How to Come up With a Marketable T-Shirt Idea in 5 Minutes

Original T-Shirt being sold at Market

Setting the Scene

All of us in the t-shirt business would want to create a t-shirt idea that would go viral, right? Not only will it be good for our bank accounts, it’s so darn good for marketing our business, too. But trying to achieve the level of viral is a hit or miss thing. During the conceptualization of your t-shirt design, you could be so confident that it would be the talk of the town because you’ve researched enough or you just know the taste of your market by heart.

However, there are lots of instances that your market would just ignore the t-shirt you expected to go viral. You really can’t tell for sure that something would sell like crazy until you’re already selling like crazy. That’s what’s so hard about aiming to get viral with design: you really can’t tell for sure.

There are also many t-shirt brands that resort to vulgar artwork just to get attention. While most of them succeed at it, having that strategy is not sustainable in the long haul. Anything that gets instant attention fades out really fast. That just shows that we should not aim for a few good shirts to get celebrity-level attention but for all our shirts to become marketable.

Another difference between aiming for viral and aiming for something marketable is that if you’re aiming for your t-shirt designs to go viral, you want to impress a large audience while if you’re aiming to make shirts that are marketable, you are trying to make your t-shirt design well-loved by a certain group of people (your niche).

The latter is always better. That’s because impressing a certain group of people would likely create loyal fans that will look forward to your next t-shirts. There’s a saying, “A friend to all is a friend to none.” Turns out that that quote does not only apply to friendship, it applies to a lot of things including the t-shirt design.

Enough already with my rambling and let’s get to the point. Here are some ways you can come up with marketable t-shirt ideas in 5 minutes:

Whether you make political shirts or not, the news is a good source of inspiration when it comes to making marketable t-shirts. Whatever is trending in your market has a big chance of making a good impression when printed on a tee. Make sure you’re politically correct, though, or your t-shirt business will have a bad rap.

If you make shirts for subjects that are too sensitive (war, earthquake in Nepal, Baltimore shootings), make sure it’s something for a cause or something inspiring or else your intentions would be questioned. Don’t just read newspapers, watch TV, read what’s trending on Twitter and other social media. Make sure your market is very hyped on a certain topic so that there’s a bigger chance that they’ll purchase your tees.

Know What Your Target Market’s up To

What are they doing? Where are they going? You have to be very obsessive in following your market that you’d be better than a detective trying to solve the world’s most notorious criminal case. Get to know where they hang out, what their expressions are, how they feel, what makes them tick, what makes them shout for joy. If, for example, you’ve decided to make t-shirts for dog owners, then make sure you’re updated on the upcoming events and activities these dog owners are doing.

Is there a dog show coming up? Is there a campaign against a certain company that maltreats animals? Are they preparing for International Dog Day or some other occasion? Then you might want to make shirts for these specific events. You do not just make shirts for such events like any regular t-shirt company, you use everything else you know about them in creating such tees.

Research on What Works and Then Steal It

This is like cheating, but not really. It’s just a design hack. Look for the t-shirts that your famous competitors are selling (the ones that sell really well) and use these shirts as inspiration for your t-shirt design. You know what they say that you have to steal like an artist. That means you do not replicate the t-shirt designs but instead be inspired by them.

That means you have to make your designs much more beautiful than the original. That means you have to put your own vision in the artwork and create something totally new and fresh out of these inspirations. Start Googling your competitor now and brainstorm until you bleed. Just make sure that when you show your competitor’s design and your own version that people won’t say that you’re copying. If people can tell right away that you’re copying, then you failed.

Do Mash Ups

A mash-up is something created by combining elements from two or more sources. Think of two things that your niche wants to be combined. If we use the example of the t-shirt line that targets dog lovers, think of top three things that dog lovers are also interested in and get creative. For example, if you find out that there are many dog lovers who are obsessed with Star Wars, you can come up with a design of Star Wars with dog characters. This is a lame example but I do hope I get my point across. Just think of possible combinations that could potentially interest your market.

Wit Will Save the Shirt

All of us want to be funny in our own way. After all, studies show that girls prefer guys who are funny over guys who are good-looking. If you really want your shirts to be marketable, one of the tried and tested ways to do it is by finding what makes your market laugh. If a shirt is funny, it creates engagement which could make the shirt-wearer feel good about himself.

This also has a higher rate of being spread online and by word-of-mouth. If you get the right humor and the quality of your shirt is good, it would be too hard for a shirt lover to resist. Again, like everything else on this list, make sure that you get the right kind of funny that your target market likes.

Quotes or Text That Tickle Your Market’s Fancy

Texts, phrases and quotes will never go out of style. Research what texts your market would love to see on a tee and your shirts would surely be selling like hot cakes. You might think this is an easy task but finding the right text (with the right word count, content, potential for grabbing attention) and figuring out the right font, spacing, colors, and accents is not as easy as 1,2,3.

But once you get it right, you’re guaranteed to sell. Also make sure that you’re still unique. Do your research and find out if your text/quotes have already been printed before and by what companies? If they one who printed them are quite famous, it might not be a good idea to push through with the printing. You might encounter serious copyright issues and it’s just not good to sell something that’s already known elsewhere.

Offer Customized T-Shirt Designs

No matter how focused you are with your niche, you can never be as focused unless you make custom printed tees. So if your goal is to become marketable, then offering your market an opportunity to become unique by having their own personalized t-shirt design is one sure way of achieving it. The personalization of your tees is as simple as having their names printed on them to having the actual design they want.

If you’re selling tees for dog lovers, you can offer personalization by printing the dog’s tees in the shirt, for example. People love personalized tees because it makes them feel special and they can give it to their friends and family to make them feel special, too. Just make sure your designs are not as tacky as most custom tees. Make your tees look handsome no matter what!

There is no sure way of telling whether your t-shirt designs would be marketable or not. However, if you follow any of these tips, your t-shirt designs will have a much bigger chance of attracting your target market. When you do these to all of your tees, you will surely master the art of creating shirts that your market will love. And as time goes by, who knows, you might make one or two t-shirt designs that would go viral.

Obviously, none of these tips can be done in five minutes. Please don’t feel like I betrayed you! Every designer should know that making good t-shirt designs take hours to brainstorm but if you follow these tricks, it would take you much faster than the average joe.

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