It was my pleasure to interview Dale Edwin Murray for this weeks Indie Tee Spotlight. He has definitely made a name for himself in the crazy world of T-Shirt design and has been very successful in submitting designs and winning at some of the top T-Shirt contest sites around, like, Threadless, A Better Tomorrow and Shirt.Woot. Dale shares a little bit about how he got his start, what you can do to improve your chances of submitting a winning design and why he doesn’t wear his own shirts!
Coty: How did you get started in the T-Shirt design business?
Dale: I help start an online t-shirt store about 5 years ago. I was initially involved in content management and marketing and somehow ended up designing all of their own brand tees. I went freelance about 3 years ago and have been doing t-shirt design ever since.
Coty: What was your first experience in submitting to a T-Shirt design contest? What did you learn from that initial experience?
Dale: My first experience of a t-shirt contest was subbing something to threadless. It was a long time ago and looking back on it the design was pretty awful. It scored pretty badly and got hardly any love from the crowd over there. I learned a number of things from that experience – firstly that t-shirt design is not as easy as it might first appear. There is definitely an art to it and just because you are a good designer doesn’t necessarily mean that you can do commercially appealing tees. It also became apparent just how much competition there is out there. Subbing to threadless was definitely a useful way to get unbiased feedback on those initial designs. It told me that I needed to go back to the drawing board and come up with something better and better each time.
Coty: You’ve submitted to and won at Threadless with the designs Squeeze Me and Music Business Remastered. With Threadless receiving over 2000 submissions a week, how difficult is it to get noticed and printed at Threadless? What tips do you have for those trying to get printed by Threadless?
Dale: There is a lot of competition at threadless. There are a plenty of very talented designers over there and they get a ton of submissions. So yeah it’s tough to get printed. I thought it was never going to happen! And I’m finding it just as tough to get printed for a third time! I guess the advice I would give would be to take your time with getting your design just right before you submit it. Try and get something perfect and resist the urge to get it subbed quickly. I think it is also important to try and get involved in the community over there, to participate in the blogs and critique/score/comment on other people’s designs. Try and get yourself known and as silly as it sounds, get a good, easily recognisable avatar.
Coty: Which of your designs is your favorite to date? Why?
Dale: I guess it would have to be Music Business Remastered. It is my highest scored design on threadless and went down pretty well there in terms of sales as well. I guess that’s what I’m always striving for, a design that looks great but also sells well. Funnily enough on my way to the gym the afternoon I actually saw a guy wearing the hoodie version – that made my work-out much easier!
Coty: Aside from submitting to contest sites I am sure that you do freelance work outside of T-Shirt design. What, if any, type of graphic design work do you do outside of designing awesome T-Shirt designs?
Dale: I’m lucky enough to have enough t-shirt design work to not have to diversify at the moment. I say luckily because I really love doing tee design. But in the future I would also love to move into other areas – editorial illustrations, album and book covers – that kind of stuff would be cool. But at the moment I am all about tees!
Coty: Digit Duel is the “sequel” to your first Threadless design, Squeeze Me. I’ve got to ask, what’s the story behind these squeeze characters? How’d you come up with the concept of colorful beans on oversized hands? And secondly, are those the hands of Dale Edwin Murray!
Dale: I have absolutely no idea how that idea popped into my mind! I was just doodling these little bean characters and wanted a way of making them look really small in relation to something else. I thought it would be cool if they were interacting with something rendered in a photo-realistic kind of way – a mixture of fantasy and reality if you like. So it sprang from there I guess. So I took a photo of my own hand squeezing a grape to get the perfect pose. Yep, those are my hands – complete with freckles!
Coty: With a growing collection of Dale Edwin Murray designed tees circling the Internet, I wonder, does Dale wear his own tees?
Dale: I have to admit that I don’t wear graphic tees at all – my own or anyone else’s. I only wear plain tees. I used to wear a ton and still have them all in my wardrobe but I don’t feel right wearing them anymore. That’s what happens when you hit 30!!!!
Thanks to Dale Edwin Murray for taking the time out from creating wonderful tees to chat with me! Be sure to stay up-to-date with Dale’s latest designs by visiting his online portfolio.