1. Ownership of digital art

Prior to the existence of Cryptocurrency, we never really got to own something that was completely digital. We passed around videos and motion graphics, repurposing and reposting them, but there wasn’t this current opportunity to automatically assume complete, concrete ownership over a digital file or artwork. The rise of NFT’s changes this, allowing creators the authority to rent digital artworks out, to sell them or display them how they wish.

In order to sell them, designers need to get some kind of ‘legal’ ownership of their work. So, after NFT art is created, it’s ‘minted’ or tokenized on the cryptocurrency service, Blockchain. The Blockchain is a digital transaction system that records information in a way that makes it very difficult to hack or scam, which means it’s extremely useful for tracking copyright ownership and maintaining records of creation. Theoretically, any digital masterpiece you create and mint will lead solely to you.

Ultimately, this process should allow digital artists to gain formal recognition for their work, similarly to how a painter like Gustav Klimt is credited with his infamous painting, The Kiss. The issue surrounding this very new concept is that although Blockchain does have contracts in place to support the legalities of minting and copyrighting cryptoart, none of these have yet been tried or tested in court.

Artists have already come forward with the news that they have had their work fraudulently minted and sold by scammers.  But without relevant protection by the law or any preexisting legislation on this topic, it remains speculative as to what these artists will be able to do about this.

2. A novel way to generate income

NFT art is a totally new way of categorizing digital artworks that enables designers to monetize their work. It’s supposed to be a quicker process and a more accessible way for designers to produce work and reap the rewards for their creativity. There’s no chasing clients for payment, there’s no preparing files for print and there’s no waiting to hear feedback or changing and editing your work to suit a client’s needs.

Royalties

Some NFT art comes with royalties to the artist, meaning every time the artwork is sold on, the artist can receive 8-10% of all future sales. This depends upon which platform the artist is using; Zora, for instance, is an NFT platform with the “Creative Share” option, meaning users can buy and trade artworks immediately.

NFTs can’t stand alone

Another thing that’s affecting the design industry hugely by the outbreak of NFTs is value. How do you value a physical artwork in comparison to a virtual work of art. Also the value of NFT’s and CryptoArt is solely based on the value of Cryptocurrency. Because NFTs are sold on the basis of Ethereum, and that’s translated into monetary value, for example an NFT sells for 2 Ethereum, which is translated to us as about $2,255 dollars. But if the value of Ethereum were to drop, then so does the value of the artwork: its value is continually dependant upon the cryptocoin.

3. A global reach

Previously, the exclusive, illustrious world of art collecting and selling has been something that’s generally happened in physical spaces concerning physical artworks. Designers and artists made money from IRL events like exhibitions and markets until recent world events meant that many of these avenues were stopped. The rise of NFT trading means that art collecting has been able to move online, opening it up to many artists, on a global scale, who may not have previously had the chance to sell their work to buyers.

Similarly, for many graphic designers it can be really difficult to hold down a steady means of income without doing odd jobs or unrelated work. Stability is a slow bloomer and can be found in loyal clients or through a consistent, timely turnover of projects. But, if you’re not already well-established it can be tricky to find your feet in this competitive industry. So, the immediacy in which an NFT can generate income could, theoretically, open a tidal wave of opportunity for a huge number of creatives, especially those who are less privileged.

Like social media, NFT platforms grant designers immediate access to global audiences. And, often, having a pre-existing online following will help artists gain exposure in the NFT market. The tricky part for designers is working out how to convert their audiences into buyers. Like any other brand, you must find your audience and learn how to establish an emotional connection with them. This means that you’ll need to investigate brand strategies to find what works for you. If you don’t have much of an online presence already, also take a deeper look at your approach to marketing.

Inclusivity versus exclusivity

The art sector of NFTs professes to create an inclusive, protecting environment for digital artists to make money. Anyone with access to a computer can make an NFT and have the potential for it to blow up: whether your niche is realistic, 3D motion graphics or blocky pixels like the Nyan Cat video (which sold for $600,00, might I add). This has the potential to be life-changing for millions of creatives worldwide.

The hypnotizing Nyan Cat

Yet, one point to be aware of is how expensive the minting fee is. Designers must outbid each other to get their artwork ‘minted’ on Blockchain. Prices fluctuate, depending on time and network, but it ranges from anywhere between $80 to $1000. This fee doesn’t guarantee sales for designers, but without paying it they cannot list their artwork on the market.

4. A hefty ecological footprint

One controversy surrounding the world of NFT artworks is the impact it’s having on the environment. French artist Joanie Lemercier recently made news after his NFT sold out in 10 seconds, making thousands of dollars. Pretty incredible, right? Well, what he also could not foresee is exactly how much energy this transaction would consume: the equivalent of how much his studio uses over a full 2 year period, which is 8.7 megawatt-hours of energy.

His seller then resold the piece, which used the same amount of energy and horrified the artist who had looked to sell work online as an eco-friendly alternative to transporting physical work around the world’s museums. Lemercier went on to release a statement documenting the lack of transparency he faced from cryptoart platforms when investigating their energy consumption.

Unsurprisingly, the fact that NFT artworks are so resource-heavy is hugely alarming for many designers. But this issue isn’t exclusive to trading cryptoart; it’s part of a bigger issue involving the digital mechanism, “proof of work”. Since its emergence in the early 90s,  proof of work has evolved to be used largely in cryptocurrency mining to create and mint tokens like bitcoin and ethereum. Highly powered computers essentially compete to get the most bitcoin and need to source a huge amount of electricity to do so.

Developments of greener alternatives are ongoing, but while bitcoin continues to dominate cryptocurrencies, this process that is so harmful to the environment is proving unavoidable for any designers wishing to sell their art as NFTs.

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