Chapter 16E-Commerce with a Soul

Understanding how a brand lives in cyberspace is the first thing. However, getting involved with e-commerce also requires that you figure out how to translate the virtual brand image into its analog dimension. Sure, you can propose great products online, but the “unboxing” of the goods happens in the real world. The designers interviewed here are comfortable creating digital content, but they are also aware that the quality of the thing they sell makes the difference. Ethical and environmental factors, as well as aesthetic values, are very much on their mind.

The good news is that you don't need to sell the farm to explore the possibilities of this new form of commerce. An increasing number of graphic designers create distinctively branded “indie” products they sell directly on their website. T-shirts and posters, but also fanzines, fonts, toys, and home accessories are routinely available in their virtual gift shops. The ventures may not bring in revenue, but they always enhance the identity and credibility of their creators, many of them championing the idea that graphic design can and should project itself into the third dimension.

In some rare cases, these online stores become the raison d'être of the websites. The mini-outlets slowly morph into a full-fledged commercial venues. Burö Destruct in Bern, Switzerland, sells designer toys and hip art supplies. Vier5 in Paris, France, publishes a men's fashion magazine and a very smart line of ...

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