Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Presenting The Graphic T-Shirt

The way you choose to present your graphic t-shirts should be one of the top considerations when you operate an online t-shirt business. Online shops present many advantages - the obvious being that designers can reach consumers from all corners of the world. That connection however is not a tactile one, making our decisions regarding visual presentation all the more important.
The online retail market is filled with varying methods of presenting t-shirts. You can enlist fans and/or friends to model your tees (GritFX recently employed some interesting models, as seen on the left), model them yourself (if you're game), photograph your tees on hangers, lay them out flat, or do something all together different. Brands that have strong visual presentation will have three things in common:

1. Relevance - to the brand and the brands' target market.
2. Originality - remember the purple cow? Be Remarkable!
3. Consistency - in style, and in keeping with the philosophy of the brand.

In other words, your presentation needs to ROC it!... (Okay, so I'm trying to coin a phrase here...let me know if it catches on...)
When you're brainstorming ideas on how you'll present your t-shirts, remember that customers buying graphic t-shirts will want to not only see the kind of t-shirt they are purchasing - style, cut, colour - they want to see the artwork. Your presentation should cover points 1 to 3 above, together with delivering an accurate representation of the colours and providing clear views of the printed graphics. It's also sometimes a good idea to occasionally do a re-vamp and employ some of the new web design trends - for instance, right now the use of a lightbox plugin for viewing alternate and larger images is popular (something you'll see in the examples below).
That's not too much to remember...Is it...?
A short design assessment of some of the brands I consider to be on the A-list for visual presentation may assist you in finding your own path to Manz's red carpet...
Thriving Ink

Thriving Ink - an independent t-shirt brand - was once a family business that is now run solely by Matthew Dronkers. With new-found freedom, Matt took the opportunity to make some changes and the site was re-branded in June this year! You can read more about that on The Tee Gazette - Promo Alert: Thriving Ink gets relaunched!. 
The home page has a slick and linear layout. Customers are presented with a striking, large photograph of a Thriving Ink product, hanging on a slick steel pole - a choice of "hanger" that adds nicely to the polished appeal of the site. The minimal grey background is carried throughout all photography and complements every tee colour in their range. This approach works for the brand and also provides another opportunity to re-iterate the brand! Potential customers can clearly see the Thriving Ink inner t-shirt label, and it's a great way to show individual numbering and any special neck label prints - something original to a brand that showcases shirts which are "designed by real artists from around the world as art for art’s sake". The "front on" view is consistent throughout and when customers are on individual product landing pages, they have the option to view alternate perspectives through the use of a lightbox plugin.

As of the date of this post, you will also see a graphic for the "$15 Grab Bag" - this is a montage of last season's tees shown on a model, clearly illustrating Matt's departure from one form of presentation to another. 

Lady Umbrella

Do I really need to introduce Lady Umbrella to our readers? In case you're a random reader, here is a little background... Lady Umbrella is a range of ladies t-shirts by Spanish designer Elena Montes Casado which was launched upon the world early this year. (Our Irishman Rob is the man behind all the marketing and social media activities for the brand.) They launched with a collection of 6 t-shirts, which are now displayed beautifully on their home page as a slide show of images from their first photoshoot. 
Appropriately for their tag line "stay happy", they employed a lovely lady with a beautiful smile to model their tees. Each photo is shot with consistent lighting and a neutral background that's warm, complementary to the t-shirt colours, and shows off shadows nicely - which actually links visually to the shadow work in the t-shirt graphics. Additional photography and views from the same photoshoot are available through their Gallery section. 
Once those photographs have your attention, you'll most likely find yourself in the shop section which is designed as a very easy to follow catalogue of the tees. These tee images are void of the model and scripted to load a very decent sized image displaying all the fine details in Elena's work. This feature is provided via the use of a lightbox plugin that is also utilised in the aforementioned gallery.
If we exit the main site for a moment, one of the other methods Lady Umbrella is using to present their tees is video. It's important to note that if and when you do a competition draw or the like, try to show off your tees! Lady Umbrella does this nicely using their artist Elena as a model. This concept extends to promotional pieces the brand creates when sharing what's coming to the collection - often decorated by the artist in the same style as the t-shirt artwork.

