Collaborating with a freelance designer on your next drop


When it comes to running a pre-order T-shirt campaign, it can be hard knowing where to start if you don’t have design skills, not to mention the time. However, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Content Creators and Charities using Everpress, it’s that not having design skills is not a problem. 

From sourcing freelance creatives to work with, to finding inspiration, to the design process itself, here we look at the process behind working with a designer to realise your idea, with a little help from the likes of RKG’s Daniel Krupa, MAP Charity, shitlondonguinness and Bouldering DabRats.

The Search

First things first, how to go about finding a designer? The easiest place to start is your own network. Whether it’s a friend, someone you’ve worked with before, or just an artist whose work you’ve long admired, you’d often be surprised at the possibilities in your community. If you don’t know of anyone who is quite right, or you just fancy the opportunity of working with someone new, definitely check out the likes of It’s Nice That or our own shop and blog where we regularly round up our current favourite creatives – from the artists on our radar to the typographers that are getting us excited

We’re also regularly pair up members of our community (like when we put the photographer Conor Clinch in touch with graphic designer Joshua Saunders) so if you’re struggling to find or get in touch with designers, let us know and we can help this process along.

Finding Inspiration

Part of the beauty of working with a designer is that you benefit from collaboration – this (hopefully) means a healthy push and pull resulting in something greater than the sum of its parts. However, to achieve harmonious collaboration, you need to be clear on what you want.  In general, it’s never a bad idea to have a couple of pieces of artworks, styles or themes (and examples of other tees you’ve liked) in a shareable mood board document. If you’re looking for inspiration, we’ve put together some of our favourite places to turn for inspiration, and it’s always worth having a browse of our curated shop to check out what other people are doing. If you’re totally stuck though, the best thing to do is get the conversation started with your designer – they’ll be well-versed in feeling out the genesis of a great design, and in turning an idea into a design too. 

Ask Your Audience

When we caught up with Daniel Krupa, one-third of the YouTube channel RKG, on RKG’s NASA-inspired tees, we were struck by the consideration the team had given to their audience in the design process. “Come up with a design that will appeal directly to your audience,” as Krupa put it. “Is there some aspect of your channel or something in a past video that continually gets mentioned within the community? That might be a good starting point for a design.” This is especially sound advice if you’re struggling with where to start with designing, plus there’s a confidence in knowing that by keeping your audience in mind through the design process then it’s likely the final T-shirt will strike a chord with your community. 

Broaden Your Reach

An added bonus of working with a designer is that your T-shirt will reach not only your audience, but the designer’s too. Take Ian, the Irishman behind the Instagram account documenting London’s worst Guinnesses @shitlondonguinness. He’d put out a few of his own tees already, but being a big fan of Stephen Heffernan’s work, he asked the designer and illustrator to help him create a new T-shirt. The result was a T-shirt that combined Stephen’s light touch with the tongue-in-cheek spirit of the account, in a way that could chime with both audiences. 

This works both ways too. One of our favourite recent charity campaigns saw MAP (Music and Arts Production) Charity team up with designer Rosie Rackham. Though neither has a massive audience, Rosie’s design was so strong that over 400 T-shirts sold, raising funds for a great cause and helping Rosie’s work reach more people in the process. 

First Launch Didn’t Go as you’d hoped?

One of the best testimonies to the power of getting a designer on board (and the value of giving a second campaign a go if your first didn’t reach expecations) is the independent YouTube channel Bouldering DabRats. For their first launch they created a T-shirt featuring their logo, which ended up selling just eight T-shirts. The crew behind the channel, which works to promote women in climbing, decided to workshop their next attempt, so they asked their illustrator friend Lizzie Minnis, or ZED ZED, to come onboard. Lizzie’s majestic design not only captured exactly what Bouldering DabRats was about, but – as the best merch does – it worked brilliantly as a T-shirt in its own right too. Now having sold over 400 tees to date, it’s safe to say Lizzie was the right person to translate the Bouldering DabRats ethos onto T-shirts. 


The Process

So you’ve found your designer, now what? It’s worth bearing in mind that making the right T-shirt is a process, and there’ll inevitably be a little back and forth before you land on the final design. “Find a talented designer who you feel comfortable working with and give ample feedback to,” as RKG’s Krupa put it. “We worked with Ryan Quintal, someone we knew from our time at IGN and who has worked with us to define the look of our channel.” 

Working with a designer you trust is essential for those conversations that can arise as you find your way to the final design, as Krupa added, “You probably won’t land on the final design immediately, so it’s good to find someone you’re comfortable being honest with. Give them a clear brief, share examples of the things you’re inspired by, and go from there.”

And Remember

If you’re weighing up whether you have the time to run a campaign, it’s worth bearing in mind that Everpress takes care of everything except promo and design. We handle shipping, returns, customer care – you name it. That means that once the design is taken care of, you’re free to focus just on promo and everything else. (If you’re after promo advice too, head here for our full index of tips and insights.)

Read More: 11 of the Best T-Shirt Fundraising Campaigns of All Time