Go Media’s Jeff Finley: Interview at VectorTuts


Just a quick heads up to let our readers know about the extended interview by Sean Hodge with Go Media’s Jeff Finley over at VectorTuts.

Jeff shares design, illustration as well as design industry insights, along with related thoughts on graphics software, balancing the personal and business aspects of your online presence, collaboration with other artists, tips for aspiring creatives, and much more.

Designing the Go Media HQ Workspace

When Bill Beachy and Chris Wilson approached me about designing the new Go Media headquarters, needless to say I was honored by the invitation to be involved in such an exciting project. Given that Go Media has become synonymous with great design, I knew that this would be a project that would yield some great results.

Project Goals:

  • Create a brand-conscious environment with an industrial feel that embodies the aesthetic of Go Media and is befitting to the spirit of its mission.
  • Achieve a sense of familiarity throughout the space with a recognizable color palette that is relevant to the Go Media brand. Design an environment that will excite and inspire its staff and clients.
  • Incorporate elements that are exclusive to Go Media, while providing an easy-to-navigate floor plan. Feature an abundance of metal and wood to give the interior an industrial, modern feel.

1. Concept Development:

Before any ideas are presented to the client, it is helpful to first establish a rough visual design language by sketching preliminary thumbnails to get initial thoughts onto paper. Through this process of thinking through the rough forms, basic materials, and some details, the big idea starts to take shape. These rough sketches are then assembled and converted into cohesive concepts that are then presented to the client.


sketch 2
Concept Development
sketch 3

sketch 4

2. The Floor Plan:

One of the primary goals when designing the floor plan was to achieve a sense of openness throughout the office space and be easy to navigate. Initially, in the first two concepts, clean-lined, rectilinear forms were presented. Given the irregular shape of the building, careful consideration was placed on the allocation of space and appropriate clearances between forms. The introduction of curved elements proved to be the appropriate direction to reach a final approved design.

The workstations and project managers area needed to have division from the rest of the space, but not be isolated completely. This was achieved thru the use of half wall partitions with clear glass panels mounted on top. This helps to divide the spaces yet stays true to creating an open environment and adds to the progressive look of the design.

One of the details outlined in the brief was to re-use some of the existing parts of the building in the new design. To deliver on this request, a sliding door from the second floor was used on the back wall of the office to add a bit of interest to this area. Additionally, a wall mural was specified for the back wall, and creative liberty was given to Go Media to come up with a dynamic design.

Plan concepts
plan concepts
Final Plan
final plan

3. Elevations and Reflected Ceiling Plan:

Once the floor plan was approved, then we moved on and started laying out the wall elevations and providing detailed dimensions for the build-out. A ceiling plan was created with fixture specifications that were intended to add to the overall industrial look of the environment.


4. Details/ Project Managers Area:

Upon entering the office, clients are greeted at the project manager’s area. To help draw attention to this area and designate it as one of the architectural highlights of the space, the following features were incorporated: The partition walls were lowered to 36” height and metal grating and decorative metal panels added to the outside of walls; a free-floating circular soffit comprised of wood and metal was suspended from the ceiling with pendant lights projecting through the soffit; a dark circular pattern was stained into the floor to pick up on the geometry of the ceiling detail.

Two areas with which I needed assistance were the structural details of the floating countertop and suspended ceiling soffit. Thanks to project architect, Charles Beachy, structurally sound solutions were designed to fit within the overall aesthetic of the environment.

Project Manger’s Area
project manager area

The Conference Room:
An additional focal area of the office that features an in-wall aquarium housed in custom maple built-in cabinets, open ceiling, and a square soffit that matches the look of the project managers area ceiling detail. To create a sense of privacy, yet stay consistent with an open feel, an abundance of glass was used on exterior walls, room-divider aquarium was incorporated that can be viewed from both sides, and the suspended soffit was designed with an open grille look. The finishing touch on the conference room is the Go Media logo burned into the top of the table.

