In this session, we were joined by our very own Creative Director Matt Slightham, walking you through the process for creating best selling digital design products.
No one understands designers better than Matt, because he is one to his core. With a passion for brand building and illustration, having run a design agency, and now as a director of Design Cuts, Matt has helped countless designers develop incredible products that creatives really want.
During this session, he pulled back the curtain and helped us understand just what we need to do to bring a best selling product to market. He helped us navigate the minefield of questions & decisions that need to be made. This is one session that no matter what area of design you love, we think you'll find incredibly useful.
After Matt's initial session, there were a lot of unanswered questions (we simply ran out of time), so Matt kindly agreed to run a follow-up to provide answers and further insight into the process.
During this session, Matt delved into those questions posed by the community, giving you the best understanding of the complete process as he possibly can. If you haven't yet watched the initial session we urge you to do so before this one, and then this is the perfect accompaniment.
Conduct Market Research
To create the best selling products, start by conducting research and finding gaps in the market. Spend time researching digital products and geeking out over every single category in digital design and then aligning those with your design talent.
Ideate and Reach Out
Let's take an example from lettering layout products. The products are amazing and you love using them but they don't teach you how to use negative space or how to figure out the hierarchy of the placement of the letters. So the next step is to write your idea down on google files and proceed in Procreate or Illustrator.
Now, let’s focus on the composition of hand lettering and associated materials in Procreate, understanding layouts from simple to complex with negative space, how the eye moves around the design, and how to create layouts based on different applications like t-shirts, magazines, posters, etc, just like ShoutBAM does it.
The next step is to reach out to someone who can help you get in touch with a potential platform/person who could help bring your idea to life and provide a platform for sales. For example, Design Cuts got a relationship manager on board to reach out to ShoutBAM and they fortunately turned around and agreed to work together.
Create a Masterclass
Now, create the Layout Lettering Masterclass that teaches people about the layout - this is the Exclusive Product, the Slayout Lettering Masterclass. So in lettering, once you finish learning how to do it, you can then teach how the lettering layout works. The next step is to get testimonials for a synergy with social proof as seen in the image below.
Careful research, maximizes sales and creates stronger products. If you immerse yourself in the market and notice what has been done and what hasn't been done (maybe an idea was only half-implemented) you can elevate it to a new level. You'll notice gaps that will help you create much stronger products that make a statement.
It’s not a guessing game, play by your strengths to produce high-quality products just like ShoutBAM.
Also always keep brand equity in mind. It's not just about a product, but what you can carry on to future products and services. So again, if you look at ShoutBAM, they are lettering and have a load of brand equity by doing that because it's a popular product. They are known for the quality of that product, so they can then write off that brand equity with the next product.
Begin Project Management
Now, how do you make sure people know that you made that product, talk to your community about it, sell it, get on live sessions, etc? Project management will help you do that! It will help you define the product scope and outline the value proposition of the product from the very start. You shouldn't just plow into the product, but think about what's in it, what's going to be the value for the customer, and what are the benefits.
You can set a similar kind of document that outlines everything, as shown in the image below. Know if you are collaborating with someone else or if you're getting feedback on your work by outlining the initial concepts.
So once you start making it, think about the value proposition of the product. The value proposition of the product is the benefits, differentiators, and problems of using that product and what it will solve for the customers. It's a powerful tool because it can keep you on track for making your product and you can also use it within all your marketing material. In the end, you can use it in your product overview. For example, with Trailhead, there were over 300 brushes. They were all crafted from real-life media, giving a realistic look to the artwork.
As a differentiator, you need good reviews. Why should you not reach out to designers who are well-known for working in watercolor, gouache, acrylic, and oil, right at the beginning of the process, and use them to give feedback. They can give testimonials for social proof, to help you sell it, and they can give reviews of their work. It’s a huge differentiator for this product; people don’t have to wonder if this product is great as it has already been tested by artists who are known for their knowledge. So while someone else is looking at your product reviews, they'll see credible designers loving it and think, “This must be a great product because experts love it.” This instant trust-building will make them buy your products.
Create Visual Representation for Scope
A graphical way of representing scope is via visual representation. For example, the image below showcases the visual representation of Leslie Nicole's product scope.
Create a Project Management Timeline
Put together a timeline with yourself, or if you're working with someone else, and break the deliverables for the project into easy digest bites. For example, set Trailhead’s Brush Set a launch date of September 11th. Make a checklist and go through it one by one, ticking the items off. It's much more manageable and always a good idea to work towards a timeline because product creation can't go on forever. You'll have to draw a line under it at some point and move on to the next product.
Start with a launch date, write down your whole product list and then break it up into smaller chunks. Add an estimate to the launch date. If the launch date is too far away, reduce the scope of the product.
Put your work together using your product’s sign at the bottom, within these particular mock-ups. To do this you need to add inspirational resources that might give you artistic direction. Pinterest is a fantastic way to do it. ShoutbBAM, for instance, uses Pinterest and Nathan from Trailhead puts together a really lovely PDF which looks very similar to the image shown below. You may even use Google Documents, Dropbox, or whatever else floats your boat. Make sure to add notes and scribbles to define your direction of work.
