Yes, more changes in the POD world are coming...
SOCIETY 6 CHANGES: NEW ARTIST PLANS
Back in the Spring, Society6 announced that it would start deducting shipping fees from an artist’s earnings. You can remind yourself about these fees HERE.
But on October 19, Society6 announced something MUCH more dramatic: the launch of its new Artist Plans: Free, Basic and Pro. The Free Plan is free, of course, but only allows an artist to upload 10 (yes, TEN) designs to their Shop and does not allow an artist to set their own prices (rather, artist royalties are set at 10%). The Basic Plan costs $4.99/month and allows 100 designs. The Pro Plan costs $12.99/month and allows up to 10000 designs. With the Basic and Pro Plans, artists can set their own prices. The Pro Plan also comes with a sales analytics dashboard.
See below for Society6’s chart of the features offered by each Plan.
As of November 30, all current Society6 artists (and new artists that create an account) will be required to opt into a Plan, and make sure the number of designs in their Shop conforms to their chosen Plan. Those who don’t will be automatically enrolled in the Free Plan, and all designs in excess of the ten-design limit will be removed. Society6 says it will remove all but the 10 best-selling designs or, if no sales data is available, the most recently uploaded designs will remain. As of this writing, all removals will be permanent. You can read more detail about these changes at the Society6 Blog HERE.
My Goodness. So What Now?
If you’re wondering what to do with your Society6 Shop, or are considering opening one, here are some things to consider. I’ll let you know how they’ve played out in my own decision-making, and what I ultimately have decided to do.
1. SO Much Time Spent
Any designer who has POD shops on multiple sites, such as Redbubble and TeePublic (who have recently announced changes of their own), will tell you that the uploading process on Society6 is probably one of the most difficult and time-consuming. It requires you to create multiple files to ensure that a design looks good on each of its products, and upload speeds can be slo-ow.
For me with my 262 designs, unless I opt for the Pro Plan, this means that all those HOURS (and I mean HOURS and HOURS) of work uploading designs will have been wasted. Even further, if I go ahead now and delete designs under the Free or Basic Plans (which itself would take a lot of time to do), then I would have to spend more hours again in the future if I ever decided to re-upload those designs.
2. How Have Sales Been?
If you’ve had a Society6 Shop for awhile, how have your sales been? If they’re enough to cover the Plan pricing, then it would be an easier choice to go for a paid Plan. But if not or you would barely break even, or if you’re new to the site, what then? This is perhaps where the most soul-searching will happen. For me, I do have fairly steady sales on Society6 and I can see that sales are trending slowly upwards. But it’s important to note that I’ve been working on this site steadily, if intermittently, for 5 years, and some months have definitely been better than others.
3. POD Sites Are So Satured
POD sites are now extremely saturated. Opting for a Plan with a lower design limit may just mean that your art never gets seen. This being said, Society6 notes that there has been tons of non-selling or low-quality designs being uploaded to its marketplace in recent years, impacting the visibility of high-quality content (like yours and I hope, mine!) They believe that having this tiered Plan structure will lead to a more curated marketplace and drive sales of high-quality designs by independent artists, presumably by discouraging spammers and design thieves from maintaining or creating accounts. Hmm, only time will tell.
4. Think Beyond the Money: Visibiilty Is Something To Think About
I have worked with several licensees and collaborators who have found my work on POD sites, and then get in touch with me directly to discuss their projects. So perhaps paying a fee to keep more visibility online can be considered a form of marketing, can lead to other income streams, and can thus be considered just a cost of doing business.
So What's A Surface Pattern Designer To Do?
My Society6 Shop which I opened in November 2018 currently has 262 designs. I sell fairly regularly and I do see a slow upward sales trend over the last 5 years. I know that I have gotten other projects as a direct result of the online visibility that my POD shops provide (though it's unclear how much Society6 has contributed to this).
Given these facts, here’s what I’ve decided to do: I am going to opt in for the Pro Plan for now. It would just be too stomach-wrenching for me to delete up to 252 designs (!) at this time after all the hours I’ve spent. I’m going to keep an eye on my sales to see if the Plan changes do in fact result in improved sales. And to give myself enough time to see which way the wind is blowing, I’ll revisit my decision in 6 months or a year!
If you're curious, I invite you to check out my SOCIETY6 SHOP HERE!
SPOONFLOWER CHANGES: NEW ROYALTY STRUCTURE
Given the dramatic changes happening over at Society6, Spoonflower’s upcoming changes to its royalty structure just announced today, certainly doesn’t inspire in me the same kind of soul-searching.
