Congratulations to Aga Kobylinska

I had the pleasure of sending some good news today to Aga Kobylinska, the winner of the Make It In Design Module 3 Giveaway! Aga is a surface pattern designer based in Warsaw, Poland.

"It’s wonderful, vibrant city, full of fantastic opportunities," she writes. "I love to live and work here. But I’m also addicted to travels! I’m constantly fascinated by the beauty of nature, cultural diversity and human creativity."

When I asked her how she felt about being the recipient of the free class, in which she'll learn how to monetize her surface pattern designs, Aga replied, "I've never felt ready enough to send you my portfolio for review so I'm amazed by your email even more." I think that's a very common feeling... we never think our portfolio is good enough or ready or finished. I'm glad that Aga and the dozens of other artists took the leap to share their work with all of us. Having the confidence to share your work is the first step in building a successful career.

Follow Aga on Instagram and see more from her portfolio.

If you're wondering how Aga was selected, I read all 77 comments and clicked over to the participants' links. (Remember to read contest directions carefully! It is stated clearly in italics that to enter you must include a link to your website or instagram. If you don't have a portfolio yet, then you're not quite ready for this class.) From reviewing the links, I narrowed it down to 12 of the best portfolios and then the team at Make it in Design selected the winner.

The Makers Summit

This guest post is by Tatjana Mai-Wyss, a freelance illustrator in South Carolina. She was our correspondent at last week's Makers Summit in Greenville.

UPPERCASE donated magazines for the Makers Summit goody bags. Photo from the Makers Summit Instagram.

UPPERCASE donated magazines for the Makers Summit goody bags. Photo from the Makers Summit Instagram.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to spend a couple of inspiring days at the Makers Summit in Greenville, South Carolina. This conference is billed as an “event designed for creative entrepreneurs who want to grow successful businesses". I was impressed to learn that the guests and attendees had come from all over the country. How lucky for me to live less than an hour away!

Tatjana with the business card wall.

Tatjana with the business card wall.

Attendees could stick their cards to the wall.

Attendees could stick their cards to the wall.

The event takes place on the 5th floor of a new office building in the middle of the city. The space is bright and airy; two floors connected by an open staircase with great views of downtown Greenville. The workshops, peer group meetings and expert consultations are held in various classrooms, while the keynote speakers and discussion panels bring everyone back to the stage area.

On Friday, keynote speaker Justina Blakeney kicks things off with a bang. She is enthusiastic, colorful and engaging in person, and her talk makes a definite impression on everyone. Throughout the weekend speakers refer back to her thoughts on finding your passion, focusing on your goals (remember your “north star”) and prioritizing your worklife. Personally I like the part about “moving on”, finishing a project and moving through to the next thing without obsessing too much. (My new mantra will be: "is it good enough?”) I’m impressed by how approachable and charming she is, and enjoy meeting her later over succotash and bourbon/ginger ale cocktails at the “Best Craft Party Ever."

Lettering print by @jennyhighsmith from the goody bag. Photo by @kukajuice.

Lettering print by @jennyhighsmith from the goody bag. Photo by @kukajuice.

Most of our lives as creatives are spent in our offices/studios and on our own, so the best part (and also the most challenging sometimes) is being part of a group and meeting so many interesting people in such a short amount of time. It’s so much fun to know that your badge gives you licence to walk up to a stranger and ask any amount of questions over your morning coffee.

Photo from Makers Summit Instagram

Photo from Makers Summit Instagram

Speaking of coffee, the food at the summit deserves mention. There is stylish coffee (and fresh smoothies) throughout the weekend, beautiful (and delicious) cakes for Friday’s coffee break, three fun venues for Friday’s party (my favorite is an outdoor terrace with colorful cushions and twinkly lights) and a decadent breakfast buffet on Saturday. Homemade donuts for saturday’s coffee break continue the party atmosphere, and now that I think of it, the emphasis on good food might be a southern thing.

Photo from the Makers Summit Instagram

Photo from the Makers Summit Instagram

The focus of this conference is really on making something concrete and getting it out there, so the discussion panels centre on resources and funding for small businesses, scaling up and managing a growing business, and marketing all around. The panelists have a good variety of approaches and perspectives and answer questions thoughtfully. 

Workshops, peer group and expert sessions can be a bit more customizable and let you ask questions specific to your experience.

