How to brand an art collection
Follow this easy, step-by-step guide to elevate your next collection and give it the attention it deserves.
Writers get book covers and musicians use album art and videos to showcase the unique beauty of their art. So why don’t artists do something similar to brand their collections?
I have seen that, in a similar way to book cover art, branding your art collection can:
launch a collection as an event to be anticipated;
attract different types of buyers and enlarge your collector pool; and
keep your work fresh.
As soon as I realized the power that branding my own art collections had, I knew I had to share the knowledge with fellow artists.
What book covers & art collections have in common
As I was walking through a bookstore, carefully making the most of the 2.5 minutes my kids allowed me for looking at non-toy things, a thought struck me…
If writers explain their collection of words through book covers, why don’t we visual artists do the same for our art collections?
In my work as a logo designer for art brands – and as an artist myself – I see how we artists constantly evolve: we fall in love with different color palettes; we explore new subjects; we want to try a new medium; we get commissioned to use a certain canvas size. Variations also happen when our personal circumstances change. Having children meant that not only did I have to change my studio setup, but I also now prefer faster-drying mediums that are less likely to be harmed by sticky hands! Whatever the reason, change happens.
Because of this ever-changing nature of creating art, I believe that branding for artists need to be designed with change in mind. And this is especially true when it comes to our art collections; we need to be able to mark and explore change through our work that is separate from our personal brand.
The best and fastest way to add freedom to our practice is to separate the artist-brand from the collection-brand.
Think about writers again. They will usually have a personal brand for their website, yet it will not be reflected in their novels at all. Their crime novels will look and feel completely different to their romance novels.
For a large part, this is to do with genre codes and conventions. But the wonderful thing about visual art is that we are not bound by these same chains (or publishing houses) and we can yield complete creative control over the brands we create for each collection.
We artists need to learn from book cover design
Imagine what would happen if HarperCollins published every one of their books with exactly the same fonts, size, illustrations, photography style, wording and colors…
‘Booooooring’ or ‘communist-inspired’ may be words that come to mind next.
Covers are created to be attractive to the type of reader that the publisher thinks will buy the book. Not everyone, just specific people. So, that old adage, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is wrong.
I wholeheartedly believe you SHOULD judge a book by its cover.
Why do I believe that? Well, designers and illustrators are trained to create book covers so that you WILL judge it by its cover. Through fonts and colors, we design so that readers can have something to buy or to reject.
Not that book covers have to be simplistic. Designer Héctor Merienda got me into appreciating book covers by Daniel Gil. Gil’s covers are drenched in so much meaning that I believe they add depth and value to the books. They not only represent what’s inside, but offer a commentary on it as well. And Gil does this not through words, but through elements like subject, size, placement, color and fonts.
Ultimately, the book cover offers an entry way into the work. It helps us immediately filter out works that don’t appeal to us and prepare us for the ride the book will take us on.
So, how does that apply to art collections? Well, by branding art collections we get access to all the benefits of a book cover: branding means we can attract the people we want to touch with our art.
As designers and creatives, that strong emotional response is all part of the process of ensuring that you attract your ideal client, one that's aligned with your values and aesthetics.
-Molly, MOYO Studio
Branding art collections gives massive benefits
It allows artists to:
attract the RIGHT buyer for the art;
use different art styles side by side without detracting from the price or appeal of each;
widen your collector pool by creating different branding for more affordable artwork and/or expensive pieces. For example, a landscape painter might want to venture into a watercolor series and by branding the collections separately they are able to appeal to various collector bases;
explore freely without having to rebrand our whole business.
Artist insight: MOYO Studio’s branded collections
One company that does branding collections exceedingly well is MOYO Studio. The team at MOYO provides high-quality, minimalist stock images. I talked with MOYO founder Molly about how they brand each collection.
Lottie: You release collections of photos/mockups regularly and you present each collection in its own way. Why?
Molly: When we release a new product or collection, we develop its own brand identity so that we can present the images in a wider context. As we focus on mockups, blank placeholders tend not to be the most exciting thing to look at. But when they are filled with a design that complements the image, it enables our audience and customers to visualize how the mockups can be used; it brings them to life and evokes a personality. While it does add an extra step to the product creation process, we feel it is incredibly important as our audience are creatives and appreciate the attention to detail.
Lottie: Where in the process of planning, creating and marketing your collections do you come up with the graphics to present your collections?
