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Illustration, Branding, and Design

Melonsquare Studios is a personal project and brand that features my illustrations. 

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A passion project of mine since 2017

Roles:

Design, Illustration,

Graphic Design, Merchandising, 

Event Planning, Animation

Tools:

Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator,

Toon Boom Harmony, Adobe After Effects, Adobe InDesign 

Time:

Ongoing project since 2017

Deliverables:

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.

Background

 

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.

Problem
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. Based on their journey, I decided to do the same. 

 

Results

 

I have explored many different styles and merchandise that has helped me find my audience. Through research and iteration, Melonsquare Studios uses cute and fun designs to bring a unique brand to its customers.

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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.

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Discovering my target audience
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Age: 15-30
Qualities: Women who are interested in independent artists and looking for unique items.
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 my customers 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 and looking for unique items.

I would need to create a style that would accurately target this demographic.

What I kept in mind
#1
I should target women and teenage girls who are bored of conventional items and want one-of-a-kind merchandise.
#2
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.

My Values:
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Adjectives of Melonsquare Studios:
FUN, CREATIVE, CUTE, ENJOYABLE, DESIRABLE
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​Based on my strategy, I picked four core colors to work with.

  • Blue as a contrasting 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 vibe.

Experimentation
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First Iteration
Second Iteration
Final Iteration

 

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 pink cards were Cute, Fluffy, Adorable, and, Fun

These customers went on to purchase items that included pink and warmer colors from my store. Based on this data, I found that it closely aligned with the descriptive words of my brand and I then started to incorporate pink as a brand color. 

Product Development 
 
The Problem:

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 illustration 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 also be perfect for those who want something more from regular tarot decks.

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Design

Color Choices:
  • 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.

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Major Arcana
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Minor Arcana
Card Design:
  • 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.

 

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Final Updated Design #2
 
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.

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Initial Design #1

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.

 

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.

  • Its one-of-a-kind qualities also bring in all types of enthusiasts from all different skill levels. It is a product that allows 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.

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Other Products
Content and Social Media
 
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After my initial exploration in the fanart market, it took some time to figure out what colors and content would keep up my social media presence. I decided to make my account reflect both my independent art as well as my products.

At first, the idea was to keep the posts minimalist and centered around iconography. I found myself in a similar situation to making fan art, lost in a pool of similar artists.

I wanted to be more original and looked to my skills as an animator to see what worked. After interning at a few animation studios as a background and character artist, I found that I liked the way background artists set the scenes for stories and narratives.

My posts today now include more narrative work and include creative mini-world and fantastical monsters. I decided to create art that has a narrative backstory and found ways in which to incorporate different characters. This content is representative of my love for creating environments and my exploration into the design field.

To see more of these illustrations you can check out my Instagram or my Illustration Page.

Digital Storefront
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Melonsquare Studios uses the Etsy Platform for its operations and online store presence. Etsy was always the first choice because of its audiences' attentiveness to unique items and independent artists.

I found that the Etsy platform mirrored the people I was targeting when making in-person sales. Customers on Etsy are also looking for niche merchandise. Like the women who enjoy nerd culture, these people are looking for independent artists and unique items.

 
 
Events and Shows
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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 these opportunities, I gain knowledge in customer service and sales.

Reflections
 

 

With the creation of Melonsquare Studios, I have learned much about the way I work and a perfect balance between my social media and store presence.

I taught myself how to: design desirable merchandise, pick audiences, find manufacturers, build an e-commerce website, run sales and marketing, ship around the world, and create a business that runs in person and online.

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.

What's Next?

 

An app for creatives