Blank Canvas: How Do You Promote Yourself?

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Self-promotion is a must for any self-employed or freelance graphic designer or illustrator. This installment of Blank Canvas asks our readers: how do you promote your services?

Cold calls? Mailing lists? How do you use the internet for your marketing? Social networking? What works best? What have you tried and abandoned? What services or methods do you recommend as the most effective?

I’ll start things off with my own approach. The bulk of the promotion I do for my illustration services is online. The main thrust of this is by proper, Google-recommended search engine optimization. Nothing shady, just good practices for the content of your website. And by content I am referring to the text content. People search using words, so you need those words to be on your website.

A big part of this is not just on my own website and blog, but also being an active participant in online design & illustration communities and artist/designer blogs, collectives and related websites. I also create accounts on as many relevant online portfolio sites as I can and I regularly submit my work to photo-sharing sites such as Flickr.

One drawback to this approach is that I am limited to clients who are searching for an illustrator. Certain portions of the industry such as children’s publishing, editorial/spot illustration for magazines and websites and apparel design/illustration are most likely not out there doing a Google search for illustrators. This is where a direct-mail marketing approach or cold-calls might fare much better.

The upside to this approach is that you have built-in interest from the potential client. Typically these clients are starting up a new business, which also has the potential for additional design work for branding and other marketing materials for the client’s new company or service.

For the past year I have been considering a direct-mail approach, but currently my online marketing keeps me busy enough that it hasn’t been a priority.

One aspect of reaching out to larger companies that is a big lure to me is the added exposure of your work which can come from working with a larger company, as well as the name-dropping you can do when promoting your services to future clients. I do have some “dream clients” I would like to work for, which is the biggest impetus for me to strike out with this approach. I love the clients I work with, but getting some “street cred” is appealing.

And getting an “in” with a larger company also has the added benefit of ongoing work. If they like your work, you’re likely to get more of it. Probably keeps the stress levels somewhat lower.

Your turn — Go Media wants to hear from the readers, please let us know in the comments section below how you handle your self-promotion and marketing. Go!

Blank Canvas: Adobe Or Not?

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It goes without saying that Adobe is pretty much the industry leader in professional-level graphics software. But that isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of other options out there.

Go Media Zine wants to know: Adobe or not? If you do use Adobe products, what version(s) are you using, and why? If you haven’t upgraded, is it a financial or a feature reason?

If you’re not an Adobe user, we want to know what software you’re using to edit and manipulate photos, sketch, create vector art and do page layout. What do these software applications offer that you prefer them over the industry leader? Or is it a financial or philosophical choice?

As usual, I’ll start things off:

I am an Adobe user. I use the Creative Suite CS4 Design Premium which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat Pro, Fireworks and Dreamweaver. As a vector-based illustrator, I primarily use Illustrator as well as Photoshop for my sketching, in conjunction with a Wacom Intuos4 graphics tablet.

I’m a pretty big software geek, so I tend to try just about every graphics software app that comes out. I’ve yet to find a raster or vector editing/creation app that I’d replace Photoshop or Illustrator with, but have found some great alternatives as well as niche tools. InDesign I am a huge fan of, and besides Quark I am not aware of any competing apps out there—at least not on the professional level. I think one reason I stick with Adobe apps is the “industry standard” nature of them. Seems everyone has a copy, even if it’s not their primary tool for the job.

I see many fellow illustrators on Twitter griping about Adobe apps crashing or taking forever to launch, but I don’t have that experience at all. I suspect many who experience these issues may need to upgrade their RAM. If you don’t have at least 2 GB and preferably 4+ GB on your machine, that may be the culprit.

Overall I am pretty pleased as an Adobe customer, however I know that isn’t the case for everyone, and we want to know what your take is on the tools you’ve chosen to use. Please sound off in the comments section below. And let’s try to refrain from bashing any particular software company.

Go!

Blank Canvas: Who Inspires You?

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Another installment of Blank Canvas, where Go Media asks the readers to tell us what they’re thinking. This week’s topic: Who inspires you?

We want to hear about the designers, illustrators and other creative types whose work or personality has had a big influence in your creative career. Inspiration sources can be people you know, or just people whose work you know and love.

