Your T-Shirt brand needs a designer, where do you start?


You woke up in the middle of the night with an idea.

This time, you managed to roll over and grab that pen and paper to write it down before it vanished into thin air as that Melatonin took hold of you to drag you back to sweet forgetful slumber.

When you woke up, you had completely forgotten that you had even had a ‘mid sleep brain fart’, and when you noticed your own catatonic scrawl on the note pad next to your bed, a parting of the fog and an ‘oh yeah’ moment became realised.

Those words you wrote down still seem like a great idea for your t shirt brand.

This really could be the next big thing for you.

But wait, you can’t design or draw for sh*t.


You are gonna need some help.

These days it’s as easy as it has ever been to hook up with a creative that really digs your idea and really gets you.

The pool of talent is highly visible and the ease and speed at which you can connect is only a few clicks and some internet moments away, even though they might be geographically inconvenient for you to sip a latte with.

Take a stroll through the better known portfolio showcase websites like Pinterest or Instagram and you will quickly find thousands of designers for your brand.

There are also specific sites for you to search for with keywords and locations for designers on sites like Dribble and Behance.

You will notice that designers tend to have a ‘style’ that they naturally favour working in and this is their default position which they feel most comfortable with and the one they most naturally connect with. The trick is to find the style you like and then work in the elements of your brand idea rather than just find any old designer.

if you are commissioning a designer who is located in a prospering economy/country, you will likely be paying a premium for their services. Especially if they are busy or their portfolio shows that they have a history of working with big clients. The trick is to look East, into Asia or Eastern Europe or Russia.

Once you connect with your designer you will realise that they need a detailed brief to be able to begin working for you.

If they are any good, they will want to understand your brand from the bottom up and will want to know what the personality is, what the philosophy is and who the audience is before they begin designing.

It is good to begin your brief with a summary of the brand values, the flavour and feel of your brand and the feelings you are trying to evoke or connect with in your audience.

Customers will buy from brands if the message that the brand is selling connects with an existing feeling within the customer OR represents a feeling that is aspirational…ie. the customer wants to become what the brand represents.

A good summary will discuss these emotive and often intangible values that are attached to a brand before going into the design requirements.

Honing your design requirements is best done with pictures and examples of what you like, this is often called a ‘mood board’.

This is where Pinterest really comes into its own. You can create a pin board which helps communicate your objective and easily share it with a url link to your designer.

Be sure to tell your designer what colour t shirts you are going onto and how many colours they can work with. Remember that when you get these shirts printed, your costs are going to be dictated by number of print colours as well as your buying quantity. Most printed t shirts look fine with a single colour print or just 1 or. 2. You don’t need to go colour crazy, this just adds costs.

Once your designers agrees to take on your project, you then need to agree the price and payment terms. Most designers will want a payment before they begin work especially if this is the first time they have worked with you. This is sometimes negotiable and once you have agreed the price, payment terms and then paid, usually via PayPal or bank transfer, the developmental work will begin.

It is likely that your designer will work on a few sketch ideas first. You can avoid wasted time here by making sure your initial brief is tight. If your instructions are too vague to begin with you will rack up additional hours and fees while your designer is busy chasing his tail with your adjustments and changes.

Once the sketch phase is done you will hopefully end up with an idea that you can develop. This is phase 2 and depending on what you have negotiated, there may be more fees to pay or your designer has factored this time into the agreement and then works on the finished piece.

If you are super lucky and if you had a very clear vision and excellent brief and if your designer has fully understood you, you may end up with the very thing you had imagined. What is more likely to happen however is that you either end up disappointed and just accept the work OR you rework the idea OR you sack the designer for a new one OR your designer really adds some design concepts and elements that you had not considered and you end up with something a bit different than your imagined concept and slightly better.

Remember, they are the creative element in your business and their skills and judgment in terms of placement,positioning,scale,geometry,colour, etc…is what you are paying for.

The trouble is, we all think we know best and this can be as pain to the designer if the thing you think you want is just a crap idea anyway and you keep meddling to make it less crap but really it is never going to look good.

So….try to go into the arrangement with  the knowledge that this may not even work. Also, show the results around ( ideally with your target demographic) and get some other opinions. You might be the centre of the universe in your own mind but just pretend you are not for a minute.

Lastly, your artwork needs to work on t shirts so get the right files from your designer. A vectored format with fonts outlined or a high resolution jpeg is what your t shirt printer will need.

Happy hunting.

You might find this a useful read

As always, our friendly knowledgeable and sort of average/beautiful looking Shirtworks staff are on standby if you have any questions on t shirt design or t shirt printing.

Author: Arron Harnden

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