So you want to make a tshirt?

I wanted to make a tshirt. I wanted it to say, “CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD” in all caps like the Frankie shirts.

Black and white picture of two men wearing white shirts. One shirt says "Frankie Say War" in all caps
Interview with creator Paul Morley:

I also wanted to make a creative, experimental space for myself not so directly tied to my name. I’m interested in growing something… I’m not sure what it will be but I want to make a space for it.

So both, “just make a tshirt” and also “establish an experimental business.”

In January, Indy Hall held a Finish Up Weekend. It looked amazing so I signed up and spent the weekend both “just making a tshirt” and also talking to a lot of people, doing research, and filing some paperwork. I kept a list of what I did and it adds up! I’m sharing it to show that there’s a lot of work behind things, even things that look simple once they’re done. That’s why I’m using the word “just” here too. Usually I don’t write “just” in posts, especially when explaining things, because the word can come across as dismissive, a little bit frustrated; it’s easy to imagine an irritated person saying “just CLICK the button!”

But we say “just” to ourselves too and I want to talk about that. Most people I talk to have a project list backlog. The undone/unstarted projects are often really good, really interesting ideas. At the same time, I hear people beat themselves up about not having started something, for not having completed something, or even when they have completed it but are comparing their work to other, bigger projects and thinking theirs is not very good. I notice when the word “just” creeps into the conversation.

“Just” is used both to diminish the effort required to do something and to diminish the value of the finished product.

If you have a project you’ve been putting off, it could be because it’s actually a lot of work and you need a bigger chunk of time than the “just do ThisProject” seems. Being able to describe an idea quickly doesn’t mean it won’t take hours or longer- I’m writing out my process here specifically to show that. You might be saying to yourself, “I want to do ThisProject! Why can’t I just do it, I’ve been meaning to for ages!”

In addition to the time factor, it could also be that your idea has several more ideas and to-dos within it- mine definitely did. Yes, I just wanted to make a tshirt. Hiding within that “just a tshirt” project though, was the work of figuring out how to make some kind of business, what to name it, how to file for it, and more.

So, here’s what I did to “just” make a tshirt!

  • Process
  • Learned
  • Shirt
  • Next
  • Process

    Before the Finish Up Weekend Kickoff:

    • Research print-on-demand platforms- I wanted a print-on-demand site. I looked at IP agreements and read reviews comparing platforms like Red Bubble, Zazzle, Threadless, Society6, and more. I emailed each platform and asked if they could print shirts in glitter- I really want the CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD shirt in glitter or metallic foil ink. I kept a spreadsheet of the information I gathered- it’s a few steps down-
    • Brainstorm name- Looking at names, I saw a lot of startups using “labs” at the end of their names- Geekyword Labs, Lastname Labs, Veridian Dynamics… those didn’t feel like a fit either. I wanted a space to try things, a place where I could move some ideas off my “it would be interesting/fun to…” list and into the world. After a long time, a lot of searches, and reading Virginia Robert’s excellent Name Your Thing, I choose Wildcard Study. I like the flexibility of Wildcard, from shell commands to other bits of programming. I like that ‘study” is both a verb and a place. I also like that “study” feels like it fits in the middle between studio spaces (more art) and libraries (more books). A study has both (and laptops). The two words, Wildcard and Study, together give me a space to be and make things, with a very open-ended view of what those things could be.
    • Name availability check- I used Namecheckr.
    • Choose platform- after emailing every platform asking for glitter and metallic foil printing, the answer was no(t at this time). But! I paid attention to how the answer was given- how quickly, how informative, whether alternative were suggested, etc. I’m surprised print-on-demand sites don’t offer more glitter products- I definitely found printing shops that will do it, but they want you to make the order up-front. I emailed back every print-on-demand platform that emailed me saying they don’t do glitter and said both that there is definite interest and no other platform is currently doing it. It’ll be interesting to see who is the first!
    • Glitter or not, I still wanted to make the tshirts I could picture into something real. For me, it came down to RedBubble and Threadless. Threadless was the fastest to answer but speed isn’t the only metric to whether something’s good- RedBubble was the slowest to answer but had the most informative email. It was a close decision; I went with Threadless.
    Platform: IP statement: Email answer: Foil?
    Redbubble Article here Slowest to reply but most informative No
    Threadless artist shops Terms here Fastest answer No
    Teespring Policies here Fast No
    Teelaunch Terms here Fast No
    Zazzle User agreement here Phone numbers No
    Society6 Terms here Two different answers? No

