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How to Win at Design by Humans

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How to Win at Design By Humans

I talked with Marc Hemeon, one of the brilliant minds behind the t-shirt design contest site Design by Humans. If you can remember, they were the only company able to pull off the impossible Bold is Beautiful shirt a few months back. Oliver had also won Shirt of the Month with his Concentric Downpour tee.

So, just how does one go about making winning tees at DBH? Marc gives us 5 tips to give yourself the best chance of winning the next Shirt of the Day.

1. Prepare Artwork at Final Production Size.

On our design submission page we have a footnote which reminds artists to have a high-res print ready version of their artwork ready to go if their artwork is selected as a winner. We get pretty bummed out we contact a winning artist only to find out he or she does not have a high-res version of their artwork ready for print.

Many artists work exclusively in Illustrator or other vector based program which allows for the greatest flexibility when it comes to sizing and placement of the artwork without losing quality of the design.

If you are designing exclusively in a pixel based program like Photoshop then you really need to ensure you are designing your artwork at the correct resolution. For example, if you were to design a center chest graphic and the design was 12 inches wide by 14 inches tall then your Photoshop file should be set to 300 dpi (300 dpi is the minimum resolution we will accept for final artwork) or 3,600 pixels wide and 4,200 pixels tall.

Double check how your artwork will be represented on various t-shirt sizes (view the size chart of the tees you are designing for). The canvas size varies greatly between a small girl’s shirt and a XXL men’s shirt. Occasionally we will create a separate set of screens for the girl’s shirts to shrink the artwork to accommodate the smaller t-shirt size. Producing your artwork for the largest t-size allows us to easily size the design down to create a second set of screens for the girls version. Sizing up low res artwork creates a big hot pixilated mess.

2. Push your design with the reasonable use of mixed media.

There is a huge trend right now in graphic tees to include various mixed media elements to enhance the underlying illustration. Mixed media is a broad term to include the various bonus techniques currently offered by the more advanced t-shirt printing companies. Some examples include burnout, discharge, embroidery, appliqué, metallic and foil inks.

One caveat, using mixed media in addition to your illustration is a bit like learning how to make drop shadows with Photoshop – meaning just because you CAN use mixed media does not mean you necessarily SHOULD.

Mixed media should enhance the artwork and drive home the theme and feeling of the design. One effective way of calling out mixed media is representing the shapes, lines and placement in a separate layer when working with Illustrator or Photoshop. Use one layer for each type of mixed media, labeling your layers by the mixed media type.

For example your design could call for an appliqué a of a silk screened heart on top of a silk screened t-shirt attached with thick embroidery. The embroidery stitching can be displayed to represent brush like strokes and texture into your designs. So, say you have a cool illustration of Tom Selleck on a tee, you could use embroidery for his hairy chest, giving a nice tactile feel.

3. Know and call out your colors (Pantone please!)

Bottom line, if an artist has not called out their specific pantone colors then we are left to match against the artwork we see on our computer screens. For the most part we are pretty good at getting colors correct when we have to interpret the colors for the artist (well we should say our color separator, Dan, is excellent at identifying color).

Not everyone has access to a pantone book, we get it, but do your best to identify your colors so there is no misunderstanding. Sometimes we have to make a judgment call based on the design submission and what we think the artist would have wanted. If artists can be very specific in their desired colors then our job of producing their vision is a bit easier.

4. Have your own style

Artistic expression is awesome. We read quite a bit in the blogs and forums about where a design “fits” in regards to finding a home for the design. For DBH we are really excited when we see a fresh voice and style and an artist being true to themselves and not catering to what they think will get the votes. Our suggestion is to use the DBH contest as a forum of expression and to explore yourself as an artist and create meaningful artwork for yourself – we find these pieces resonate more with the DBH community rather than something stereotypical of the latest winning designs. And of course, do not under any circumstances copy someone else’s design (its okay to be inspired by someone, but make it your own).

5. Be Awe-and-then-Some

This last point isn’t regarding art prep per se, but a reminder to spend the time necessary to make your piece as awesome as possible to speak volumes at first impression. T-shirt designs are judged in a split second when they are first seen and for most people there is a bit of a love it or over it mentality when it comes to t-shirt design.

