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Author Archive | CarrieAnne DeLoach

How To Be A Good Design Team Member

Today’s guest blogger is again CarrieAnne Deloach. CarrieAnne is the former Executive Editor of Scrap n’ Art Magazine, an experienced design team participant, and the current President of Couture Cardstock, a new division of the Cardstock Warehouse.

On November 1st CarrieAnne will be officially launching Couture Cardstock at couturecardstock.com. Though they already have a staff of designers, they will be announcing an Open Design Team call for one cardmaker, one 3D artist, and one SVG cutter file creator.

Today’s post is part two of two. Part one, titled How To Be A Good Design Team Sponsor, was published yesterday.

As I discussed yesterday, I believe that the relationship between designers and design team sponsors is key to the success of companies, and even the entire scrapbook industry.  The four principles that I provided then about how to be a good design team sponsor also apply to being a good design team member, for different reasons:

1. Recognize and Value Expertise

Hopefully, you have selected the design team sponsor that you did because you are in love with their product, services or perspective. Now that you have made the team, it is your responsibility to find out everything you possibly can about their products, and develop unique techniques, projects and tutorials for uses your sponsor had not yet thought of. This requires you to be current in your field.

Like any professional, your value lies in your knowledge base. Actively read and research what others in paper crafting are doing. Compare and contrast your sponsor’s product or service to the capabilities of their competitors. Write down your observations, and offer them when asked, or volunteer them in a respectful manner if no one prompts you directly. Suggest directions you would love to see the product line go in. If your advice is not warmly received, keep a personal journal of your opinions and product-related observations. You may find that after an opportunity to contemplate your input your sponsor is more receptive.

If their mindset never changes consider this rigidity when the time for your contract renewal comes up. Your notes will at least continue to be a valuable source of information for your own professional development and for any future employers.

2. Invest in your Talent

Making a design team wins only half of your professional battle. You want to continue making design teams and growing professionally. This requires continued education. Whether you enjoy attending online or brick-and-mortar classes (or are a self learner), continue to push the envelope. Visit your local scrapbook store, read CHA updates and visit the sites of key industry leaders to keep up on the latest industry trends and tool development. Though what you can afford is determined by your individual budget, invest wisely in tools and products which will keep your skill sets current.

It is also wise to stay informed on the “business side” of the industry. There are a number of websites, like Scrapbook Update, that track company mergers, bankruptcies, and changes in top level leadership. Be sure that you are hitching your star to a constellation that plans on burning brightly for quite some time and that you are taking advantage of every opportunity the marketplace can offer you.

3. Put Your Best Saleswoman Forward

As a designer you have two skill sets you should be maximizing. The first, of course, is your creative genius and the artwork and techniques you develop from it. The second is your network. As a professional who has invested considerably in your online presence, are you making the most the connections you have made from popular scrapbooking and stamping forums, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter? Have you created a database, rolodex or address book of the people you know and the companies who they currently work for or have worked for in the past? This information will prove invaluable to you as you seek out new design team positions, need letters of reference, or attempt to improve the non-competitive inter-industry relationships needed by your current design team sponsor.

When attending trade shows, crops, workshops, or local store events, are you giving and getting business cards and building your network? When you are being compensated for attending such events by a design team sponsor, are you using even your “free time” to seek out partners and persons that offer complimentary product lines or who would make great additions to your team as guest designers or permanent staff? Your ability to “connect” yourself and those you work for will inestimably raise your market value in the eyes of your employer or perspective employer.

4. Be Reputable in Your Dealings

It is undeniable that mankind has produced some unsavory bosses. With that being said, do you really want to be the type of person who sinks to their level? If you take the step of signing onto a design team, whether by verbal agreement or by signing a contract, you have given your word to perform a task for a specified period of time. Your sponsor is placing his/her time, trust and resources in you with the expectation that you will perform your assigned duties as promised. It is extremely disruptive to their sponsors both financially and time wise for designers to abandon teams or take payment without providing what you promised. Though life’s emergencies do occasionally present themselves, you should, with only the rare exception, complete the task you have agreed to complete.

Should an emergency arise, contact your design team coordinator and mitigate the disruption your situation will cause as best as possible. Be sure to understand the problem resolution process of your sponsor. Does he/she have a mentorship program or chain of command? Identify and establish a relationship with these key individuals so that should personality conflicts, deadline issues, or product usage questions arise you will be fully prepared to solve them within established guidelines. A marker of a successfully completed tenure on a design team is your employer’s willingness to write you a letter of recommendation.

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How To Be A Good Design Team Sponsor

Today’s guest blogger is CarrieAnne Deloach. CarrieAnne is the former Executive Editor of Scrap n’ Art Magazine, an experienced design team participant, and the current President of Couture Cardstock, a new division of the Cardstock Warehouse.

