Remembering Ms. Deal

For my “Ms. Deal Progressive Nostalgia Soda Set“, a collection of products centered around a vintage-modern soda, here is the (fictional) backstory of Ms. Deal: the soda, the woman, the history, and the hope. Enjoy.

The story of Ms. Deal, if only a footnote, is nonetheless an interesting one. It begins in 1883 in Seneca Falls, New York, when the woman named Patty Fallow was born. Patty’s parents owned and ran a corner drugstore, which, like most drugstores of the time, served all manner of sweets and drinks. Young Patty was quite fond of these things, though her favorites were the various sodas of the era. Indeed, she loved little more than a good soda, and was always eager to try out the newest creation of some local fountain, even as she helped out at her family’s own. An inquisitive and clever child, perhaps it was only a matter of time before she invented her own unique version.

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Placing Images for Changing Products

When placing an image on a product, it would be nice if its appearance remained consistent across different forms of the product. In particular, when placing an image on one shape or style of a product, if it still looked good on all the other ones. After all, no Zazzler wants customers to select a certain form of a product, only to be met with a less-than-good appearance of an image or, worse, empty space. Yet placing images for consistency of appearance can be a bit of a challenge. Not only can Makers offer new forms or styles of existing products, ones which have different design dimensions, but sometimes, just getting an image to look good on all the existing options can be problematic.

Designing for Zazzle thus requires some careful thought on how to go about placing images, at least if they are intended to fill all the design area of a product. (Note that the design area includes the safe area, guaranteed to remain on the finished product; a border which may or may not get cropped during printing; and a bleed area which is supposed to get cut, except not assuredly.) Obviously the shape of an image plays a big role, as does the precise placement, with centered, square images seemingly being the safest to work with. Aspect ratio and precise placement aside though, in my experience, it is usually just a matter of fully expanding the image on all the different forms of a product in turn, and then checking on all the others to see how things look. Appearance can then be optimized for all current forms, at least, simply by working on the “right” one to begin with.

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“Moonlit Dreams” and Product Inspirations

One basic approach to selling on Zazzle, is simply to put a drawing or other work on as many products as possible. That way, the effort of producing a design is maximized in terms of the number of items added to one’s store, and, hence, to the Zazzle market place at large. Not everyone does this (for instance, some Zazzlers specialize in one product type only), but many do, including, usually, myself. And when a given design truly works fine on many different product types, it is not simply about adding more items at once; it is about offering people what one hopes are all good and worthy products.

Sometimes though, certain products in particular inspire a design, leading to “product inspired” designing in contrast to the “design first” way. This can be just one product in particular, and in fact, I have a “Few of a Kinds” category collection in my store for this very reason (well, more precisely, because I want to occasionally design for very specific items). Other times, this can rather be a subset of products, because the underlying inspiration, perhaps, is an intended use or purpose, one for which only certain products apply.

Moonlit Dreams, colored pencil drawing by Darren Olsen at The Draw

“Moonlit Dreams”
© 2015 Darren Olsen

It was for such a “purpose / product inspiration” that I drew, for instance, “Moonlit Dreams”. I was thinking of something to go on a nightlight in particular, and as nightlights are often useful to kids and babies, I decided on something suitable for a nursery. From there though, with a design so “baby” in nature, I soon saw how nice “Moonlit Dreams” could be on certain other products suited to nurseries, or, even, to some suitable for baby showers as well.

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Tricky Designing with “Star Back” Playing Cards

Most of my drawings to date have been fairly straightforward to complete, including the finalized, digital images they ultimately become. Not counting any thought given to a design beforehand, usually I just sit down and work on a drawing–really figuring out then and there precisely what it is that I want to do–and, I complete it, sometimes trying out particular techniques along the way. Perhaps then I end up spending, say, three to five hours on a drawing, or maybe more if I have to work on it into a second day. Then I just have to scan it and crop the resulting digital image, after which I go about posting products and writing descriptions and such. (The latter of which, granted, can be a time-consuming and even tedious process.)

When I decided to design a playing card back though, things got substantially more difficult (particularly for a first time around with such a project), and I needed to rely a bit more both on my image editing program, GIMP, but also on my ability to think up alternate methods for achieving my objectives. Whether it was how to ensure symmetry across halves or how to draw such fine and finely detailed lines, or, simply confronting unforeseen issues, creating my Star Back Playing Cards became a really long, but instructive, experience.

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“Ring of Flowers” Items and Some Basic Zazzling

I like all my drawings to various extents, and hence, generally, the products I place them on as well. Some items and designs seem to me to be exceptionally cool though, such as my “Ring of Flowers” ones. “Ring of Flowers” is actually not a single drawing, but rather a composite of one, “Flowers on Sharp White”:

Flowers on Sharp White, colored pencil drawing by Darren Olsen at The Draw

“Flowers on Sharp White”
© 2015 Darren Olsen

Flowers on Grassy Hills, colored pencil drawing by Darren Olsen at The Draw

“Flowers on Grassy Hills”
© 2015 Darren Olsen

“Flowers on Sharp White” is pretty basic (a “long” version of my original drawing “Flowers on Grassy Hills”, itself fairly basic), but while it still looks good on its own, when three copies are arranged in a ring–and certain image editing and Zazzle design tools are used–it really becomes something special.

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Competition vs Cooperation

Z in a circle, logo of Zazzle

© 2000-2015 Zazzle Inc. Used with Permission

So I launched a store on Zazzle.com about three weeks ago, and a lot went into getting everything all set. (And now with setting up this blog and off-site site, a lot is still going into it all.) Not least of all was actually creating some drawings, many of which you can find in my portfolio. Nor was learning about how to best scan and digitize images for placing them on products, or the untold time spent posting the actual products and writing their descriptions and such. (Each of these are of course ongoing to a lesser extent as well.) But a bigger matter loomed over it all: what I am truly trying to accomplish, and how should I go about accomplishing it?

Zazzle has hundreds and hundreds of stores, all offering some combination of the comparatively limited number of products that store owners can possibly post. Which is to say, Zazzle has “Makers” who manufacture, print, and stock particular products, while numerous “Designers” (the store owners) supply the drawings, paintings, photos, digital art, or whatnot else to actually appear on said products. With so many, many sellers but only a comparatively limited number of fundamentally different items, how can any one store and seller expect to attract many buyers?

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