What to consider – and collect! - before you work with a surface designer or illustrator

Want to make your commercial product truly one-of-a-kind with a creative, fun and quirky surface pattern? Here’s your beginner-friendly guide to getting ready to work with a surface designer or illustrator.

Read time: Five mins

Here’s the deal: If I could go back in time and guide Younger Me on how to navigate a bunch of my “firsts”, I’d do it. I’d save 16-year-old Kat from a mouth full of drool during her first kiss, protect 18-year-old Kat from failing her first driving test, and reassure 23-year-old Kat that the second time was the charm when it came to being wed. Screw the sanctity of the timeline (sci-fi and time-travel nerds will know exactly what I mean) these firsts need to feel GOOD.

But, alas, unlike quirky graphic design, illustrations, surface pattern design and coffee consumption, time travel isn’t one of the skills currently in my repertoire.

The good news? While I can’t prevent Past Kat from bad kiss germs, I CAN help small businesses looking to hire a surface designer for the first time.

So, consider me your official fairy godmother, here to walk you through everything you need to know and do before you hire a surface designer or illustrator, to ensure your first project is a success.

Let’s start with the basics: Who should you hire to design your surface pattern?

Dog Surface Pattern Design

How to choose the right surface designer or illustrator for you

There are a LOT of surface pattern designers out there (including yours truly!) So how do you know if you’ve found the best match for your biz and project?

IMO, you’ll want to choose an artist based on:

  • Their style (you’ve gotta love it – duh – and be able to envision it injected into your own project).
  • Their specialty (Are you looking for a soft, organic brand courtesy of a watercolour artist or did you want something bright and colourful from a digital artist?)
  • Their portfolio (have they created projects or art similar to what you’re looking for?)
  • Their brand values (Are they a brand you’re in alignment with?)
  • Your brand values (For example, if you’re all about buying local, you might want to support a local, unknown artist).

If you’re ticking all the boxes and getting nothing but love heart eyes when you imagine working together, you can go ahead and get a quote and check their availability (some designers are booked months in advance). Here’s what to expect next.

surface pattern designer

How to prepare for working with a surface pattern designer

Before I accept a new surface pattern design client, I’ll send over a briefing form. This online questionnaire covers the basics of what I need to know about your business and project, as well as some extra stuff you might not have considered yet (but that I’ll walk you through soon). Not only does this help me send you a more accurate quote, but it also allows me to double check that we’re both on the same page (pun unintended).

After all, this is a big investment for you – and for me! I’ll be pouring all my love, talent, skills and time into your project, so I want to make sure we’re the perfect match.

So, what can you expect to find in my form? Or, if you’re considering working with another surface pattern designer, how should you prepare to work with them?

Here’s what you should know and have:

  • The basics (like your name, email addy, business name, website and social media links). Easy peasy!
  • A vision for your project. This includes stuff like:
    – What products my patterns will appear on.
    – How many patterns you want me to design and, if you want multiple patterns, whether you want a collection or completely different designs.
    – The type of graphics and theme you’re dreaming of seeing in your pattern design.
    – How many elements/motifs you were hoping for.
    – An idea of your budget for our project together.
  • An understanding of your target audience (aka the humans hopefully buying your product and how you want your product/patterns to make them feel).
  • Examples, reference images and mood boards (not mandatory, but highly recommended!)
  • A deadline and timeline (including the lead time for artwork for your product launch).
  • Your manufacturer’s requirements. This is important as it helps me determine how many colours I can use in your design. It’ll also ensure I set up your artwork correctly (so you can actually use it!) You may need to get in touch with your manufacturer first to have the information you need for your surface pattern designer.
  • An understanding of licensing and copyright.

The last one is probably trickiest part for someone hiring a surface pattern design for the first time, but once you wrap your mind around all the technical terms, it’ll be a cinch.

Basically, you’ll need to know how long you’d like to license the product for and whether you’d like to use the pattern exclusively or non-exclusively. If all this is summoning major WTF vibes, don’t panic. Just read this blog next to learn more.

And once you’ve got all those items ready to roll? It’s time to bring your beautiful product to life with a quirky, creative and colourful surface pattern! No time-travelling Future You required. 😉

Ready to get started?

Learn more about my surface pattern design service
Continue learning about surface pattern design
Kat Potter Surface Pattern Designer

Pin It on Pinterest