Two weeks ago here in Los Angeles, I was part of a panel that our friends at Mixbook put together that was all about licensing. I am a big fan of licensing as a way to get your art and design work out in the world. The panel was a great mix of perspectives on the licensing process and the brand/client relationship.
The panel included a range of experts including Leslie Albertson from Mixbook representing the brand making the products (licensee), Kim Muroff from Hightide Brands representing licensing agents, Jen Campbell from Green Wedding Shoes representing a brand who is licensing their art/design/name (licensor), Joy Cho (that’s me!) representing a brand who is licensing their art/design/name (licensor), and Tara Nearents from Rad & Happy moderating the panel who also has some experience in licensing.
Check out this fun recap video above to see all the amazing details that went into the gorgeous and informative event...
So many of you wanted to be there but couldn’t because it was in L.A., so I wanted to share with you the big three take-aways we learned from all the talented and experienced ladies on the panel that you can apply if you’re wanting to start licensing your work!
1) Do Your Research on Potential Partners! It can be so tempting when you’re first starting out to want to see your designs at your favorite stores and on your favorite brands. And it can be also be tempting if you’ve been in the game for a while to take on a licensing partner simply because they showed interest. But avoid the temptation of thinking that every brand would be a good licensing partner for you...and DO YOUR RESEARCH first!
Has the brand you love done licensing deals before or are they new to that type of business? Does the brand’s audience and your audience or aesthetic overlap? (For example, if your style tends to do well for kids' items, then a collaboration with a high end fashion brand may not be the best fit.) Is the brand one you really believe in? Once you’ve done your research and found a list of brands you’d love to work with that seem to fit you and your art, it’s time to start pitching...
2) Send A Pitch...without Giving Away All Your Artwork! The first step to securing a licensing deal is to send an email (or letter) with a brand deck about you and your work. This is called a pitch. Your email should be short, sweet, and to the point. Your deck (which can be in the form of a PDF) should be visual, nicely designed, and include information about:
- Your company
- Your style/aesthetic
- Your audience (if you have one)
- Any awards or recognition for your work
- Examples of your part work and mood boards
- What YOU can bring to them that is DIFFERENT than what they already have
The panelists all agreed this last part was the secret ingredient to really catch a brand’s attention. Yes, you want to have your stationery at Anthropologie. But what sets you apart from everyone else that wants the same thing? How are you different from artists a brand already carries? Prove in your deck and in your email that you are that special something they’ve been missing. But a word of CAUTION: don’t give away your designs in your deck. Share mood boards, examples of past campaigns, and general ideas of how you want to work together. But don’t send over final realized designs without a contract...
3) Contracts Contracts Contracts! If it was said once, it was said one hundred times on the panel...make sure you have a contract. And have a good, thorough contract. As in, work with an agent or attorney and make sure you have all the terms listed out. This spans literally every part of your agreements. Everyone knows (we hope) to put in your rate and how many designs you are submitting, but it should also including everything else: from delivery dates of designs, to rounds of edits, from seeing final samples before production to how many Instagram posts you’re expected to put up.
“Contract” can seem like a bad word, or like something that shouldn’t be hard or take work if you really trust each other (and you absolutely should trust your licensing partner). But EVERYONE on the panel discussion agreed that it’s absolutely crucial to have talked through every single thing before you get started. A good contract should have both sides winning and getting what they want. And usually a bad contract simply forgets or omits something that should have been discussed as both sides had different assumptions. So do the work up front, get a good contract signed, and feel completely comfortable knowing you’re protected.
The event was so good and everyone learned a lot. Mixbook did an incredible job putting it on, and because it was so well received, they’re thinking about another one in 2020, so stay tuned!
P.S. Speaking of licensing deals, have you seen our Mixbook collection? Check out our photo books, trading cards, and yearbook. And, stay tuned here for a new collection coming soon...