Illustration, Branding, and Design
is a personal
project and brand that features my illustrations.
A passion project of mine since 2017
Graphic Design, Merchandising,
Event Planning, Animation
Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator,
Toon Boom Harmony, Adobe After Effects, Adobe InDesign
Ongoing project since 2017
Merchandise and apparel featuring my illustrations, iterations, The Good Dog Tarot Deck, The Rainy Day Roll-top Bag, social media journey, digital storefront exploration, event planning.
The mission for Melonsquare Studios has always been to express the joys I have creating art while simultaneously finding ways to brand different types of illustrated products. Over the last three years, it has helped me recognize both of my passions in art and business.
I have had the chance to take my store to venues all across the country and expand my social media presence with a brand that's full of color, characters, and creative worlds.
How might I find a way to present my art to an audience and define the Melonsquare Studios brand?
Fascinated by independent artists at comic conventions and on social media, I examined how they gained their following. These artists achieved recognition and built their online shops from scratch. I looked up to these artists because I wanted to take part in every step of the creative process, just like they did.
By pushing a cute and fun aesthetic, Melonsquare Studios uses design, illustration, iterations, and research to bring a unique brand to its customers.
With the help of conventions, social media, and Etsy, I have explored many different styles and merchandisable material that has helped me find my audience and voice.
How I Tackled this Challenge
Use the buttons below to skip to different parts of the process. You may also scroll through to see the whole story.
Understanding the Audience
By finding the scope of my audience, I was able to inform my decisions.
When I first started Melonsquare Studios, fanart was my main selling point. "Nerd culture" and the social media artists in this community informed my initial business model.
At the time, selling fanart sounded perfect because I thought it would be easier to sell to people with similar interests. However, once I was ready to take my store to comic and anime venues, my art became lost in an oversaturated market.
Discovering my target audience
Qualities: Women looking for unique items who are interested in independent artists
Goals/motivation: They are tired of conventional knick-knacks and want something more from their purchases.
At my early shows, since most of my fanart was untouched, my few original creations were my best sales. Out of these sales, I noticed most of these people were women from 15-30 who were attracted to cute knick-knacks and accessories.
Most of these women were open to purchasing from independent artists over shops that sold licensed merchandise. They liked to buy cute pink things and were tired of the oversaturated fanart market. Most importantly, these customers enjoyed the one-of-a-kind qualities they could only get from indie artists.
I established from this pool of people that I could cater to a broader audience of women who are typically overwhelmed by oversaturated art markets.
I would need to create a style that would accurately target this demographic.
What I've kept in mind
I should target women and teenage girls who are bored of conventional items and want one-of-a-kind merchandise.
Women enjoy small accessories that help them customize their belongings. I should make items that are cute and fit their aesthetic.
Style & Design
The best way to target my audience was to create a brand strategy by defining my style based on a purpose, a promise, my personality, and my positioning.
Adjectives of Melonsquare Studios:
FUN, CREATIVE, CUTE, ENJOYABLE, DESIRABLE
Based on my strategy, I picked four core colors to work with.
Blue as a contrasting of base color.
Pinks as a natural middle color. Keeps the palette cute and light.
Bright Red to accentuate lines or details. Brings graphic-like fun to the art.
Yellow to bring more warmth and contrast. Helps set a warm and cute vibe.
The research to find these colors came from experimentation. When going to different venues, I designed different business cards to see which ones people chose to take over others.
Out of all the design iterations, I noticed that the ones my target demographic liked the most tended to be ones with pinks. When talking with them, the words they used to describe the cards were:
These customers went on to purchase items that included pink and warmer colors from my store. Based on this data, my brand now uses pinks hues as the core of its aesthetic.
My customers are overwhelmed by an oversaturated art market and are looking to buy more unique items. By using what I learned about color and imagery from my research, I need to make unique merchandise that speaks to my audience while also sticking to my skills.
The Good Dog Tarot Deck
Find the answers to all your questions with the Good Dog Tarot Deck. An original tarot deck featuring cute illustrated dogs.
Background and Scope
Recently, there has been an increased popularity in astrology, horoscopes, and fortune-telling amongst a demographic of female millennials. Daily horoscopes and apps like CoStar are teaching new people about astrology daily.
I wanted to create tarot cards because they are popular in my target demographic. Based on competition research, these decks could be a big hit if designed creatively and effectively. Many independent artists are illustrating their own take on the traditional designs of these cards. My creative vision for this deck was to feature different dog breeds and to replace the traditional four card suits with dog-related items.
Competition and Inspiration
By using dogs, a familiar and known source of cuteness, and my design style, I made something fun and one-of-a-kind. Since this is a niche but expanding community, it would be perfect for those who want something more from regular tarot decks.
The design of The Good Dog Tarot Deck was a challenge for me because I wanted to create more uplifting designs for a product that typically uses dark and mysterious imagery.
