Thursday, April 16, 2009

Contest Watch: Week of April 9

Before we go anywhere this week, it's BESTEE TIME again at Threadless! March's choices are up and ready for votes, and I must humbly request that you choose EdgarRMcHerly's "Choose Your Own Adventure" for the nod. It's creative, humorous, looks great on a shirt, and has even sold pretty well. Edgar's an underdog compared to some of the heavy-hitters up there this month, so we'd love to see him pull an upset.

We start off with this week's selection from Design By Humans, as we so often do. It's perhaps worth noting right about here that you can save 10% off all purchases there with discount code RSPAUF until April 25. Before you browse, though, go toss a vote to ninthWHEEL's "Wowlzers." It's an owl, obviously enough... a very geometrical one. That's part of the appeal, I think... taking something natural and organic and transforming it into hard lines and modern design. What seals the deal for me is the lighting, though. While I love the way the colors and textures look more in the creme mock-up (surprise surprise), I also love how those same textures interact on black... the palette the designer uses makes it look to be eminating an eerily beautiful glow from behind the long, blank shafts. A great example of technique turning into something more.

While there were slim pickings in general this week, Threadless, as usual, carried just enough to help round the week off. Sadly, though, it looks like the mediocre Green contest and holiday weekend have really slashed vote totals this week, with lots of entries sitting uncomfortably in the 500 range. Here at Contest Watch, we'd love it if you guys would join us in an effort to vote more and more over there. Entries like The Rainmaker will thank you. Brought to us by the April Fun Club, it's an excellent mix of execution and concept. The illustration is beautifully textured, and I love the idea of a big ol' dude hugging clouds to make the rain... it's almost as if he's wringing them out to dry. The grey tones also rock on this, conveying the feel of a rainy day... everything looks grey when it's grey out. It's true, color is in, and the wildest combinations at that, but sometimes going dull is simply what a piece needs to be beautiful. It's the sort of thing that could fit in really well at Threadless, but it's also the sort of thing that well and truly NEEDS a solid round of votes to be noticed. Low scores, sparse comments and scant votes... a popular designer could get away with it, but new blood is unproven, and may take a lot to prove it's worth the risk.

Of course, that's not to say that popular designers aren't hurt by the scoring drought... take Flying Mouse, for instance. His "Flying Mouse 365" account, which attempts to create a new entry every day for the year, has been churning out some incredibly solid work that simply has to work harder than ever to stand out from the pack... lower vote totals are meaning higher averages, which means having to fight harder for great work to be noticed. One of my favs out of an incredibly consistent output is the recent "New Hair Style". The joke should be obvious enough to not require explanation, which is part of what makes it so solid. The designer's talent is also shown in his ability to truly rock one color... the black looks great against the gold, and what little detail there is is added without the need for anything else but the blank and the black. The real win here, though, is its style. The "Grecian Urn" thing isn't anything new, but the way this is executed is loyal to the style, and the topic is absolutely perfect to be taken on that way. After all, both the urns and the character presented here are the stuff of Greek myth.

So yeah, if you haven't guessed, this week I'm on a "vote more" warpath. It helps new blood stand a chance in an already competitive market, it allows great work to stand out better, and now, finally, it gives designers a fair look at where they stand. Take Last Chance for Kitty, created by the incredibly easy-to-contact nathanwpyle at gmail.com (and yes, that is his user handle). It's a great shirt, with a great flow and an amusing concept and perfect color choices (it slays on orange, but the other options all work, as well). It's youthful but mischievous enough to go older. It fills the shirt well. I've already called it a "surefire print," though lord knows I've ben wrong before. But with low votes, a designer can easily over OR under-estimate their abilities. A 2.8 after 1000 votes means more than the same with 500... the more voters to vote and maintain your high score, the more people truly liked it. For a solid yet unprinted (or even underprinted) designer, this could be a godsend in terms of print likelihood, but it's also depriving them of the praise they deserve. Between this and the designer's near-perfect "Possibilities," I think a print's on the horizon. How much sweeter it would be to have 1000 people looking forward to it instead of 500.

It seems almost fitting, then, to end at shirt.woot with a gem that deserved FAR more votes than it got. If you were around for woot's latest derby (with the perplexing theme of "Almost"), you probably totally overlooked (like I almost did) what might have been the best entry of them all: Jewelwing's "Ben Franklin Just About Discovers Electricity". I am admittedly a sucker for a great title to go with a great design, and I'd say this is one of my new favorites. Ignoring all that, though, I find the composition very interesting... I rather love the scratchiness of Mr. Franklin's silhouette and the rough beauty of the rest of the lines as well. Negative space is used brilliantly here, with plenty of visual but quite economical ink usage. And while the shock of electric yellow is a great focal point, the real treat are the swirls of sky surrounding it, inked in a dull but perfect blue. There's just brilliant artistry at play here... so much so that it almost hides the fact that it's a pretty damn funny shirt to boot.

So there we go. I hope we've all learned a lesson this week, but again, I'll beg you... vote for the sake of your shirt community. Not just for the likely winners. Not just for friends, nor just for what is most easily seen through promotion. Put in a little extra time to uncover some gems. Your wardrobe will thank you for it just as much as the designers will.

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