Coloring books, kits, and customization: millennials and the grown-up business of creativity

Kelly Morr

Earlier this year, Brit + Co—a new media and commerce company that enables creativity through content, classes, and DIY kits—reached out to 99designs to help them finish a great new project: a coloring book for adults.

pattern-play

Pattern Play, Brit + Co’s new coloring book for adults (via Brit + Co)

Why? According to Anjelika Temple, Brit + Co’s Executive Creative Director, “Coloring can actually stimulate the mind’s creative flow in a simple and fun way that helps us relax and reduce stress. We created this coloring book as another way for our audience to express themselves creatively, while reaping the positive health benefits of this popular trend.”

As I zenned out with the Chairs pattern and a glass of wine (research!) I had a couple of thoughts:

  1. Would the chaise look better in green or pink?
  2. Why aren’t more companies making products like this?

Well it turns out they’re starting to, but the marketplace is ripe for growth.

designs

Building (via Artrocity), Chairs (via Shoko Ryo) and Gemstones (via LizzyDeeStudio)

73% of Millennials in the United States consider themselves to be creative. We seek out creativity in our work at higher rates than either Gen-Xers or Baby Boomers. Some of us (ahem) are lucky enough to get jobs writing about design. Others of us, however, are left with our artistic urges unfulfilled at work, and instead seek out ways to express ourselves in our free time.

Not uncoincidentally, the past ten years have seen the emergence of maker culture. Despite our reputation for digital fluency (or dependency, depending on how curmudgeonly the writer of the particular thought-piece is feeling), today’s young adults are quickly taking on a new identity as the DIY generation.

According to Temple, this DIY generation is “motivated by a deep love of wanting to learn new things, which drives them to experiment and create while also using creativity as an outlet to express themselves.”

While much to-do has been made about how to make your workplace more engaging and motivating for the creative millennial workforce–and Google knows how many columns have been written about how to sell to millennials–only a select few companies have figured out how to leverage the millennial passion for creating into a new breed of product. And those select few are having great success.

maker-infographic

Via Brit + Co

In The State of the Maker Movement Report, a study that took a deep look at creatives, Brit + Co found that 80% of adults participate in at least one hobby or creative pursuit, and spend an average of $276 on DIY supplies. They also unearthed an extremely interesting piece of data: “the average age people stop creative hobbies is 19, and they don’t find their way back to those extracurriculars until the age of 26, which is exactly why coloring books have seen a resurgence in popularity.”

The oldest of the millennials are now in our late twenties and early 30s; we finally have disposable income and suffer from a severe case of nostalgia. Cue all the things we loved as kids making a resurgence: kickball, jewelry making kits and coloring books.

Sure, we could just go out and buy art supplies, but millennials are also notoriously overworked. Does it make more sense to go to several different stores to get all the supplies you need to dip your own beeswax candles, or would you rather push one button on your phone and have the supplies magically appear on your doorstep, ready to use as soon as you get home from work?

a-temple-quote

Brit + Co’s Executive Creative Director Anjelika Temple (via Temple)

So does that mean to sell to millennials you have to figure out how to be a Klutz clone?

Not necessarily. Another way that millennials are expressing their creativity through their wallets is with customization. In the past few years, a handful of retailers have started exploring how they can infuse creativity into the purchase process: you can now personalize your M&Ms and get Levi’s jeans made to order. A few startups, like Rickshaw Bags, are jumping on this trend, offering customization as an upsell from the start. And what they’re finding is that customized products make customers more engaged and drive brand loyalty.

According to Temple. “This is a different type of DIY generation compared to generations in the past, especially when it comes to participation and customization. This new generation is truly transforming expression, commerce and communities.”

Essentially, millennials are looking for one thing: self expression. We can do that by posting our thoughts on social media, taking a pottery class, or buying a coloring book. There’s one common denominator: creativity.

coloring-book

Brit + Co’s new coloring book is dubbed Pattern Play. This curated, 78-page interactive book is filled with unique, modern and hand-drawn illustrations by over 50 different artists, focusing on popular and nostalgic playful patterns involving donuts, phrases, animals, flowers and more. You can buy it online or in your local Target store.

What’s your favorite creative hobby? Tell us in the comments!

The author

Kelly Morr
Kelly Morr

Kelly is the senior manager of content strategy at 99designs. She likes writing stuff, making stuff, coming up with far-fetched ideas, figure skating and cuddling her two cats.

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