- With so many blogs, podcasts, and videos popping up at a rapid pace, it is quite easy to see evidence of the creative boom.
- Some folks will likely take advantage of the ability to cost-effectively produce attractive custom color documents in small quantities.
- Projects with longer gestation periods may appear in greater numbers as we move through the fall, and the end of the year will probably bring an outburst of photo merchandise creations.
By Jim Hamilton
Call me an optimist, but one positive outcome that I’ve seen from the current COVID-19 pandemic has been an uptick in creative output. Amid uncertainty about what the future might hold, many people have discovered that they have some unexpected extra time on their hands—even if it’s only because they are primarily working from home for now and don’t have a lengthy commute. Although some folks have the unenviable task of working from home while simultaneously trying to keep their kids occupied, a significant percentage of folks now have time for extra projects, whether that is baking bread, tending to a garden, or writing a book. With so many blogs, podcasts, and videos popping up at a rapid pace, it is quite easy to see evidence of this trend. Not to be left out, there are also a great many graphic arts activities that can be pursued alone or remotely in small groups, such as book publishing, graphic design, or type design. The print-on-demand book revolution is one of the best examples of this, but the list goes beyond books to encompass other activities that require time and thought to produce.
Opportunities for Creative Amateurs
For my part, I’m a self-published amateur historian. During all the years that I worked full time, I treasured the minutes that I could steal to write on historical topics. I have used Lulu.com since the late 1990s to publish books under the company name “Green Harbor Publications.” As was the case 20 years ago, organizations like Lulu (or its many competitors) make it easy for authors like myself to self-publish without spending any money up front, To this day, there remains a tremendous opportunity to self-publish with a third party like Lulu handling production and order fulfillment.
While it is true that I make enough money on my self-published books to take my wife out to a nice dinner or two each year, that’s not really the point for me. The important thing is that I’m able to publish the work that I have labored so hard to create. Over all the years that I was working full time, it never occurred to me to quit my day job to focus on my own writing—and good thing I didn’t! Even so, the emergence of on-demand publishing services that met my needs gave me a power (a super power, really) that simply didn’t exist 30 years ago.
I am confident that there are others, like me, who are using some of their pandemic time in isolation to create. Let’s suppose you decided today to start writing a book…six months from now, you would be very lucky if you had already completed a first draft. If you are designing a font, that could take years. (For more perspective on this, I recommend reading Carolyn Porter’s marvelous book entitled Marcel’s Letters.) We’re about five months into the pandemic. Books and other lengthy development projects (like typefaces) have a long gestation period. Is it possible that many of these projects will come to fruition this fall?
I also believe that there’s a developing photo merchandise opportunity related to this. The production of photo albums, cards, and calendars tends to ramp up during the last two months of the calendar year. Some people have been honing their online skills, and they might be taking this time to work through the many digital photos that are taken every year (more than one trillion worldwide, according to a recent Rise Above Research infographic). As a result, I believe it is extremely likely that some folks will take advantage of their ability to cost-effectively produce attractive custom color documents in small quantities. Since many people will likely not be able to visit all of their friends and loved ones in person over the winter holidays because of the pandemic, they might be even more inspired this year to share their memories from a distance.
It could be that I fit the perfect profile for being an on-demand print lover. I write, I draw, I send postcards, and I like the physical nature of print. I think the digital camera phones that most of us carry around in our pockets are amazing. I am a fan of the post office. I can’t imagine that I’m the only person like this. We have seen such an outpouring of creativity during COVID-19, and it is logical to believe that this will continue. Certain projects—the ones with longer gestation periods—will likely begin appearing in greater numbers as we move through the fall, and the end of the year will probably bring an outburst of photo merchandise creations.
The Bottom Line
The predictions that I’ve made here are only hunches, but do you know who will be able to prove me right or wrong? On-demand publishing companies like Blurb, CreateSpace, Lightning Source, and Lulu, or photo specialists like Minted, Shutterfly, Snapfish, Vistaprint, and Zazzle. I suspect that their experiences in the coming months will reveal a burgeoning creative spirit that is about to be unleashed in a big way. Are you seeing any signs that what I’m suggesting might become a reality? If so, I would be most interested in any feedback or comments.
Jim Hamilton is a well-known industry analyst who serves as Consultant Emeritus for a number of Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends’ consulting services. He supports areas including production digital printing, wide format signage, labels & packaging, functional & industrial printing, production workflow & variable data tools, document outsourcing, digital marketing & media, and customer communications.