Graphic Design Star Embraces Challenges of Selling Work Online

By Amy Zimmer on October 8, 2012 6:33am 

MANHATTAN — Carin Goldberg is a rock star in the world of graphic design.

She’s run her own firm for three decades, creating thousands of book jackets for the likes of Kurt Vonnegut and Susan Sontag and album covers including Madonna’s breakthrough first record.

Now, however, Goldberg — who shares a studio with her architect husband in Lower Manhattan’s iconic Woolworth Building — is taking on a new role: She recently entered the world of e-commerce.

But as a go-to branding person for the who’s who in the publishing world, from Hearst to Harper Collins, she is learning how to market herself — in a way she’s never had to do before — with the online store she launched last month to sell her posters.

“It’s another story when it’s yours,” said Goldberg, who has won hundreds of awards including the publishing industry’s prestigious Literary Marketplace Award — twice.

For Goldberg — who compared her work for her big-time clients to being a “doctor on call” where she’s “holding a stethoscope to someone’s else’s chest” — putting her personal work out there hasn’t been easy.

“Some days I don’t get to pay attention to it. I’m busy working or teaching at the School of Visual Arts,” admitted Goldberg, whose 20th floor studio in the Woolworth building is about to be joined by luxury condos that will transform 30 floors above her studio.

“I’m definitely a well-regarded person in my career,” she said. “I’ve been around the block and back again. [But] there’s a kind of wakeup call every 30 seconds on how one fits into the new zeitgeist.”

Still, she added, “I don’t know if it’s my desire to fit in with 20-year-old gurus.”

Ironically, Goldberg’s site, launched using Shopify's ecommerce software, looks like very bare bones.

“[It] doesn't reflect my design aesthetic or my ‘brand,’” she admitted. “I just wanted to get it up and running before I lost interest. It’s very much a work in progress but I will continue to design new posters and add to the inventory.”

Before launching her own site, she sold some of her works on the popular Fab.com site, which sells works of great designers from around the globe.

But that site has 4 million followers while she’s building her site from scratch, she noted.

She used “mail chimp,” a free email list manager service, for mass emails, Facebook and Twitter posts about her new site.

“Can't say that it’s been very successful yet,” she said of selling her artwork, starting at $50 a poster.  “Most likely because I'm ‘preaching to the choir.' I get lots a great comments and congrats, but I think I have hit a ceiling to some degree and have to cast a wider net.” 

She acknowledged: “[I] may have to be a bit aggressive on my end for that," adding, it “will remain a slow simmer.”

Goldberg, who has been teaching at SVA since 1983, likes to learn new things and understand where the design world is heading, constantly reinventing what she teaches. This year, for example, she launched a new class on digital publishing.

“I want to get my students thinking about what’s available to them,” she said.

And she’s using herself as a model.

“I think having it up and seeing it is gratifying,” said Goldberg.

“It’s an interesting lesson in brand identity and where you fit into things,” she said. “You have to have a lot of audacity as much as you have to have humility when you do this.”

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