Molly: We always create the accompanying graphics once the collection has been finalized and we have all the images together. We use the final images as a starting point for creating the identity, taking the lead from their colour palette and visual style. We then develop the graphics and also use the images within the collections in the designs themselves. This is for consistency, but it also helps to visualize the many ways in which the images can be used. I always love to crop in on certain images to highlight that an image can be reimagined and used in a variety of ways. We want to ensure that not only are the images beautiful, but versatile, too.
Lottie: Which elements (i.e. fonts, colors, etc.) do you use to create a vibe/brand for your collection?
Molly: When creating the marketing visuals for our collections, we create a brand based on a combination of fonts, colors and aesthetic style. Prior to creating a collection, we always have a particular type of designer or design style in mind so that we can use that as an inspirational starting point for the brief. We try to hone in on what type of images that type of designer would need for their business to reflect their style and the type of work that they do. The intention behind this is that when we release a collection, we hope that it evokes a strong response from a creative, so they feel as if our collection was truly meant for them. This naturally means that some of the collections are polarizing, but that's the nature of design, too! As designers and creatives, that strong emotional response is all part of the process of ensuring that you attract your ideal client, one that's aligned with your values and aesthetics.
Brand design for art collections in 3 steps
How can we adapt the approach that other creative industries have mastered to brand our collections in order to better reach out to customers?
To attract the right buyers for our art and successfully share the vibe we want our art to project, we need to follow these three steps:
DEFINE the target audience for the collection;
DESIGN the brand type to go with this collection release; and
PACKAGE the collection using colors and fonts;
At first, even attempting step one might feel daunting: most of us start creating because we have to for ourselves, not because we’re trying to target certain people.
But I truly believe that once you’ve learned how to apply each of these steps to your work, you’ll come out with beautiful and – more importantly – useful branding for your collections.
But first, who SHOULD NOT brand art collections?
Before we get super practical about branding art collections, I want to help you decide whether this is right for you.
Are you procrastinating on releasing your art collection? If so, don’t use branding as an excuse or obstacle to further postpone getting your work out. Sometimes, putting work out there NOW is more important than putting it out there ‘perfectly’ in a year.
Or perhaps you are in an experimentation stage with your work. If so, CARRY ON! I strongly believe in doing things scrappy sometimes. Doing things scared and experimenting with different ideas can be HUGELY beneficial. If you are in this stage, for the love of all things good don’t let branding hold you back!
If either of those things apply to you, don’t worry: this article is here when you are ready.
If you are confident and ready to release your collection, but like the idea of elevating its presentation and reaching wider audiences, let’s dig in!
Step 1: DEFINE
In this first stage you'll focus on DEFINING the goals for the collection. Now is the time to get really clear on who you want to serve with the pieces you’ll put out there and what you’re offering in this collection. Here are some questions that will help you think about your vibe and give direction to your thought process:
What art style, colors or subjects am I known for? Is this collection in line with that style or different?
Get the pieces in your collection together and analyze the colors and subject. What stands out to you?
If this collection was an artist brand type, which one would it be? (don’t know about my 7 Artist Brand Types? Get your FREE workbooks here)
Which words would you use to describe this collection? Pick 5-10. E.g.: Light, playful, natural, happy and minimalist, or perhaps, moody, natural, raw, desaturated, winter.
Step 2: DESIGN
Once you’ve done the work of defining your collection, now is the time to get creative.
You’re going to decide on fonts, materials and colors to visually summarize the work and to attract your target customer to the work.
Create a moodboard for your collection if you don’t have one yet;
Choose fonts, materials and colors that work with your collection and your brand. If you need help with that, check out these resources:
Write out a paragraph about your collection inspiration.
Step 3: PACKAGE
Finally, once you’ve chosen the fonts, colors and vibe to visually summarize your collection, you’re going to work on creating the elements to use in your marketing.
Create a logo for your collection. The easy approach to this would be to write out the name for the collection and using a font that works well with your art brand type. In the free workbook for your type, you'll find some great suggestions.
For more impact you can also add a key element from the collection as the icon for the logo.
Next, use the logo on..
Instagram Story highlight
Facebook page photo insert
Stickers or inserts for packaging your art
- Information cards to send to buyers
ART COVER GRAPHIC
You can also use the logo to include in a graphic you create for your art to introduce your collection, just like a book cover.
If you aren't feeling up to designing your own graphics I recommend checking out the beautiful templates on Creative Market.
Once done, use your graphic in the following places:
Slider image on your website’s home page
Email newsletter header
Facebook page cover image
Newsletter sign up form
Postcards / flyers