eBook: 15 Awful Mistakes Designers Make in the Music & Apparel Industry

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Apparel Industry Mistakes

One of the most popular and discussed articles on our blog was this three part series by Jeff Finley about mistakes designers make in the music and apparel industry. We feel it has some great information and we’ve consolidated the material and packaged it into a nice ebook for your convenience.

This 40 page ebook is meant to be a quick read. You can finish it quickly, get inspired, and move on with your day.

Fifteen Fatal Flaws

Designers in the music and apparel industry are some of the most talented designers around. We’re willing to bet there isn’t a sector of graphic design that allows more creativity and more artistic freedom. Despite the amazing talent and style, the “scene” suffers from a few fatal flaws that need to be remedied.

If you’re a designer and your client base consists mostly of bands and clothing companies then you need to read this. We have interviewed nine premier designers in the music and apparel industry. Each designer had lots to say about the subject and spoke from their own experiences as well as what they observe in the design community. We have compiled a list of 15 mistakes and summarized the key points for each.

Designers who offered their opinions in this ebook:

Table of Contents

  1. Not Charging Enough
  2. Ignoring Typography
  3. Unprofessional Behavior
  4. Over Promising
  5. Not understanding Apparel Production
  6. Lack of Originality
  7. Not Following Directions
  8. Not utilizing the medium to its fullest
  9. Lack of respect for fellow designers
  10. Delivering Files before Getting Paid
  11. Working for “Exposure”
  12. Failure to Research the client
  13. Unclear Communication up Front
  14. Letting One client be 40% of your income
  15. Thin Skin – Unable to take Criticism

Read the first chapter for free:

1. Not Charging Enough

This topic rears its ugly head on internet message boards all the time. Experienced designers are upset when they’re trying to earn a living doing what they love while “kids in their mom’s basement” are doing it for free and taking their clients. Anyone can find a copy of Photoshop and start imitating the trends and offer their work to their favorite bands for free. Derek Deal put it nicely:

People get into this industry because of their connection to the music, and tend to do a lot of favors to be affiliated with the bands that inspire them. – Derek Deal

Many of the artists I interviewed charged next to nothing starting out. It’s how they built their portfolio. But they were smart enough to raise their rates as demand increased.

At first, I believe it’s okay to charge a little lower than expected just to get your feet wet, but when you become a little more established, don’t fear raising your prices. Then again, don’t gouge them either. – Chris Sandlin

I know some very talented designers that complain they can’t pay their bills or quit working a second job. I later find out they’re charging $50-100 for a t-shirt design that takes them 12 hours to complete. They’re sad and depressed and are struggling. Being a designer does not mean you aren’t allowed to make a good living.

You want to be the “go to guy” for labels and merchandise companies so you think charging next to nothing for your work is the way to become that guy. You couldn’t be further from the truth. – Geoff May

It confuses clients when designers do not understand pricing and fail to charge what they’re worth. It furthers the perception that design is just a “throwaway commodity.” Clients will think that every designer should be charging that low. It devalues your work. When you give your work a price, it sends a message to the client about how much value they’re getting.

Large companies/labels and bands know this. If you quote them at 10% of what they were expecting, they may think the quality won’t be good and go with someone else. If you don’t buy this, just look at those freelance sites where people post jobs and artists/coders all over the world bid on the project. More often than not, the middle of the road or high price gets picked over the low end price. – Justin Ryan

Some blame can be put on the client for bullying designers into lowering their prices. They threaten them by giving the job to someone else. They will also try to lure you in with promises of “exposure” which I will cover later. Designers need to be firm in their pricing and not be afraid to lose jobs because of price. I know I fall victim to this from time to time. I know a particular client might not have money, but I’ll really want the job. Sometimes I’ll get the job and I will create something I’m proud of. But at the end of the day my bills aren’t paid.

I used to believe that to be able to get projects I should lower my prices. That hurts you a lot because you become valuable to a client only because you have the lowest price. With confidence and a better folio, I’ve set a minimum price for design work and let go of clients who can’t go bare minimum. This weeds out the ‘price-sensitive’ client. The good clients come back to me and say “we’d rather pay you your price because you do quality work. – AJ Dimarucot

That said, it’s becoming harder and harder for a designer to support himself (let alone a family). When tee companies are charging over $100 for a t-shirt it’s only fair for designers to start charging what they’re worth. How do you know what to charge? Well, Bill already wrote a handy guide for designers about pricing. I suggest you give that a read. There is always an exception to the rule. Doing work for free or cheap for something you strongly believe or for a good cause is acceptable. I do it all the time. Working for charity or a music festival that I feel passionate about is OK with me. Sometimes it allows you to do something more bold or daring because a client’s wallet isn’t associated with it. It allows me to spend time experimenting – something clients often do not have a budget for.

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By: Go Media

Go Media is the team of artists and designers that started The Arsenal in 2006. We combine the artistry of illustration and the sensibility of design with a twist of entrepreneurial magic.