Conference Room
conference rom

5. Putting it all together:

After months of conceptualizing, providing multiple versions of the floor plan, and detailing, all of the construction documents are nearing completion and the client is undoubtedly anxious to see what everything will look like together. The final step, from the designer’s standpoint, is to create a 3D illustration of the entire environment.

Establishing an architectural perspective illustration is a 3-part process, I tend not to stray from this process as I’ve found it to be a very efficient way of getting the job done.

  1. Create a rough geometric block-out in SketchUp and set up your final view.
  2. Overlay the block-out to create a final line drawing.
  3. Render the scene with preferred medium. The architectural illustration process will be explained in detail in a later blog.

At this point, all of the colors have not been finalized, so a few color concepts had to be presented before the final palette was approved.






Special thanks to Go Media for trusting me to create what I believe will be a functional and aesthetically pleasing environment for them.

Designers’ Guide to the Apparel Printing Industry

printed t-shirt

Over the last couple of years the GoMediaZine has been a cookie jar full of tips, tutorials & practical advice about designing for apparel. There have been in depth tutorials, lots of inspiration, a fantastic three-part series full of experience & advice – we even showed you how to ‘Make it look like Affliction‘. And just in these last couple of months, we showed you how to make photorealistic mockups of your apparel designs.

So by now you should have a few solid t-shirt designs under your belt (not yet? maybe some jealousy will motivate?). Maybe you’ve done work for a hot band and the shirts are already printed for the tour. More likely, you created a pretty gnarly design for your personal portfolio & need to get it printed.

Now you’ve got some decisions to make, and probably a whole bunch of questions.

  • What are some qualities of a t-shirt that actually sells?
  • What kind of file prep should I do before sending the file to print?
  • What are the newest printing techniques?
  • How do other designers get those huge pieces printed?

First of all, this post is not going to give encyclopedic answers to all of these questions. It WILL provide priceless insight from the front lines of the apparel industry that will get you heading down the right path.

Our Starting Line-up

I talked to five major players in the apparel printing industry to shed some light on that critical component – printing. Lucky for us, everyone was game and took time to share anecdotes & advice they’ve accumulated while working in the industry. A big thanks to everybody from Cleveland’s best graphics design company, Go Media!

Corey Bramlett RTI Brands
Nirav Dhruv NND Designs
Jeff Weisenberg JakPrints
Rodney Blackwell T-ShirtForums.com

T-shirt Trends to Watch in 2009

Knowing what’s coming around the corner is a sure way to stay ahead of the pack (stock drop ’08 anyone?). I asked what the view was from the front lines of the printing industry and got some surprising responses.

For example, we receive tons of emails from designers wanting to know where to find a good “All Over” printer to produce their huge design. The over-sized t-shirt has been extremely popular for awhile now in communities like emptees.

That’s why it surprised me when Corey from Raw Talent said that the over-sized t-shirts might be on their way out. He sees

“…designs pulling back from the large, over-sized, gaudy prints (a la Affliction/Ed Hardy) to a more subtle piece that still makes as big of a statement.” – Corey Bramlett

Nirav Dhruv from NND echoes Corey with the decidedly simple answer “Simple sells”. Styles go through cycles too, and it’s quite possible that these guys will eventually be proved correct. Most of the time an influential group will spin an old style in a new way. Every so often something truly original comes along.


Designers should also follow the lead of brands like Affliction & momentarily take over the industry with something new.

Luckily new (and cheaper) technology should make the cool techniques available to a much wider audience, increasing the chance for some new style to emerge. Like purevolume & myspace gave garage bands an international audience – new & cheaper print processes will let young, broke designers get into the t-shirt industry. Jeff Weisenberg of Jakprints puts it best:

Many of the specialty processes that were once reserved for the larger companies will available to the everyday customer. Foils, 3-dimensional prints, custom tag printing, all of these options have been made available to the 15 year kid who wants to start an apparel company with little start up money. What was once reserved for companies like Alphanumeric and Echo, younger designers are able to come to a company like Jakprints and produce a product that rivals these mammoth companies. The street level customers are giving larger companies a run for their money.
-Jeff Weisenberg

Phew! So much optimism, and more to come! Rodney from T-ShirtForums.com went all Karen Carpenter when he said the T-shirt craze has only just begun. Freshmen clothing lines start your engines!