Minimalist and illustrative drawings accentuate the cutest features of different dog breeds.
Cooler tones create a base color that is accented by pink and yellow warm tones. These colors brighten the design and make it fun.
Hard and bright-lines outline the art giving it vibrancy. A technique used in many of my drawings.
Tarot decks come with 78 cards, all divided between the Major Arcana and the four suits of the Minor Arcana. The card suits include Cups, Wands, Pentacles, and Swords. I decided to stick with the original symbols of the Major Arcana while incorporating dog-friendly designs for the Minor Arcana.
Swords stayed the same while frisbees replaced Pentacles, sticks with Wands, and dog bowls with Cups.
Box Design and Card Backs:
The designs for the backside of the cards and the tuck box go hand-in-hand. It includes all the colors of the palette as well as the accented lines. Astrology aspects are visible in the moons and stars while also highlighting the dog themes with dog bones.
Final Updated Design #2
Sketches and Iterations:
The box and card backings went through two different iterations. The first version was minimal and intended to be more geometric. This design did not fit with the overall aesthetic envisioned.
The new iteration was widely more accepted and preferred when given a choice between the two. It incorporated all the colors in its palette and looked overall more fun and "cute" to my customers.
Initial Design #1
Use and Audience
A few months after listing the Good Dog Tarot Deck online, it was clear that I achieved many of my goals. They became an instant hit in my shop and sold out within the first week.
By reviewing customer feedback, I deduced that these cards are bought by not only fortune tellers but by hobbyists, pastel enthusiasts, dog lovers, and for personal use. Most customers describe it as cute and are satisfied with their purchases because of the deck's unique qualities, colors, and illustrations.
It's one-of-a-kind qualities also brings in all types of enthusiasts and brings in all different skill levels. It is a product that allows for many people to enjoy and expand a niche community.
Kickstarter and Production
After selling out of my stock, I thought it would be helpful to crowdfund on Kickstarter and do a second printing. I wanted to buy the decks wholesale, so I turned to foreign suppliers to buy more decks. Within three months on Kickstarter, the project goal was met at 200% and completed in August of 2020.
The Rainy Day Roll Top Backpack
An all-terrain waterproof backpack perfect for the outdoors, weekend trips, hiking, and camping!
The Rainy Day Roll Top Backpack was Melonsquare Studio’s first take on apparel.
Waterproof bags are versatile and come in handy in all situations. I wanted to create a bag that was able to fit many things and be used in all-terrain, no matter the occasion.
To create unique and versatile apparel that functions as your go-to for all your everyday adventures.
The colors of the Rainy Day Backpack played with bright reds that act as an accent on white. Inside the lines, yellow and pink accentuate the character, and turquoise paints a rainy day scene.
Waterproof and Versatility:
While first scouting different manufacturers, there were two choices, regular school bags, and waterproof dive bags. After coming across the right company, it was clear that the roll-top waterproof bags would be the right choice. I decided to go with the roll-top bags because I wanted a more versatile design. With versatility, it would cater to all types of buyers, whether it was for work, school, or vacation.
The inspiration for the roll-top bags also came from the increase in the popularity of these designs.
When thinking about the print, I looked to the bag's waterproof capabilities. Meanwhile, the idea to include an original character incorporated my knack for illustration.
Sketches and Iterations:
The original design included a navy background. Due to production restraints, the base had to be dropped and replaced with white. By getting rid of the navy, it made the bag more minimalistic and functional.
With its roll-top capabilities and waterproof durability, this bag has been bought and used for all different occasions. Most customers buy it for school and have also used it for weekend trips or for the beach. With its bucket-like style, it can fit a lot while also looking sleek.
Content and Social Media
Melonsquare Studios has had many style changes on social media. When it first began, it mainly featured fanart and did not have a real color scheme or aesthetic. Most recently, the account has started to lean into a warmer color palette and narrative work. Posts now include creative mini-worlds and fantastical monsters. This new change in style is representative of my love for creating environments and background design. It also comes from my exploration into the design field while working in the animation and illustration industry.
Melonsquare Studios uses the Etsy Platform for its operations and online store presence. Etsy was always the first choice because of its vast audience and handmade touch. Their attentiveness to bespoke gifts and independent artists fits what is necessary for the independence of my brand.
Events and Shows
When not selling online, Melonsquare Studios attends conventions all across the United States. I have taken my shop to venues such as San Diego Comic-Con, FanX, Anime Expo, and Megacon. At such opportunities, I also get experience in customer service and sales. Traveling for work is the last piece to my production pipeline and allows me to get the entire view of my company's operations from design to production and sales.
The Future of Melonsquare
Apart from traveling to more shows and continuing my social media presence, I plan to develop a new brand called Lulu Fantastic, create more Kickstarters, illustrate a comic, and start a subscription service in the future. I aim to include all of these new ideas under the Melonsquare Studios name and use it to increase my online presence.