I’m realizing (more slowly than most artists probably) that outstanding art, design and illustration is a function of personal passion and devoted style, not merely people pleasing popularity (say that 5 time fast). To execute art seething with remarkable qualities takes passion and devotion to your personal taste and style. Success in a business model means you only need enough takers to make you profitable not necessarily popular. If your art is popular thats cool, but if popularity is your inspiration and driving force, then what you produce is probably going to be mediocre at best.
In marketing design we artists are often forced into molds and directions not of our choosing, and pleasing the masses becomes more necessary and critical. But our own visual style, that which we are most passionate about, can and should still come through because if it does the end product will be a better product.
Seth Godin perhaps says it best. The dilemma is one of deciding between the electable vs. the marketable. This is brilliant thinking and words to live by as an artist.