5 questions to ask yourself before designing a T-shirt

So, you want to do something a little different this year and design a t-shirt – nice one. But, before you get started, there's a few things you need to consider.

Contrary to what a lot of people seem to believe, the design process isn’t something that just anyone can dive into and immerse themselves in. It’s something that requires knowledge and planning. Foresight. Caution. 

It’s one of the reasons you see so many terrible T-shirts on the market – plenty of folks don’t understand this, and instead blunder their way into making a shirt that misses every single mark. You need to make sure you aren’t one of them. We've already covered some top tips for better t-shirt design, and we've also got some brilliant Illustrator tutorials to help you out, but before you get started, you should really ask yourself these questions...

01. Why am I designing this?

Are you trying to promote awareness of a brand? Working to launch a clothing line? Just want to put together an awesome shirt to share with the public? You need to have some idea of your core message in mind before you design, as people with different goals are going to end up creating very different shirts.

02. Who am I designing this for?

Your audience is every bit as important as the core message/purpose of your shirt. Something designed for 14-year-old kids, for example, is generally going to look very different from a shirt made for twenty-somethings. Focus on the audience whose attention you want to grab, and design with them in mind.

blue cotton screenshot

Services like Blue Cotton allow the design of custom screen printed t-shirts in a special design studio

03. Is there a market for my design?

Here’s the most important question – and probably the most difficult to answer, as it’ll require some pretty extensive market research. You’ve got your audience well in mind, but are you certain they’ll be interested in what you’ve got to offer? Can you say beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’ll be filling a niche that hasn’t already been filled by a competitor? 

04. Do I have the necessary expertise for this project?

What sort of design experience do you have? Are you confident in your ability to put together a T-shirt that’s both aesthetically appealing and suited to your purpose? There’s no shame in bringing in an external designer if you’re uncertain you can make it on your own – as a matter of fact, I’d honestly recommend calling on an expert. 

05. How will I handle production?

Last but certainly not least, once you’ve got the design all figured out and finalised, how will you market it? How will you deliver it to your audience? Will it be in a physical, brick-and-mortar storefront, available as a prize at an event, or available to order at an online store? In the case of the latter two, how are you going to deliver it? More importantly, what sort of price point are you going to offer? What materials will you use? These are all questions that you need to answer before you even think about designing a shirt – but once you’ve answered them, you’re good to go!

Lead image courtesy of HypeForType.

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Brad Wayland
Brad Wayland is Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.