How do we appropriately ask for t-shirt design ideas on our podcasts?
July 9, 2014 4:46 PM   Subscribe

I run a podcast network, and we're revamping our merchandise. We have no designers on staff, but we have lots of designers in our audiences who love our shows and have great ideas, and we'd like to tap their expertise. I'd like to ask for design idea submissions from designer-listeners on-air without asking for spec work (or seeming to). How, specifically, do we make that call to action - what language should we use? (The work, incidentally, is paid.)
posted by YoungAmerican to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What specifically are you asking people for? Is the idea that people will submit images that are ready to be used on a t-shirt, and you'll pick some and then pay them? Or that people would submit short verbal descriptions of their idea, and you'll pick some and pay them to make the art? Or something else?
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:01 PM on July 9, 2014

LobsterMitten - once long ago, we would have t-shirt contests, and people would submit designs, and we'd pick one and print it up. But I've come to understand that's not kosher in the design world and people get steamed about it.

So for our purposes, I'd like to ask for as much as is reasonable, but I don't want to step on any toes or ask for something unreasonable. So my presumption is maybe something like a sketch and portfolio? Part of why I'm asking is because I have no experience doing an "RFP" for designs in any other context.
posted by YoungAmerican at 5:04 PM on July 9, 2014

Stuff You Should Know did this a while back. I'm not sure whether they paid the designers whose work they chose, or if it was just a "Get The Opportunity To Have Your Design On Our Shirt!" contest. It might be worth emailing them to ask them how they ran it, or digging back in the archives and listening to how they pitched it to their audience.
posted by Sara C. at 5:10 PM on July 9, 2014

If you're going to hire one specific designer to whom you would then give creative direction on specific design ideas:

"We're looking to hire a designer to create t-shirt designs. We'd love to work with one of our talented, creative listeners! If you're interested, please email us [here] with some portfolio samples."

And then respond to everyone who gets in touch if possible even people you're not going with. If you're not going with them, mention something like, "Thanks so much for sending your work! We'll keep your portfolio on file for future projects [if you are]. Thanks for being such a great, creative, awesome listener!"

As a designer, I do not this it's kosher to ask for a sketch of a proposed design before hiring someone if that's what you have in mind - that is spec work. And it's to your best advantage anyway, if any sketch comes after a fruitful, creative, brainstorming kickoff meeting or phone call once the designer is hired. That way the designer can glean the creative direction and give you better results.

Your other option would be to hire a few different people to submit sketches and then you move forward with one or two designers, paying them to complete the t-shirt designs. You'd then have to be delicate with the designers you're not moving forward with, especially since they're your listeners. Something like, "Thanks for the sketch! While we're not going to move forward with it now, we'll let you know if we decide to use it in the future as we're always looking for great t-shirt designs..." And I'd be upfront with the hired designers from the beginning if you decide that's your process.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 5:13 PM on July 9, 2014 [12 favorites]

And thank you for being so considerate in avoiding spec work! That is very respectful of your listeners and will also give you a better result.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 5:16 PM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another option is to pay a few people for designs, even if you only go with one. Ask people whose profiles you like to submit a sketch in exchange for $amount, then pay one or more people to come up with final designs.

Also, T-shirts are still semi-fragile objects, so limited edition things still work here if you want to stagger different designs. That depends on how many you think will be printed, though.
posted by rhizome at 5:19 PM on July 9, 2014

Be clear about how much you'll be paying the artist and then solicit portfolio (not concept or sketch) submissions via your podcast. Choose the artist you like best and respond nicely to the rest (you may have to return to the runner-up if your first choice backs out).
posted by quince at 5:46 PM on July 9, 2014

Welcome to Night Vale had designs submitted and voted on by listeners and then paid the winning designers, I believe. They're worth checking with, perhAps?
posted by PussKillian at 9:10 PM on July 9, 2014

I don't think it's exploitative if you are very clear about what you are doing. Then people can decide if it's worth their time or fun for them. A contest doesn't strike me as unfair as long as you say "Only one person is getting picked, the selection will be determined by x and the winner will get a one-time prize of $x for us to own their design and use it for whatever." It's shitty when people are asked to submit designs thinking they will be able to land long-term work if it's a one-time thing or submit a design thinking they will get paid if it's used when they won't. I'm not in design but I think if you just be up front, I don't see how it would be a big deal.

People write for free all the time and it's up to them to decide if they think getting a piece published they wrote for free is worth it for their portfolio. Other people won't write for free. What is shitty is people who say "write some articles and then we'll see if we can hire you eventually." Then, there's a good chance they are using that person. If you wanted to do a contest, people who didn't want to work up a design because they wouldn't get paid enough for it or because know there's a chance will get rejected won't participate. You can give people the choice as long as you are clear about the options.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:14 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also don't think there is anything wrong with running a contest. You'll probably get more, and better, choices designed by people who already know, and have affection for, your product.

No one is being exploited here, let your engaged audience contribute to the enterprise they enjoy.
posted by pseudonick at 5:32 AM on July 10, 2014

Maybe you can ask for designers to send samples of their past work, and you can get a feel for, say, 5 or 10 whose style suits you best. You can then pay a flat fee to each for x number of concepts or rough thumbnails, with the understanding that you won't use any concepts without hiring the designer to finalize them. From that pool you can select your final designer and agree to terms for delivering final product.

Verbiage something like "If you want a chance to work with us, send some samples of past work - please no spec work!"

Even if the fee you can pay for concepts is below standard, I know that the fans of your network (of which I am one) would be happy to have a shot.

On the contest angle mentioned by others: I still wouldn't rule that out. I participated in such a contest back in the early days and didn't think you were taking advantage of anyone. But your concern is setting a good example for others!
posted by The Deej at 6:36 AM on July 10, 2014

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