Spoonflower was one of the few POD sites that paid its artists a full 10% commission (up to 15% under their bonus structure based on monthly sales) on the FULL retail price of an item, even if that item sold for less during a promotion. But starting January 2024, Spoonflower royalties will now be based on the price a customer actually pays for an item, taking into account any sale discounts (but will never reflect a discount of more than 50%).
In addition, Spoonflower also announced that royalties paid out on their finished home décor items (such as pillows, sheet sets and duvets) will be based on the price paid for the finished product, and not just on the amount of fabric used to make that item, as has been the case. Spoonflower notes that in most cases, artists will earn more on sales of these finished home décor products.
You can read more about Spoonflower's changes to its royalty structure at the Spoonflower Help Center HERE.
It remains to be seen how these royalty changes will affect how much a designer earns from Spoonflower. Since many of my own sales occur during promotions, and the fact that I sell much more fabric and wallpaper than finished home décor products, I am anticipating that I may see less royalty income going forward.
BUT, I’m still happy being a Spoonflower designer and their royalty changes cause me no worries. Why? I love their thoughtful community-building; active support and promotion of designers and makers, both on social media and through organizing fun events throughout the year; participating in their inspiring weekly Design Challenges; and the fantastic visibility I get from having a Spoonflower Shop. And the ability to interact directly with, and respond to special requests from, small business owners, interior designers, makers and DIYers has been invaluable and so satisfying to me.
You can check out my SPOONFLOWER SHOP HERE.
I would dearly like to know what you think of my thought processes regarding these upcoming changes to Society6 and Spoonflower for designers. And if you have anything to add, do let me know. As they say, the only constant is change. So true for all of us surface pattern designers, right?!
At first glance, the colours of my "Aubergine" design below might not seem like me, and if you thought that, you'd be right! That's because I entered this one in this week's Spoonflower "East Fork: Night Swim & Molasses" Design Challenge which required the use of that gorgeous teal ("Night Swim") and dark brown ("Molasses") to match East Fork Pottery's seasonal glaze colours (for use on matching table linens).
Public voting for this Challenge opens Thursday Oct 26 (and closes Tuesday Oct 31) and you can link to the Voting Page HERE!
If you'd like to SHOP these designs in my Spoonflower Shop, just click the images below to link to the Medium-Scale versions. They are also available in a Small- and Large-Scale version too on Fabrics, Wallpaper and Home Decor!
Although I do love the East Fork colourway, see below for the version in the original colours that you will probably think is more "me"! This repeat pattern is in turn based on an "Eggplant Seed Packet" illustration I created in 2022 to submit to the Uppercase Magazine "Seed Packet" comp for Issue #53 which was all about Gardening (scroll down to see it). Ultimately, it wasn't picked (although my "Peas Seed Packet" was!). Since then, I've had it in the back of my mind to create a fun repeat pattern design from that original illustration...And here it is! OH and I renamed it to "Aubergine" just because I like the sound of that better than "Eggplant" (which is what we call this veg here in Canada).
Many years ago, I lived in Berkeley and regularly took the BART into the City; and more recently, I’ve visited SF with my family, so I’m familiar with many of the tourist “greatest hits” already. But this time I had 2 ½ days completely on my own, so I decided to focus on feeding my surface pattern design soul. I thought you might want to follow along with what I did and saw. I walked everywhere, wandering into awe-inspiring places of worship, fun shops and parks along the way. The weather was superb, luckily. It’s hard to eat badly in SF. Google maps was my friend.
8:30 Coffee and a pastry at the Ferry Building, sitting in the sun and watching the water ferries.
10:00 I am of Japanese heritage, so I wanted to check out Japantown. Had a great chat with a curator at the National Japanese American Historical Society and then headed over to the Kinokuniya Bookstore in the Japan Center Malls. Bought some books that would be pretty hard to find where I live (limited myself to just 2).
12:00 Lunch at the Chao Pescao Latin Caribbean Kitchen, with a table looking out onto the Tenderloin People’s Garden, located just across the road from the Asian Art Museum.
Spent hours checking out the rest of the fantastic Asian Art Museum. Took SO many pics, including the ones below just because I loved the faces, they look so kind to me.
4:00 Headed back to the hotel with lots of stops along the way, including at the Gump’s Holiday Shop (now open temporarily just down the street from Gump's San Francisco) and checked out all the ornaments.
6:00 Italian dinner in North Beach.
8:00 Coffee and a pastry at the Ferry Building (again).
9:00 Headed out to the Mission District.