We have seen many great concepts which fall short with the execution of the artwork. Get feedback on your designs in the various online forums and subject yourself to the critiquing process. You and your artwork will only get better.

About the Author, Jeff Finley

I'm a partner at Go Media, a Cleveland web design and development firm. We also specialize in print design and branding. I started Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and wrote the book Thread's Not Dead, teaching artists and designers how to start a clothing company. In my spare time, I write songs and play drums in Campfire Conspiracy. I'm a happy husband and an aspiring b-boy and lucid dreamer.
Discover More by Jeff Finley

Discussion

We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • bruno byington

    Hey Jeff,

    I wouldnt say that what Marc Hemeon is really giving out a recipe on how to win at DBH. The article just underlines the simple things that have to be considered when submitting shirts I guess. Anyway, have a good day.

    <3

    Bruno

  • Jeremy

    I don’t think there really is a specific recipe on how to win. These are simply guidelines to follow to give your self the best possible shot at it. Like the interview said, without these basic ground rules, even the best designs might fall short without the proper preparation and execution. My 2 cents…

  • bruno byington

    Hey Jeff,

    I wouldnt say that what Marc Hemeon is really giving out a recipe on how to win at DBH. The article just underlines the simple things that have to be considered when submitting shirts I guess. Anyway, have a good day.

    <3

    Bruno

  • http://www.grafikkid.com Chris Stauffer

    I own about 30 DBH t-shirts, no joke. Yet I have never bothered submitting one of my own designs, but now I think I will.

  • http://www.grafikkid.com Chris Stauffer

    I own about 30 DBH t-shirts, no joke. Yet I have never bothered submitting one of my own designs, but now I think I will.

  • John Holt

    Not a recipe but good groundwork laid here. Take head to these simple rules to foster success!

  • John Holt

    Not a recipe but good groundwork laid here. Take head to these simple rules to foster success!

  • http://www.battlemedialab.com Joe

    Some of those shirts are insanely nice.

    The mixed media thing is so interesting, I makes me wish I was a decent Illustrator — decent enough that is, to make some sick shirts.

    Kids, don’t stop drawing and painting to play High School sports unless you’re likely to get a college scholarship and go pro…

  • http://www.battlemedialab.com Joe

    Some of those shirts are insanely nice.

    The mixed media thing is so interesting, I makes me wish I was a decent Illustrator — decent enough that is, to make some sick shirts.

    Kids, don’t stop drawing and painting to play High School sports unless you’re likely to get a college scholarship and go pro…

  • http://www.geoffmay.com Geoff May

    Never submitted to DBH. I’m pretty lazy though.

  • http://www.geoffmay.com Geoff May

    Never submitted to DBH. I’m pretty lazy though.

  • ChequeredManiac

    I really want to submit a design, actually scratch that I want to come up with a design, that fresh and new and awesome. Its nice to see them supporting creativity rather than generica.

    Thanks for the post and to all involved, its good stuff.

  • ChequeredManiac

    Actually anyone got any advice for working with Pantone.

    I’m really new to Pantone so any advice would be appreciated.

    Are there swatch palettes in Illustrator that deal specifically with Apparel pantone over say cd print pantone, or is there any difference.

    Thanks

  • Jeremy

    I don’t think there really is a specific recipe on how to win. These are simply guidelines to follow to give your self the best possible shot at it. Like the interview said, without these basic ground rules, even the best designs might fall short without the proper preparation and execution. My 2 cents…

  • VRizo

    Yes, some advice with Pantone would be appreciated.

    Thanks for the the guidelines… you can never know too much of the basics!

  • VRizo

    Yes, some advice with Pantone would be appreciated.

    Thanks for the the guidelines… you can never know too much of the basics!

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  • ChequeredManiac

    I really want to submit a design, actually scratch that I want to come up with a design, that fresh and new and awesome. Its nice to see them supporting creativity rather than generica.

    Thanks for the post and to all involved, its good stuff.

  • ChequeredManiac

    Actually anyone got any advice for working with Pantone.

