Wearing Your Brand

by Jenn Wilson


Knowing your audience is the first step in designing an effective t-shirt. Who is going to be wearing these shirts? Will your t-shirts be worn for one specific event, or will they be more of an everyday design? Knowing both your audience and marketing purpose will help you narrow down what text and graphics to place on your t-shirt.

Next, you should ask yourself if your design concept will work for a t-shirt. Some designs look amazing on printed materials or on the web, but they do not cross over to apparel. If you have a great marketing campaign going and you want roll out a t-shirt to accompany it, you will likely have to make some modifications to the design.

The best way to begin this process is to simplify. Over-designing a t-shirt is easy to do, but remember that some of the best t-shirts are also the most basic. Keep colors to a minimum. Too many color variations can create chaos in the design. For example, for one client, we simplified a design by moving from a five-color monster with a background to a two-color design. (On a practical note, your cost of production will increase with every color you add, since each one has to be separately printed onto the shirt.)

Another important element to keep in mind is how typography, a graphic illustration, and the logo will work together. Striking a balance between these three will not only create a good design, but it will also help people easily recognize the shirt’s main message. Remember that you are not bound to using all three elements. Some designs only use type and illustration. One of these isn’t better than the other. The element you choose should be determined by what would most appropriately represent your message.

A great example of a type-based design is this fiberlicious t-shirt one of our senior designers, Rod Sawatsky, created last year for Yadtel:


Here’s an example of a graphic-based t-shirt from sevenly.org:



And here’s an example of a design that of uses type, graphics, and a logo from johnnycupcakes.com:



No matter which design elements you choose, the big question is, “Will people want to wear this shirt?” Keeping that mind when designing will help make your t-shirts more effective for marketing. T-shirts can be a great way to advertise your business, but only if they are worn.

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