When I design for an OMG Yarn only publication, I can just execute a design when and how I want to. That’s kind of the point, right? Working for yourself, you can design the things you want. I picture something in my head, I pull out my stitch dictionaries, and I write a pattern. I am not confident with my sketching skills, so I leave the drawing pictures to when it is absolutely necessary.
One of the hardest things we have to do as a knit or crochet designers is take a concept and describe it well enough to get someone else excited about it. Occasionally, I come across design calls that inspire some unique things using a yarn I’ve been eyeing up (the nicest thing about designing for other companies is not the money, it’s the yarn). Although each design call is a little bit different and each company asks for different elements, the basic elements of a design proposal are pretty much universal.
Here’s a few things you can do to help your design proposal stand out from the bunch:
- Describe your general concept. Obviously, you need to let people know what your idea is. Don’t just show them with a sketch, share what your inspiration was. Tell the prospective company why the project is important to you. If you were inspired by something in nature, include a picture (if there’s room). If you were determined to re-create a classic design or a design from another type of craft, share that, put your own spin on it. My personal belief is that if a design does not make me say “OMG”, it’s not worth doing. I show the reader what makes me say “OMG” and try to get them on that level as well.
- Be creative with your proposal, but follow the instructions in the design call. Submitting to a design call is like turning an assignment in to your teacher and completing a job interview all in one. You’re demonstrating how well you can work with others AND how well you can follow directions.
What does that mean for a design call? Well, if they ask you to keep your proposal to one page, keep it to one page. That should go without saying. Seriously. As a former hiring manager, nothing bothered me more than someone who could not follow the application directions. If we asked for our applicants to provide a specific thing, to save time, I literally threw out all the resumes that didn’t include that thing. I mean, why work with that person if they cannot follow a simple instruction? I have read many a design call that have that specific line item in it (if you cannot follow directions, your proposal will not be considered). Instructions are not suggestions.All that said, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a little fun with your design proposal. The picture above, I submitted with a design proposal for the Enderis Park Pullover for Holla Knits. I used my very limited Adobe Photoshop skills and showed the design in action (as per the instructions from the design call). It’s one of my favorite designs and I still wear the sample I knit.
- Keep it simple. Don’t overthink your design too much. Chances are, your first idea was the right idea, but make sure you can properly execute your design concept. Unless the call or the potential audience for your design demands complicated techniques, keep it simple. That does not mean you can’t try a different way of constructing your project, but you definitely do not need to make the knitter or crocheter stand on their head and work the project with their left toes only. Or do you?
- Know your potential audience. If your audience enjoys standing on their head and using their left toes only, THEN AND ONLY THEN should you write your pattern to call for it. Otherwise, ask yourself, Is this for beginners or is this project for more intermediate/advanced knitters/crocheters? If your design call is for Beginning Knitters Magazine (it doesn’t exist, but you know what I mean), you likely won’t be designing a complicated fair isle project with steeks, zippers, unique cast ons, or anything else requiring more advanced knitting techniques.You’ll also want to consider the basic style that the design company caters to. If they have a modern bohemian style, you want to stick with that. Also consider if the readers of that particular publication prefer a quicker project or if they will be more apt to enjoy a time consuming project (or maybe even a little of both).
- You do NOT always have to reinvent the wheel. This falls under a couple different categories, keeping it simple and following the instructions. Don’t think you can get away with redesigning templates or how the design company wants you to put together a design. Remember, you’re selling them on a design and you as a designer, you’re not there to tell them what to do, you’re working with their parameters on your design.
- Don’t give up who you are as a designer. OMG Yarn designs is about a couple things. I have the “go big or go home” type designs and it’s also my unique style. I won’t just design something just to design it, it has to be something I feel I can wear or use all day, everyday. In some cases, I like to up-cycle or use unique materials. What is your niche? How can you prove you’re passionate about a design if it’s not something you would do (or wear)? I mean, one of the things I LOVE about StevenBe is that you know who he is just by what he’s wearing and his designs reflect that. So if you decide that all your designs have to have something orange in it. Own it. If all your designs are accessories for a specific purpose, offer that and don’t apologize for being you as a designer.
If you keep a lot of the above things in mind, you most certainly could have a successful design career ahead of you. I encourage you to be persistent as well. After all, you may hear “no” more often than you hear “yes” but that’s ok, it’s part of the process. When you finally get that “yes”, embrace it and use as an opportunity to grow.
Additional design tip: If you need a base to sketch on, use what is called a croqui. If you Google search a croqui, you can find a good sketch of a “live model” to put your design on. Just trace her outline.