    I’m really new to Pantone so any advice would be appreciated.

    Are there swatch palettes in Illustrator that deal specifically with Apparel pantone over say cd print pantone, or is there any difference.

    Thanks

  • http://colorburned.com Grant Friedman

    I completely agree with #1. Even outside of garment design, it’s important to work in high resolution just so you have something to place in your printed portfolio. There’s nothing more annoying than having to redesign a piece that you did a while back because you did it in low res and now you need a printed version.

  • http://colorburned.com Grant Friedman

    I completely agree with #1. Even outside of garment design, it’s important to work in high resolution just so you have something to place in your printed portfolio. There’s nothing more annoying than having to redesign a piece that you did a while back because you did it in low res and now you need a printed version.

  • http://www.behance.net/alexbeltechi Alex Beltechi

    A good read! But i have a critical question. How important is voting, and how do you get votes? Where do you get exposure? If you have few votes, does that mean that your tee won’t be printed, or just left on “on a shelf”.

    I made a personal series of experiments in Photoshop, and I’m thinking about converting it into DBH tees… But getting votes is the problem. Here is my series anyway.. http://www.behance.net/Gallery/Draw/124076
    and t-shirt: http://www.designbyhumans.com/vote/detail/27754

  • http://www.behance.net/alexbeltechi Alex Beltechi

    A good read! But i have a critical question. How important is voting, and how do you get votes? Where do you get exposure? If you have few votes, does that mean that your tee won’t be printed, or just left on “on a shelf”.

    I made a personal series of experiments in Photoshop, and I’m thinking about converting it into DBH tees… But getting votes is the problem. Here is my series anyway.. http://www.behance.net/Gallery/Draw/124076
    and t-shirt: http://www.designbyhumans.com/vote/detail/27754

  • http://www.gomedia.us Jeff Finley

    Voting is important, and DBH uses it to gauge the popularity of a potential tee. But in the end, DBH will print what they think will sell and/or make them look good. Which is totally cool, because it helps prevent spamming the system.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Jeff Finley

    Voting is important, and DBH uses it to gauge the popularity of a potential tee. But in the end, DBH will print what they think will sell and/or make them look good. Which is totally cool, because it helps prevent spamming the system.

  • http://www.behance.net/alexbeltechi Alex Beltechi

    Thanks for the reply. As a quick impression on voting, it seemed to me like there’s a sort of “you scratch my back, i’ll scratch yours…” among the ones that submit designs. It’s reassuring to know that DBH has the final word.

  • http://www.behance.net/alexbeltechi Alex Beltechi

    Thanks for the reply. As a quick impression on voting, it seemed to me like there’s a sort of “you scratch my back, i’ll scratch yours…” among the ones that submit designs. It’s reassuring to know that DBH has the final word.

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  • Tim H

    Alex, your designs are awesome, and I think the one you submitted would make an awesome Tee (I would certainly buy it), however one thing that I think is extremely important, is that you don’t use the DBH templates, instead use real stock’s of Tshirts, like the ones available here in GoMedia’s arsenal. You can have incredible designs, but unless people can imagine exactly what the prints will look like in print, they don’t get easily wow’ed. Especially as most of the people buying Tees on DBH aren’t designers, so can’t fill in the blanks themselves.

  • Tim H

    Alex, your designs are awesome, and I think the one you submitted would make an awesome Tee (I would certainly buy it), however one thing that I think is extremely important, is that you don’t use the DBH templates, instead use real stock’s of Tshirts, like the ones available here in GoMedia’s arsenal. You can have incredible designs, but unless people can imagine exactly what the prints will look like in print, they don’t get easily wow’ed. Especially as most of the people buying Tees on DBH aren’t designers, so can’t fill in the blanks themselves.

  • ChrisOmlor

    As far as votes DBH does not choose the winners by votes for those that are long term members already are fully aware of this (it all comes down to what do the owners like)- well I won’t go there. For members that have over 200 votes and no wins just to get won over by someone that has 30 votes in a month, I know how you feel. Sad to say, but Marc is suggesting mixed media when the truth is they have been cutting costs by printing low colors, little or no mixed media, and prefer to keep prints on one side of the shirt. Needless to say, this is why some of the best artists you won’t find on DBH, sorry for the reality check.

  • ChrisOmlor

    As far as votes DBH does not choose the winners by votes for those that are long term members already are fully aware of this (it all comes down to what do the owners like)- well I won’t go there. For members that have over 200 votes and no wins just to get won over by someone that has 30 votes in a month, I know how you feel. Sad to say, but Marc is suggesting mixed media when the truth is they have been cutting costs by printing low colors, little or no mixed media, and prefer to keep prints on one side of the shirt. Needless to say, this is why some of the best artists you won’t find on DBH, sorry for the reality check.

  • http://www.designbyhumans.com Marc Hemeon

    Lets clarify a few things – Jeff Finley asked me to write “5 tips for designers when working with Apparel Companies” – I am not sure why they titled this “How to win at DBH” – but oh well.

    To respond to ChrisOmior, many of our recent designs have been well over 10 colors, using huge 52 inch jumbo screens printed all over or wrapped around the tees, a fairly expensive process which is hard to duplicate. We don’t print a lot of mixed media because we rarely get any mixed media submissions and would love to see more.

    We take many things into consideration when choosing winners, one factor being votes. Not all votes have equal weight, for example if a design gets posted followed by a flurry of 200 votes in a day or two by recently created accounts from users who have never commented, voted, submitted, purchased or otherwise participated will not have as much voting power or credibility as a design with 30 votes from community members who consistently participate, purchase and otherwise are involved in the community. Submitting a design and having 100 of your myspace friends vote is good for getting the word out, but can also seem a bit “spammy” for lack of a better word. In addition to votes we review comments, online buzz about the art, quality and creativity of design – for example if someone submits something totally amazing, and the design somehow gets overlooked through voting we still reserve the option to select this design as a win purely on merit.

    We have some AMAZING artists on DBH, and we think they are some of the best out there and back them 100%, we are lucky to have such great talent. With the recent DBH 10K contest we have REALLY been blown away by the amount of the talent that came forth to compete for $10,000.

  • http://www.designbyhumans.com Marc Hemeon

    Lets clarify a few things – Jeff Finley asked me to write “5 tips for designers when working with Apparel Companies” – I am not sure why they titled this “How to win at DBH” – but oh well.

    To respond to ChrisOmior, many of our recent designs have been well over 10 colors, using huge 52 inch jumbo screens printed all over or wrapped around the tees, a fairly expensive process which is hard to duplicate. We don’t print a lot of mixed media because we rarely get any mixed media submissions and would love to see more.

    We take many things into consideration when choosing winners, one factor being votes. Not all votes have equal weight, for example if a design gets posted followed by a flurry of 200 votes in a day or two by recently created accounts from users who have never commented, voted, submitted, purchased or otherwise participated will not have as much voting power or credibility as a design with 30 votes from community members who consistently participate, purchase and otherwise are involved in the community. Submitting a design and having 100 of your myspace friends vote is good for getting the word out, but can also seem a bit “spammy” for lack of a better word. In addition to votes we review comments, online buzz about the art, quality and creativity of design – for example if someone submits something totally amazing, and the design somehow gets overlooked through voting we still reserve the option to select this design as a win purely on merit.

    We have some AMAZING artists on DBH, and we think they are some of the best out there and back them 100%, we are lucky to have such great talent. With the recent DBH 10K contest we have REALLY been blown away by the amount of the talent that came forth to compete for $10,000.

  • Ragnar Þór

    hi guys, another fantastic article!

    here is my first DBH tee. Hope that you like it and please vote for me :p

    http://www.designbyhumans.com/vote/detail/28137

    • Kunjan soni

      how did u make a Tee on the computer…. is there any software??

  • Ragnar Þór

    hi guys, another fantastic article!

    here is my first DBH tee. Hope that you like it and please vote for me :p

    http://www.designbyhumans.com/vote/detail/28137

  • http://www.gomedia.us Jeff Finley

    @Marc Hemeon – Yeah I was going to post your answers in the “5 tips for designers when working with Apparel Companies” article I’m about to write, but the article was just way too long, Some other contributors basically wrote a novel, so I figured your answers stood on their own as some tips for doing well at Design by Humans.