It will probably take some time for me to digest all the information from the Makers Summit, but I’m very glad I went, and very happy to have made new friends and experiences.

Follow Tatjana on Instagram and see more of her portfolio here.

Make it in Design: Course Giveaway!

Together with our friends at Make it in Design, we are offering a very special prize to ONE very lucky reader - one free place on the next Module 3 class of The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design worth $CAD680 (£359)!

Module 3 – ‘Monetising your designs’, is a five-week online course where you will learn everything you need to know to monetise your designs! The classroom can be accessed around the clock so you can join from anywhere in the world, and fit the course into your busy life. 

The course details the major money-making opportunities available to you as a designer, including; freelancing, licensing, selling outright, manufacturing and more! Module 3 also includes free access to leading trend forecasting site WGSN for a limited period AND the Make it in Design little black book of industry contacts!

Course alumni have gone on to launch their own design studios, win national awards, be featured in design books, on leading blogs and more. Fancy a bit of this action too? Read on to find out how to enter.

The class includes the following:

• How to identify multiple streams of income for your designs
• How to sell and license your designs (what they don’t teach you at art school!)
• The ins and outs of freelancing
• How to get into manufacturing your own product
• How to choose the right distribution channel for you
• How to negotiate a contract that is right for you
• How not to get ripped off
• How to manage your time and money
• How to manage stock levels
• How to get a job in design
• How to stay motivated


• How to create a pattern portfolio to show to potential clients
• How to apply patterns to mock-up product templates and room sets
• How to turn a placement print into a technical repeat for wallpaper or fabric
• How to design a Trade Show Brochure in Adobe Illustrator

Invaluable industry information such as colour print specifications for both paper goods and textiles.

You will do this by actually creating a mini portfolio for potential licensing clients; a trade show plan and a business development plan.

PLUS you will learn everything you need to know about trade shows (getting in, getting ready and getting customers!)

AND the Make it in Design money-can’t-buy bonus little black book of industry contacts!

And if that wasn’t enough, you also get full access to leading trend forecasting site WGSN for 90 days (this alone is worth more than the entire cost of the course!


One place on The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design – Module 3 ‘Monetising Your Designs’ runs for 5 weeks from April 4, 2016, delivered online) 

How to enter: 

Check out the course website to find out more about it, then head back here and leave a comment at the bottom of the post in 50 words telling us why this course would benefit you right now and how it could transform your career. You must include a link to your website or Instagram to be considered.

Deadline: March 14 Any comments left after this time will not be counted. The winner will be jointly selected by UPPERCASE editor Janine Vangool and The Make it in Design team and announced on March 17.

Good luck!

Terms and Conditions:

This competition is to win a place on Module 3: Monetising your designs starting April 4, 2016. One entry allowed per person. The winning place is not transferrable – either by date or to another individual and must not be sold on and no cash alternative will be offered in the event that the winner is unable to use the prize for any reason. By entering this competition you agree for your entry to be promoted on the Make it in Design and Uppercase website and their associated social networks. If you have already signed up for the April Module 3 class and are selected as the winner you will be offered a refund. 

Win a spot in The Ultimate Portfolio Builder! (Comments Closed)

See the winner here.

Together with our friends at Make it in Design, we are offering a very special prize to ONE very lucky reader - one free place on the next The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design – The Ultimate Portfolio Builder course worth $895 (£579).

Places on this course are strictly limited and are highly sought after, but one person from this competition will be guaranteed a place! 

The Ultimate Portfolio Builder is an advanced seven-week online professional surface pattern design course, consisting of an intense five-week class followed by two weeks of design reviews. The classroom is accessible 24/7 so you can join from anywhere in the world, and fit the course into your busy life.

This powerful course will give you all the tools and advice you need to grow, refine and strengthen your professional design portfolio, make your designs more sellable and give you the fast-track to trade show success.

Brought to you in association with Printsource, one of the top surface and textile design shows in the world, this course will provide you with exclusive insight to help you secure the right buyers for your work, deal effectively with clients, get trade show ready and discover the secrets to landing your dream work. Plus one lucky person on the course will win a free booth at Printsource Aug 2016 and $1,000 to get you to New York! 

Course alumni have gone on to launch their own design studios, win national awards, be featured in design books, on leading blogs and more. Fancy a bit of this action too? Read on to find out how to enter.