There are many t-shirt brands, printers and suppliers who have yet to take full advantage of what the internet has to offer. The more that “get it”, the more choices us t-shirt junkies will have when shopping for cool t-shirts online or finding a great t-shirt printer.
-Rodney Blackwell

Optimism & excitement about the future of the online apparel industry seems to be a persistent theme among the interviewees.

Do you have an unusual artistic vision or a knack for hard-hitting cultural sarcasm? Your future apparel line could be part of the continued growth predicted by industry veterans.

They’ve Seen it All

Social design portals like Emptees & Threadless are a great place to see a lot of shirts & get ideas. But think about the guys running the print shops. They’re browsing inspiration all day, every day. Plus, they see it from a different angle – they see the good, the bad, and they know which designs actually move off the shelves. They work with fantastic veteran designers and complete newcomers. When I asked them what advice they would give to a young designer, they didn’t hold back.

Understanding the limitations of apparel print techniques while still maximizing the potential of the medium was an overriding theme echoed by the experts. T-shirts are not posters, brochures, or websites. You’ve got to account for the medium.

A formal (or industry) education is the best thing a designer can have in their arsenal. It is very unfortunate when an artist’s vision does not line up with technical capabilities. The more knowledge of these capabilities by the designer and how to apply that knowledge to their designs will result in a better product as well as a more efficient and effective production experience.
-Corey Bramlett

Jeff Weisenberg shares some specific things to avoid when designing for apparel. These are the kinds of things that might take a designer a few strikeouts to learn – so take notes!

The biggest mistake young designers make is not taking into consideration that a t-shirt is not flat. A t-shirt is 3-dimensional and you must think about what graphics and placements would look like when the apparel is being worn. Be aware that extremely detailed areas in an image may be lost when applied to the t-shirts. Also – use the color of the apparel in your graphic! You may be able to save a couple bucks by using the apparel color instead of adding another ink color. – Jeff Weisenberg

A couple of the guys really underscored the importance of knowing your audience & designing for a niche. Here’s what Rodney Blackwell had to say:

Know your niche. Whether you’re into robots or funny slogans, the more you can master your “thing”, I think the better off you’ll be in the long run. -Rodney Blackwell

File Prep Tips from the Pros

Yes, this is a complex topic that could fill several other posts. Still, I was curious what kind of major problems screen printers would like to rant about if asked. Following these basic tips will save you time & money – and make sure that your vision actually makes it to the presses.

Vector-created art is by far the best. Any Photoshop file must be at least 300 dpi. All text should be converted to outlines. Submission on a template is always best. Make sure all designs are the correct size, or if vector, the correct size is noted. Make sure all ink colors/PMS are noted in the art file. It is also great to see special notes noted in the art file. -Corey Bramlett

Jeff Weiseberg wisely suggested that you invest in a Pantone guide. I checked around, you can grab one on eBay or Amazon for between $30 and $70 – a worthwhile investment.

ebay pantone book

Make it Look Like That: A Guide to Apparel Printing Methods

So you see a shirt on our portfolio and think “That’s impossible to print!” Well, actually, it can be done – you just need the right process (and budget!).

There are enough techniques, processes & options out there to make your head spin like the girl in the Exorcist. Personally, I am pretty clueless about the all the different processes, compatible materials, average costs – everything. There is a lot to learn, but if there was one point that resonated among the printing experts, it was take the time to understand this stuff.

For a very detailed knowledge base of apparel printing techniques, check out this section of T-ShirtForums.com (resume head spinning & swearing in other languages). If you’re starting from scratch all of this info probably seems a little daunting. So I asked our panel to narrow it down for us – what are the main techniques that are gaining popularity?

