I've been designing and teaching in the craft industry for over 10 years! I can't even believe it has been that long and then on the other hand, I feel like I have been teaching and creating for my entire life. In that time I have been through the school of hard knocks, learned a few good tips from mentors, and been working on the manufacturer and retailer side of the industry as a design team coordinator. These tips are for any of you who are aspiring Designers or good reminders or perspective enhancing tips that I have gathered from things I have experienced, things I have seen online from other designers, and a few funny stories along the way too.
1. Be yourself.
2. Set goals and only apply for teams that help you reach those goals.
3. Apply for Design Teams with manufacturers whose products you love. The company will look at your blog and galleries online and if you are always using other competitors' products, they won't understand why you applied for their team.
4. Never sell the product you get for design team use. You usually CAN give it away but always ask the coordinator if that is okay, first!
5. Don't complain about companies or teams on social media or forums, especially not ones you are working with.
6. If the requirements say to submit for publication, then do it.
7. Get clarification on requirements and benefits before applying. Find out if there is a contract and what you need to agree to. Not all companies communicate well about their expectations or they hold that info for when you have already been accepted.
8. Don't get upset if a company does not email you to let you know they received your DT application – if they didn't promise to reply in the call, then don't expect them to reply.
9. If you get accepted onto a team and then find that their agreement is not matching with the call requirements posted or that it is not what you agreed to when you applied, then you can resign. Have a discussion with the coordinator first to get clarification.
10. Watermark your photos. It is best to use a company specific watermark but if that is not available, at least use your own watermark.
11. Practice good naming of photos. This helps the DT Coordinator find your photos and helps with SEO.
12. Always link your supply list to the products on the company website (or their retail website if they have one they want you to use)
13. If you are on a blog hop with manufacturer sponsors, NEVER use product from competing manufacturers. If you need ink and there is an ink company as a sponsor on the hop, do not use another manufacturer's ink. If you needed a product, ask that manufacturer for that product. Or as your DT Coordinator about what to do. This is one of my biggest pet peeves as a coordinator – I can't share your posts over social media if you are using products from the company's competitors. YOU are now loosing out on traffic you could have gotten by participating in the hop, the company loses money because they sent you product that they now cannot promote, and you make the coordinator think twice if they ever want to work with you again.
14. Respect the chain of command. Contact your DT Coordinator for all company info. Never go above their head unless they are breaking the law or doing something really out of line. When a DT member goes above my head without talking to me first, it makes me not want to work with them – honest truth time here. It wastes the company's time becuase they put the coordinator in place to work with the team – they usually don't have time to work with the team especially if it is a petty or small issue that really doesn't need management's attention.
15. Submit your work on time or early. This way if you get sick or something happens, you don't have to let them team down or send an “I'm sorry” emai. I hate sending those emails and as a coordinator, I hate receiving them.
16. If you have to turn in your work late, make sure you let the coordinator know that you will be turning in your work late. They need to make plans around this change in the schedule.
17. Don't resign from a team so you can be on the team of their competitor. You make it so the previous CANNOT in good conscience give you a good recommendation if they are ever asked about you. This does more damage to you than it does to the company.
18. Have conversations with your DT Coordinator. For example, if you want to be on a competitors' team and the opportunity comes your way, discuss this with your DT Coordinator. You don't want them to find out because you made an announcement on your blog – this makes their job hard when you blind-side them. And if you ever want them to talk to you again, you better let them know FIRST before you make it public.
19. If you resign from a team, return all unused product to them at your cost. If they let you go from a team, you do not have to return product.
20. Don't discuss design team business with your fellow members or with others outside of the company. This can lead to gossip and can be a breach of contract if you signed an NDA (non-disclosure agreement).
21. Create original work. If you are inspired by another person, note that on your work but it is best to create your own work if you have been hired to be a designer.
22. Try to create pieces that inspire others to create. Sure, you can make something simple, but challenge yourself to make something that not everyone else will think of.
23. Your job as a DT member has several purposes: promote the company, promote products, inspire consumers, create content to be used for marketing (social media, tradeshow, ads, catalog). Keep those in mind while you do your work.
24. Challenge yourself to keep learning – new techniques, how to do video etc. As you improve your skills, you make yourself more valuable to the company and can use those skills to also grow your own blog etc.
25. If you ask a company to sponsor a class or event, make sure you promote and thank them publicly in the class, on your blog, and via social media.
26. If a company has supplied expensive tools for you to use in a class, do not give those tools away unless the company tells you to. Keep them to use over and over in subsequent classes to continue promoting the company and get as much marketing power as you can out of the product.
27. When designing, try to use more than one product on each project unless you are told to just focus on just one.
28. Show your versatility. Don't just do cards every day – do a variety of projects for your assignments.
29. Be willing to learn. Ask your DT Coordinator for help or direction in making videos or learning new techniques. They are a resource for you.
30. If you aren't working for monetary compensation, make sure the compensation you are getting is worth something to you. Don't be resentful if you are not getting paid money. You need to make the decision what you need as payment before you apply to any teams.
I hope his helps you in your design work and quest to be a great designer. If you ever want to chat about being a Designer, just leave me a comment! I'll be posting more tips soon ;)