Table of Contents
What is This Book? 6
An Artist with a Dream 8
When I Grow Up… 9
Dealing with the Best Job Ever 9
Your 3 Roles: The Artist, Designer, and Entrepreneur 10
11 Character Traits of Successful Designers 11
Keys to a Great Portfolio 12
Work for Me or Them? 13
Flying Solo: Don’t Be Afraid 15
Why Bands and Indie Clothing Brands Make Great Clients 15
Pricing and Sales Strategies 16
How to Snag Those Big Clients 19
Legal Barriers Simplified 22
The Designer/Client Relationship 27
The Truth about Design Contests 29
Designing for Tees 32
What Do I Need to Know First? 33
The Fundamentals of Good Shirt Design 33
How to Come up With Good Ideas? 36
What if I Can’t Draw? 37
Let’s Talk Trends Shall We? 38
Design Techniques & Tutorials 41
A Typical Shirt Design Process 42
List of Design & Illustration Tutorials 43
Organizing Layers in Photoshop 44
Color Separation and File Prep 44
Printing & Production 46
How Does My Art Get onto Shirts? 47
Choosing the Proper Printing Method 48
The Right Blank for the Job 49
How Many Shirts Should I Print? What Sizes? 49
Extras: Foil, Flocking, and Other Embellishments 50
What’s it Gonna Cost Me? 52
Branding & Marketing 54
Branding Fundamentals 55
5 Tips to Improve Your Brand 56
Pricing Your Tees 57
Product Shots and Mockups 57
Custom Packaging & The Customer Experience 58
Stickers, Swag, and Extras 59
The Smartest Ways to Advertise 60
Sales & Fulfillment 67
What You Need to Know about Selling Online 68
Shipping & Fulfillment 69
Selling Offline at Events and Trade Shows 71
Going Big-Time 74
Getting Help: Outsourcing and Employees 75
How to Get into Retail Stores 76
Become a Household Name 79
Conclusion & Next Actions 82
Case Studies & Interviews 86
What is This Book?
This book was written by Jeff Finley, that’s me. I’m an artist/designer and partner at Go Media, a creative agency based in Cleveland, OH. Over the past 6 years I’ve done t-shirt designs for bands ranging from Jimmy Buffet to Metallica and everywhere in between. I’ve worked with dozens of indie apparel brands on everything from their initial line of t-shirts to their brand identity. However, lots of people reading this book know of Go Media because of the design articles and tutorials on our blog GoMediaZine and our “vector packs” sold at our stock art boutique Arsenal. For those that need numbers, here’s a vain attempt to prove my credibility: Our blog is read by over 300,000 visitors per month and over 22,000 readers subscribe via rss. The Arsenal has served over 80,000 customers since 2006 and is widely considered a leader in indie stock art boutiques. It was from these years of serving my clients and fellow designers that I felt I owed it to them to write this book.
It took a lot of work to get to this point. 6 years ago I was just another art school kid trying to get good grades and graduate on time. I had no experience in tshirt design – in fact I didn’t even know such a thing existed. I was oblivious and all I cared about was getting a “real job” doing CG special effects or animation for games or film. I spent my time prepping my resume and demo reel with the hopes I would land an entry level position at a studio somewhere. Needless to say, that’s not how things ended up.
I was unable to find a job in my field. As I graduated I got jaded, and wasn’t really interested in CG special effects or games anymore and had discovered the work of Rob Dobi, Derek Hess, and Angryblue. If those three artists had a dollar for every time I mention them as inspiration, they’d be rich by now.
What inspired me about those artists, aside from their sheer talent, was that they earned a living for themselves designing posters and t-shirts for bands I was into. Through their work, I discovered a whole new world of commercial art. That was the moment I decided I was going to follow in their footsteps and make a name for myself and design for my favorite bands.
The Secret Underground
In this book I will show you how I did it and reveal to you the secret underground of the apparel industry. I’ll show you how other ambitious artists just like you overcame all the common stumbling blocks to become some of the most wellknown designers in the indie apparel industry. You’ll learn how to design for clients and how to start your own apparel line. You’ll learn some of the tricks we have used to get ahead in the industry and how we have been able to transform our hobbies into careers. I think I can speak for all the experienced contributors to this book when I say “I wish this guide was written when I started out.”
So Who is This Book For?
This book is for artists and graphic designers who want to dominate the indie apparel industry. Specifically, it’s for those who want to make a living, get famous or otherwise live like a rockstar designer. If you’re the CEO of The Gap or looking to take your multi-million dollar franchise to the next level, you probably don’t need this book. But if you’re an up and coming designer looking to break out in a big way and develop a clothing brand, this book is absolutely for you. If you are curious about who does the art on the shirts you wear, this book is also for you.
Why This Book?
I’m writing this book to show you how to dominate the t-shirt scene. My goal is to inform you of all the major aspects of being a designer in the t-shirt world. I’ll talk about what it’s like to be a designer and how to build your own apparel brand. I’ll discuss design, branding, printing, marketing, sales, and ecommerce. I want you to learn from our collective mistakes and give you insight so you can quickly grow into the famous and recognized designer you want to be. I want you to go big time!
I’ve also solicited the help of dozens of successful apparel industry designers and businesses who have been there and done that. They have fascinating stories of how they started in a position just like the one you are in today. I’ve deconstructed their stories into case studies and common practices that will get you the results you’re looking for.
Defy the Hand You’re Dealt
This book is a lesson in doing things yourself and taking matters into your own hands. Defying the hand you are dealt, so to speak. It will help you realize that you can turn your small side project into a full time job and have tons of fun doing it. Been dying to quit your dreadful day job? You can, but not without determination and hard work. In fact, everyone I’ve interviewed can attest to that fact. It is hard work, but they all agree they wouldn’t do it any different if they could.
This book will help you design better t-shirts and make a name for yourself. It will teach you how to make a decent living doing what you love. It will help you avoid making our same mistakes. It will also help you accept your own failures as learning experiences that only serve to make you better. So without further ado, let’s get started.