The Oversight that led to Surface Design

July 31, 2017

(Photo: Balboa Park, San Diego, CA)


In my last blog post, I told the story of my first time painting watercolor.  I had originally planned to take my painted motifs, turn them into patterns, and print those onto greeting card sets to sell on Etsy.  This blog post will continue into my story of what happened next.

I ended up pouring myself into making the patterns, researching paper stocks and packaging, printing samples, etc.  The journey to see my cards come to life was so exhilarating.  Yet I neglected a very important part of selling… I didn’t fully estimate how much each greeting card set would cost to produce and the difference of what I would sell each set for.  This is called your net profit and in simple terms, it stands for your retail price minus the cost it takes to produce your product/service.  This is what you ultimately earn as a seller.  


Once I realized that my net profit would only be $1-2 per set, I was shocked.  As much as I was enjoying making the patterns, it was a lot of time and effort and didn’t seem sustainable long-term.  I decided I would hold off on this venture.  


What came next was a pleasant silver lining… as I continued to search for ways to make some money pursuing my passion for prints and patterns, I kept coming across this term called “Surface Design”.  I want to mention I’ve been doing graphic design for over 10 years and currently have a full-time job doing it, yet I’d never heard of surface design.


Simply put, “surface design encompasses the coloring, patterning, and structuring of fiber and fabric.” (Surface Design Association)  And what’s surprising is that it’s all around us everywhere we go yet we probably aren’t aware of it.  Surface design is on your favorite shirts, dresses, pillows, towels, rugs, tissue boxes, journals, etc. Someone out there designed those patterns that you see everyday.


Upon learning about this new industry, I was thrilled to find out that I could create the actual patterns that manufacturers print on many products.  The thought of seeing my designs on items in stores and in people’s homes excited me.  I immediately started researching more and came across Pattern Observer, an online textile and pattern design blog.  Through their site, they offer an online learning environment called the Textile Design Lab, where you can learn all about the surface design industry and watch tutorials on how to make patterns.  


I am happy to say that I am a member of the Textile Design Lab and because of my profit oversight, I stumbled upon an industry that now provides me with a lot of joy and opportunity to express my creativity.  I would encourage those who want to be more creative to keep searching and try different classes and tutorials out there, you never know what you might stumble upon!


Cheers, Rachelle


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