I had every intention of going to bed early tonight, but I don’t want to miss posting, particularly if I don’t have a good excuse, so I’ve been busy constructing today’s post about the process of putting together a tshirt design for one of my best friends. His birthday is coming up.
Process fascinates me; I love to know how it is that people work; so here is how I work. Sometimes. Other times I work quite differently.
My friend Binh mentioned a line he had heard recently; one of those bits of wisdom that gets tossed around, and he said he’d like a tshirt made out of it. I jotted it down on a handy napkin, doodled an accompanying sketch and it never got any farther than that.
I think that was about two years ago. Here’s the napkin:
About five months ago, I found the napkin and decided it was time to get something concrete down. My initial thought was the text would be very polished; very solid and the worm would be done a little looser; sketchier… maybe show the worm without the hook, and suggest his ultimate fate with an image of a hook on the back….
That would be the front of the shirt…this would be the back…
I thought I was off to a good start, but I wasn’t wowed… And was it necessary to split the design into a front and back? If someone just read the front, or just read the back, would it make sense to them? I couldn’t justify splitting the design into two separate images, so I decided to combine them; toying with the idea that the worm would make a great visual substitute for the “I” in life. I’m now a little sickened by my attempt to be so clever.
I’m also not thrilled with the the fact that the horizontal line has no other purpose in the design other than to divide the text.
I reluctantly eliminate the hook, enthusiastically eliminate the horizontal line and eliminate a color. The design works; but it’s not wowing me, and I also miss the implied messiness that the brown brought to the image. So decide to bring it back as the shirt color. I needlessly add white to the design. The results are ugly.
So ugly in fact that I give up. For a day. Then, while at work, it occurs to me that the earth worm needs dirt to wiggle in.
Unfortunately, the dirt is the only part of the design that I like, now. In fact, I have grown to hate my thick-lined poorly drawn worm.
I decide to get reference.
Here is the uninspired result that reference brings. Inexplicably, I have made the worm navy and my dirt has disappeared…
At this point, I like the font for the word life, but hate how spread out and open it looks around the circle. The worm is almost interesting at this point, but the colors aren’t working for me. Everything looks so blah on a white shirt, and while the bottom line of text wrapping around the circle is nice, it really makes the the second half of the line seem like it’s just dangling out in the middle of nowhere. And I still miss the messiness of the dirt.
I abandon the design, and it’s a good thing I do, because I’m about to make a huge leap and the only way I could make that leap; a leap that is both forward and back at the same time; is with time away from the design. I’m lucky, there’s no deadline on this job. Time is a luxuy I can afford.
So, one night, on the way home from soccer, it hits me. It hits me not quite fully formed; but close.
The backwards leap I’ve made is to the chocolate shirts, and one color. I’ve brought back the dirt and added a distress layer to messy things up a little. I’ve flipped the direction that the worm is facing; giving some much needed contrast to the orderliness of the my font choice for the word Life.
I’ve now broken up the sentence into four distinct sections. Life is big and bold, so the eye heads there first, then follows the curve of handscrawled text to the head of the worm; where we begin to read left to right again. The smaller words TO and A are smaller than the word WORM, and so I make them physically smaller. The word DIGGING is more active and descriptive than the rest of the words on its line; so it too gets to be physically larger.
The hand-scrawled quality of the last line provides emphasis, much in the way that italics do in the body of a sentence.
Everything is really working for me now; so I further refine the design.
I eliminate the dirt from the design, deciding that the distress is messy enough, though I raise the distress above the last line of text so that it doesn’t lose any emphasis.
I pull the worm in closer to the word life, giving the design an almost “R” shape. It’s much more visually interesting than the previous arc-shaped incarnation. Because the worm is now overlapping some text, I outline it in shirt color to add separation.
I wrap the text around the worm-shape…it’s not perfect, but I think it still reads. Another weak point is the new area of trapped negative space between the LI in life and the body of the worm. I try to fill it as best I can with “to” and “a.” It is almost successful, and I enlarge the word worm, but, man, that’s a big comma. The last lines remain virtually unchanged.
The “finished” product is by no means brilliant, but I really think it’s working. The distress and the worm itself give a contrast in texture to the bold block letters. The handwritten text provides emphasis. The eye gets pulled all around the design, but I don’t think it is ever confusing. It reads; and has an interesting shape.
But maybe your analysis will be different?
Well, this post went on much longer than I thought it would, but its been fun writing about how this design came together (or not, if you disagree); I don’t get to delve much into thought process at work; so this has been an interesting exercise.
If you’ve stayed with me this long, thanks for your time.