The Ultimate Portfolio Builder includes:

  • Five weeks of exceptional in-depth teaching on subject matter (objects, characters, nature, geometrics, typography and abstract), colour and media, the power of recolouring, designing for occasions, genre and style, audience and market and so much more

  • A series of advanced design challenges to help you grow as a designer and build a strong, rounded portfolio

  • An array of LIVE briefs from real companies looking to sign the next big talent – is it you?

  • A series of video based technical masterclasses from guest designers on typography, characters, photography, mixed media collages and more, to hone your professional design skills

  • Invaluable individual work reviews from Rachael Taylor, Janine Burrows and Khristian A. Howell

  • Insight into the practicalities of managing a growing design studio

  • Trade show planning advice direct from Printsource New York

  • Opportunity to put questions to Rachael Taylor

  • 90 days’ free access to the top trend forecasting site WGSN


  • One lucky person on the course will win a free booth at Printsource New York, August 2016 and $1,000 towards the cost of travel to the show

  • An incredible four-part creative brief from Printsource to help you attract the clients you want and the kind of work you dream of

  • Bonus material on managing your finances, how to be your own career strategist and thinking outside the box

  • Access to a huge library of textures to give your work depth and distinction

  • Access to exclusively styled room set images ready-made for you to render your designs on

  • A selection of colour palettes intended to help you push your colour choices

  • And a whole lot more – this course really is jam-packed full of goodness!


The prize: ONE place on The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design – The Ultimate Portfolio Builder course starting September 21, 2015, delivered on-line.

How to enter: 

Check out the course website to find out more about it, then come back to this post and leave a comment with a link to your website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram so that we can contact you and write in no more than 50 words why this course would benefit you right now and how it could transform your design career.

Deadline: 5pm GMT on Friday September 18, 2015. Any comments left after this time will not be counted. 

Good luck!

Terms and Conditions: This competition is to win a place on The Ultimate Portfolio Builder course from Make it in Design starting September 21, 2015. One entry allowed per person. The winning place is not transferrable – either by date or to another individual and must not be sold on and no cash alternative will be offered in the event that the winner is unable to use the prize for any reason. By entering this competition you agree to your entry to be promoted on the Uppercase and Make it in Design website and their associated social networks. The winner will be jointly selected by Janine Vangool and Rachael Taylor and announced by Sunday September 20. The judges’ decision is final.

Issue 14 will be shipping soon

We're compiling the big mailing list for the next issue—get your new subscription or renewal in asap to ensure that you get the new issue as quickly as possible!

Issue #14 is about creative play: wordplay, concrete poetry, the typography of sport, plus a BIG feature about creative careers in children's books. 

In my house, the children's book "I Want My Hat Back" is a favourite. I love the simplicity of the layout and design and we all love the story about a bear searching for his stolen hat. Written and illustrated by Jon Klassen, I knew that Jon's combination of simplicity and sophistication was just the thing for our next cover. We are very fortunate that Jon created the playful cover of our summer issue.

Here's an animated preview of "I Want My Hat Back". Note the turtle!

UPPERCASE Issue #14 will be released in July. 

type tuesday: lettering on a bottle

Poster by Michael Spitz

Christopher Stott: new work of old stuff

"Deluxe Model 5" Oil on canvas 20" X 30""Rotary Phone, Off The Hook I" Oil on canvas 16" X 24""Clear Thinking" Oil on canvas 42" X 32""Back To Back" Oil on canvas 24" X 30"

We first featured Christopher Stott's oil paintings in issue #7, and you may have noticed his work in this Anthropologie campaign. Christopher has been hard at work on painting new works of some really nice-looking old stuff, available to view and purchase from the Elliott Fouts Gallery in Sacramento, California.

June 2 - July 5, 2012
4749 J Street Sacramento, CA 95819 

One more from Surtex: PRNT

Alanna Cavanagh met some new talent earlier this month at Surtex.

PRNT (which stands for PEOPLES' REPUBLIC OF NICE THINGS) is a brand-spanking-new studio founded by young designers Jenna Russelle and Halla Koudsi.

Young Designers Jenna Russelle and Halla Koudsi of PRNT studio at their SURTEX booth.

The two founders have backgrounds in the illustration and fashion worlds respectively and met while working in the apparel industry in Toronto. In January 2012 they formed PRNT and this past week they made their debut at SURTEX.

