Thursday, June 10, 2010

Contest Watch: Week of June 3

This is the summer. Time to wear tees, right? And for many, what better time to get some free time to design, as well? Here at Singularitee, we're all about helping out, so let's discuss some of the things we, as an artistic whole, need more of. Integrity is nice. Honesty is, too. But we can hone it down more specifically. Before we do, though, as is customary, consider tossing votes here: EricatheRed has a longtime Contest Watch favorite (Skyscrapers) at Goodjoe's new special contest, and the good folks at Made With Awesome finally have put up the uber-wonderful Heart Attack up on their "vote" page. That's some old-school shirt for y'all. Now, to the new school.

For starters, the tee world could -always- use more pure skillful execution, and despite recent prints that imply otherwise, Design By Humans is still the place to find a tee like Artifacts by brianluong. It's big and bold, but the flow is beautiful while the composition is visceral. The linework is complex while the colors are simple. It's incredibly wearable: it inhabits the canvas perfectly. When people describe t-shirt art, part of the story is understanding the canvas. Shirts are not like framed art... there needs to be a respect for the form it will eventually come to rest on. This has plenty of that along with gorgeous imagery.

As you probably have heard, this weekend begins the Threadless "Beach Party" sale. $10 tees. All tees. That's something I can always go for in my tees... I'm all for paying a premium for premium content, but getting it for cheaper is always nice. But Threadless, despite what is a growing disrespect for original ideas, is still one of the most diverse places when it comes to subs, and that brings us to the second thing we truly need: truly diverse, different work. An artist like ginetteginette is the definition of this, and a design like her Stix is why. It's something totally different from the norm, with its mix of photographic elements and bright digital stripes. However, it is the total difference which makes it totally irresistible. The diverse shapes and lengths of the sticks add a lot of visual intrigue to the layout, but let's be honest, the kicker is the pastel banding all along the bits of wood. There's not a lot to concept, but it intrigues and excites for being simply so different. That is what great art does: it piques interest, sparks imagination, and quite often pushes envelopes. Yet again, shirt art needs to be wearable, and again, this does that. It's a perfect design especially for an over-shirt... the fun colors, textures, and such make for a perfect accent pop, but the classic white of the tee would make it just as perfect on its own. There is always more room for another totally unique design, especially in a design culture that glorifies that which has already been done a million times.

The tee world, furthermore, needs more true flights of imagination. Friend-of-the-blog Mitohapa has one such piece up at DBH, entitled Antlerfish. It does a lot of similar things as Artifacts does in terms of stellar flow and shirt-inhabitation, but where the former shirt is big on a more "hardcore" stylization, this is much more dreamlike. It's organic, creating a new creature before our eyes, and that makes this more than your average tee of this style... the creation of the new creature captures imagination, especially given the elements which the critter is made of... wings, fish body, and antlers. The sort of imagination to pull these sorts of things out of the blue and put them to paper, pixel, and then cotton is sorely missing in today's tee design. Who needs something familiar when something new looks so good already?

But it's not all about sheer beauty, avant-garde concept, flawless, complex lines. Shirts are shirts, and shirt art is incredibly diverse. Indeed, one of the things we truly need in the tee world is killer concept. Note: that's concept, not pointless mash-up. Creative, smart, original concept. And that's where a Threadless heavyweight like fatheed comes in. His Typical is a perfect example of the sort of strong, unique, yet totally relate-able concept work. If I really have to explain this concept to you, you probably have difficulty wearing shirts in the first place. It takes an event we're all familiar with... a common frustration... and puts it in the context of another similar, familiar phenomenon. It's a "why didn't I think of that" moment, and that's what makes it both artful and even marketable without sacrificing that spark of something special. Of course, the execution works wonders as well... the nondescript people are done in a style that contrasts well against the cartoony style of the main characters, and the colors are bright, eye-catching, and attractive. It's classic Threadless, and perfect concept. When people say they want something they understand, yet don't go for this sort of stuff, I can't help but wonder what they really understand. This hits all the right notes of cute, funny, familiar, while also original and cleanly executed. It's what this sort of tee should be all about.

But finally, sometimes it's all about a simple graphic to portray your sense of self, and really, this one right here is a doozy for me: Shut Up by hgoodspeed. It's an elevated slogan tee, elevated by having a personal style, hand lettering (no horrid, generic fonts here... up yours, helvetica!) and a snarky, real humor. It's not a weak, overdone bumper sticker. It's not forced humor. It's straight, to the point, and executed playfully and amusingly. It's also something I can see myself wearing. Once you slap text on a tee, it NEEDS to be interesting, and it needs to be something the wearer can relate to. This is one reason I am not a big fan of branded tees. But c'mon, telling the world to shut up is something I can get behind, and especially if it's done through a charming shirt graphic. I'd pick this up in a heartbeat, tho I don't expect to ever have the chance. But even without summing me up to a "T," it proves just how far even an oft-painful tactic such as text-reliance can be elevated by honesty and individuality. And again, as I've said, that is what it boils down to. Let's make this a summer devoted to that, shall we?

1 comment:

the skies electric said...

Thanks so much! I've become weary of "type tees" and the general nature of designs that Threadless has been leaning towards the past 5 years. So I gave it a shot myself. I'm glad you appreciate it though, it's good to know not everyone prefers t-shirts with a graphic that covers most all of the front.