    Friday evening:

    • Finish Up Weekend kickoff meeting- time to talk about the work we wanted to complete! The people made this weekend really awesome- Nicole, Mikey, Vanessa, Alex, Melissa, Kiera, Dain, Eric, Kevin, Kristin and everyone participating were great at feedback, expertise, and encouragement.
    • Set up Adobe Spark account.
    • Make a few mockups- I started on GIMP, the free and open-source editor, later moved to Adobe Spark, and finished designs on GIMP. I used with two phrases, “CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD” and “USE A PASSWORD MANAGER”


    • Confirm name choice
    • Set up email account
    • Make more mockups with Adobe Spark
    • Contact Custom Ink
    • Set up Threadless shop
    • Edit mockups
    • First pass customize Threadless shop
    • Talk about DBAs vs LLCs with Finish Up Weekend crew
    • Talk about Paypal and other options with Finish Up Weekend crew
    • Purchase domain name to hold- really only need the Threadless shop for now, but wanted to grab the name for the future
    • Set up Paypal business account
    • File DBA and EIN
    • Upload designs- including on more items than shirts!
    • Research ways to gather interested people- emails, Google form? Mailing service?
    • Choose and set up Mailchimp
    • Write email-gathering landing page
    • Write welcome email
    • Add more copy to Threadless shop site- include Mailchimp subscription link so folks can sign up to hear about glitter shirts
    • Threadless store research- double-check greens- I’m really glad I did this!! As you can see below, an earlier design had the shirt with green text, but thanks to this color swatch page, I was able to see I wouldn’t like the green that printed. I changed the text to black. I’m really glad Threadless is so informative.
    • Check each item one-by-one and tweak
    • Go back and tweak design- more line spacing in some places, less in others.
    Two tshirt designs, both say "Change your password," one in script and one in all caps
    An early design- I liked the green but found it wouldn’t have printed as vibrant as it looks. I’m glad I double-checked and thankful that Threadless had the information available!


    • After all that on Saturday, the next thing I wanted to do was make floral designs of the two phrases
    • Search Creative Market for assets and choose two sets to buy. This was hard and took a long time! There is a lot of really good art on Creative Market.
    • Search through Google Fonts and choose script options. This was also hard and took a long time. I looked at a lot of “Y”s and “P”s especially. Many thanks to Nicole for her help here!
    • Install the fonts on my machine
    • Image editing in GIMP
    • Work up four floral frames and ask for feedback
    • Upload two floral designs to Threadless store
    • Tweak Mailchimp landing page and email
    • Edit offerings- initially I had my designs on pretty much every product Threadless can print on! With Dain’s help I edited the store down to help people avoid decision fatigue.
    • Make shop live
    • End of Finish Up Weekend, do presentation about the work I did

    After Sunday:

    • Confirm DBA paperwork filed
    • Sign last part of Threadless paperwork
    • Post in Slack
    • Tweet
    • Make post of process!
    Four designs for shirts, hoodies, and stickers. Two say "Change your password" and two say "Use a password manager"
    The designs by the end of Finish Up Weekend!


    A ton!

    Although a number of these things were familiar to me, in making this project a reality I became a lot more familiar with Mailchimp campaigns, Adobe Spark, GIMP, installing fonts, image editing, the print-on-demand business landscape, DBAs, LLCs, EINs, Paypal, product editing, the feedback and iteration process, and more. The Finish Up Weekend run by the crew at Indy Hall was a great way to move through a project and I’m looking forward to more to come!


    The site is live! You can buy the CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD and USE A PASSWORD MANAGER shirts here!


    GLITTER. If you want CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD in glitter, sign up here. Once I get enough names I’ll start moving that design forward.