In addition to their own designs the studio carries patterns created by several different artists which results in an enormous variety of work available within one studio. Most of their patterns have a highly illustrative and often edgey vibe and would work wonderfully in the fashion, home + paper goods markets.

We wish Jenna and Halla the best of luck in their new venture!

Surtex: Magnet Reps

The Magnet Reps booth at Surtex

During the hustle and bustle of Surtex, Shelley Brown did a quick-fire Q and A with Chrystal Falcioni, the Founder/Director at Los Angeles-based Magnet Reps.

Shelley: How long have you been pursuing the art licensing business?
Chrystal: 8 years

Shelley: How have you found it to change from then to now?

Chrystal: The art is much better. It used to be very old fashioned. Not contemporary at all. More and more illustrators are trying it. Much more competition.

Shelley: What do you think are the most significant new opportunities that you see for your artists in the future?

Chrystal: Paperless applications. 

Shelley: What should artists do who want to make the shift from illustrating to surface design or licensing?

Eleanor Grosch

Chrystal: Get out there and understand that art is about collections. Decide if you want to be single image or patterns and research. Do lots of research.  

Shelley: What shows do you feel are essential to the art licensing business?

Chrystal: Surtex and The Licensing Show in Vegas. Also, if anyone is planning on exhibiting in a show, they should first attend at least one or two years in a row prior to exhibiting in it. 

Nate Williams, represented by Magnet Reps

Surtex: a learning experience

Image by Mark Hoffmann, represented by i2i Art Inc.

Shelley Brown reports from NYC:

There's lots to learn about surface design and the more you learn, the more you discover it's just the tip of the iceberg!

The past two days I've attended seven seminars at Surtex. Some of the info covered challenges the right brain big time, and the seminars are held in underground suites away from the hustle and bustle of the show. There's no eye candy here, just the nitty gritty stuff. It's important, though, for anyone thinking of pursuing the business of surface design. Each session was an hour and a half long and included lots of Q+A.  It's great to get real specific answers to your questions.

Day 1: 

  • The Basics of Art Licensing - Part I + II, and 
  • Understanding Legal Basics - Contracts and Copyrights

Day 2:

  • New Legal Strategies - Royalties, Terms and More
  • Strategies for Working with Manufacturers
  • Futurecast:  Business Trends in Art Licensing
  • Understanding and Enhancing Retailer / Manufacturer Relationships

Some of the educational highlights from the Surtex seminars: 

Licensing is a $192 billion dollar business worldwide.

The artist is the Licensor and the buyer of your art (usually a manufacturer or retailer) is the Licensee.

The business is changing but there are always opportunities for great art.

It's not absolutely necessary, but it's preferable to register your copyright on any art you have licensed (in case of any infringement). To save money, don't register everything you create until you license it. 

You need to be prolific because it's best to have lots of samples to promote yourself to potential Licensors.

If you're looking for an agent, make sure you choose someone you get along with. Good communication and transparency make for a good marriage (in life and in the artist/agent relationship!).

If at all possible, try to get your name on any products you license.

When you're selling your art to a manufacturer or retailer, get an advance and royalty as part of your license agreement, if possible.  

The average royalty is 5% - 7% for household products, and up to 10% for paper goods or wall decor. 

Words to avoid in a contract: assignment, all rights and work for hire.

It takes about 1-2 years to get to know and achieve some level of success in surface design, so don't get discouraged a few months in.

Before you do a deal with a licensee check their reputation. Do they send royalty statements on time and pay royalties owning according to their agreements?

Before you sign a licensing agreement, have a copyright lawyer who specializes in licensing review the contract.  

Beware of exclusivity and make sure it is only for a narrowly defined category.

Don't be afraid to conduct an audit (through your copyright attourney), if you have reason to believe your royalties are not being correctly reported. In most royalty agreements you should receive a statement quarterly. 

There is a great online tool for finding your images which may be in use without your permission. It's called TinEye. Go to and do a reverse image search on any of your images.

Familiarize yourself with a manufacturer or retailer's style or brand before you approach them with samples. Also find out in what format and how often they prefer you submit your art. 

Attend a show like Surtex. Take the seminars to learn as much as you can about the business.

Surtex: Frank Sturges Reps.

The Heads of StateAlanna Cavanagh reports from NYC:

Another booth that really stood out was for Frank Sturges Reps. Frank has been in the illustration representation business for over 15 years and represents a small group of incredible illustrators including  The Heads of State, Jessica Hische, and Katherine Streeter.

