Are Enamel Pins the New Business Cards for Emerging Designers?
For graphic designers whose work exists primarily in digital or 2D environments, finding innovative, tangible ways to reach new audiences can be difficult.
Sure, designs translate well onto T-shirts or posters, even tote bags; but really, how many tote bags can one person own before things start to feel like an episode of Hoarders: Design Merch Edition? That’s why a new trend has led many designers to think small and get in the #pingame.
If you’re familiar with this hashtag, you know it’s the key to navigating online collections of candy colored enamel pins designers and illustrators are currently selling. And like your favourite confection, it’s pretty hard to buy just one. Designs range from cute and kitschy to surreal and somber, and with a price point of around $10, it’s a guilt-free way to indulge in your favourite artist’s work that might not otherwise fit your budget. But is low cost really the only reason pins are suddenly in demand?
Enamel pin designs by Penelope Gazin
Enamel pins have always been a part of fashion and pop culture. For those of us who grew up collecting and trading Disney pins, Pokemon cards, or even Pogs for a hot minute, they tap into the current wave of nostalgia for all things ’90s. Artist and pin designer Penelope Gazin says she’s watched them grow in popularity over the past year. “Urban Outfitters just started selling them, and I can’t believe it took them this long to hop on the trend,” she says. “Pins are not only affordable art but they’re perfect for our current generation that celebrates individuality and customization.” Of her idiosyncratic designs, Gazin says, “They’re a very personal present you can give to someone, i.e. ‘I got you this pin of a bouquet of roses in a bong because I know what a romantic stoner you are.’ Aww, how sweet.
Enamel pin design by Tuesday Bassen
This level of specificity is part of what makes pins so attractive. There’s a design that will appeal to almost every taste and subculture. Looking for somethings that’s Easy Rider-meets-slumber-party? Tuesday Bassen’s got you covered. Can’t decide between your favourite designers? Sign up for a monthly subscription with Brat Box and you’ll receive curated collections of artist pins and patches based on themes like Adventure, Space Stuff, or Decay. Founder Brock Cady says, “The pin and patch game is such a broad market; we wanted to create an experience that helps build a community that supports independent artists, and gives them another distribution channel.”
Enamel pin design by Cou Cou Suzette
We wanted to create an experience that helps build a community that supports independent artists. And that gives them another distribution channel.
Founder & director of Inkygoodness, Lisa is a published writer and arts journalist, focusing on creative business, graphic art and illustration and design education. Her words regularly appear in Computer Arts, Creative Bloq, Digital Arts and IdN.