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One of my first jobs that started me on the path to becoming a graphic designer and marketing communications professional was with Camp’s IntelligenTees in Richmond, Virginia. I was 13 and helped for a week one summer to illustrate and put together their non-profit t-shirt catalogue. That was before the age of computers in a distant universe it seems. But to this day that experience has imparted to me a love for t-shirts.

Fast forward to 2007 when I first came to the Lynchburg, Virginia area and was getting established professionally, I was working two part time jobs. In the morning I was working as a graphic designer in the now defunct sign shop, SLAM (Signs, Logos and More) – in the afternoons I worked as a t-shirt designer at the screen-printing shop, Cotton Connection (still highly recommend!) in downtown Lynchburg – right by the T-Room (aka: The Texas Inn). In both places I was engaged in a hands-on, crash course in vector art creation – and at Cotton Connection I was cutting my teeth on a Mac computer. It was PC in the morning and Mac in the afternoon!

Today, it is always fun to revisit my t-shirt designing days by cooking up new designs for my clients. I wanted to bring a few t-shirt designs out of the archive and mention them because they have never made it onto the new blog here.

The first t-shirt design I wanted to highlight was for the wildly popular Grateful Dead tribute band, Bigfoot County – headed up by the forever-enthusiastic, Phillip Gabathuler. They needed a custom band t-shirt to sell at shows and they ended up having them printed in a lot of different colors; which looked great. I hand drew the artwork and then vectorized it, cleaned it up and added to it in Adobe Illustrator – see the final result above. On a related note: one of the Bigfoot County band members was traveling by plane back in 2014 and just happened to stumble into the still-active musician, Phil Lesh (of Grateful Dead fame) – and gave him one of the t-shirts!!

The second t-shirt design I wanted to mention is the still-in-circulation ‘Get Local’ shirt I designed for Four Corners Farm. They wanted a shirt that promoted the local food movement in general but also subtly promoted their brand. In the design I incorporated their rooster logo (which I also designed back in the day!) on the top of a barn outline and placed their website name sideways and a bit smaller to allow context but not prominence. The end result was a t-shirt design that any local food advocate would love to own and our friends at Four Corners Farm even gave one to the well-known agrarian writer and poet, Wendell Berry when they saw him at a speaking event. I doubt he wears it but I always imagine it sitting in a drawer somewhere on his farm.

T-shirts are a brilliant way to promote a business or organization – or just to communicate a bold message. There are very few mediums in our culture that are as powerful as the t-shirt. T-shirts can stir up conversations with strangers, illicit delighted or angry responses, make profound social commentary, cause a contagious smile with quick humor, or quickly communicate to everyone you meet the things you are most passionate about. The next time you need a t-shirt designed you know who to call 😉 !


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