About a decade ago (near 2010), I put a lot of time and effort in my personal project called Artida.
My vision was to create a brand of cute versatile characters in all kinds of cultures, colors and shapes and create interactive digital stories, games and experiences that would become lovable by kids. Parents would buy the products, physical and digital (t-shirts, bags, custom notebooks, accessories, coloring books ..) and voila – we’d have the next slovenian Hello Kitty story with recognizable merch, toys, plush and clothes.
But sadly, that wasn’t the real scenario.
It actually took me a few years of learning and experimenting in the digital world to realise that I had to move on from this project that grew so deeply in me.
Reflections on the Artida journey – from passion to branding
The result of my efforts (actually, the sales) were never high and not rising enough, although I put all of myself into Artida and worked on the project every single day and night.
The brand didn’t evolve as I thought it would. And I didn’t even aim big – I created Artida because I believed in the idea that I was selling and I liked making illustrations, creating physical products and wandering from Illustrator to Photoshop, InDesign, Flash, Dreamweaver and then WordPress and the printing company, the post office.. Yes, that’s way back somewhere in 2010 and I wanted to do it all by myself.
I liked the dynamics of creating things, advertising them, engaging with the community, creating a unique voice that would exceed the boundaries of age, sex, race, cultural differences, religion and values. Artida was my so called ‘branding’ project.
I believed in Artida so much that I drove to the main European licensing fair 320 miles away in Bologna for 3 years in a row just to get the latest information from the licensing industry experts about branding and licensing products.
I kept in touch with the most successful brand stories via social media and their websites, was subscribed to licensing magazines, learning about marketing, connecting with people and groups from the industry on LinkedIn pages, Facebook groups and Twitter and applying all gained knowledge to Artida’s Facebook page and e-commerce website that I’ve created.
I even had a lecture about brands and illustration in primary school and a character put on a jumbo poster around the town for a notebook selling company.
When I realized how much time I’ve already put in developing this brand and that I’m still stuck at the beginning of the project, I was contacted by a slovenian licensing agent whose company was already in the licensing business with some very cool brands put on school supplies. I decided to go for it and prepared materials for meeting presentations. I made a corporate branding booklet and a huge style guide for future product development. But unfortunately nothing big grew from our arrangement.
Then I had another agent from Poland. We’ve also signed a contract but other than designing some stuff for him, I got nothing from the deal. And started to realise that either I am doing something wrong, either something is missing in the puzzle or my idea just isn’t being executed well.
So, did I fail?
Slowly, my hopes for creating a successful kids’ brand were fading away. At the time the only thing I was left with was making t-shirts and giving away colouring books to my friends, who still, after 10+ years, try to convince me that my product is great because kids still love to wear Artida t-shirts. But what I’ve learned is, that at some point, You. Just. Have. To. Let. It. Go. Even if you were holding on to the idea for years.
So looking back now, I’m thinking about what I could do differently if I started it all again:
- always make prototypes of your products
- test prototypes before spending too much money on product production
- do research on your market
- realise that licensing industry is big, but only a few get to the top and with top-products from the entertainment industry, not just a vision
- create a product that solves a problem or adds value
- create and inspire a team of people to join the mission and not try to make everything by myself
What I’ve learned
And I realize now that even though the story didn’t end like I wanted to, I’ve learned quite a lot during this journey, doing multiple tasks by myself:
- illustration and animation in Photoshop and Illustrator
- creating social media content,
- social media advertising,
- creating ads,
- creating an online ecommerce store,
- managing and updating the website,
- studying marketing techniques,
- making physical products,
- shipping them,
- making flash animations,
- making a promotional video,
- making music for the promotional video,
- got to know many t-shirt printing techniques and tools,
- enormous amount of hours spent creating digital vector characters in Illustrator,
- really getting good at WordPress,
- creating lovable stories about real and fictional characters,
- learning about cultures and languages,
- getting to know really interesting, but less known facts about food, animals and nature,
- and so on and so on…
As you can see, the list keeps going. And for that, I am really grateful. So now I don’t look at this story as failure but rather as a journey which got me to where I am now. I am very happy and grateful for being able to put so much time in a personal project and gain so much knowledge.
They say the more you fail, the more you learn. Creating user interfaces for software and apps might not be as colourful and physically dynamic as shipping colouring books and t-shirts, but I’ve learned enough to start my second product design project, which I will share to you in part II.
Read more about my personal project Artida: https://ajda.gregorcic.eu/portfolios/artida-brand/