Though her background is in sneakers – design and content creator roles with Filling Pieces and Sneaker District, and global collaborations with Puma to be precise – Caroll van den Brom, or Careaux as she’s otherwise known, has become a pro T-shirt maker in no time.
She’s made running T-shirt campaigns with us a monthly habit, amassing a devoted fanbase for her quirky, ever-changing designs in the process. We spoke to Carroll to pick her brains on how designing for T-shirts is different, why she likes to keep it fresh, and how she plans her year with us.
THE JUMP FROM ONE TO MANY
Caroll’s first campaign with us was for our 2018 50/50 project with Amnesty International. Though she’d been unsure of how it might turn out, it went well enough that she decided to give a second campaign a go and, having seen how easily they slotted into everything else she was doing, she felt that running them monthly was the natural next step. “I decided to go monthly because I like to develop myself,” she explained, “it’s a chance to keep making new things, and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
(Sidenote: a ‘successful’ first campaign is by no means a prerequisite for running multiple campaigns. When we spoke to Florian Tripoteau recently he pointed out that his first attempt didn’t actually launch, and he now plans his year with us.)
TRY IT ON A TEE
With an output that spans footwear and graphic design, Caroll is no stranger to trying different mediums, and for her, designing T-shirts was a way of exploring ideas that weren’t quite right for her 2D work. “I wanted to step away from the posters a bit. I have a lot of work of myself that I like but it’s not really as good on poster,” as she put it, “Sometimes it happens that some of your work isn’t for posters, give it a try on a tee and see how it goes.”
According to Caroll, you might be surprised what works as a T-shirt too. “I’ve noticed that people buy a T-shirt with a design on it easier than a poster. Maybe because wearing something is totally different to putting something on your wall,” she said. “With poster or canvasses, it has to slot into a whole room, whereas tees are like moods.”
Got a couple of rough designs in mind and not sure which one to bring to fruition this time around? Or maybe you’re in a lull with other projects, but can feel a particularly creative mood coming on? Then why not spend a couple of days working through developing a few designs at once. This means you’ll be able to see them all together and think about how they might work for different seasons or events. Say if one looks especially bright and colourful, it might be best to launch in summer, or if you fancy trying a long sleeve option, maybe it would be better received in the colder months.
Caroll has prepared multiple designs in advance to make her life easier. It means they’ll be ready to roll out when you need them, so you’ll be ready to go for your second, third and fourth campaigns with no extra work on your side.
KEEP IT FRESH
Caroll makes sure to keep her designs fresh and try new things, experimenting with single and multiple colour designs, and avoiding getting boxed in by a signature aesthetic. She feels this keeps her audience interested and stops her output getting repetitive, and she’s not afraid that this might mean that someone won’t love every one of her T-shirts.
“People love to see options,” she said, “One month they’ll like it, the next month they won’t, but you’ll reach a different audience every month, which is good.” It’s a valuable point about not feeling like you have to keep remaking the same thing in different ways, or designing to your perception of who your audience is, but instead making what feels relevant to you, and seeing who’s interested.
IT’S ALL ABOUT TIMING
One of the biggest benefits of running monthly campaigns is that you can get a good sense of when is best to launch your tees and get into a rhythm accordingly. For Carrol, this means timing her campaigns around payday: “I always release the tees at the end of the month, as that’s when most of my followers get paid.” While her timeline is structured around her audience, and when they will be most likely to purchase her tees, it can work the other way too – if there’s a time in the month that’s particularly hectic for you, you can easily schedule your campaign not to coincide with it.
KEEP PROMO AUTHENTIC
We’d always recommend that you think of promo as something that lasts the full length of your campaign, from building the hype for your launch to tying everything up after your T-shirts have arrived with their owners, and this is especially relevant if you’re planning to run a series of campaigns across the year.
Caroll tends to use Instagram stories as her main means of showcasing her tees, and she makes sure to keep an eye on how it’s going throughout, “I always check how the engagement was on my story, how people reacted to it,” she said. Post-campaign, she’s a big advocate of keeping in touch with her audience too, “As soon as the first tees are shared with me on Instagram, I’ll repost and thank them for their support. And that’s what they appreciate too!”
Above all, she sticks to what comes naturally with her audience. “I’ll update people on how many days are left to purchase the tees, but I don’t force anything,” she told us, “I just like to keep it genuine and real. That’s what my followers expect of me in the first place.”
Read more: How to run a pre-order campaign