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‘Always look outside your own industry for trends’

Top That Publishing’s Dan Graham on his inspirations, Arty Mouse and trends.

It might sound clichéd, but a lot of my personal inspiration comes from my kids. As a dad of eight with ages ranging from three to 18, I have my very own testing panel at home.

At the upper end there’s an endless source of critique and at the lower end boundless enthusiasm and energy – both of which I put to good use when vetting prospective art styles and brands.

Working in children’s book publishing I always look outside of my industry, too. Emerging art styles can often be discovered in the world of gifts, stationery and fast moving consumer goods long before they make it into the world of books.

In terms of growing trends that we’re seeing across licensed art and design, big eyes and even bigger character heads are everywhere you look at the moment.

Hasbro did a great job with the Littlest Pet Shop characters a few years back, and this type of stylised character treatment is going from strength to strength – most notably with the animated series Shimmer and Shine.

The rise and rise of vector art also shows no signs of slowing down – although this is alongside a resurgence in traditional works of art for licensing, too.

I think there is also going to be increasing demand for hand-drawn and painted art to counter computer generated works in the year to come. The success of the tongue in cheek Ladybird books and recent reprints of classic children’s books, including the original art, are testament to this idea.

Without doubt our early learning through art brand, Arty Mouse, is our biggest success story of the year.

Following international publishing success in 2015/16, we launched Arty Mouse licensing at last year’s Brand Licensing Europe and already have licensees for educational software, iOS and Android apps, school workbooks and stationery, personalised gifts and books.

Edutainment Licensing represents Arty Mouse licensing and was at Licensing Expo and the the inaugural licensing show in Japan, too.

I’m very excited about what the future holds for our whiskery little creative.

Dan Graham is editorial director at Top That Publishing.

This feature originally appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of Art & Design Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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