To menu or not to menu? Sounds strange, huh? For face painters this is a real live dilemma. Face painters have to decide whether or not they will work from a menu of design options or not. The next decision to be made is whether or not it will be a picture menu or word menu. As an artist who has tried the entire gamut, I definitely have an opinion.
Why offer a design menu? Have you ever stood in line behind someone at a donut shop, ice cream parlor, or at the Cheesecake Factory counter who was taking forever to decide? With all the choices of so many palate pleasing delights, deciding on one can be an overwhelming experience. Now imagine if you were given the option to choose any flavor you could imagine. Suddenly that wait has gotten 10x's longer. This is what I've experienced when I didn't offer a design menu for the kids to choose from. I'd get little ladies and gents in my chair without any idea what design they would like or what I was capable of creating. Additionally, working without a menu will require you to have the ability to paint a rainbow kitty, with lime green whiskers, and purple spots or WHATEVER else a child can imagine! <<<< That really happened, and I did paint it! Seriously, if you work without a menu you will have to have 100's of designs committed to memory. Most of us do have 100's yet, 1000's of designs committed to memory, but why not select several of the most popular designs and make them AWESOME and offer them to your customers. Always leave an option for special requests from your customers.
Picture menu or word menu? I think this comes down to personal preference and your ability to duplicate the exact same design over and over. Personally, I don't like to offer a picture menu. I like to change my designs and give each customer a unique version of the design they selected. Often, with picture menus the customer will expect for the design to look exactly as the photo. Most aren't aware of the effect face shape and skin tone will have on a design.
The one negative I've experienced to offering a word only menu is that customers do not know what to expect. To ease that worry, I chat with the little one and ask things like, "What's your favorite color, Would you like a sparkly fairy with lots of swirls, do you want a happy or scary skull, etc." Such questions helps the customer relax, and allows them to have some customization to their chosen design. Another obstacle with a word menu is that not ALL children can read. To address this issue I've added little doodles to each word to give the child a visual cue as to what the word is. I love when parents take advantage of my word menu and give their child a literacy lesson :)
There's no right or wrong option. Try out everything until you find what works best for you. Please share with me your preference for a picture menu or a word menu.