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F A Q

What exactly does Chameleon do?

Primarily, we invent new products and programs which either fit with our clients' existing lines or - if it is their aim - expand their lines in new directions. Usually, the client tells us the category or kind of product they are looking for (as opposed to choosing from a menu of existing concepts) and we go away and develop it. It does sometimes happen that we have a concept in our files which fits the client's need, but that is just a happy accident, not our goal. We are also often asked to evaluate and modify existing products which are not performing up to expectations. And last - though we are not primarily a work-for-hire design studio - sometimes we do accept straightforward graphic design assignments, which often range beyond the product itself to packaging, point-of-sale, advertising, and catalogues.

What companies have you worked with?

That's a long list, best answered by clicking on the Client/Category List.

How long have you been in business?

Since 1975.

How big are you?

We're small, and we intend to stay small. There are five people in the office full-time: no need for inter-office memos or departmental org charts. That office is the center of our sales and creative departments, and we maintain, of course, a large and varied circle of freelance contributors.

How are you compensated for your work?

That varies as widely as the products and clients themselves. Most often, it includes standard licensing agreements (advance against royalty), or straight buyouts (of rough concepts at the low end to fully developed products at the high end). If we manufacture the product in question, we simply invoice for delivered goods. Sometimes, as noted above, it is work for hire, and sometimes more complicated "partnering" arrangements. Recognizing the wide variance in standard practices, acceptable margins, and internal corporate policies or preferences, we keep ourselves flexible: we'll listen to any payment suggestion.

How are your contributing artists compensated?

Usually by licensing agreement, straight buyout of rights, or work for hire. In every case, we do our best to project the probable ultimate income to the artist and recommend the method of compensation most favorable to them, though there are instances where margins dictate means of payment. In such cases, of course, the artist chooses whether or not to participate. In a business where the artist is notoriously undercompensated, we are very careful to treat all our contributors fairly - we have ourselves spent a lot of time in their positions.

Who owns your work?

This also varies, but only by specific agreement. Unless otherwise contractually agreed, all U.S. intellectual property laws apply to the work we produce, and to any work contributed to it. For instance, if we design and produce a poster which incorporates a still life painting by a contract artist, Chameleon owns the copyright to the poster design, the artist owns the copyright to the image, and the client has licensed the right to sell the product.

How do you keep up with trends in the marketplace?

Partly through trade shows, newsletters and other trade publications, and membership in various groups and associations; partly by our personal contacts in different market segments, and partly by simple grass-roots research: we go to stores and ask questions. It must be remembered, however, that no professional you might hire on a contract basis - whether lawyer, accountant, marketing consultant, or product designer - can be expected to know your business as intimately as you do. We depend on the client to supply essential details.

Do you invest in new product ideas?

Only our own.

What makes you experts in so many diverse fields?

What makes us qualified is simply long experience in those fields, and what backs up our claim of qualification is the fact that we have been successful in all of them. However, we would stop short of calling ourselves experts in any of them: we are experts in product invention, design, and development, but we are generalists. As noted above, no contractor can know your business as completely as you do, and we depend on the client for specific, intelligent direction.

Can you take a product all the way from idea to retail market?

We can, but it is not what we are in business to do. We have no manufacturing or warehousing facility; we do not maintain a sales force, and we have no retail accounts. It is not unusual for us to source and project-manage the manufacture of a product for a client, but marketing, sales, inventory, and distribution are outside our sphere. We create the product; you sell it.


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