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Collateral Materials 102: Understanding Your Visual Style

· Artist Services,Support Artists,Collateral

In Collateral Materials 101: Do This Before You Make Anything, you learned how to set the framework for creating collateral materials with intention. If you missed class, catch up on that post first so you have a solid understanding of today’s advanced technique.

To recap: collateral materials are a collection of digital and printed media to support your identity as an artist. Websites, social media profiles, business cards, headshots, resumes, swag, catalogs, invoices, letterheads, invoices, and so on are all part of your marketing collateral.

Everything that touches the outside world and supports you as an artist must be professional, thoughtful, and, most importantly, on brand. It’s all part of the experience of you as an artist and they all must harmoniously work together.

In the first lesson, you learned how to define your Why and your values, how to define yourself, and what collateral materials you’ll need to support those goals.

Now, it’s time to learn about the elements that go into those materials. They’re the visual parts of your collateral and make up a cohesive brand experience.

Gather Your Visual Elements

Have you heard of the term mise en place? If you’re a fan of Worst Cooks in America, you sure have! It’s a French culinary term meaning “everything in its place.” This refers to getting all your ingredients prepared and tools organized before beginning to cook.

Before you can make your website, business cards, and any other pieces, you should get all your elements together. Know which fonts you’ll use. Have your logos, colors, photos, and written information readily available and all pulled together.

This is going to save you so much time and ensure that you stay in the flow. You won’t have to stop to sift through that folder of images your photographer delivered to find just the right one to use as your headshot. It’ll be ready for you.

We gathered your marketing and collateral ingredients, now it’s time to chop them up.

Make Some Decisions on Your Visual Style

This is largely the “branding” part of your collateral materials. Remember, everything has to work together. Nothing should fight or compete for attention. It’s all in support of your brand and it has to represent your brand’s values.

If you don’t know where to start, consider your tone. Is your artistic style bright pop art, minimal and bold, or full of rococo ornateness? This can be informed by your personal taste and what you like, but should most strongly be influenced by your artistic style and aesthetic.

These elements must be consistent across your collateral materials.

Your fonts and colors are part of your visual style. Choose a pair of fonts, one that’s a fancier display font and a simple one that works for a large body of copy. They should play together well and have elements that reflect your brand tone. For example: if you create with watercolors, you may want a brush-style font as your display font.

Now, choose a color palette. Limit yourself to 2-3 colors maximum for the biggest impact and for ease of reading. When picking colors, ensure some contrast exists in your color family. Black and white is always great if you’re stuck, then add in a splash of color if you choose.

Finally, your logo. Your logo is a key branding piece. It’s used on everything from your business cards to your website to your letterhead and should reflect who you are as an artist. It’s perfectly okay if this is just your name! Whatever it is, you must have a vector version and high resolution .png and/or .jpg version.

We discussed logos in Brand Images 101: The Basics Every Artist Should Understand and got more technical with file types and principles of design in Brand Images 102: Principles of Strong Design.

I love mood boards. As a visual person, it makes sense. And as an artist, I’m hoping you do, too. Gather up these elements and put them in a mood board for easy reference.

This Must Be on Every Piece of Collateral Material

Without exception, use your fonts, colors, and logo on everything. The more times you reinforce your branding, the more you’ll come to be associated with it.

Also include these basic ways of contacting you. You must have your name, website, phone number, physical address, and social media handles. How else will a patron get in touch with you to buy that key piece for their collection?

I strongly recommend that you use the same handle across all social media platforms. It’s easier for your colleagues and clients to remember.

Now, Make It!

There’s nothing left to do now but create your collateral materials.

For inspiration, consider turning to:

  • Design-Seeds

  • Pinterest

  • Moo

  • BP&O

For design tools, you can use:

  • Canva,

  • Gimp

  • Adobe Suite (available as a Creative Cloud subscription so you don’t have to buy the program anymore)

  • Microsoft Office Suite

For website builders, there is:

  • SquareSpace

  • Weebly

  • Wix

  • Strikingly

  • Format

  • Wordpress

Online classes you may want to try are:

  • Lynda (available with a Carnegie Public Library card!)



  • PF/PCA

Use these as inspiration but do not, I repeat do NOT, just lift someone else’s design. In the words of Tom Haverford, that is a big Oh-No-No.

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

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