Enamel pins / acrylic figure keychains are very popular item in the fan art / artist alleys at anime/comic conventions, with many companies offering prepress help ( off my head I recall zapcreatives doing acylic and wood for keychain/charms ). Both are things that can be made bulk ( the more you buy in an order the cheaper they all are, 2-6$ish) and are popular collectables usually marked at 10-15$ per pin/charm (pending complexity and size.)
There's been a bunch of Kickstarters since October with lots of beautiful custom designs from artists, too, to get ideas of the breadth of the possibilities ( often kickstarters get the most of the pins, and then overflow is sold through their private websites or etsy shop. )
I'm catching up on episodes of SilmFilm, but I agree we need some iconic SilmFilm designs.
"Bobwe was here." I liked the idea that Bobwe, although he was lost on the journey with the ambassadors is still out there somewhere and still makes secret visits to the elf realms. The design would be like the Kilroy design with Bobwe's nose poking over a wall but with elf ears. I have attached a Kilroy image to base the Bobwe image on.
I'm surprised that Nick did not put up a suggestion for "Save the Lamps" I have uploaded some of the illustrations that Marie came up with during the lamps crisis.
Another noteable SilmFilm departure associated with the lamps was the angelic beings having their wings burning off and tuning into balrogs with no wings. A series of 3 images should do it.
Season 3 saw the hosts killing Amrod when Feanor burned the ships. Maybe this could be a series of days of the week t-shirts, advice from the death of each of the sons of Feanor. "Oath Advice - Sunday" The first one could be "Don't stow away on a burning ship" We probably won't be able to use any of the son's names. The final one although not a death can be "Oath Advice - Saturday. When you have forever learn more than one song." Each one would have an appropriate artwork (not supplied).
"The Sun Still Shines" showing a solar eclipse and an elf woman with a face of terror.
I could come up with more suggestions or peple can comment and add to these. I'm sure these will tickle Corey's fancy.
We all seem to love the idea of using insider jokes, from within the class, like 'Bob is a Hobbit', or 'Balrogs don't have wings,' or 'spiritual boulders' as slogans on Merch.
But, is this really a good idea? If you really wore a t-shirt with 'Spiritual Boulders' on it, how long would it be before you would get sick and tired of explaining it to people? Just think of the agonizing conversations with random strangers asking questions like, "Which Bible verse does that reference?" followed soon after your disclaimer by, "Do you know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?" (If you have ever met some of those bothersome missionaries from various sects, you will know what I mean.)
Would it not be better to have Merch which proclaimed Lord of the Rings fandom (perhaps in a somewhat witty way) which might attract comment from other LOTR fans, and spark conversations, rather than obscure logos which just attract random questions eliciting boring explanations to people who have no interest in The Lord of the Rings?
I guess everyone's experience is different; but in mine, complete strangers only tend to comment on what I'm wearing if it's something they recognize and can enthuse about. Otherwise, it's only close friends and family who ask about references they don't get.
There is certainly no reason to make this an either/or proposition that must be resolved. The more suggestions for designs the better. Certainly, some of the current designs are not inside jokes at all. The escape and recovery list is from 'On Fairie Stories', and the question of whether or not balrogs have wings was THE topic of Internet debate in Tolkien fandom prior to PJ's movies coming out. Certainly, one could gain personal enjoyment from an inside joke on a mug, but if you don't want a 'spiritual boulders' mug...then don't buy one.
Is there any data on sales of the various Merch? If the objective of merch is to make money for Signum (I'm not sure if that is the only objective) then it would make sense to analyze the data and see what categories of products and designs are doing best.
Correct - the main objective of the merchandise is for the enjoyment of the Signum community. Making a little money for Signum is nice, but getting the logo out there, or giving people opportunities/excuses to talk about Signum is also high on the list of 'why have merch?'
Also, keep in mind that this is a print-on-demand service. It's not like there's an inventory of 'unsold' merchandise that is becoming a financial burden. The most obscure/least popular design is doing no harm by existing; it simply generates no revenue.
So, any suggestions for more mainstream designs/logos would be welcome, just so long as we take copyright questions and artists' permissions into account. One reason to use inside jokes is because they are 'safer' than other images that way, but that doesn't mean we can't figure out how to use something more mainstream in a clever way that does not step on any toes. Suggestions welcome!
