How to plan a virtual surface design & print show?

Title image Planning for Blue Print online design show by nataliaoro

During Covid some of the previously in person shows as Blue Print and Printsource offered an online version of the event and gave buyers, art directors and designers the opportunity to connect with each other.

After the pandemic, Blue Print still offers its virtual event and for me, living in Europe, it’s a great opportunity to dip my toes into the world of surface design fairs and connect with companies overseas. So, for the first time, I participated in the virtual Blue Print event – May 2-4, 2023.

Planning an organizing a show (in person or virtual) is a lot of work and timing is everything. There are various deadlines for submitting files, putting together a portfolio and running promotions.

Below is my approach and planning for the Blue Print 2023 spring virtual event.

I like to start planning backwards.For an online event, I usually start preparations at least 2 months before. There are 3 categories to consider and work to be done in: portfolio, exhibition page, marketing.

Step 1: Portfolio (start at least 2-3 months before the event)

To find out if you are ready for the show and if your portfolio still needs to be revised or new artwork to be added, you should ask yourself the following questions:

Portfolio Sale Sheets nataliaoro

-How many designs do I have?

-For which markets / products is my art a good fit?

-What kind of artwork (illustration, pattern, collection) and motifs should I create?

-Are there gaps in my portfolio?

-How many pieces can I create until the show?

My advice: Collect your best designs in a folder, an AirTable document, an Excel spreadsheet – whatever helps you to have an overview of your portfolio. As I have already organised my portfolio in AirTable, it was very easy to collect my designs for the show. My target markets are stationery, paper products, home textiles, fabrics and children’s clothing. The event is held in spring, but companies are looking for Christmas designs all year round. My target was to show at least 60 to 80 pieces to the Byers and art directors.

Knowing all this, I started to look for gaps in my portfolio and to consider in which category I needed a new, fresh artwork. I wrote a list of ideas and spread them out over the time until the event. It is very important to be realistic about how many pieces you can create and to take into account all the other tasks you are normally busy with. If you need more guidance for your portfolio, you can watch Sketch Design Repeat “Art Licensing Portfolio Masterclass”*.

I would also recommend that you collect your designs that you are already happy with in a PDF document and organise them into categories. As you create new designs, you can add them to this PDF document. A week before the event, I would think about my prices and write down my questions about licensing and contract terms. If you need help with this, you can learn how to create your pricing guide and negotiate like a pro in Sketch Design Repeat “Artful Pricing and Negotiation course”*.

Step 2: Exhibition page (start 4 weeks before the event)

You have already applied for the event and signed the contract. Now you can start preparing your images and data for the show. For the Blue Print show you will need the following images, text, tools. Please check your contract and the information you have received:

-thumbnail image – 700 x 525 pixels, at a resolution of 144 DPI

-16 images for your profile / exhibition page – 1000 px x 1000 px at a resolution of 144 DPI

-bio text

-personal / studio image

-2 links (website, Instagram)

-doodle account

-zoom account

Portfolio Sale Sheets and promotion for the Blue Print spring design show by nataliaoro
Thumbnail image Blue Print online design print show by nataliaoro
Portfolio Designs Blue Print online design and print event nataliaoro

For your exhibition page, I would recommend that you choose your favourite and best designs that best represent your art and put them all together in one document – this can be an InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop file. Try grouping them into categories (flowers, geometry, Christmas, etc.). You may need to move them around, look for new pieces or revise some of them. When you are happy with the result, you can create and export your final images. I like to work with templates in the required size so that I can put all the images in the same Photoshop file and be sure that my name/logo is always in the same place.

To participate in the virtual design show, you need to set up a Zoom account – there is a free plan that is enough to schedule and host a 40-minute meeting. This plan allows you to share your screen and showcase your portfolio.

You will also need a Doodle account. You cannot hold 1:1 meeting with the free subscription. I therefore recommend signing up for one month and cancelling after the event. Here it is important to set the correct time zone (I choose EST, New York) in Zoom, Doodle and your Google calendar. Please also check that you have set “English” as the default language. There is a video on how to connect Doodle and Zoom. Then you need to create the slots for your meetings. Remember to plan breaks in between. In Doodle you will find the link you need to send to Blue Print, which will then link to the Doodle button on your exhibition page.

Link Doodle video:

Once you have sent all the pictures, the biography and the Doodle link to Blue Print, your exhibition page will be created. The day before the show, you can check your exhibition page and have minor adjustments made.

Step 3: Marketing (start 4 weeks before the event and invite up to and during the week of the event).

This part is just as important as the others.

First of all, Blue Print posts exhibitor flyers on their Instagram account. Once you have yours ready, preferably 4 weeks before the event, send them out to the organisers. You can ask Blue Print for their logo. Create a 1000 x 1000 px Photoshop template for your Instagram images – add your logo, name, contact and Blue Print logo. Once you have it ready, send it to Blue Print (the correct email address is in your contract). I strongly recommend you post these images in your own feed 3-4 weeks before and during the event.

Christmas Fun Collection for the Blue Print Show Promotion by nataliaoro
Bees on a Spring Meadow pattern design by nataliaoro
Sardines in Tin Cans Design by nataliaoro

Secondly, if you have a newsletter, write about your participation in the virtual design show. If you don’t have one, invite your customers by email and offer them the opportunity to see your latest works.

Third – If you use Pinterest – pin your images there.

Fourth – If you are part of a community, ask if they would share your invitation to Blue Print.

Fifth – ask surface design related blogs if they can mention your participation in Blue Print in a post. One of these blogs is the Print&Pattern blog. Here is a link to my post:

*Note: It is possible that I receive commissions for purchases made through links in the posts but I would only recommend a course that I have personally found to be of benefit.