t expect to send one email or create one social media post and then be flooded with people wanting to buy your designs. People that are successful are people who are driven and don’t give up. It’s important to remember that we all get knockbacks, it’s going to be unique to you it’s something that happens to everyone but was is important is how you get back up and keep going. 

So the last question I’m going to ask you is, are you giving up too soon

IF you want to become a successful designer then you need to make sure that you are working on your craft and creating beautiful and successful designs, set up a good marketing strategy and make sure you don’t give up.


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