Perusing the 24 designs currently available in the Signum Shop, I see the following break-down:
6 have Signum/Mythgard logos, and thus are 'on brand.'
3 are seasonal (in this case, Christmas/Yule themed)
4 are direct references to Tolkien's work - Middle Earth (talking purse, Misty Mtn Mining Co, Library of Ecthelion)
3 reference 'recovery, escape, consolation' from "On Fairy-stories"
5 contain fan-related words/images: eucatastrophe, balrogs, hobbit, philology, dragon
3 reference non-Tolkien writers: Beware the leopard (Douglas Adams), Beware creative riting (HP Lovecraft pun), and Fr. Christmas (C.S. Lewis) [counted in the seasonal list above as well]
...which leaves only one 'obscure' and completely "inside joke" design - the spiritual boulders, (which has an explanation on it). Yes, I recognize that the 'Balrogs don't have wings' and 'Bob is a hobbit' are also inside jokes, but I think that any Tolkien fan who was on the internet ever in the '90s would get the balrog wings reference, and even if you have never heard of Exploring Lord of the Rings, if you know what hobbits are, your only question would be, 'Who is Bob?' And even the Signum Store admits that "Ontology recapitulates philology" is an example of "How nerdy can we get?" That is very obscure, but at the same time...where else are Signum folks gonna get gear with that written on it?!
To accomplish the objectives of promoting the enjoyment of the Signum community, making some money to support Signum U., and raising awareness of Signum U, I suggest the following Merch principals might be useful:
1. Merch should generally have two logos. One logo referencing a book studied. One logo being the Signum U logo (Or, perhaps the Mythgard Academy logo - depending on the branding strategy). Over the logo perhaps text, "Study the Story!". Under the logo, "At Signum University!"
2. The logo representing the Book should ideally be clear and iconic. Suggestions for TLOTR (some of these might have to be re-worked to avoid copyright problems): It seems the most common LOTR icons are: The white tree of Gondor. The Ring, with it's inscription in tengwar. The inscription on it's own. All of these might be utilized in some form. Also, blast from the past, in the early days of LOTR fandom, "Frodo Lives" was a very common fan merch message. This might be updated and made more intriguing as, "Frodo lives! - Or does he?" accompanied by some LOTR image (perhaps an Elvish ship heading for Valinor). Other possibilities: a graphic of Sam looking at the star of Elendil with the message, "Hope!"; How about a graphic of 'Seven Stars and Seven Stones, and one White Tree, with the message over, "Seven stars and seven stones and one White Tree", and the message under, "Gondor Forever!"; How about a mass of horsemen with spears on a ridge, with the text. "Ride now, ride now! Ride on Rohirrim!" (the image could also be charging cavalry, loosely inspired by Elizabeth Thompson's painting, 'Scotland Forever') ; Or, the image of a white horse (like the one on a hillside in England) with the text, "Faithful servant. Swift Snowmane."; A graphic of mountains, with the text, "Misty Mountains - Adventure Awaits!".
3. For Narnia - The head of a lion, with the text, "Aslan - Not a tame lion!"
4. For the Wizard of Earthsea - A graphic of a small sailboat with a lone sailor on a wide ocean. Text, "Fill your sails. Raise the mage wind!"
I'm sure others can come up with plenty of other ideas, and ideas for all the other books which the Mythgard Academy has studied.
This sort of merch strategy would clearly identify a popular book, (ideally in an arresting or intriguing way), and link that to Signum University (or to the Mythgard Academy). It would use the better known brand of popular books with plenty of fans, to promote brand awareness for Signum. It would graphically explain (at least some of) the purpose of Signum U, in a way that the Signum logo alone does not ("Oh, there's a University where I can study the sort of books I love?") I think that this might lead to a clearer and more consistent merchandising and branding strategy for Signum?
I know we are geeks who get geeky. I love the in jokes and the puns. I just wonder if that is the best branding strategy for Signum University?
Mithluin says that one of the objectives of the Merch is, 'getting the logo out there, or giving people opportunities/excuses to talk about Signum is also high on the list of 'why have merch?'
Yet most of the merch does not have the Signum logo on it anywhere. I think if people (ordinary fans, not just lore nerds and geeks) get the reference to a book they love, and see the Signum logo associated with it, this is more likely to 'give people opportunities/excuses to talk about Signum, and possibly attract more followers, fans, contributors, and students to Signum University and the Mythgard Academy.