Surface Design Goals: Patterns and Progress

image shows a collage of patterns to demonstrate surface design goal update.

Is it surface design goal update post time already??

Oh my. 

How has it already been 3 months since 2024 began and I set some surface pattern design goals for this year? Time in 2024 is on a racetrack, I swear.. This is my first follow up post and it feels like yesterday when I wrote that post..

I remember when I posted my goals, feeling they were pretty lofty. I wondered if I would change any of them, or if they themselves would just mold into new goals as they sometimes do.. I had a little insight happening there..

Lofty or not, I did work toward these goals, and I feel I’ve moved the needle in some ways. And I’ve got some work to do yet. Balancing these goals with other jobs and projects means little spurts of progress and lots of learning.

My mind may race me in a million different directions (it does), and I may not know quite how to approach a contact who is a stranger (I sometimes don’t), I may put an old instagram handle on my portfolio pages without realizing it, dammit (I did). But I am going to march forward with my head held high – maybe a bit askew – but looking up.

So. I’ll just share the breakdown of how I worked with my first quarter surface design goals..

Goal 1: Yearlong Surface Goal: Committing to one industry for one year

That was the goal. And now that we’re entering Q2, I dunno. I don’t know if I chose the right industry to be honest. I focused on home decor and the home decor gift markets in my goal, but that decision was based on something that feels like it’s maybe a bit moot. If that makes sense. 

When I look at the companies I’ve felt compelled to pitch to, I find myself sending work to fabric companies I’d love to license with, along with a couple of baby clothing possibilities. 

I think I’m going to change my first goal and pitch to any industry that feels like a good fit for my art and my style. If I find a company that licenses art (or that I think might license art) and their vibe is a match for my style? I want to pitch to them. 

So going forward, I’ll still be making designs that will go well in the home goods/home gift market, but I’m opening up to other relevant markets. We’ll see if I regret that..


Goal 2: Setting quarterly surface design goals

2a: Focus on building and refining commercial ready collections

I’m mostly on track with this one. For this quarter’s surface goal, I wanted to focus on collections I’ve already started, and building them out. I did that with one collection, and updated my portfolio. 

I still have a lot of work to do with organizing my portfolio of design collections, creating some blenders, stripes, dots and other fun mark making prints.. But I’ve put together a web-based portfolio page where I can add designs and collections as I stitch them together. That way, I can share the portfolio link in my pitches and the page will be updated over time. I can also create custom pages for someone I’m pitching to if I want to curate a specific collection for them.

In addition to the “collection audit” I had planned to pull these collections together, I couldn’t help but start another round of illustrations of some nature elements. I’ve got a specific collection in mind for 2nd quarter, and I got started on some of the botanicals. It’s sort of a Northwest theme but I’m still working on the “story angle.” 

Another part of this goal was to copyright my commercial collections. I’m happy to say that I did pull a 10 piece pattern collection together (and really it’s one of my favorites) and sent that in for copyright. 

Aside from two pieces that couldn’t be copyrighted (they were just a little too ‘public domain’ based, like simple stripes and rainbows), I received my official copyright letter back from the U.S. copyright office and patted myself on the back accordingly. “Great adulting!” And I can still license those “un-copyrighted” patterns alone or as part of a collection.

2b: Pitching..

This one. I’m learning. I’m biffing it. I’m upside down about it at the moment. I’m going to keep refining. 

I rarely hear back from someone once I pitch, and I admittedly haven’t sent updated work to anyone I pitched to in the first quarter yet. But I definitely will in Q2, and not just so they can see my updated work, but so I can update my instagram handle on the pitch sheet, haha. 

Though my face still may warm in shame at the memory of making that silly mistake, I’ve updated those pitch sheets and I’m going to send a new round of pitches in Q2. I’ll be sure to send to the same peeps as before but as they say, you have to pitch to 30 contacts before you get a bite. Is that right?? Yikes. I don’t even think I know of 30 contacts.. 

My pitching game could use some ongoing nurturing so I’ll just keep on learning and pitching and keeping my online portfolio page updated. 


