Say goodbye to designer phone cases

8:03 AM


big fancy designer cases with artwork are on the way out. personalise your phone with a clear case and stickers instead

Back in 2019, I remember sitting in a coffee shop with the manager of a printing service discussing a collab. At one point in our conversation, we suddenly started talking about phone cases and the future of them as far as art is concerned. 

There was a time, not so long ago, during which designer phone cases were all the rage and the first thing one did when buying a phone was get a custom case with some artwork on it to reflect their own personality. I think we can all agree that we've all been there, and I know I myself bought a few for my past 3 phones at least. 

Back to that coffee shop discussion, the person I was talking with said they were focusing only on iPhone cases because overall, the trend of phone cases was on the decline and the only ones that still sold were the iPhone ones. "Designer" phone cases aren't really a thing people want to spend a lot of money on nowadays and doing quality print on demand services that benefits the artist and the printer on a lower budget simply doesn't make sense. 

I also remember that during that conversation, we both noticed that stickers sales were picking up at the time, and this is pretty much what makes about 90% of my sales on Redbubble and what consistently sell in my Etsy shop as well. 

When the whole trend of designer art cases came out, it was pretty much a way to just cover a pretty boring black, grey or white phone and make it more personal. I think we can all agree that 5-6 years back phones weren't pretty or exciting things, and that the boring formal look of them was pretty much suited for the office, but no so much for the rest of our lives. Then, there were creatives like me who didn't need their phone to be all "corporate serious". From 2017 onwards, my phone case was pretty much a way for me to advertise what I do for a living : design art that goes on things, a professional field otherwise known as surface designer. Boring black or grey was NOT an option for me, and so I bought a few cases first for my HTC phone, then for my iPhone 6s. I would swap them regularly to showcase my designs. 

There was just one problem, a problem that is still not fixed in India : the quality of those PoD cases SUCKS. 
No matter the company, I ended up with the same pretty basic polycarbonate case that tend to crack on the first phone drop, and to add insult to misery, the printing quality of my designs were often not up to par because those companies all compress the high res file, and then print the design with inaccurate settings on their thermal sublimation printer resulting in blurry print with muddy colors about half the time. 
Don't believe me? I recently attempted to get a quality case with yet another printer and this was the result : 

The phone case appears in the lower left portion of the picture while the print in the background is a sticker sheet printed at home on my L805 Epson printer by yours truly. Notice how the colors appear completely muted and murky on the phone case? How must of the details in the designs are lost? 

This what you get with pretty much all PoD in India! This one I didn't pay much because I don't have a licensing deal with them and I just uploaded my file to get this one case printed. 
But, when I was licensing for Paintcollar and Colorpur, they were using the same quality of cases and prints, and charging customers a whooping 5-600 a case! 
If you are paying that much for a phone case, the least you should be expecting is quality. Both Colorpur and Paintcollar are no longer in business by the way. 

When I gave my iPhone 6 to my daughter last August, I bought a new phone and knew that this time I wanted to go for a transparent case and use stickers instead to customise it. 

Stickers are the way to go

Back then, I decided to go for a shock absorbing, sturdy, transparent case with a hint of color knowing I would use the back of my white iPhone XR as a blank canvas for my stickers (both those links are affiliate links by the way)

What I do is stick the stickers directly on the phone, then put the phone case on so that sticker stays behind the clear cover, protected from the elements, along with my phone.

We all still need cases to protect our phone, manufacturers and brands are making the most abused tech gadget we own even less sturdy than they once did, making them absolutely necessary, the last phone I had no protective case for was my HTC desire phone back in 2012. 
I'm fortunately not much of a phone dropper, hubby is the expert in that department, but judging by the look of his iPhone 11 a month after he got it, going without a case (like he does) is incredibly stupid a thing to do. 

While the phones of today are generally less resistant to minor falls and crashes, they are looking a lot more stylish with a lot more thought going into the design and look. No matter if you are on team Apple or Android, you are sure to find many options in colors beyond boring black, grey or silver. 
Once you buy a phone that has a fancy color on the back, why would you want to hide that with an art case? 

Not ashamed to say that when I bought my new iPhone, I put some thought into what color I wanted for it. I decided to go with white because I knew that it was going to be the color that would showcase my stickers the best, after all, my phone acts as a billboard for my work and is often a good way to strike a conversation about my professional life : 

- What is it that you do? 

- I am an illustrator and surface designer who makes art that goes on everyday products like mugs, phone case and this one on my phone.

The untold advantages of stickers over a designer phone case 

Stickers are all round winners at the moment for several reasons : 

- The are cheap, you can buy a bunch of them and change them a lot more regularly than a phone case. many are also removable and re-stickable, so all you need to do is put them back on a protective backing paper while not in use. 

- You can get stickers custom printed easily, or print them at home on glossy vinyl sticker paper. The only limit is your imagination. 

- On top of being cost effective, they are a lot more environment friendly than let say buying 4-5 cases for your phone. 
Most phones have an average lifespan of 3 years, this means every 3 years not only do you get rid of a phone, you also toss 4-5 cases in the trash as well, all that in the name of customisation and vanity.

- A lot of the "designer" cases out there are made of cheap material and tend to break easily. I dropped my phone a few times and they crack immediately. Fortunately, my phone was fine, but in the sake of having a pretty case, quality suffered a bit. With a clear case and stickers you can invest in a sturdier looking, shock absorbing case that will not only protect your phone better but last a whole lot longer, all the while making a statement with the sticker on or behind it. 

The phone case market isn't dead

Don't get me wrong, the designer cases market still has some good days ahead, it's just that it isn't as popular than in once was. 
I still sell them on occasion on Society6, but it's definitely not the bulk of my sale on S6 or elsewhere. So, from a designer perspective, I still do make sure my designs do look good on those items. It's just that I'm far better off making sure that whatever I design does translate as a sticker first and foremost because there is a much bigger chance it'll sell as one before it sells as a phone case. 

Beside stickers use isn't limited to just phones, it's been a staple to decorate laptops for quite sometimes, and then there was the whole "Hydroflask stickers" trend (is it still a thing?)

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