The booth made an impact with large panels of gorgeous illustration and saturated colour. Definitely a favourite of the day!

Jessica HischeKatherine Streeter

Surtex: Sorry You're Happy

Alanna Cavanagh reports from NYC:

First off it must said that being at the Javitts Centre can be an overwhelming experience. Your pass allows you admission not only into Surtex but into the National Stationery Show and ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) as well.  If attending all three shows you are literally exposed to thousands of images, exhibitors, attendees, press packages, "trend seminars", workshops, and business cards. By the end of Day 1 I had a strong desire to be put into a sensory deprivation tank with a big glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

I come from an illustration background and bring a bias to the Surtex show—I am most excited by the illustration booths.

One of the freshest presentations I've seen so far was from Sorry You're Happy. This art licensing and surface design studio is made up of husband and wife illustrators Kyle Reed and Jen Hsieh (You might be familiar with them from UPPERCASE's Work/Life book series). It was exciting to see that, in addition to their own work, they were exhibiting pieces from two established and talented Toronto-based illustrators Katy Dockrill and UPPERCASE contributor Aaron Leighton.

Kyle and Jen holding one of Jen's tea towels.All the work in the booth looked fresh and playful with the perfect amount of quirkiness thrown in. Jen and Kyle are particularly interested in licensing their art in the children's market and I think it would work beautifully there. I can easily imagine any of these designs dancing on a onesie or on children's bedding.

Booth panels by Aaron Leighton, Kyle Reed and Katy DockrillOne of Katy Dockrill's patterns in the sample book

Inspiration: Lucienne Day

Lucienne Day, circa 1952The work of Lucienne Day inspires a lot of contemporary interpretations, but it always worthwhile to know more than the surface of a designer's work. Day's work is part of Designing Women: Post-War British Textiles: a current exhibition at the British Textiles Museum. The book Robin and Lucienne Day: Pioneers in Modern Design by Lesley Jackson (Chronicle, 2001) is also worth adding to your library.

Around the web:

• Lucienne Day 1917-2010, remembrance in the Guardian

• Robin Day obituary

• An interview and home tour of Robin and Lucienne Day with Wallpaper magazine, December 2008.

• V&A Lucienne Day archives

Classic Textiles' reissue of some iconic designs



photo by Anne-Katrin Purkiss

Surtex: Day 1

Work by Tracy Walker, represented by i2i Art Inc. Tracy is also one of the artists in Work/Life 2: the UPPERCASE directory of illustration.

Shelley Brown reports from NYC:

After 25 fantastic years repping illustrators for everything from advertising to design and publishing, the economic crash in 2008 was a real catalyst for the already shifting business of 'traditional' illustration. There has been a growing trend towards illustrators producing art suitable for applications to surfaces on everything from greeting cards to household products. To this end, Surtex is a trade show offering artists an opportunity to introduce their work to a variety of manufacturers and retailers.

I attended the show back in 2006, but over half a decade later, I am noticing that the calibre of art is changing, as more and more illustrators are entering this market. Just imagine how exciting it is for an illusrator whose work is normally applied to a printed brochure or used in a campaign that has a shelf life of 4 weeks to suddenly see their work applied to a tea towel, a rug or a stationery package!


Today I attended three seminars:  Basics of Art Licensing, Parts I + II, and Understanding Legal Basics: Contracts and Copyrights.

If you are an illustrator or designer thinking of pursuing surface design, I would recommend that you visit Surtex, which takes place in New York city every May. The conference program includes sessions where industry pros help give you a foundation in licensing your art.

I'm happy to report that although about one third of the surface design industry may still sell the art outright for a modest flat fee (where the artist relinquishes their copyright), there is a growing appreciation for the value of the usage and the aritst's rights.

More to come after day two tomorrow!

Shelley Brown
Principal + Artist Agent

Surtex coverage!

When Alanna Cavanagh offered to be the UPPERCASE correspondent at Surtex of course we said yes! And even better, Alanna's rep from i2i Art Inc, Shelley Brown, will be sharing her experiences as well. The two have travelled to NYC from Toronto and will be sending in their daily recaps. Surtex is THE place to go to buy and sell licensing of art and design and I know that many of you aspire to be represented there some day.

To set the mood, here are some of Alanna's pattern designs: