Design insights & tutorials.

Design Process: “Sick” Metal Band T-Shirt

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design-process-sick-tshirt-headerThis is the first in a new series we’re going to run on Go Media ‘Zine: Design Process. We’re going to throw an imaginary project at the Go Media designers, and ask them to give us an overview of how they would approach the project. Not so much a tutorial on how to create the artwork, but rather how to tackle all of the logistical details. We’re hoping you all enjoy. We’re going to kick things off with none other than Go Media’s Jeff Finley.

The Project:

You’re hired to create a “sick” t-shirt design for a major label Metal band. Their fans also listen to Metallica, Slayer, Slipknot, and Mushroomhead. Describe how you would make something that would appeal to those fans and sell at stores like Hot Topic or Spencers and what software you would use to create it. (Keep in mind the look of those bands merch and how you would create something similar).

The Process:

1. Familiarize Yourself

The first step is to get acquainted with the project and familiarize myself with the bands, fans, and the merch referenced in the brief. I’m don’t need to be a fan of the band I’m designing for, nor do I really have to be a fan of any of the others. But I like to at least listen to the band, maybe check out some lyrics, and their previous merch to see what has been done before.

2. Determine Style

Determine the design style. My main responsibility is to understand the vibe and aesthetic. This entire process really only takes less than 5 minutes because I’m already familiar with the bands and know exactly what style I’m to design in. In this case, I know I’ll be drawing something. What am I going to draw? My instinct tells me it’s going to be dark, demonic, and scary on a black t-shirt. But I shouldn’t be so quick to assume that, maybe the band wants something different. I better go back and reread their brief. Brb…

3. Read the Brief

OK, just read the brief and it turns out they want nothing new. OK, just like I thought. The brief says “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here. We just want something sick, that will appeal to people are into metal. You know, skulls, roses, blood, blades, etc.”

4. Assess The Budget

Talk to the client and assess budget. At this point, I would normally talk to the client about what subject matter they want in the tee and propose some ideas. Once I have a good idea of what they want and how much they can afford, I’ll get to the sketch phase. I suggest that maybe we use some of their lyrics about collecting dead birds and how it relates to a broken heart. I don’t need to REALLY understand it, but I can use some of those images in my sketch. Client likes the idea, so I move on.

5. Concept Sketches

Sketch up my concept. I’ll flesh out my approved concept on paper and I’ll show the client. This way they can give me feedback on overall composition, the meaning, the subject matter, etc. Just for sake of this article, my sketch might be a dead bird lying on its back autopsy style with a beating heart inside. Around the design I might add embellishments like graphical spikes, flourishes, grunge, etc.

6. Go Digital

Digitally ink, color, etc. I like to move to the computer after the client has approved my sketch. In this stage, I will likely use my Wacom tablet to digitally ink my sketches. I’ll gather reference material for the subject matter I am creating (in this case birds and hearts). My linework usually is black and I limit my color palette to about 3-4 colors. I’ll might use some stock vector elements from the Arsenal if I’m adding in decorative vector ornaments, flourishes, tribals, etc.

7. Proofs

Post proofs and mockups: Once I have a design finished how I like it under the budget they have given me, I’ll mock up the shirts on our photo-realistic t-shirt templates so the client can better see how the design will look on a shirt. I’ve found the more realistic you can present their idea in the real world, the more approvals you’ll win.

8. Revisions

Turns out the client liked the design, but they just want some color changes. So I’ll go back and make those changes, log my time spent on them and show the client new revised proofs. If they hate the design (unlikely, because they already approved the sketch and concept) then we reassess the budget and how much they can afford to start over. This rarely happens.

9. Final design

They give me a final approval on the design, then we send the invoice for the remaining hours. Once they’re all paid up, I prepare the final files for print. Usually that just means organizing the PSD or AI files, saving out flattened high res versions, etc. I don’t typically do color separations for tees, we save that job for the printer.

10. Send the files

At Go Media we like to burn everything on a disc and mail the final files to the client. We also send them online via YouSendIt. Both ways to make sure they get the file. We also send out a mini survey so they can give us feedback on how we did. Most of the time it’s 9’s and 10’s but occasionally we’ll get a 7 or 8 :)

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.

  • Tebe

    Very interesting article, I highly enjoyed reading it! :)

  • lupzdut

    Thank you so much for this and your other articles. They are great help to us beginners, so keep up the great work folks!

  • Simon H.

    Nice idea! Can't wait to read more of that series.

  • http://www.chrisobriendesign.com/ Chris OB

    Can you possibly post a copy of your customer survey? I've been thinking of creating one of these for to send to my clients, and I'd love to see what yours consists of.

  • http://twitter.com/tim_hammond tim_hammond

    Some great insight there.

  • http://designawardsgallery.com/ Best CSS Gallery

    These are really the basic steps of the process, thanx for a very exact and interesting description.

  • http://www.geoffmay.com Geoff May

    I like this design process series idea. I'm actually working on some metal tees now and am hitting a wall. Sometimes hearing other people's processes help get the creative juices flowing. Good read!

  • http://nl-nl.facebook.com/alex.timmer Alex Timmer

    This is an awesome idea. Something we all could learn from. Though I do wonder how that bird would've looked on a real T!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/BajeDrift-Motorsport/819480062 BajeDrift Motorsport

    Can you comment further on your pricing structure?
    Not the dollars and cents, but mainly how would you scale your work according to price.

    As a new designer, I find it difficult to “water down” my art to fit a budget.
    Any tips on that?

    Regards,

  • http://www.gomedia.us jeff_finley

    We bill hourly, so I know how long it normally takes to do something and I quote that. If they have a budget in mind, I'll generally scale back the scope of what I'm working on to fit the time they can afford.

  • Life Settlements

    The detail in the article is great!

  • http://colamonstrosity.tumblr.com/ cola

    Very helpful article. Enjoyed reading it. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/BajeDrift-Motorsport/819480062 BajeDrift Motorsport

    Makes sense. Thanks alot. I guess that billing intuition only comes with increased clientèle.

  • http://www.ngagelive.com/ Live Chat

    Very helpful article! Familiarity with the band's fans is definitely important because that is who you are designing for. You must be on target with what they like.

  • bar

    very helpful, nice article..

  • BuLLDoSer

    Hi there! Very interesting site you have here, nice work great information.I think many people agrees with me.

  • The D

    Great article.. very usefull info!!!!, but you forget use screenshots to illustrated, everithing is better with images… :)

  • Dan

    Excellent job..
    dizi izle

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  • http://www.cardsoftware.net Amanda Smit

    Thank you! Great read on how to plan and approach the design process for a metal band t-shirt, and this could be used for other design projects too!

  • http://www.cardsoftware.net Amanda Smit

    Thank you! Great read on how to plan and approach the design process for a metal band t-shirt, and this could be used for other design projects too!

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