Take inspiration and don’t copy. Take ideas and elevate those to a new level. Find new angles and bring new value to the customer. For example, French Kiss's Texture Pack bridges the gap between textures and commercial graphic design. That's a whole new way to look at textures while remaining fresh and vibrant. People will notice that about your brand and see you as someone who's leading that sector and pushing it forward. Draw from inspiration, but make it your own. Find your own path and your own way because it won’t go unnoticed and people will love you for the innovation.
Establish Initial Designs
For the next steps, establish direction, focus, and work out your concepts for the product. There's no point in plowing into your product if you don't have a good idea of what you're going to make or how it's going to look. Another example is the Branding Pack from Pretty Little Lines, which is based around her main skill sets. It can be used for branding and stationary. For reference, see Kris's initial designs as shown in the image below.
It’s also important to do a test file. You can do this in Photoshop so that you can edit color and then add or remove elements as suggested. You could start with a really detailed illustration and type it on and off. The differentiation for the product makes it really useful and stands out for anyone who hasn't watched it. For example: Rock’s Shine Headline Font, seen in the bottom image.
Gather feedback to fine-tune your project scope and design direction. Learn, absorb, and be a sponge. Also, always save time by not going down a rabbit hole of going back and forth all the time. Stick to your plan.
Get a sounding board and sanity check ideas. Provide ongoing ideas and feedback. Get insights and see how your project is going.
For example, the awesome cover shown in the image below for Trailhead's Ultimate Brush Toolbox plays off your brand equity and will build equity for future products.
Pro tip: If you want to entice someone to find out what's in your product, just tell them what's in it. You can do this on the cover photo.
Also, you can play with someone's eye when they look at the design with the coloration. Think about how someone's eyes move around a composition. It traps your eye in the composition and makes the text legible. All the same information should be really clean, strong, and visually powerful. The visual hierarchy should be in the detail of what people read first.
Another example is the Ultimate Branding pack as shown in the image below. It's an amazing brand new collection and makes your branding work a lot easier. Just be wary not to dilute the focus of the product and make it look a little less valuable.
It's easy to be blind to your own design work, so you need those breaks. Getting feedback dramatically speeds up your design process and opens the window for opportunities. When you get feedback, take a pause and listen to what the other person's saying. Listen to that feedback, take a breather and go away to think about it and then move your design forward. The best designers put pride aside and engage with feedback by working on it.
Present Your Work Creatively
It doesn't matter if your product is awesome. If you can't show it, it won't sell. If you run out of steam and do a mediocre presentation, no one's going to buy it. So always go the extra mile.
For example, see a few presentations below.
Use the value proposition by showing the benefits, the differentiators and the problem you are solving. Share your passion for the product and give your customers a backstory. Show them the quality and get it tested by artists and professionals with social proof.
Don't be afraid of showing everything because all you're doing by showing people is the value of your product. If it takes 10 minutes to look at the size of your amazing product, it's great. They're not going to think how big the presentation was, but they're certainly going to think of how small it was.
Create a Pre Launch Buzz
So before you launch, you need to think about creating a pre-launch buzz by reaching out to your own audience and influencing audiences as well. This way you're building those audiences up over time, and also giving them some value.
The chances are that super engaged audiences who geek out over your products are going to share this with other people and so all of a sudden you've got other people promoting your products for you. So always go that extra mile.
It's time to launch your product, and you want to target as large an audience as possible. So as with the pre-launch, reach out to promotion channels.
Pro tip: How much you charge for your product should not just be based on how large a product it is, but on what other people are charging for similar products. You need to be in the competitive market range to pitch correctly.
A launch discount is powerful because it gives someone a reason to buy the product initially when you launch it and give that initial boost and emphasis. This is really important as part of that launch strategy.
Find a platform that will help with your launch strategy. Find someone nice to work with who can help you with that strategy, become an authority figure to open marketing doors, and get your own brand evangelists. These are people who will go outside your community and talk about your product because that’s how much they like it. Recommendation in the product group is the strongest form of marketing.
Post Launch Strategy
After the launch, for sales to continue, you need a post sales strategy.You can re-promote the product by reaching out to your community. With all of the products that you’re making, think about how those products might split down into individual smaller products and sell at a lower price point.
Let’s say your product is $40, which is comprehensive and comes with lots of different flavors, covers, bases etc. You could split it down like the Ultimate Brush Toolbox: if you just want the oil paint version, you can buy it or if you just want the watercolor version, you can buy that too. However, you're buying it at a price point of say, $20, which is more affordable. But where it's beneficial to buy the largest pack, you would be willing to get the complete version to get all the features. This is a great strategy to begin with.
Updating your product can generate more revenue because you can remarket it. You should continue promoting and developing your product even after it's launched to get the best of it. Think about those audiences that you can sell to throughout the entire life cycle of the product.
How to Get Started
The best way to make as much money as possible is through a free course by Design Cuts called the Product Academy. It goes through the opportunity, which is inherent in design products, how to find your talent, define and create your brand, research about your products, create high-value products, present them, and how to market them successfully. So if you are new to product design and you're wondering how to get started, or even if you're an established designer, make sure to check the free course out because all the value is at the Product Academy.
So if you want your own career and product design, start it out as a side hustle and then scale up as so many designers do. Product Academy is the answer for you because you can do what you want to do on your own terms.
Now you have all the tools to create some amazing digital products that people will love!