Reasons Why Your Designs Haven’t Been Approved

I received my first “Extended Review” from a shirt-a-day website, and it got me thinking about when I was an art director, and all the reasons why I would not approve a design.

Sometimes it’s not because your art sucks. Don’t take it personal.

1. Sometimes there are t-shirt blank constraints. Whether it’s an actual physical shortage or there were already 60 designs on black shirts on the schedule. Often, it’s not even about the art. I recall one time, the production manager came to me and said, the printer is out of black, silver, powder blue, and charcoal. For a month, I had to abstain from approving designs in those colors. The schedule was flexed by changing some of the art to suit, but sometimes it’s not that easy.

2. Sometimes there’s too many approved designs of one topic. Just like having 60 black shirt designs approved, sometimes there would be situations where several great designs of a topic would already be approved, and then even more awesome designs of the same topic would trickle in.

A conundrum! Do you reject the awesome designs that came in and risk having them be printed before at another site? Or do you approve them and clutter your lineup with duplicitous topics, approve them and push their print dates out by months and risk artists becoming impatient and unhappy?

I think this is the reason as more and more great art hits the market, the shirt-a-days are increasing their offerings to two to three shirts a day, or in sets. Gotta print them all!

3. Sometimes it’s a strategic move to keep your designs in limbo. It keeps the design from being printed at other sites, and it gives the website time to wait and see if a better, similar designs of the same topic will come along. Having options is a significant advantage.

Compared to a year or two ago, artists are more savvy in creating designs. They see a new movie or show, they’ll apply the generic mashup formula to the most obvious matches.

Example) Guardians of the Galaxy. Rocket Raccoon. Super Mario turns into a Raccoon. Why not mash up Mario with a Rocket Raccoon Suit. There are to date at least 4 different versions of this idea.

Groot is a tree. In the movie tree, there is a line about Groot being “The Giving Tree”. Make Groot giving Rocket his gun. There are to date at least 3 versions of this out there.

So, if you have enough artists, you can wait for the best version.

4. Sometimes another site has already exploited the topic or genre recently in force so as a competing site, you don’t approve similar designs in order to maintain some individuality.

5. The sites have become more aggressive in what they consider parody, but there may be topics a company might be reluctant to print. Maybe they’ve recently gotten spanked with a DMCA so they have to lay off on approving adventurous designs or even whole topics. They won’t readily tell you this. It’s not like they can be like, “we don’t do XXXXX” because if they ever try it again, artists will be like “I thought you don’t do XXXXXX” and by doing so, the site will be knowingly doing something they deemed wrong.

6. There’s hundreds if not thousands of submissions. It’s easier to accept rejection when you realize it’s your design against 100, 200, 1200 others. If you are hurt by a rejection, you’re not thinking mathematically!

7. I don’t know if companies operate by a schedule on when to approve, but I approved when I needed to approve, not by a schedule. Due to the previous reasons, it’s not like you can approve X designs on a weekly basis. Sometimes there would be weeks while the good designs accumulated before I was ready to approve.

While you wait anxiously, they ain’t even thinking about your design.

It’s kinda like when you first start dating. Don’t be the person waiting by the phone.

The best solution, just like when you are first dating, is to not be hung up on that one person (design submission). Go out with friends (make more designs), date others (submit elsewhere), and the right relationship with one beau (or t-shirt company) will blossom. Metaphor!

Happy Designing!

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4 Responses to “Reasons Why Your Designs Haven’t Been Approved”

  1. Lester August 5, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    This article provides fantastic insight as I prepare to submit my first design. Thanks a million!

  2. Mark August 6, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    Excellent article.

    I still wish you would have stayed at Teefury – I’ve ordered 5 times since you’ve left and only a single order came in on time (I’m talking weeks out from estimated delivery date situation).

    Either way, thanks for giving other would-be designers some insight into the market.

    • jimiyo August 9, 2014 at 1:02 am #

      I’m glad I left. By the end, I pretty much broke down and said “Everyday I have to work this job I feel like Im dying” cause it was such bullocks.

      A year removed from being there, my irritable bowel syndrome, typically caused by stress, is pretty much gone.

      Also, the severe anxiety and paranoia due to all the backstabbing and lack of communication from all sides, artists, owners, customers, is gone. Im pretty easy peasy now.

      Im glad I never sign their ridiculous “separation agreement.” It would have gagged me from pretty much talking about anything related to the industry.

  3. Adria W. October 9, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    Thanks so much for this insight. As a new-to-shirt-design artist, it was really helpful!

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