That would look great on a T-shirt

This here thing

That would look great on a T-shirt

 A long time ago, when all of this was still green fields, I shared a flat at university with a guy that made his own t-shirts. He got them printed at a wee print shop tucked away near Kelvingrove station in Glasgow’s west end. He was particularly taken with the design on the Tetra Pak milk cartons produced by Robert Wiseman dairies. Don’t ask me why. University affords us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves, and he went for milk cartons on t-shirts. On reflection, he was quite possibly ahead of his time. 

When I sift back through a conversation I’ve recorded with a client, looking for visual ideas, I often find myself playing with a logo, or a hand-drawn unofficial logo, and wondering what it might look like on a T-shirt or as a sticker on a laptop. 

There’s something pretty powerful about someone wanting to wear a t-shirt or to stick a sticker on their laptop. They’re saying I’m aligned to this – this is part of who I am

Over the last year I’ve been working on a series of Zines – cartoons and stories about growing up in troubled Ulster. The third Zine in the series looks back to a disremembered time when Ulster Presbyterians cradled the fragile beginnings of Irish Republicanism back in the late 1790s. It started as a secretive group called the Muddlers Club. It evolved into the Society of the United Irishmen. It ended in a failed bloody uprising that would change Ulster forever.

But of course I never knew about any of it until recently, as to some it has proved an inconvenient history incompatible with the tribal polarisation that dominated Ulster in my youth.

Badge of United Irishmen

It is new strung and shall be heard…

When I stumbled across the United Irishmen movement’s logo, I was immediately fascinated with it. It sparked a curious idea to create my own version of the Muddlers Club logo – which ended up becoming central to the Zine I was trying to write.

Drawing on an iPad with RGB colour allows you to put bright orange on top of a deep blue. Turn the zing up to 11 and make it pop! And it wasn’t too long before I returned to it and thought – I wonder what that would look like on a T-shirt?

The Muddlers Club

I get most of my T-shirts and stickers printed by Sticker Mule these days. They run an offer every week that often catches my eye. It’s perfect for a small pilot run – to test out an idea – to turn digital into physical. The trouble is that most of my T-shirts are now self-designed experiments, and I can only wear one at once! 

Me wearing a custom T-shirt

Bryan sporting a self-designed Penguin T-shirt designed for GO-GN

Stickers on the other hand are a whole different matter. I decided to get a run of stickers featuring the Muddlers Club logo for the special first few people who ordered the latest Zine. 

Mags Amond - Post

Zines & Custom Stickers

If you’re interested in some Zines about Ulster you can check them out here.

AND if you’d like to get some custom stickers or T-shirts made by Sticker Mule and you want a discount you can get £8/$10 off and if you do, I’ll get the same off my next experiment…

Visual Stickery

Visual Stickery

The seed was planted with the Reclaim Hosting logo I created a year or so ago. Jim Groom got some stickers and T-shirts printed — and Reclaim merch went global. Some time later, I found myself at a meeting when someone opened their laptop… the Reclaim logo staring back at me.

Apple aren’t so slow — they know that anyone opening a Macbook says something to the person opposite. They probably want you to keep it nice and clean too… But a few unorthodox individuals had asked me “can I have that artwork you did as a laptop sticker?” I really liked the idea, but when I looked into setting up a sticker service — it seemed to me to be more trouble than it was worth.

Recently though, I backed a friend’s Kickstarter campaign to produce a small print run of a comic he had created. I was intrigued at how by supporting him, I found myself with a different connection both with him and his work.

And so I began to entertain the idea of a crowdfunded campaign of some of my artwork. And so Visual Stickery was born…

Now that I’m retelling the story, here was my simple reasoning:

  • I know very little about crowdfunding campaigns, so what better way to get up to speed than actually do one? Treat everything like an experiment.
  • If everyone ordered at the same time, we could do a single print run for printing stickers. And if no-one buys any stickers, we can reasonably cut our losses without having spent money on printing. If we’re going to fail, let’s fail early.
  • At the time, my Rookie was finishing their first 6 months at my non-profit wapisasa CIC, and so I had the opportunity of employing them for 2 days a week. Great experience for them — and a companion on the journey for me. Find good people — keep good people.
  • If we made any surplus, I decided it would go to wapisasa, and therefore help develop more Rookies, making this a sort of fundraiser rather than a profit-maker. As a result, we decided that Indiegogo would be a more appropriate crowdfunding platform than Kickstarter. I’m not about profit; I’m about people…

Most of the stickers I chose were created as a result of a conversation with someone (that’s where the gold is, I tell thee!). As I consider it to be some of my best work so far, I asked Audrey Watters and Jim Groom if they would be happy with us including designs I had done for them. Awesome people that they are, they were quick to give me their support and encouragement.

After getting the artwork created, we ordered a small prototype print run to see what the feel and quality was like. I was keen to experiment with transparent-edged stickers, hopefully giving a “tattoo” feel, which I think fits with the creations. This idea led to us dipping into tattoo metaphors and lingo. When the prototypes arrived, I wasn’t disappointed —  I immediately had to put them all over my laptop — and they’re still there!

Whilst we were busy thinking about stickers, an offer came serendipitously across our paths to also get some pin badges (or buttons in the US) made too. So we decided to add those to the campaign as well…

So the product shaped up — but what I hadn’t banked on was how much work it was to articulate the message of the campaign. 

One thing I always try to do when thinking about articulating anything is to tell the story. I think about a hero, a villain, the hero’s vision, and their plan…

This campaign has now completed. Here’s how we got on.

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