Interview with Threadless Bestee Winner Kneil Melicano

I had the opportunity to chat a bit with Kneil Melicano, who this week won the Threadless Bestees Award for Design of the Year. Of course, he was quite excited about his win and I was very excited to get to chat with him. 


Coty: What was it like waiting to see if your design would make the top 20 for the Design of the Year category? Were you confident that you would win Design of the Year once you saw that RED made the top 20?

Kneil: It was amazing. I’m still floored. I was not that confident looking at all the finalists, seeing most that made it are some of the best concepts for a t-shirt printed out there. The amount of talent Threadless produces and prints is absurd. From Frank Barbara, Aled Lewis, AJ Dimarucot + Jimiyo, Oliver Moss, Enkel Dika, Joshua Kemble, etc etc, you can’t help but feel intimidated by these heavyweights. I did an uppercut-hadouken combo after I refreshed the page and saw my name in the top 20.

Coty: You’ve mentioned that you’re friends with AJ Dimarucot, aka CollisionTheory, who also had a design that made the top 20. What was it like to go up against a friend whose design, When Pandas Attack, was much talked about this year and very popular? Would you like to maybe collaborate with AJ in the future?

Kneil: Haha! AJ is a scary scary person to go against with. I had the opportunity of meeting him when he had his victory party from his win over at DBH. And that dude knows how to throw [a party] on a side note.

He’s a very talented person for someone who admits he can’t draw. That Panda shirt is one of my favorite designs from the site. Battling it out with Pandas Attack made for the most stressful week of my life looking at how well it was received over at other sites like Emptees. But I think RED had a following of it’s own. You tend to look at it in a different perspective. Sometimes what works as standard for a great score at a printable range over at Threadless doesn’t necessarily work at other sites specifically like DBH (famed for huge prints). I think if RED made it over at DBH for a head-to-head with the Panda, it would suffer a heavy concussion with a blurred vision. I like the idea that the crowd chose a more traditional basic print. Not to pertain or target the Panda’s huge all-over placement because I think it’s very appropriate for the subject matter, but I think it separates these two sites  in terms of their crowd following. And the contrast of these two designs and some others nominated (e.g. “Fail” by Budi Kwan, “Snow Angel” by Ian Leon, “Foam Monster” by Aled Lewis) making it over to the Top 20 makes Threadless a more diverse site catering to different crowds.

We do have some projects in the works at the moment together with other Pinoys in the field like Dexter Fernandez (Krayolaeater) and Loy Valera. Hopefully, it should materialize sooner than expected.

Coty: Design of the Year was selected by the Threadless community. Did you do anything special to publicize Red, or did you just cross your fingers and hope that you got the most votes?

Kneil: Like some others, I whored away. That’s it. It’s funny because throughout the whole week of voting, sometimes we would accidentally send each other our pimp emails and myspace promotions and realize we just sent it to the competition. I got some from the other top finalists.

Coty: What is next for Kneil Melicano? How do you follow up something like Red? Do you have ideas for future Threadless designs brewing in your head?

Kneil: There’s no pressure following up RED with a hit. In fact, I think this is the moment where I can experiment more and not play safe with the standards of printability playing in my head every time I try and churn a design. I got other designs in the works but I think there is no better opportunity to focus more on my personal illustrations than right now. I got stuff that I’m dying to finish.

Coty: And of course, the big question is, how do you plan to spend your big $20,000 winnings?

Kneil: Travel! Hit up the best beaches that 20 grand could afford.