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Collateral Materials 101: Do This Before You Make Anything

· Artist Services,graphic design,Support Artists,Collateral

In the arsenal of “Basics Every Artist Needs” sits quite firmly your marketing collateral. It’s not only a huge part of your brand and your image, it’s most likely one of the first things people see when they interact with you as an artist. That is, if they didn’t see your art first. Okay, so it’s at least the second thing people see.

Either way, it is an important part of your marketing and how you present yourself as an artist. Do you give a shit or do you scrawl your name and website on the first available piece of paper you can find when someone asks for your info?

If you slept through class and missed Brand Images 101: The Basics Every Artist Should Understand, get caught up on what you missed!

Now, onto collateral materials.

What are Collateral Materials?

Collateral materials are, simply, a collection of digital and printed media to support your identity as an artist and your professional interactions.
There are so many different elements that make up your collateral. Websites, social media profiles, business cards, headshots, resumes, swag, catalogs, invoices, letterheads, invoices...the list is almost inexhaustible.
And they all have to be on point and, most importantly, on brand.

But wait! Before you do anything, you have to know what your brand is. You have to understand how all the pieces work together. Do the legwork now to discover your WHY as an artist and what will represent it.

Trust me, you really have to do this part. You’ll end up with a cohesive package that represents you, not a slap-dash, half-ass job that is devoid of personality and elements that really tie your brand and artwork together.

What Are Your Goals?

Like I said above, you have to know your Why before you can do anything else. Your Why is the cornerstone of everything you do. It’s the driving factor behind your work, the reason you get up every day to do your work, and the reason you keep going when you’re covered in paint and considering a nice job at a bank like your parents wanted you to do. PS: it also helps you set goals you’ll actually achieve!

Good goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Consider what you want to accomplish as an artist and measure them against your Why and your values. Does your goal support your mission? Is it in alignment with your values? Well then, proceed!

Who Are You?

Using your Why, decide who you are as an artist. What do you want to be known for? You must understand who you are as an artist so your patrons understand who you are as an artist. Define yourself.

Knowing a simplified version of yourself, your work, and your tone will help you attract goals to you because you’re super-clear on your vision. Further, you’ll be able concisely to describe what you’re all about so you can talk to customers about your work in an approachable way.
Finally, people want to hang out with folks who are going somewhere. By knowing who you are and owning it, you’ll find yourself around patrons and other arts professionals you’d like to interact with.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help with this process:

  • What are my values? What do I really care about?
  • What’s important to me aside from my art?
  • What’s my look? Is there a certain group of people I like to identify myself with stylistically?
  • Who am I trying to attract?
  • What are some keywords that describe my work?

How Will You Represent That?

Now, you can decide on what you’ll use to represent yourself through your collateral materials. It’s time to decide what you’ll use, but not how you’ll use it juuuust yet. That comes in the next lesson! Gotta walk before you can run.

Right now, you’re just putting in the framework.

How you define success influences what materials you’ll need.

Simply put, don’t waste your time! The collateral materials you create must support your goals. If you can’t figure out how you’ll use a certain item, there’s no need to put energy into creating it.
Using your Why as the framework, consider what your measure of success is. What will it take for you to say, “Yes, I accomplished X goal”? Put your energy behind making the best versions of those items you’ll need and forget the rest. Just because everyone has stickers doesn’t mean you need stickers.

You don’t have to create everything at once just for the sake of it.

Say you’ve determined your goal is “To have a solo show at Assemble on or before March 2019.” That’s awesome! It passes the SMART test and is alignment with your value to “Support Alternative Spaces that Support Artists.”

At a bare minimum, you’ll need an artist statement, professionally rendered photos of the work you want to exhibit, inventory list, and a headshot of yourself. You’ll likely want more, though, like a full biography, website, active social media channels (at least Instagram), display signage, and maybe even catalogs of your work.

Please, for the love of a perfectly-crafted cup of cappuccino, do not try to make these all at once! The whole point of being purposeful with what you are creating and not just going on Fivrrr to find someone to make you a logo is to have control over what you present. Being thoughtful and intentional is paramount to a cohesive brand story.

Take your time.

A hallmark of an artist who gives a shit is someone who presents everything with a polished, professional edge.
Make a list of the absolute necessities you’ll need to support your goals. Then, work through it carefully. It is so much better to have three beautifully-made collateral pieces instead of the whole messy-and-typographically-unsound enchilada.

Have a stretch-list.

What do you want to accomplish in six months, one year, five years? The answers will help you prioritize what materials you need now and what to strive for in the future.

Almost There

Now you’ve defined your Why, your goals, and the materials you’ll need in order of importance to accomplish your goals. The next step is to start to create. Join us in Collateral Materials 102 to learn about your visual style and how to share that vision with the world.


The content of this post was developed in collaboration with Casey Droege Cultural Productions.

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