Here are the trendy techniques according to Corey Bramlett:

Soft-hand (Discharge, Water-based, and fashion base) is by far the most requested and produced by us. Over-sized printing is obviously very popular.
The best way to choose is to get as educated as possible about the techniques and processes.
We even offer a really cool service call we call “Print Architecture” where we help designers “build” their piece maximizing the effectiveness of our specialty methods.
-Corey Bramlett

I asked Corey for some more details about “Print Architecture”, but didn’t hear back in time. I’ll update the post when new details emerge. I actually stumbled upon a great resource on one of Raw Talent’s subsites, FashionLab. This Methods Page categorizes print techniques with designer-friendly lingo, making it pretty easy to understand.

Back in January, Rodney Blackwell participated in the The Imprinted Sportswear Show at Long Beach. He suggests that one of the best ways to learn about printing techniques is to attend a trade show & see the stuff demonstrated in person (not to mention cracking jokes & shaking hands).

At these shows you get to see all the different t-shirt printing techniques up close and personal. You can see all the specialty screen printing inks and how they are used to make cool effects on t-shirts. You’ll see the advances that digital printing has made. You’ll see how plastisol heat transfers and vinyl heat transfers can be used to create some of the same effects you see on high end brands. On top of that, you’ll get a first hand look at the latest fashion blank t-shirt brands and styles, with a chance to feel the quality first hand. This can be a HUGE help when trying to find that perfect blank t-shirt to compliment your designs.
-Rodney Blackwell

Ready to take the next step in learning about printing techniques & methods? Try reading through Pros & Cons of Each T-Shirt Printing Method.

premium subscriber benefits rss

Ok. So who wants to print my 14 color design?

Not all print shops are created equal. You’ve probably discovered this while shopping around and wondering how everyone else does it. Well, the printers that are part of this interview are here for a reason – they’re at the top of their industry. If you need some crazy complex print professionally produced, look no further than:

This is not a complete list. For that you’ll want to head over to T-ShirtForums for their running list of printers able to handle complex designs..

The (second to) Last Word

I couldn’t pigeonhole this tip into a category, but it seemed pretty darn valuable nonetheless.

Okay, here’s who actually get’s the last word — YOU! I’ve asked our great panel to keep an eye on the comments & swoop in to answer your questions or ideas. We’re up & running with the new Disqus Commenting Service, so let it rip! Questions! Resources! Experiences! Recommendations! I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

Cleveland’s Marathon, Go Media’s Design, Bill’s experience

Vector Girl on a motorcycle

Cleveland’s Marathon

This past spring I participated in the Cleveland Marathon. It was a lifelong goal of mine; to run a marathon. Being the designer that I am I couldn’t help but notice the design on the give-away t-shirts (which were actually very nice synthetic-fiber jogging shirts.) In my opinion the design could use a little help. My first thought was: “Go Media can do better than that!” I also believe that you shouldn’t complain about something unless you’re also going to offer a solution.

The solution was obvious: Go Media needed to get involved with the Cleveland Marathon! We needed to do our best to improve the designs of their t-shirts. So, a few months ago

Recap: Vectips Interview with Go Media’s Jeff Finley

I thought I’d repost the recap of the interview I did with Vectips that took place over Twitter on Wednesday, August 27 at 1:00 pm EST. The interview was pretty fun, and definitely interesting to hold over twitter. Read on for some of my thoughts on designing and illustration. If you got a chance to watch the interview live over Twitter we’d love to know what you thought about it!

The Interview

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    Vectips: Hey Jeff, how is it going?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: I’m good, excited for the interview. Let’s do this.

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    Vectips: Thanks again for doing this interview with Vectips! First I would like ask you some questions about Illustrator.

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    Vectips: You are a master with the Wacom in Photoshop. Do you use the Wacom features in Illustrator?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: I do use my Wacom in Illustrator, but surprisingly I prefer to draw in Photoshop and Live Trace my result in AI

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    Vectips: Is there a benefit to using a Wacom with Photoshop Brushes over the Calligraphic Brush with a Wacom in Illustrator?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: I like the way PS handles pressure sensitivity. But using brushes in AI can be awesome. Like tapered brushes for hatching

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    Vectips: When you place the Photoshop file into illustrator, what is your Live Trace settings like?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Nothing fancy, I usually leave the Live Trace settings as default. My art is black and white anyway and 300dpi, so it works fine

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    Vectips: In the “Bold is Beautiful” t-shirt, did you have to build the files as vector art for the screen printing?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Surprisingly no, Design by Humans took my layered PSD and somehow managed to separate it into 9 colors and screen print it.

