I’m looking for a little advice, hopefully somebody can offer me some.
I currently work in Marketing/Graphic Design.I do not have a degree in Graphic Design, but a degree in Advertising (which was very design heavy) so I came out of university with good design skills. In my current job, I do very basic things such as mail shots, website graphics, leaflets, brochures etc. where the use of stock photography and imagery is fine a) because of time-constraints and b) because we obviously do not sell anything.
I would love to start designing things like invites, announcements and wedding stationery. As many of my friends and colleagues compliment me on my eye for design, good use of space and images etc when I design for them. Of course, when I design for myself or friends, I use whatever comes to hand. Sometimes I incorporate free vector packs (of things like intricate swirls/flowers or silhouettes of birthday cakes or some baby vectors to enhance a baby shower card) and sometimes I even buy some off places like shutterstock. A friend wanted a birthday card for his girlfriend which had a typewriter on (as she is a writer) and i made a lovely card using a drawing of a vintage typewriter as the focus with good use of typography.
Without using these resources, I am afraid that my skills are very limited. I am very good with colour, layout and typography. And very good with coming up with wording and beautiful unique ideas. But I cannot draw to save my life, and I definitely cannot make vectors of my own (at least not brilliant ones – i do have some limited knowledge of using illustrator)
My question is, am I unsuited to selling my designs online as I rely too much on stock images to help pull designs together? I absolutely love doing it, but if I took out graphics that I didn’t design myself, I fear I would only be able to take advantage of typography and colour. Do I absolutely need to learn to draw? Would I be better off learning these skills before even trying to design invitations to sell? Or is some use of stock graphics okay? I am not entirely sure what is acceptable in the industry. Sometimes I see shops on Etsy selling cards with what looks like stock graphics/vectors and wonder if they are the original artists or not.
Thanks for any help/advice you might have. Very curious to hear your answers.
Is it acceptable to use stock materials in design?
Yes it is perfectly acceptable. Make sure you follow the licensing agreement but otherwise have at it.
Think of it this way, Helvetica, one of the most used fonts in the world wasn’t designed by any of the current designers that use it. Max Miedinger, the designer, passed away in 1980. Most fonts in fact are designed by someone else, but still we use them. Good designers will use them under their approved licensing agreements. Additional: Why would a designer want to purchase a typeface instead of using free ones?. So why should you think any different about someone else’s photography or illustration work? Does a producer of a film not hire actors, source soundtracks, and all sorts of other things?
Some specialize in one or even two things. Few in more then that. If anything I would say it is great that you acknowledge what your strength is (composition) and what your weakness is (illustration).
Am I unsuited to selling my designs online?
Now this gets a little tricky. I’m not sure if its word choice or what you’re actually wanting to do. Selling a design is different from selling your design services. If someone hires you to design a wedding card, you use licensed content to complete it, then its much easier. If you’re intention is designing say a calendar to sell at bulk on a website then thats a different type of license. Both are worth investigating just be aware of it. It usually comes down to use and quantity of run.
If this is your intent (selling the design) then:
Nobody can tell you if you should do this or not. In some ways its a business decision. Start with one or two SKUs (products), keep track of what the entire cost was when you factor in licensed goods, add on your hourly fee, your equipment costs, and some amount of profit. Then see if it sells. Adjust pricing and go from there.
In general the more you can do on your own the more profitable you can be. Just like an electrician. If you’re a low level electrician that has to pay someone to do the AC (high voltage) stuff then you’re going to lose out part of the profit. If you get certified to do the AC yourself then its one less subcontractor you need to hire. Design is no different. The more of the production line you can do the more cost control you have.