Athlete Originals: Connecting Designers with Pro Sports Stars

I was contacted by Chris Dey, the founder of Athlete Originals with an earnest request on how to build a crowd-sourced design website that professional designers actually liked. He had a great idea and it was cool that he was seeking advice from the design community. Their new site launched today and is now open to the public.

Designers can sign up today if they wanted.

Disclosure: Athlete Originals is a client of ours. We didn’t design their website, but we are providing them strategy and feedback to help make their site better for designers. This blog post is to introduce their site to the design community at large and get feedback from our readers. If you have any feedback, feel free to comment at the bottom of this post.


What is Athlete Originals?

Athlete Originals is a website that connects pro athletes with the design community. For designers, it works like your average design contest website. Designers can submit designs to logo and t-shirt design projects for these athlete’s upstart fashion brands. If their design gets chosen, they get paid. Pretty well in my opinion. Athlete Originals takes the design files and sends them to print and sells the merchandise in their online store. They are essentially a merchandising company for these athletes.

The best part is how no-name designers can work with big-name stars.

jarius wright

Who are some well-known athletes that have used AO to work with designers?

Jarius Wright (wide receiver from the Minnesota Vikings) and LeGarrette Blount (running back from the Patriots) would be two guys who have built brands and launched apparel lines.  They actually each built personal brands, then turned around and launched secondary apparel brands.  For example, BLOUNT and Blount Force Trauma.  J Wright and Wright Stuff.  Jarius is also building a line called Separation.

“Athlete Originals did a great job developing my brand.  The designs are tight!  I’m looking forward to launching my apparel line and bringing more of my ideas to life.” – LeGarrette Blount, NFL Running Back

legarrett blount

Coming online to AO soon will be Kerri Walsh (gold medal volleyball player), Pablo Sandoval (SF Giants and World Series MVP), Jessica Eye (UFC), and more.

kerri walsh

Now, I am not a fan of design contest websites by default. They typically pay the designer poorly and too many people lose and don’t get paid anything for their work. But I am not completely against them; they can work. Chris and I had long phone conversations about what designers really want: to get paid, creative freedom, fun projects, and cool clients. Chris took my advice and incorporated these principles into Athlete Originals. And from what I have seen so far, designers are digging it.

“Working with Athlete Originals was an amazing experience. I had the privilege of working for some of the best athletes in the country and to be able to capture their vision in a clothing line and see that design come to life was truly a dream come true.” – Kyle Saxton, Intern at Go Media

Design by Kyle Saxton, Go Media
Design by Kyle Saxton, Go Media

We got a chance to use it and two of our designers Kyle Saxton and Carly Utegg both won projects soon after they signed up. Now they are both talented designers and isn’t surprising but this was encouraging! It’s quite addictive to win and see that cash in your account!

What are the payouts?

“The payout is great. Not your typical $50-$100 logo fee given on other crowd-sourced platforms. Even if it’s spec, the huge payout encourages you to participate.” – AJ Dimarucot, Freelance Designer

Design by AJ Dimarucot for  Jordan Poyer, rookie defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles.  It’s a take off on his tattoos and his nickname J PO.
Design by AJ Dimarucot for Jordan Poyer, rookie defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s a take off on his tattoos and his nickname J PO.

From founder Chris Dey, “With the exception of our pre-launch athletes who received discounts, future design payouts will be $1,000 for a t-shirt design and $3,200 for a brand logo. This represents how much the designer would receive [after fees].” This is remarkable. Let me repeat this:

  • Average Payout for T-Shirt: $1,000
  • Average Payout for Brand Logo: $3,200
Design for Jarius Wright by Yavuz Sonmez
Design for Jarius Wright by Yavuz Sonmez

“Athlete Originals has provided me with the opportunity to design for some of the top athletes in the world… One of my designs was selected by famous American Football player Jarius Wright, who is a very good wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings.”  Yavuz Sonmez, Freelance Designer in Istanbul, Turkey

Designs for Jarius Wright. Logo by Yavuz Sonmez, t-shirt design by Go Media
Designs for Jarius Wright. Logo by Yavuz Sonmez, t-shirt design by Go Media

How does it work?

“The process is straight forward, quick, and allows for as much creativity as your willing to give! Not to mention it’s great pay and get’s your name out there!” – Carly Utegg, Go Media

After a designer confirms their new account via email, they can log in and view the active projects.  They add the projects they are interested in to their Watch List so that they receive updates on them.  They chose to participate in those projects that interest them most.  They submit designs according to the design specs.  Once the deadline has passed, if the designer’s artwork is selected, they upload the final files according to the specs (the Designer’s Playbook).  The client approves the final art and the designer gets paid.

Note: We personally had an issue with uploading final files before we got paid as this violates Go Media’s standard design process. We changed our mind for this one because the client is taking on a risk by allowing any designer in the world to submit. They need to make sure the final files are print-ready. Fortunately there are contracts in place that protect you as the designer. Don’t worry about not getting paid if you win.

Lonnie Pryor designed by Alex Miller, intern at Go Media


  • Extremely easy access to rewarding projects for some big name clients.
  • You don’t have to go out and sell to try to land more clients. They are already there.
  • Good payouts that are on par with market rates for logo and t-shirt designs ($500 and up)
  • Fairly low risk and a good percentage you can win because the site is new
  • You can focus on designing and forget about pitching and selling your work
  • Clients have already filled out questionnaires about what they want
  • You can quickly build a portfolio with pro athlete clientele
  • Work only when you want to, not everyone gets that luxury
  • The terms for payment and file delivery are very easy to understand.
  • Fast customer service from an interested founder.


  • No guaranteed payment unless you win.
  • Your chances of winning get lower when more designers participate
  • That’s about all I can think of

How do I sign up?

It’s free to sign up, just visit this page and build your profile and start working!