T-shirts, Shotguns and Ammo
So, you have an idea for a shirt, and you think it's going to sell well. All of your friends have told you they'll buy one, and now it's time to reach out to a merchandise company and realize your dream of product domination.
Beware that there are my pitfalls to merchandise design that will leave you with a garage full of shirts you can't sell. As an example, let's say the company you work for has given you the task of having company shirts made. You're now trying to figure out how the company logo is going to fit and look on the shirts. But you must ask yourself: do you want this shirt to be banished to the recesses of "T-shirt Purgatory", only to be worn when its owner is mowing the lawn or working out a the gym? No. You want your shirt to make its appearance into public life, worn as somebody's "Thursday shirt", the shirt in which they feel comfortable wearing on shopping outings and to dinners at Burger Up. So, how do you accomplish such a feat?
Here are some basic tips to keep in mind when ordering and designing a t-shirt:
Know your buyer/audience
Who is your audience? Who are the people you are wanting to buy and wear your product? Defining and knowing your audience will help you to determine how to design your product and will lead to more successful sales. Many people automatically think to put a logo on a shirt, but it's important to realize that there is much more that can be done on a blank t-shirt canvas that will appeal to your buyer. Don't get me wrong, simple is good, but you need to think about what impact you want your product to make on your audience and what your audience's needs are.
A good example of this is what we did with our own company t-shirts. We needed shirts that could be given to clients, worn by staff, used during CMA fest, etc. We could have easily just stuck on a basic company logo, but that would not have been at all interesting. Instead, our designer, Bruce McPeters, crafted a guitar laying at an angle with our logos made to look like band stickers slapped on top of it. He distressed the images, added some platter effects and BLAMO! He designed a shirt that I would [and do] actually wear on any given day. The guitar represents our work in the music business, and his sticker idea allowed him to blend two divisions of the company into one cohesive look. It's a great, out-of-the-box idea for a company shirt, and the design works wells for all of our various needs and audiences. Again, if you know your audience and allow a designer to look at your project from a different perspective, you will yield great results and will get a design fresher than you ever expected.
The quality of the shirt is a big factor in determining the price and whether or not your shirt can be worn beyond just the confines of a Saturday spent working in the yard. For example, a 100% Gildan t-shirt is one of the cheapest shirts available. They are thick cotton, and the fit is square and boxy. If your audience is NASCAR, then Gildan is your brand. If your audience is more hipster or young, they might prefer an American Apparel tri-blend heather shirt, which is made of 50% polyester, 25% cotton and 25% rayon. It is extremely soft and is perfect for a vintage design. It has the feel of that favorite shirt that you have worn and washed for years. It's also fashion-fit for a slimming look and is guaranteed to make the rotation into someone's weekly wears. If you decide to go with such a high quality shirt, keep in mind that the price is almost double that of what a Gildan would be. Some people might get sticker shock, but always try to look beyond the sale. It's important to think about the long-term life of the shirt and how it can become a walking billboard for your brand, company or idea.
Remember, presentation is everything, and t-shirts are one way of presenting your message to the world. If you are using them for a free giveaway and you are content with your message living within the gym walls of the YMCA for an hour per week, then slap your logo on a Gildan, and consider it mission accomplished. I personally like the shotgun effect of having your branded message make an impact being worn on someone all day in the high traffic areas of life.
Know your audience and its needs, invest in an appropriate quality of shirt and be sure that your t-shirt represents your brand well. I encourage you to pay the extra time, attention and money to design and create something great -- a shirt that someone will actually want to wear.