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    Vectips: Wow, that is impressive.

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Yeah DBH did a great job. Vectorizing things would have tripled the workload and made it hard to get watercolor effects and such

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    Vectips: Go Media gives free samples from the Arsenal Packs. Do you feel sites giving away free resources hurts the design industry?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: I could talk for a long time on this. In a way, yes because it devalues the hard work that designers do. No because…

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: No because it can be viewed as helping new designers break in. As they grow they’ll move past the freebies do their own stuff

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    Vectips: Well said, it will also push designer to keep pushing the boundaries of design.

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    jeff_finley: It inspires me to do things differently. If my style is being replicated and given away for free, it’s time to move on.

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    Vectips: Do people steal your artwork?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Yes, sadly, quite often. I know people steal our vector packs and such. But sometimes people steal work I’ve done for clients.

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    jeff_finley: My friend @RandomEntity says to beware of the Manticores! Don’t steal artwork unless you want to get publicly humiliated…

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    Vectips: If some of these people stealing your work are listening now, what would you tell them?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Unless they want to have a penis photoshopped onto their nose and sent to all their Myspace friends, they should stop right now

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    Vectips: Ha! Penis noses are never a good thing.

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    jeff_finley: Yeah I stopped calling myself a Manticore after that incident. Pretty unprofessional. Some Manticores can be brutal about it.

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    Vectips: What is the worst thing about working for Go Media?

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    jeff_finley: Worst? Gosh, probably working in a cramped townhouse with 12 people. It can be loud and distracting. Can’t wait for the new office

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    Vectips: The best thing?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Best? Probably the freedom and opportunity to succeed on my own terms. It’s open ended, so every day opens new doors.

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    Vectips: So what is a Manticore? Is this weird thing a Manticore? http://poprl.com/Vj. Is there any Manticore at Go Media.

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Yup that’s a Manticore. But the Manticores “club” started on Emptees to promote artist rights. http://tinyurl.com/2r5pt4

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    Vectips: What rights does it promote?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Scroll down to the bottom of the wikipedia article to “real life applications” to understand what it’s all about.

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    Vectips: That’s great! Didn’t even know about it.

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    jeff_finley: When word gets out a design was stolen or another designer ripped off another, members would attempt to police the situation.

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    jeff_finley: Read more about manticores on emptees http://tinyurl.com/62z8nl

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    Vectips: I’ve read you are a movie buff. What movie or director would you associate your work with?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: My fav directors are Werner Herzog, Mike Leigh, Andrew Bujalski, Harmony Korine, Alan Clarke, Dardenne Bros, Lukas Moodysson

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Their style of film is real, raw, gritty, honest, and sincere. That’s how I want my work to be, but I’m not sure if I’m there yet.

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    Vectips: What aspects, if any, of your designs reflects part of your personality?

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    jeff_finley: The subject matter, the details, the technique – I feel it reflects my personality and my interests in music/film. Tough question.

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    Vectips: We are nearing the end of the interview. Got anything you want to say, products to plug?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Awe too bad. I feel like there are a lot of questions I could answer but not enough time in the day. If you think of any more lmk.

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    jeff_finley: Some plugs: we’re converting all our vector packs into Photoshop Brushes, should go on sale this week. More apparel templates soon

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    Vectips: I would love to keep going if you want. I have more questions, I just don’t want to take up too much of your time.

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Yeah keep em coming. like i said, bring it on!

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Also I can take user questions if there are any…

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    Vectips: What is your best website resource for inspiration?

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    jeff_finley: I really like http://www.ffffound.com

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    Vectips: From dickieadams: Have you tried inkscape as an alternative for your original sketches?

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    jeff_finley: I’ve tried it once, but I have Illustrator so there is no reason for me to use Inkscape. Although Manga Studio is up and coming.

