How to Create a Good Mashup T-shirt
Being the art director for Teefury, I see alot of
crappy unsatisfactory designs. Currently there’s approximately 1200-1400 submissions a month, and only a few dozen get chosen to be printed. One of the most frequently submitted genres of designs are Mashups.
A mashup is “a creative combination or mixing of content from different sources.”
Just because you mashup two popular topics doesn’t mean it will make for a good shirt. People want well crafted designs AND they want a clever design that’s more than just two popular things melded together.
So let’s look at a couple of examples.
At the peak of Lost popularity, this design was showcased on Teefury. It did well. It got “Super Pancakes.” (You can still pick it up at Redbubble.)
Why might have it been a popular design?
- Immediately Understood. Easy to Read.
- It’s Shiny
- Correlations in Mashedup Content
- Widely Accepted Content with Overlapping Viewers
1. Easy to Read
People like an easily understood design. Even if you were driving down the street, you see someone walking with this design, at a glance you would know that this is Back to the Future related since the iconic font and coloration is now embedded in our cultural memory.
You want people to understand in less than a second what your design is about. If it takes you a second more, it’s going to be a hard sell. It’s kinda like scrolling through your Facebook or IRL photos. When you see yourself or someone you know, you know it without even thinking about it. You need that hook with a tshirt design to get people to investigate, for them to like it more.
2. It’s Shiny
It’s shiny. This is just a theory of mine, but I think our brains are wired to love shiny things. Resistance is futile. Imagine walking down the street, you see a shiny thing on the ground. You look at it, it’s a shiny quarter and a Mew Wand with +5-15 fire damage. What Luck!?
I feel like that’s how Ramyb succeeds so well at shirt.woot. He takes cute images, and then just makes them pop with rim lighting and high contrast, along with a clever pun.
Make it shiny!
3. Correlations in Mashedup Content
This is the key in mashups. You don’t want disparate content. You need the mashup topics to have correlations between each other.
Here are some correlations between Back to the Future and Lost.
Both had Volkswagon Vans. In BTTF, the Libyans drove the van. In Lost, the Dharma Initiative drove the vans. The Delorean in BTTF was the time machine. In this mashup, the features of the Delorean have been transposed onto the van.
Both movies were about time travel. Sortof… Lost. Confusing.
Who doesn’t remember some key quotes from each of the movies?
Doc Brown – “Marty! We’ve got to go back! Back to the Future!”
Jack Shepard – “We’ve got to go back Kate.”
In the show Lost, the Oceanic Six were the ones that needed to go back to the island. They appear in the Volkswagon.
These similarities are key to getting viewers to love it after they are hooked. They see the design and get interested because they recognize the type treatment, it’s the subsequent “cleverness” that takes their appreciation to another level.
4. Widely Accepted Content with Overlapping Viewers
Both BTTF and LOST reached millions of viewers. Mashing two culturally epic entertainment topics will yield a higher likelihood that there will be viewers that love BOTH topics. Many times, artists will mashup two disparate topics, and just because viewers like one doesn’t mean they will like the mashup.
Just think in Venn Diagrams. How many people who like X like Y? The larger the overlap, the more likely your mashup will resonate with your fans.
We learn by experience. I created a Godfather + LOLCat mashup once. It did not do so well.
The venn diagram for my LOLFather design would be as follows.
Certainly, Brando did have a pet cat, but in hindsight, Godfather is a movie about murder, bravado, and the mob. Although Godfather is a widely loved movie, and LOLCats being just as widely favored, although Brando did have a pet cat, the markets just don’t match. Even if Godfather loving dudes loved LOLCats, I doubt they would pay homage with a shirt like this.
Later on, I learned of the Happycat/NEDM cat meme. It might have also hurt the shirt’s desirability. The Happycat is not just a happy cat, he’s also associated with a horrible moment in internet history when a NSF-Cat Lovers… I contend that even if there wasn’t that association, the shirt still wouldn’t have done well.
Now you know. Now go and create some great mashups no one has ever thought about before!