The Backstage of Tees Design

Teresa Mira
Feb 27, 2017 · 5 min read

I’m always curious about other designers’ processes so I thought this time I’d share a behind-the-scenes look at a little project myself, since I had some fun during the process. I was asked by UXswitch to create a set of T-shirts to promote their brand. The goal was simple: three quotes and a graphic approach to bring them to life. UXswitch operates in a digital world but wanted to embody their philosophy in something tangible, something that could be worn close to the skin / heart. They wanted someone to come along with an independent viewpoint on the brand, a fresh expression of their crowd; so I had the creative freedom to design pretty much anything I wanted. The 3 quotes were:

1. “We are the storytellers, designers of delight”

2. “UX makes the world go round”

3. “Great design is no coincidence”

We wanted to convey the messages through the same visual language. The t-shirts needed to be recognisable and own-able without becoming too predictable.

The process

To set the look & feel I started by thinking about the UXswitch audience. Our tribe was mainly designers: what do we like / which brands do we wear, what are the things we believe in, our lifestyle and so on. It had to be something I would like to wear, otherwise why would others? (During this research, online stores like the Invision marketplace and Ugmonk were great sources of inspiration). I also looked at the UXswitch identity to search for ‘anchors’ or brand signatures that I could utilise to influence my designs. Overall, we wanted the t-shirts to feel from the same ‘family’, coherent in terms of graphic style but also aspirational and inspiring.

Moodboard

I quickly wrote down the main attributes of what I was trying to design. In terms of personality I wanted it to be bold and confident, unapologetic and cheerful, so I gathered some inspiration with these aspects in mind, searching for: vibrant colours and hight contrast, disruptive use of typography, dynamic / rhythmic compositions and the use of graphic elements as patterns. Examples like the Sonar 2016 graphics, Shanti Sparrow and the Studio-JQ work played a big role as visual references. I wanted the graphics to express energy as opposed to something static. This was presented back to UXswitch and the guys agreed with the design direction.

Typography choices

Among many typefaces I ended up choosing the combination of Azedo and Fabrica. The first one has a lot of character while the second is neutral and versatile (thank you guys for putting your great work out there, available for free).

Early explorations

On early stages I try not to get distracted by the details but rather focus on the overall composition, so I can discard concepts quickly and refine the strong ones. The initial studies meant to explore proportions and how words could work together as a whole. The main aspect to consider was hierarchy: which words needed to be louder and why. (I didn’t have much time to get these done which was another reason to iterate on the fly).

Graphic elements

The UXswitch logo embodies a mix of thin and bold typography and I wanted to capture that contrast between line thickness and weights, through the graphic elements and the type. The graphics are a combination of basic geometric shapes, different kinds of lines and dots.

Colour palette

When it comes to colour choices I normally follow my intuition rather than looking for pre-cooked combinations. I’m a colour enthusiast and because we wanted to imprint an optimistic personality, I chose a bright and saturated palette: when placed next to each other these colours create the strongest contrast being perceived as more intense (they also had to work on white vs black backgrounds). Ultimately we wanted the t-shirts to be eye-catching.

This CMYK palette is based on three primary colours (triadic) and two secondary for balance between warm and cool essentially. The number of colours used per t-shirt was limited to 3 to reduce costs.

The message

The type was treated as graphics rather than letters, but simultaneously needed to preserve readability. One of the challenges was the quest for the best way to communicate the messages.

The sentence “is no coincidence” almost blends with the square of graphics and is not a coincidence that there’s meaning behind its placement. On the other hand, the word “GREAT” aims to express emotion through the undisciplined bold letters.

The “UX makes the world go round” is quite literal in its approach to emphasise this sense of ‘gravitational movement’.

The graphics that surround the word “DELIGHT” are intentionally more colourful and dynamic than the cluster of ‘plus signs’ following “We are”.

After some tweaking and refinements, voilà. The artworks were finished.

Final thoughts

It is important to design on a template that is as close as possible to your final product. The graphics may look great on a flat background but that doesn’t mean they work in situ, so I kept placing them into “real” context to have a sense for overall spacial relationships: how the graphics related to the shirt in terms of scale and placement.

Despite the lack of time to take on freelance work or devote to personal projects as much as I’d like, I believe it’s important to practice your craft and embrace different challenges than the ones you’re given at work. Plus this was super fun stuff.

During the process some interesting ideas came up, one of them the possibility of it being a long-term project. What if people could submit their own quote to be interpreted by UXswitch every once in a while, for example? The next step is finding the right shirts and the right screen printing company. While I don’t know for sure what happens next, I can assure you they’ll make their way out to an online store near you ;)

Stay tuned. And thanks for reading.

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