Sir Quentin Saxby Blake is an English cartoonist, illustrator and children's writer. He is best known for illustrating books written by Roald Dahl. Quentin Blake’s office is responsible for a number of activities and the care of assets relating to his work. This includes archiving all his drawings, cataloguing where his artwork has appeared, editing the official Quentin Blake website and managing merchandise sales.
Quentin Blake's office
“The FileMaker Platform allowed us to commission a bespoke solution to meet our specific needs and bring together three essential, but previously
– Liz Williams, Archivist, Quentin Blake’s office.
Quentin Blake digitises artwork catalogue and improves eCommerce capabilities with the help of FileMaker
FileMaker Platform enables Quentin Blake to increase revenue through online merchandising
- Quentin Blake digitises artwork catalogue and launches online shop with the help of FileMaker.
- Illustration and publishing
- FileMaker used to integrate bibliography, contacts, archives and the online shop
- Rapid development, no duplication of data entry, increased revenue through ability to offer more merchandise and digitised archive of works
As Quentin Blake’s portfolio of work continues to grow, his office needs an effective way to manage, archive and sell it. Previously, the office relied on two small Microsoft Access databases but, as what they want to achieve expands, so do the demands on the system.
One database recorded descriptions of archive items and managed loans and transfers of artwork to museums and exhibitions, while the other listed Quentin’s bibliography of where his illustrations had appeared in print. The main challenge faced by the office was the lack of interoperability between the two databases and the fact that they were only available to access through one PC in the office.
In addition to the databases, the office also maintained a separate address book using Microsoft Works. This address book had been migrated across multiple legacy systems and was full of errors and duplication.
The database overhaul wasn’t the end to the challenges. Later in the organisation’s development, when a FileMaker database had been managing the portfolio, loans and bibliography, the office decided to incorporate the growing eCommerce side of operations into the same system to avoid duplication of information entry. Quentin Blake’s office now needed to add the new functionality of an online shop to the existing database without disrupting what it was doing.
“As well as integrating all three systems we wanted to expand our merchandising opportunities, as we had sold limited versions of prints directly to individuals through previous versions of the website. These sales were handled by the shopping cart software, which was part of the off-the-shelf CMS system we built the website on. Ideally, we wanted the new system to help manage online merchandise sales and control stock levels,” explained Liz Williams, Archivist, Quentin Blake’s office.
The ability of our FileMaker developer to design the solution to our exact specifications meant that we could reference all our digital assets in addition to our physical ones,Liz Williams, Archivist, Quentin Blake's office
The FileMaker solution:
“When we started looking at consolidating our databases, we were embarking on a large-scale digitisation project. A gallery that we worked with used FileMaker and advised us that it would be able to do everything we wanted it to. They have very similar system requirements to us for handling artwork descriptions and tracking work through sales and exhibitions so investing in FileMaker was a natural choice. The ability of our FileMaker developer to design the solutions to our exact specifications meant that we could reference all our digital assets in addition to our physical ones,” said Williams.
In order to deliver everything required of the new system, Quentin Blake’s office approached Cutting Edge Software to develop a bespoke solution.
Cutting Edge delivered Quentin Blake’s office a client/server solution, making the data accessible to all staff from multiple devices. Investing in the FileMaker Platform enabled the office to bring together the two Access databases and a Microsoft Works contact database into one single solution.
Cutting Edge Software then integrated the online shop into the FileMaker database.
- In addition to supporting frequent requests placed to the office, this bibliography section has been integrated with the website to show website visitors the full extent of Sir Quentin's published work.
- This has allowed the office to push information directly from FileMaker to the website without having to enter the same data in multiple places saving a considerable amount of time. An extra archival level has been added to the descriptive part of the system that will allow easier data exchange in the future with external systems.
- Integrating FileMaker with the website has enabled the office to offer an increased number of products like mugs and lampshades incorporating Quentin Blake’s illustrations through the shop. Many of these products are shipped directly to customers by third party suppliers, all of whom are linked via the FileMaker Platform, so the process of fulfilling the orders is as automated as possible. By offering more products the office is looking to increase revenue to cover the running costs of the website and, more importantly, to provide an easy means for customers to purchase goods that can be difficult to source elsewhere.
- Orders and payments are taken directly on the website, and the data pushed to FileMaker to allow the office to manipulate it. From FileMaker, notifications are then sent to suppliers of the orders that need fulfilling, and to monitor stock levels of prints as they are sent to customers direct from Quentin Blake’s office. FileMaker generates packing slips and mailing labels to speed up workflow, and sales reports so the team can see accurately what the income and costs are. This is one of many major benefits which simply were not possible using the previous web-based system. The flexibility allowed the new functionality to be added seamlessly into the existing database without causing disruption or inconvenience to the workings of the office.
Images © Quentin Blake 2013.