How To Design T-Shirts People Actually Want To Wear

May 12, 2016

If you’re a graphic designer, I guarantee you’re going to have the opportunity to design a t-shirt.

So, what makes a great design that people will actually want to wear?

You could simply slap a company logo onto a t-shirt, but I want you to dig deeper. I want you to take your thoughts on designing t-shirts to the next level.

Why? Because a creatively designed t-shirt with a message can lead to thousands of impressions, which in turn could lead to thousands in additional revenue.

First things first, start by understanding the wearer

The wearer is the ultimate person who’s going to end up spreading the shirt’s message around in the real world.

In the morning, the wearer has a choice out of all the other t-shirts in their closet. Are they going to choose the one you’ve designed or just grab any old blank t-shirt?

Before you consider the design itself, where will the design go?

Will it be a simple pocket design? Will it fit the full shirt? Will you be incorporating a certain logo or phrase into it?

Gather and research this information, then consider all of your options and be aware of who the design is for.

You’re not looking to make the coolest looking design, rather, you gotta make it work for the client or the band.

When you wear a t-shirt with an image or text on it, you’re saying something about yourself. You’re sending a message to all who see it. The message may be simple like, "I love this band." Or "I’m proud to be a designer."

You might also think that the style or the imagery of the shirt represents your interests and this should make you feel part of something bigger than yourself.

This is what you have to pull out of all the information you’re given. If you’re designing merch for a band, you have to put yourself in the shoes of their number one fan.

And a great t-shirt design doesn’t have to be overly illustrated. If typing out the band name, arcing it, and giving it a bit of distress works, then that’s all you have to do.

Most of the time your favorite t-shirt is pretty simple.

Don’t feel like you need to overcomplicate things just to please a client or to show you’ve done enough work.

Designing a t-shirt starts with you understanding the project and the wearer completely. Only then will you be on your way to making it a great design—Potentially someone's favorite t-shirt. That’s my goal as a freelance t-shirt designer.

I don’t design something I’ll like, but I design for the wearer. And I hope that they go to grab the shirt I’ve designed every chance they get.

Here’s a question for you: Have you ever had to design a t-shirt? What was it for? Let me know in the comments below!

See my latest work and more on Instagram @BrentGalloway