Goal 3: Weekly and daily goals and commitments

3a: scheduling time to create art

Hmmm. Did I spend 30 – 60 minutes four days a week on creating art? Um, no. Maybe if I averaged my art making time over a few weeks that could be an “almost-ish.” I set that goal hoping that if I set that goal then I’d always factor daily or weekly time to make and refine art. 

I learned again that life comes in waves and so does art for me. Some weeks I really got into some motif making and just drew and drew and arranged and arranged. But other client based work or just different art deadlines or projects would come up and I’d let the consistent surface design practice simmer down for a while.

Travel seems to throw me off my game sometimes and the catching up eats up time I may have spent scratching out polka dots.. And inevitably, I throw in another art making project like some new greeting cards at the gallery where I sell art. We’ll see how life goes in this quarter..

3b: sharing my artwork and art process on social media

Ahhh, the social medias. I’m laughing at the audacity of my goals to post multiple stories each day. Whaaaat?? A big old “fail on the goal” but a “win for the authenticity in me.” Does that make sense? 

Again, I thought if I had a big goal to post oodles and bunches then I’d just do that – and not feel bogged down by the weight of social media. I thought I’d get more loose in my posting and just throw a moment out here and there. Pshaw. It was like a New Year’s bright shiny diet I guess.

The reality is, that much sharing just isn’t.. me. So that just didn’t happen in the way I boldly set forth in January.. No biggie. My inner sensibilities are sooo relieved.

If you’re an artist posting on Instagram or other platforms, you know how long it can sometimes take to curate just one post. I do try to be consistent and I have definitely posted around once or twice a week. But that’s about all the oomph I have for social media. That beast must fit into my life and not the other way around. 

I’m a soloprenuer with a side hustle. I don’t have a marketing team or even an assistant. So in the spirit of prioritizing my mental health so I can continue arting from the heart (ing), I choose fewer posts and figure my audience is still getting a nice steady supply of seed pods and nature patterns.

The posts I do put together are those that I want to share because I caught the sunlight at a perfect angle on the water, or I want to share a leaf pattern I just made. 

I do still try to find that balance between “I really feel moved and inspired to share this so now I will” and “I don’t feel like sharing this thing on social media, but I do want to continue showing up so sure, I’ll give it a share.” 

I’ll just keep seeing how social media continues to morph and I’ll also just keep seeing how I continue to morph..

So.. What did I learn from my first quarter surface design goals?

Well… I learned that I do have quite a bit of capacity to make art in the margins and to schedule in time to do longer art stretches. And admittedly, I still sometimes struggle to put together cohesive collections with all of the coordinating prints and such. I learned that I’m still in practice mode, honing in on my design style as I go.

I learned that time is forever a precious commodity and I have to also focus on projects that pay the bills so I have to try to be smart with my time.

I learned that I still have a lot to learn about the best ways to present portfolios and samples to prospective licensors – and am working on jazzing up my methods.. Perhaps a printed postcard before committing to something like a printed lookbook? 

A common thread that I continue to learn over and over and over.. I am a human and that’s really one of my favorite things to be. All full of experiences, emotions, inspiration, dread, thrills, fears, confusion… I have a lot of dreams, a lot of ideas. 

Sometimes my humanness or spontaneity demand to be prioritized and I juggle business goals at a slower pace. So many things to explore, so many ways to make an impact, so many people to meet, so many murals to admire. 

If you’re still reading, you may be a fellow adventurer interested in working on your own art collections, or exploring ways of getting your art out into the world. And if you’re working on your own surface pattern design goals, I’d love to hear from you on how it’s going. Join me in Instagram land where you’ll get bite sized servings of nature inspiration and pattern play. 

I’ll give another update after Q2 and let you know how these goals are goal-ing. Wishing you clarity in your collections! ☀️


Other posts you may enjoy:

Planning a Creative Journey in to Surface Pattern Design

7 Top Confessions of an Aspiring Pattern Designer

Surface Pattern Design Basics for Every Aspiring Pattern Designer