A New Paradigm In NDA
Scrolling through my facebook feed recently I saw process images posted by Kieran Yanner for work that he was doing for Monte Cook Games' Numenera line. I was intrigued that a company was letting an artist show work while they were working on it. Most companies have very strict NDA clauses (Non Disclosure Agreements) which restrict the artist from showing the work in their portfolio or online until the project has been published.
I contacted Kieran and asked him about it. He informed me that he had a stipulation written into his contract which would allow him to show these process shots far in advance of the game’s release. This way of approaching a relationship with a client is a very smart way of doing business.
It allows the artist to show their working process when it is fresh, and get their fan base excited about what they are doing. At the same time, this supplies free publicity for the company’s product. Some artists have thousands of followers on their various social media, and many of those followers may be unfamiliar with the company or their products, until now.
In the rapidly changing landscape of publishing, new ways of marketing yourself as an artist, and marketing your product as a company are sorely needed. This method is a great tool to use for both parties. As long as no important IP storylines or surprises are spoiled, it’s a win/win for everyone.
When I asked Kieran how this process evolved the said,”A huge part of being a professional illustrator is understanding your consumer. I don’t just mean your client, but your consumer. The consumers are those people that share and seek out your work. They buy products because your work is a part of the product. It’s our job to get people excited and interested in a product. In the tabletop gaming industry, this means helping them imagine themselves in the role of the character, experiencing the adventure. If we don't get our consumer excited, we failed.”
“I noticed a trend of companies leaking information about their product before its release. Companies were expanding their relations with their consumers, and giving them an exclusive look at how things were developing, thus making the consumers feel involved in the process, as if they are part of the team.”
“As a contractor, we're often kept out of that loop. Our work is developed months prior to a release and the passion and energy we feel while we are working on that project has now shifted to the new project we're focusing on. Our chance to connect is now mixed with the anxiety of looking at 'old' work. We miss out on that exciting intimate moment where we can connect with our consumers.”
“I wanted to embrace the idea of viral marketing, the idea of building a relationship with my consumer, the idea of helping my consumer drive and sell a product through the passion they experience and share - much like street teams for bands. I wanted to find a new way to stay relevant, to stay on people's minds. Much of that is lost when companies retreat to the basement workshop of product development. They want to control how it looks, how it feels, how others feel about it, and it winds up being more about them than birthing an idea and allowing the world to experience it and become part of it.”
I followed up by asking Monte Cook what he thought about Kieran’s request, and how he felt the experiment has been working so far. He told me that,”
I think artists posting their art helps promote our books, increasing interest in the finished products. But even beyond that, I want the artists we work with to have all the opportunities to promote themselves they can get. A higher profile for our artists (and writers, and everyone else) helps us as well. We're happy to work with our artists in this regard."
So, next time you’re working with a client, perhaps take a page out of Kieran’s book and get their thoughts on this kind of arrangement. Of course, many of them will say no, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
You can see more of Kieran’s amazing artwork here.
Also, visit Monte Cook Games to see what we’ve been talking about here.