    I titled it “How to Win at DBH” because, well, for the most part, you explained what you want and what you look for in a winner. I can understand why people would click this looking for some secret formula on how to game the system at DBH, but I figured you’re words put it best.

    Anyway, thanks for clearing up the “do votes matter” issue. If you want to do any more articles for our zine, you’re always welcome Marc!

  • http://www.gomedia.us Jeff Finley

    @Marc Hemeon – Yeah I was going to post your answers in the “5 tips for designers when working with Apparel Companies” article I’m about to write, but the article was just way too long, Some other contributors basically wrote a novel, so I figured your answers stood on their own as some tips for doing well at Design by Humans.

    I titled it “How to Win at DBH” because, well, for the most part, you explained what you want and what you look for in a winner. I can understand why people would click this looking for some secret formula on how to game the system at DBH, but I figured you’re words put it best.

    Anyway, thanks for clearing up the “do votes matter” issue. If you want to do any more articles for our zine, you’re always welcome Marc!

  • http://www.designbyhumans.com Marc Hemeon

    Thanks again Jeff for the article, we appreciate your time and energies and your amazing site! DBH is all about celebrating artists and art from all over the world and we have had a wonderful first year and year two has started off with some of the most amazing t-shirt designs I have ever seen!

  • http://www.designbyhumans.com Marc Hemeon

    Thanks again Jeff for the article, we appreciate your time and energies and your amazing site! DBH is all about celebrating artists and art from all over the world and we have had a wonderful first year and year two has started off with some of the most amazing t-shirt designs I have ever seen!

  • http://www.designbyhumans.com/vote/detail/25168 aj dimarucot

    So marc is that the way you’ll be judging the votes for the 10K contest or is it purely just the number of votes? =)

  • http://www.designbyhumans.com/vote/detail/25168 aj dimarucot

    So marc is that the way you’ll be judging the votes for the 10K contest or is it purely just the number of votes? =)

  • http://www.designbyhumans.com marc

    AJ – The winner will be determined purely by the greatest number of authentic votes (yes we do have fraud voting occasionally and have protections to ensure the fraud votes do not get counted).

  • http://www.designbyhumans.com marc

    AJ – The winner will be determined purely by the greatest number of authentic votes (yes we do have fraud voting occasionally and have protections to ensure the fraud votes do not get counted).

  • http://ameturishatbest.blogspot.com/ Jonah Block

    the point on about color was interesting. unfortunately I’m colorblind so often tones I pick are almost chosen at random (like should I pick this yellow or that yellow. is there a specific color set people intrested in making should use?

  • http://ameturishatbest.blogspot.com/ Jonah Block

    the point on about color was interesting. unfortunately I’m colorblind so often tones I pick are almost chosen at random (like should I pick this yellow or that yellow. is there a specific color set people intrested in making should use?

  • http://choppre.deviantart.com Chopper | ChopperDesigns

    thsnks for tip!

  • http://choppre.deviantart.com Chopper | ChopperDesigns

    thsnks for tip!

  • http://choppre.deviantart.com Chopper | ChopperDesigns

    thanks!

  • http://choppre.deviantart.com Chopper | ChopperDesigns

    thanks!

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  • http://tinyurl.com/96cwpc Great Printing Site

    Great post. Thanks for sharing!I also have an online printing website to recommend. Check out at my website.38

  • http://tinyurl.com/96cwpc Great Printing Site

    Great post. Thanks for sharing!I also have an online printing website to recommend. Check out at my website.38

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  • buzzfuzz

    Good tips, but the title is a technique to get people to read this article. The title is misinformative and therefore should be changed. Those tips are common sense. But thanks for the insight and refresh.

  • Dan

    Excellent job..
    dizi izle

  • http://www.facebook.com/dennis.portello Dennis Portello

    DBH is not getting any more of my business. Their customer service is terrible and arrogant. The shirts all kinda look the same after a while anyway.