It all started with Snapchat Community Geofilters. I was obsessed with creating location-specific graphic designs and uploading them for approval by Snapchat. To me, it was like a form of digital graffiti. Users all around the world could access and share my art, and that was really exciting. So I made dozens of designs for dozens of locations, and many started being approved (including the Bangkok Buddha pictured above!). I was having a great time, and I was impressing my friends with the designs I made for our high school and town. One day, however, I was searching for stickers on Redbubble and noticed someone had commandeered my design for their own profit. I immediately filed a claim, and my designs were removed soon after. But I started to think to myself… why wasn’t I receiving monetary compensation for my creative works? If this person could make money by selling stolen designs, I could surely make even more by selling my own!
After the copyright infringement I noticed on Redbubble, I decided to do some searching to see if others were doing similar things. After searching “NYU Geofilter” on Google, it was clear that numerous media outlets were using my design without credit on their articles. Today.com, for example, used my image as the feature image of an article about college recruitment tactics, and then credited the design to an unrelated NYU student. Digiday.com also mis-credited my design, but fixed it on request.
I was in shock.
What started as a fun thing I did to practice Photoshop and spread my art had turned into something far bigger. People and companies were stealing my art for their own profit, paying no attention to my desires (Today.com ignored my requests for proper attribution). Meanwhile, Snapchat’s geofilter submission guidelines were becoming far stricter, and wait times had increased to more than a month for approval. It was time to be rewarded for my art, so I started a Redbubble shop and began building my portfolio. First, I uploaded all of my geofilter designs, because they were already made and clearly popular. As time progressed, I ventured into creating designs specifically for Redbubble, choosing themes that had a deeper meaning to me. I made numerous designs for my university, Boston College, and plenty more for my favorite things and places. At this point, Today.com’s use of my geofilter could actually help my sticker sales :)
As my portfolio grew, I realized that the more artwork I provided, the more sales I made. My customer base was growing, and I had just reached more than 200 sales. After doing the math, I realized spending about an hour a week on Photoshop could result in either 5 worthless designs that nobody wanted or 5 designs that would sell tremendously, indefinitely. Most importantly, though, I was having fun and being reward for my art, and that was all I needed.
You can take a look at my full portfolio here!