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    Vectips: You say you have a knack for generating “buzz” around products. What is you most useful online tool for generating this “buzz”?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Well, it’s our blog first off. Twitter is working its way up too. Social Media is still king of generating buzz, esp in design.

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    jeff_finley: But generating buzz is never automatic, building real relationships with people is the best way and it takes time.

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    Vectips: From betterthanhuman: Speaking of inspiration, what other designers do you consider your influences?

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    jeff_finley: As always Aaron Horkey and Horsebites r big inspirations. I also like Cristy Road, Alex Trochut, John Baizley, and Vania Zouravliov.

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    Vectips: From StellasEmpire: What gives you hope to carry on a project if frustration is high, deadlines are freaking out and you could tell everyone to fuck off?

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    jeff_finley: Sometimes when all that stuff gets me down, I find something I believe in and donate my work for free. Makes me feel good

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    Vectips: From wkdown: Who’s Twitters do you enjoy the most?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: I like punknews, collis, and to be honest, most of my fav artists don’t have twitter, or not that I know of.

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    Vectips: How is the Designer Help via Twitter going for Go Media?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Good, a little awkward cause multiple staff use it. It can be tough to catch questions when following hundreds of designers.

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    jeff_finley: But we’re enjoying the experiment. We can filter to see only tweets directed go_media. surprised we’re not getting more questions.

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    Vectips: What do you do if you are not feeling creative?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Surf for inspiration on ffffound or get away from my desk for awhile. maybe take a nap.I go through phases of on and off.

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: I have time for 2 more questions and I should get back to work :-)

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    Vectips: What is you worst habit as a designer?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Probably doing too much at once. I’ve constantly got a dozen windows open and feel overwhelmed and distracted.

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    Vectips: What is you single best accomplishment in your design career so far?

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Being featured magazines is nice. But my career is made up lots of small accomplishments. But moving into our new office is nice.

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    Vectips: Well, I will let you get back to work. Thanks again for doing the interview!

  • Jeff-face2_normal

    jeff_finley: Sure thing! I had a good time. And just for kicks, people can subscribe to the GoMediaZine blog’s RSS http://tinyurl.com/687vz8

15 Awful Mistakes Made by Designers in the Music & Apparel Industry – 2 of 3

This is part two of the 3-part mistakes series. The first one, in case you missed it, covered issues such as undercharging, typography, unprofessionalism, over promising, and the lack of understanding of apparel production. It was well received and a lot of people posted their comments. It was a pleasure reading all of them.

I’ve picked the brains of 9 great designers:

Rob Dobi Dan Mumford Derek Deal
Jimiyo Geoff May Justin Ryan
Laurie Shipley AJ Dimarucot Jimmy Heartcore

So without further ado, here are 5 more mistakes made by designers in the music and apparel industry.


Some designers have developed a style that is instantly recognizable such as Shepard Fairey, Rob Dobi, Derek Hess, Hydro74, and Angryblue. They’re highly coveted and sought out for that style. A lot of designers today simply try to mimic the style of others, and oftentimes, it is the client asking them to do this! Like I said in an older article, I get asked to “Make it look like Affliction” all the time.

Don’t completely cave in to what clients ask for, you have to leave a little room for your own aesthetic. If a client wants a certain type of imagery, make it your own rather than doing the obvious. A big mistake is failing to establish your own style, your ultimate goal as a designer should be to have someone see a shirt and instantly know it is yours. – Rob Dobi

Be Yourself

Rob also goes on to talk about biting trends:

No more silly shirts with huge text, food, cartoony animals with sunglasses, and anything else that looks like a third grader doodled them in their notebook. This style will look dated and completely immature in a few years. There is a reason why tees didn’t look like this in the punk / indie community a few years ago, mainly because it is a passing trend among fifteen year old girls who will flee the scene just as quick as they came. Glamour Kills has this market down to a science, every other brand that imitates it just ends up looking like they are riding GK’s coat tails. – Rob Dobi

If a designer can develop their own style, or spin on another style, this will greatly benefit them in the long run. Also, if a designer is TOO versatile, they will often be overlooked because nothing they do stands out from the crowd. Being a jack of all trades but a master of none only gets you so far.