11:00 Tour of the Heath Ceramics Tile Factory and Clay Studio. In addition to seeing how their made-to-order tiles are formed, glazed and fired, we also got to see where the studio manager works. In his studio, he experiments with new ideas and forms, and prepares for upcoming themed shows. All the tables and counters were filled with these experiments and examples from past shows. We weren’t allowed to take photos here, sadly, but trust me when I say it was wonderful. Heath Ceramics has a great Shop and Magazine Stand too!
12:30 Instead of having lunch at the Tartine Manufactory outpost of the famous bakery (which is in the same building as Heath Ceramics), I instead wandered over to the original Tartine Bakery on Guerrero Street.
1:00 Checked out the murals of the Clarion Alley Mural Project.
Headed up Valencia Street to stop in at the Nooworks shop. I love this fashion brand famous for their super colourful prints and wanted to see them all in person. Wouldn't it be fun to design patterns for them?!
Checked out more interesting-looking and vintage shops along the way.
3:00 Complete inspiration overwhelm in the San Francisco Design District, centered on the San Francisco Design Center. Huge interior design showrooms, strangely nearly empty of people, but completely FULL of every kind of gorgeous patterned fabric in giant swatches, often organized by theme, colourful modern furniture, and the newest rug designs. All the drool-worthy designers are represented here and you're free to walk around and drool…Who knew?
5:00 Back to the hotel. Dinner at Kaiyo Rooftop (excellent Japanese-Peruvian food and cocktails), and then finished the evening at the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar in the Fairmont Hotel. More cocktails!
DAY 2 ½:
9:30 A bit of a rocky start (I blame the Tonga Room).
10:00 Headed off to the SFMOMA. Unbeknownst to me, it was Community Day so admission was free! I also didn’t know that the “Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love” show which encompasses two of her famed Infinity Mirror Rooms was on. I managed to snag one of the limited number of same-day tickets (otherwise tickets are sold out through November). In my opinion, SFMOMA is a must-see museum on any trip to San Francisco. If you’ll be there anytime soon, book ahead to see the Yayoi Kusama show!
Other MUST-SEE shows at SFMOMA: the Pacita Abad retrospective (images below, until Jan 28 2024), and the musical video installation "Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors” (until Oct 13 2024). This last was probably my favourite of the entire museum. I haven't included images here because you really just have to stand in the space and experience it for yourself!
1:30 Relaxing lunch on the museum’s Café 5 outdoor terrace.
3:00 Back to the hotel to pick up my bags, and then off to the airport!
I’ll be back, so if you have any suggestions for NEXT time, please do direct them my way!
I had a hard time trying to decide which colourway of my new “Acorns and Oak Leaves” design to enter in this week’s Spoonflower “Pantone Intangible Tea Towels” Design Challenge! The idea behind this one was to use the given Pantone colour palette (as always, it was a hard one for me)! I finally settled on the first Moss Brown version, thanks to everyone who helped me decide!
Voting is open until next Tuesday Oct 24 and you can link to the Voting Page HERE!
And if you'd like to SHOP these tea towels (and wall hangings, btw) in my Spoonflower Shop, click the Images below!
OF COURSE, even though this week’s Challenge is all about tea towel designs, I also felt the need to add this new “Acorns and Oak Leaves” design to my Spoonflower Shop in a repeat pattern as well! So now it’s available on Fabrics, Wallpaper and Home Decor, each in 3 sizes (click the Images below to see the Medium-Scale versions in my Spoonflower Shop. There are also Small- and Large-Scale versions too)!
The 2023 Surface Design Symposium Happened on October 5-6! Join Me for "The Latest Trends" Panel Discussion...Replay Now Available!
On October 6, I had the pleasure of participating in the Panel Discussion: "The Latest Trends in Surface Design & How to Spot Trends in Your Own Research", as part of the 2023 Surface Design Symposium offered by Spoonflower in partnership with the Craft Industry Alliance, together with fellow designers Jeanetta Gonzales, Elizabeth Silver and Renee Froerer!
If you missed the Symposium, REPLAYS of all the sessions, including a keynote by designer Mable Tan and several Design Workshops, are now available to watch for FREE!
Trend Watchers Alert! The WGSN "Prints and Graphics Sourcing Guide: Kidswear A/W 24/25" Has Just Been Released!
If you are a licensee or manufacturer who would like to know the latest in upcoming print trends for kidswear, the brand new "Prints & Graphics Sourcing Guide: Kidswear A/W 24/25" has just been released by WGSN, the world's leading consumer trend forecaster. This Guide includes several of my pattern designs in its identification of the key trends for Autumn/Winter 24/25 Kidswear!
Please NOTE: You must be a WGSN subscriber to access this Guide.
Jackie Tahara of UnBlink Studio