I’ll get things started with some of my inspirations:

As an illustrator, much of my inspiration comes from other illustrators and cartoonists. Growing up, I was mesmerized by the artists in MAD Magazine, which pretty much set me on the art path throughout my life. In particular (and in no particular order): Mort Drucker, Sergio Aragones, Jack Davis and Don Martin. Being a fan or monster and wild creatures, of course I was influenced and inspired by B.K. Taylor (the Odd Rods specifically), Ed “Big Daddy” Roth (of course!) as well as Stephen Blickenstaff. Rob Bottin‘s special effects work on John Carpenter’s The Thing was a huge, huge influence on me as a kid. I was blown away by the ingeniously creative and demented creature designs he came up with for that film. The late special effects guru Stan Winston also had constantly amazing creature and character design coming out of his studio.

As I got older, different artists inspired me. Robert Williams was a huge inspiration (and still is), as well as the biomechanical style  originator H.R. Giger, psychedelic visionary painter Alex Grey, and just about all of the regular contributing artists to the Book of the SubGenius. Movie poster master illustrator Drew Struzan was also a huge inspiration growing up as was psychedelic cartoonist Rick Griffin.

Some other inspring artists: cartoonist Jim Woodring, illustrator extraordinaire Von Glitschka, and Rion Vernon’s Pin-Up Toons. I’m sure there are tons more, but these are the artists I can recall off the top of my head as being huge inspirations to me.

I have to give a special nod to former cartoonist and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. I’m a huge film buff, and I love the creativity-inspiring extras on every Rodriguez DVD. His cooking classes aren’t bad either! Rodriguez just has an extremely infectious and inspiring personality for creative people in any medium.

So that’s me. Who inspires you? Sound off in the comments and please share links when possible. Go!

Blank Canvas: What’s Your Digital Design Setup?

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We’re starting a new feature on the Go Media ‘Zine to give our readers a chance to voice their thoughts and opinions. We’re naming it “Blank Canvas”. And if you readers have any topics you’d like to see covered, please let us know in the comments and we’ll choose from the best and use for future “Blank Canvas” posts.

To kick things off, this week’s topic is “What’s Your Digital Design Setup?” and we’d like to hear from readers about your setup for creating.

The Questions:

  • Mac, PC or other? What kind of machine?
  • What software/version do you create with?
  • Any extra hardware gadgets or tools?
  • Reference books/media nearby?
  • Inspiration?
  • What kind of desk & chair?

To get this ball rolling, here’s my personal setup:

2008 Mac Pro with 14 GB RAM. Most of my work is done Using the Adobe Creative Suite CS4, primarily Illustrator and Photoshop, but InDesign gets it’s fair share of attention. I rarely use my mouse, almost all of my interaction with the Mac is via my Wacom Inutos4 medium-size graphics tablet. Keyboard and mouse are stock from Apple. I have a basic scanner, a Canon LIDE 90. I have a dual-monitor setup, my main monitor is a 24″ Samsung SyncMaster 245T and my secondary is my former main monitor, a 20″ ViewSonic a Samsung SyncMaster 2243BWX 22″ monitor. Main monitor is calibrated using a Pantone Huey. A bunch of external hard drives, mostly for backups and more backups.

I also have a webcam set up, primarily for the microphone. Of course I have a set of external speakers hooked up. All my main computer equipment runs through a battery backup/surge suppressor in case of power glitches or outages. I also have an EyeTV which lets me watch & record TV on the Mac while I am working.

My desk is always cluttered, I have a small bookshelf nearby with various drawing and design reference books. I have a nice rolling taboret for all my drawing and art tools, including all my Pantone swatch books and color reference books. The desk I sort of built myself, it was a DIY IKEA 60″x30″ tabletop and leg setup. Lots of paper and sketchbooks nearby, I primarily sketch on laser paper sheets as they are easiest to scan afterwards. Chair is a basic drafting table chair.

There’s a drawing table next to my main computer desk, but mostly it gets used for stacking paperwork and other random stuff. I usually draw and sketch on a small drawing board sitting in front of the computer.

A tiki sculpture and an Easter Island bobble head keep me company, along with a posable wooden reference hand as well as a posable mini wooden reference manikin.