On November 1st CarrieAnne will be officially launching Couture Cardstock at couturecardstock.com. Though they already have a staff of designers, they will be announcing an Open Design Team call for one cardmaker, one 3D artist, and one SVG cutter file creator.

The relationship between designers and design team sponsors is key to the success of companies, and even the entire scrapbook industry. Historically,  these relationships have been typically viewed in a very simplistic way which allows neither party to meet their full potential. The common view is a simple exchange of product for artwork, which may also involve a small amount of monetary compensation for publication, trade show expenses and additional online participation by artists in blogs or forums.

I believe a more efficiently developed and comprehensive relationship is necessary and would greatly aid both parties and the overall success of the paper crafting industry. This relationship rests largely on four principles:

1. Recognize and Value Expertise

Your selections for your design team were likely made after a lengthy call which required you to evaluate tens (if not hundreds) of applicants. In making your final choice you openly recognized the talent and excellence of the individuals chosen. Don’t allow that faith in their exceptionalism to end there. Instead, engage in a continual examination of your product line with your design team members. Ask your designers detailed questions about the functionality, future applicability and, most important, the flaws of your product lines. What products do they love? What do they hate? Are your color combinations, product sizes, and coordinating products trendy, relevant and exciting? If they could change a product, how would they do so? What would they want to see you do next? Are there ways they use your products or non-competitive companies they work with that suit your product that you have yet to think of?

In asking such questions, be respectful of their time. Phone calls are far less time consuming for them . If you start sending out lengthy email surveys – don’t expect to get as much as you would from a friendly conversation that does not require them to write an essay. Also be sure to send a RAK or at a minimum a “Thank You” card, demonstrating that you recognize and appreciate the time they took to share their ideas with you. These designers are your most accessible focus group and your greatest advocates. They are invested in seeing you succeed and are experts in their fields. Are you capitalizing on these traits?

2. Invest in your Talent

Nothing reduces unwanted design team rotation, early contract termination or disgruntled attitudes better than ensuring that your employees are happy. Design team members possess dynamic personalities. Their creative genius demands to be fed by challenging and rewarding work. I am a great advocate of rewarding proven design team members by investing in their continued education.

What may seem extravagant upfront (such as paying for your artists to obtain additional certifications with non-competitive manufacturers or defraying the expenses of online or brick and mortar technique classes) is really an investment in cutting-edge technology and workforce stability. It may also be possible for you to mitigate the expense of either form of education through an even exchange with interested manufacturers or by providing a workshop that your design team member can teach in exchange for the one she would like to take. One of the most common reasons I have heard for launching new design team calls each year is the desire for innovative artwork and a new perspective. Could these objectives possibly be met by investing in the gem of an employee you already trust, as opposed to engaging in a lengthy and time-consuming design team call which may or may not net a reliable new team member?

3. Put Your Best Saleswoman Forward

Trade shows, consumer events and workshops are your golden sales opportunities – doesn’t it make sense to have your A-team on board to ensure your success? Who (other than yourself) will be more proficient in using your product, more excited about its merits and more personally invested in your success than a proven member of your design team? Though there are real expenses involved in bringing additional staff to such events, having designers run make n’ takes and speak to non-buying customers will free up your valuable time to seal orders and provide media representatives with information.

Additionally, allowing your designers time to walk the floor and see what new trends and products are developing will allow them to learn an enormous amount of information in a very short period of time. This is information they can take back to the workshop and apply to the artwork and tutorials they provide to you. Also, do not understate the value of design members’ blog posts, newsletters, or emails during big industry events. Consumers are often scouring the internet seeking out information for professional events that are closed to them. Your designers could be the perfect free marketing avenue for posting photos of your booth, viral videos on the more personal side of how your company operates and travels, contest announcements,  and new projects or samples.

4. Be Reputable in Your Dealings

Thanks to my excellent upbringing and my background as an Army officer, I believe strongly that paying your employees a reasonable compensation (whether it be monetary or in product) and then sticking to the agreed upon compensation is absolutely crucial. We have all heard the stories of design team sponsors who charge for shipping, short their employees on what they said they would provide, or who simply have not paid their people.

Do you really want your company’s name to be mentioned in negative terms all over the scrapbook neighborhoods of the internet? If you are even hesitant as to your ability to pay on a continued basis the compensation offered in your design team call, then lower it. Additionally, invest in a quality design team coordinator, someone who knows not only the ins and outs of paper crafting, but how to manage and inspire people. Doing so will assuredly reduce tensions and misunderstandings while motivating your staff and increasing their sense of belonging.

This post is part one of two. Check back tomorrow for part two: How To Be A Good Design Team Member

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