I think some designers are so eager to break into the industry, that they end up just re-hashing tired concepts or ripping off other people’s styles. Most of my favorite designers infuse a lot of their own personalities and interests into their work, which in turn separates them from a flock of would be designers. I don’t think there’s any reason why you can’t be an ‘artist’ as well as a hired gun. Just be honest with yourself, maintain your own personal aesthetics and if you’re luckily you’ll start getting more work that vibes with your personality. – Derek Deal

Slater Rip

In addition to just following trends, there are people who call themselves designers who outright steal or rip off other people’s hard work. You are seeing this more and more today. There are countless threads on Emptees about various instances and websites completely devoted to pointing out design thieves.

But what constitutes ripping? I know I have a few designers I admire whose techniques I study and try to implement into my own work. Is that ok? Everyone knows that every creative piece of work done today is a copy of something else in the past.

I think sometimes designers use inspiration for a piece (which is totally cool), but then unintentionally use too much from it, thus resulting in a rip. – Chris Sandlin

Westside Mordor ManticoresAs a result of the constant ripping that is pointed out on Emptees, a little “club” called the Manticores was formed. The Manticores (short for West Side Mordor Manticores) were formed to help police and publicly shame individuals who steal or rip off other artists. Sometimes the acts are completely embarrassing to the individual who decided to steal someone’s design, and this drastic measure of public humiliation might deter thieves from ripping in the future. I called myself a “member” of the Manticores, but I personally try to keep my opinions professional and mature. If I get ripped, I try to go about it in a professional manner. In fact, I wrote an article about what to do if you get ripped. I haven’t been following the Manticores much lately, but from what I heard, they no longer exist.

This is a great thread by Edgil who is an amazing illustrator. He admits to ripping off another artist in his early career and how he didn’t think it was so wrong until it happened to him. It’s a good honest story. He’s since become one of my favs on Emptees.

What about using stock artwork? As you know, Go Media sells vector packs and other stock on the Arsenal. We promote them to other designers and encourage them to use the artwork in their designs. Using stock is completely legal when used within the terms of use, but isn’t that being unoriginal?

Not necessarily. You can be original and use stock to save time on your project. Think of new ways to utilize it. We would much rather see someone buy our stock and use them in a way we haven’t seen before or add them to an illustration that WAS original. I’m sure other designers who create stock artwork feel the same.

7. Not Following Directions

No Skulls Idiot

You’ve always heard that communication is key. Young designers and even experienced ones lose jobs because they don’t follow directions or listen to what the client really wants.

It is better to err on the side of communicating too much than not enough. During business affairs, make sure to communicate often, ask many questions, and make sure you get a clear idea of what the client desires. There is no shame to say that you aren’t certain of the direction the art is to go, if you validate the seemingly negative statement by letting them know that you want to ensure they are getting the product they desire and will be totally satisfied. – Jimiyo

Here’s a common situation to avoid: You get a new t-shirt design job for a band you’re really excited about. You jump in and start drawing and before you know it, you’re 4 hours in and really tightening up your linework and colors. You post your first set of proofs and the client writes back and is upset. What the heck happened? It was one of your best designs yet!

“I told you in the beginning I didn’t want skulls or anything related to the human form. I said less than 3 colors on a shirt color THAT IS NOT BLACK.” – angry client

Woops. You just failed. You look back at the project description (or email in some cases) and see it was all explained already in plain English. The client is not happy and thinks you’re an idiot. This is a sure fire way to lose clients. Not to mention you wasted 4 hours of your own time that you’re probably not getting paid for.

Make sure you read directions and listen to your client. If you’re not sure then ask!

