In today’s episode we are chatting with our lovely guest, Elizabeth Silver. She is a very successful surface pattern designer, based in North Carolina, USA. We picked her brain to get very valuable information about how to make it in this business… So without further ado, let’s get into the show!

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Show Notes for This Episode:

[1:00] Tom welcomes Elizabeth to the show.
[2:00] Tom wants to go deep on surface design with Elizabeth.
[3:00] Elizabeth gives us a brief overview of getting into surface design.
[4:00] From New York City to North Carolina.
[5:00] Why Elizabeth chose surface design as a career.
[6:00] Lisa explains why she is drawn to surface pattern design.
[7:00] The two common questions people ask about surface pattern design.
[8:00] A behind-the-scenes at GAP and how patterns and color trends develop.
[9:30] Is there a lag in pattern design?
[10:25] Trends last longer than you think.
[11:00] Dustin asks how long a trend actually lasts.
[12:00] Do you have to follow trends to make it?
[13:00] No distinct style? No problem. Surface design might be for you.
[14:00] What NEVER goes out of style?
[15:00] Immersed in the world of trends.
[16:25] Do you jump in early on surface design before it blows up like a stock?
[17:00] Go with what interests and moves you.
[18:30] Can you make a living on surface design alone without freelancing?
[19:00] Licensing has changes a lot over the past 20 years.
[20:00] Everyone in pattern design has multiple jobs to support themselves.
[21:00] Spoonflower is a lot like the Skillshare model.
[22:00] Elizabeth shares the % of her income that comes from licensing.
[23:00] Freelancing + Licensing = Honest Living.
[24:00] When you have a solid style, you will make more in licensing.
[25:00] Lisa asks what one should do if they want to do surface design?
[26:00] Surface design is a long game. You will need a portfolio.
[27:20] Narrow down your product category.
[28:00] Look at what is in the market place.
[29:20] Is there one product category that is more lucrative than others?
[30:00] Scrapbook sticker and paper design appears to be in-house designers.
[31:00] Mom and Pop’s scrapbook stores of the past have closed.
[33:00] Working with party companies as a surface designer.
[34:00] The three P’s of Surface Design – Portfolio, Product Category and Pitch.
[35:30] How do you build relationships that lead to pattern design work?
[36:00] Connect with other surface designers, hit LinkedIn and cold pitch.
[37:00] Referrals and repeat clients are bread and butter.
[38:30] More work referrals from clients or peers?
[39:10] Is Instagram a good place to get surface work?
[40:20] Where is the next frontier of pattern design?
[41:30] Package design is an area where Elizabeth would love to work.
[42:30] Activewear is a huge category for surface pattern design.
[43:00] Seeing patterns everywhere means there is work everywhere.
[44:00] Forever looking for the repeat.
[45:00] Dustin talks about the emotional strength of pattern design.
[46:50] Early career and pitching oneself.
[47:20] Find companies that make the products you like and go ninja on it.
[48:00] Getting the message to the right person.
[49:00] Getting ignored, hearing a lot of No’s to get a Yes.
[50:00] Keep your chin up. Your art will speak for itself.
[51:00] Email, mailers and LinkedIn messages.
[52:00] Sending personalized work gets attention of art directors.
[53:00] Talk the talk and show that you pay attention to a company’s work.
[54:00] Every company wants to hear you love their work, product, service.
[55:15] Dustin talks the Elephant in the room.
[56:00] Why doesn’t Elizabeth have her own product line?
[57:00] Finding customers and selling products is it’s own game.
[58:10] How has the pandemic affected your work?
[59:00] Client work has been very slow but it is on the uptick again.
[1:00:00] How much time should one be spending on one portfolio piece?
[1:00:00] A beautiful portfolio needs to be seen so get out there.
[1:02:25] Getting attention. Newsletter, Instagram posts, mailers.
[1:04:00] Basic questions to ask at the beginning of a project.
[1:05:30] Do I have to do vector for pattern design?
[1:06:10] How do you charge more in this line of work?
[1:07:00] Bigger clients do not invariably pay more.
[1:08:10] Elizabeth drops some copyright advice.
[1:09:00] A surgeon doesn’t do the surgery and keep charging you for it.
[1:10:30] Dustin talks hiring artists for one-off jobs.
[1:11:00] Don’t become too attached to your art.
[1:12:00] Where can people find Elizabeth?
[1:13:00] Find Elizabeth here for classes and newsletter.
[1:14:00] That’s a wrap!

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“A must for every creative freelancer (or those aspiring to freelance). Thank you for being so… honest! Such a wealth of information from people I admire who have ‘been there and done that’. Listening to the podcast every week feels like I’m among friends. Can’t wait for more episodes!”AG_GD