Dos Chicos Tees

Founder of Dos Chicos Tees, Joe Pino, values the quality of art on t-shirts so highly that he enlisted Bryan Vega to bring "Joe's wonderfully witty comedy to life" (to quote the site). This philosophy clearly extends to the unique presentation of design thumbnails in the form of illustrated t-shirts - a simple tee outline acts as a frame for the t-shirt artwork. This minimalist hand-drawn look is also applied to other elements of the site such as photo borders, and complements the drawn "doodle" elements in the brands' logo.
Once a design has grabbed you, the product landing page provides a photographed version of the t-shirt - laid out so that the graphic is clearly visible, yet wrinkled enough to emphasize the fabric. More views are also available to customers through the use of a lightbox plugin. This feature presents a clear view of the design artwork plus a larger version of the photographed tee.
Dos Chicos Tees presentation doesn't stop there with a section of their website dedicated to "People". Real people in real life situations show off their Dos Chicos Tees. If I may quote the site one final time, these people are "Not paid models, not mannequins, not actors, not dolls." Having someone else say how they love your product can mean more than you shouting it from the rooftops - having a fan photo gallery is a visual incarnation of this idea.
Detour Designables

Detour Designables is one of the many users of Print-On-Demand (POD) services. Acknowledging the value of your own domain, Juna has set up an appropriate "portal" for his designs. Showcasing over 100 designs, the website presents these as pages of classic round edged thumbnails. The approach is perfect for a large catalogue that continues to grow, as it reduces distractions that may get in the way of browsing, as well as the time required to update.
Adding character to the site are header banners and these too are treated with round edges. A mix of models (male & female) and t-shirt styles personalise each category, whilst re-iterating the diversity of tees available and the unisex nature of the range.
Once you've chosen a design you like, clicking on the thumbnail will take you outside of the domain to the particular POD system being used to print the shirt.


Looking at what the Print-On-Demand suppliers are doing can also give you a sense of how to apply points 1 to 3. 
Redbubble uses a montage method - combining a background using the tee art, which is then overlayed with an illustrated model. The expressive/artistic approach is perfect for the crowd on Redbubble - they being high on graphic art/illustration. A larger view of the graphic loads on mouse click. Skreened photographs t-shirts laid out on a consistent 'earthy' textured background - a nice touch that supports their ethical "Commitment to Our Earth". A lightbox plugin is used for an enlargement of tees. Zazzle presents their range of t-shirt designs initially as design thumbnails only (and as I write this a Sogeshirts design represents "Funny T-Shirts" on the Home Page!), recognising that customers to the site are initially looking for a design they like rather than a particular product. When on a product landing page, customers can pick to view the design/t-shirt on a catalogue of models. 

Left to right: DesignBakery (Redbubble User); Alien's Revenge (Skreened User); and TDjunkie (Zazzle User).

>>> LISTEN TO US DISCUSS THIS POST IN: Podcast 19: Celestial Referrals & Making the Grade

Created By: Amanda Vare "Manz", GritFX, Movies, TV, and Pop Culture Tshirts


  1. Great read, very good info! I meant to comment on this earlier!

  2. Love the examples to explain your points, yet another amazing post by manz!

  3. Cheers Kelly and Jared!
    Can you imagine reading this without graphics... not so much fun... and I made the tiap crew do just that! My poor colleagues!!

  4. Nice collection

  5. Thanks for showing off Detour Designables. It is nice to be grouped with all those other amazing shops. Nice collection.

  6. It's an A-list for sure Andy!

    Pleasure Juna. I've always enjoyed your designs and admired your talents :)

  7. Great collection! Thanks for posting it.


  8. Thanks for including Dos Chicos Tees in your post, we really appreciate it!!