8. Not utilizing the medium to its fullest

When designing for print or apparel, designers often forget or ignore the medium that allows them such creativity in the first place. Mr. Mumford had a strong opinion about this as well. In this case about doing CD Packaging:

I like to try and think carefully about what’s placed next to what and how you can use the on-body design of the CD sitting in the tray to good effect or tell a narrative throughout the booklet. I generally do all layout for the CDs and vinyl I work on, and because of that I always try and make as complete a package as I can. – Dan Mumford

Print design is more about just pretty graphics

And Go Media’s own Chris Comella has a passion for packaging. He’s a really hands-on designer and is often seen printing and folding his own packaging mockups out of plain paper. He adds:

Now that people are downloading all their music, its forcing designers to add value to the tangible CDs they work on. Alot of artists are cutting down their CD runs and embellishing their actual packaging…making it more of a ‘collectors item.’ This approach opens the floodgates in terms of production techniques and finishes that transform run of the mill packaging into more personal experiences. Alternative packaging and specialty productions really nail down the idea that the good is in the detail. – Chris Comella

I like the way Chris appreciates the physical medium of the project. Not just the graphics or what can be done in Photoshop or Illustrator. I am actually going to get him to write a complete article on packaging and how it makes you a better designer. Look for that soon.

As far as apparel goes, the past 5 years have seen major improvements. It’s no longer just the front and center chest graphics. With printers like Design by Humans and Amb3r able to print just about ANYTHING, pushing the envelope of what can be printed on a t-shirt is as important as ever. Just for an example, Oliver’s Concentric Downpour tee utilized both the front and back in a unique way. And AJ Dimarucot (aka Collision Theory) is someone I see that enjoys experimenting with apparel medium.

9. Lack of respect for fellow designers

Maylene and the Sons of Disaster by Oliver BarrettMost designers that email me are usually very nice and respectful. But some out there can be little brats that need a spanking.

These brats are seen trolling message boards, calling people faggots and telling people that their designs suck and they’re rips of another designer’s style. These are the same people that commit the ripping/stealing mistake. They do not care about other designers or their property. They are out to get attention. In fact, I shouldn’t even say they are designers.

Laurie Shipley told me she takes offense when other designers try to make her divulge client contact information:

I’ve noticed recently that a lot of designers just starting out are asking some more experienced designers to offer up their contacts like it ain’t no thang! This is absolutely a huge FAIL in art community etiquette, it’s mind blowing. You gain knowledge and insight by working within the industry. Building up a contact list doesn’t always come easy, and to have someone expect you to just hand it out is disrespectful. – Laurie Shipley

Karma.  Enough said.

Another example is after we spend a few days writing a tutorial, we have a few people who like to spoil the show and rip into it. We appreciate constructive criticism but we laugh when we get comments like this on Dave’s Gigposter Design tutorial.

Yah, that was like, “Take trite design convention #1, add Trite Design Conventions #2 and #3, and blamo.” Also, you didn’t put The Fall Of Troy first because you like them more. You put em first, because the design problem here would have been to put the Deftones first (they certainly would have been the headliner). So instead of solving a design problem, you used a bad example of how to work-around your issue. It’s obvious that if a promoter came to you with this project, that it would be rejected. He’s more worried about the tickets the Deftones pull in, not Fall of Troy. As a design tutorial — C+ As a design problem solved? — F- – Some insecure designer

Showing respect for your fellow designers can benefit you in the long run a few ways.

  • They refer clients to you if they’re overworked
  • They link to your site from theirs
  • They offer their own tips and advice

10. Delivering Files before Getting Paid

This seems like a no-brainer but it happens. It happens to us from time to time and it costs us a lot of money. There is nothing worse that spending 10-20 hours on a design and then sending out the print ready files before you get paid. The client is NOT going to pay you once they have received the final files, unless you’ve already established a working relationship with them and know they will pay later.

If you’ve given the client artwork without getting paid, you might be out of luck. If the client doesn’t want to pay you, and they have your artwork it might not be worth it to you to pursue legal action… It’s an expensive lesson to learn. – Jimmy Heartcore

I did this once and learned the hard way. They didn’t pay me fully because they claimed that they didn’t use the art. Nowadays, I only send final art after getting fully paid. – AJ Dimarucot

Get Paid First

To sum up, be original, pay attention and follow directions, experiment with printed materials, show respect to fellow designers, and never release your files before getting paid (unless you have worked out a deal you both agree to).

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