This is a process post about designing a t-shirt for Adam WarRock - from concept to final execution.
Backstory: Adam WarRock is a rapper whose songs range from the personal to the political to pop culture. His stuff is breath of fresh air because it’s fun, which is a word that you can rarely apply to rap these days.
We ran into Adam at SPX; he picked up a copy of JW:V1 and shortly thereafter recorded a Johnny Wander rap. It broke down the past 3 years of our life with the same breathtaking efficiency with which he wrote the song. When he asked Yuko and I to design a 2011 tee for him, we of course said yes.
A lot of images behind the cut.
Even though we’re designing for a friend, I approached it the same way I do client work - find out the requirements. His only request was that the t-shirt not be overtly “Adam WarRock” oriented, but otherwise we had carte blanche. I came back to him with a list of ideas,
- a girl smoking
- a crest or coat of arms
- a modified, simplified classical painting/illustration - Mucha, Escher
- vintage video game
He said he liked the idea of a smoking girl (I think the pun was intended), but in the meantime Yuko had really latched onto the idea of doing something Mucha-inspired. I dug up a bunch of Mucha stuff that I thought looked particularly striking:
and this is the one that really grabbed us:
There’s a great intensity here, like who’s more dangerous - the snake or the woman? She’s also addressing the audience, and Yuko’s got a knack for drawing beasts besides. At this point, Yuko started doing some loose thumbnails, on the subway and in a coffee shop while we stopped in to refuel. Below:
Already I’m liking the skull mask.
This idea is getting definition, but we realized two things: 1. It didn’t quite capture the vibe from the original Mucha picture, and 2. This design looks similar to something Miss Monster did a while back. Oops!
Yuko’s next thumbnail was spot-on:
The woman in the Mucha piece was very in-charge, and this captures that - lounging with this beast at her beck and call. After that Yuko got down to the pencils, setting up a 4 circle composition by tracing CDs. She scanned,
pulled it into Photoshop and dropped circles in to recreate the composition - using her new guides she completed the missing parts of the design digitally (right, in blue):
at which point she got to work on the Cintiq. This is about 70% of the way there,
At this point we took a few minutes to talk about the design so far. It’s looking pretty solid! But … smoking girl’s leg seems to lose legibility at a distance, and the font could stand to be more modern. Yuko went back in for tweaks and I got my spear and went font hunting. Found something nice on Font Squirrel.
At this point Adam told us that he’d done a blue shirt last year, so he was looking for some other palettes. We sent him a range,
The silver and army shirts were the overwhelming favorites. Here’s what they looked like in the end!
And that’s that. At this point we finalized the tee brand we’d be printing on and I added Pantone information to the files for the printer.
Adam talks about the shirts here. Both variants will be available in Mens and Womens sizes in Adam WarRock’s online store. Hope this was illuminating! Every Johnny Wander t-shirt comes about through some some variation of this process.
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