How To Involve Your Community in Creating Your Next T-Shirt Design

Finding opportunities to include your community in the work that you do is a great way to keep them actively interested, engaged, and involved with your organization. Inviting your community to help design the next t-shirt for your Bonfire campaign is the perfect chance to connect with your supporters, have fun, and also show them you appreciate and value their input! Here are a few ideas for how to successfully collaborate with your community on your next t-shirt design. 

Gather Feedback From Past Apparel Sales

Before you get started on a new collection for your online store, it’s beneficial to take a closer look at how your previous collections performed. This will help you decide what products and styles will be the most successful. Start by taking a look at your total number of sales. Can you learn anything from these numbers? Did certain items outsell other items? Make a note of this information before moving forward.

Next, ask your community for feedback. This information can be gathered by asking questions through something as simple as an Instagram Stories poll or as thorough as a Google form. Have they purchased from you before? What is their favorite product they bought from you? What did they like about it? Was there anything they would improve about the product/buying experience? Would they purchase from you again? 

By learning what worked well in the past, you can determine what will work even better in the future! Putting in the work to do this research first will save headaches later, and will ensure your most committed members of your community have bought into the new products you are creating right from the start.

Host a Design Contest

We’re sure there are artists and creatives in your community who would love the chance to have their design featured on your next custom t-shirt. Host a contest and ask them to submit their designs! Create a shareable flyer that states the terms of the design contest and remember to include all important dates – when submissions open, their last day to submit designs, and when the winner will be announced. If you have specific design requirements, be sure to include them on the flier as well. You want to set your community up for success here, so every detail counts! 

Share this flyer out on all your social media channels (and through email if you have an email list) to make sure everyone knows about the contest and has all the information they need to start on their designs. Post about the contest often and encourage people to enter. Do countdown posts to help folks remember how many days they have left to finish and submit their designs. Keep the energy surrounding the contest light and playful. Your goal is to get as many people as possible to enter so that you have a number of designs to choose from. 

If you’re excited about the contest, your community will be excited about the contest, so have fun with the content you create about it. When the submission deadline hits, make a post that thanks everyone who submitted. It’s so important to remember to thank your community for their involvement as often as possible. 

Once all designs have been submitted, you get the joy of looking through them all! Be prepared to be surprised and moved by what your community comes up with. You can select the winner on your own or you could include your community in the final decision process by narrowing the designs down to the top 4 or 2 and asking them to vote for their favorite. Once a winner has been selected, have a blast celebrating that design and the artist who created it! Make sure you always give credit where credit is due. If the artist consents, you could include their name, photo, and a little blurb about them when you share their winning design with your community. 

Hosting a design contest is a win-win opportunity. Your community gets recognition, appreciation, and the chance to have their design featured on a t-shirt, and you get to connect with your supporters and also get a super cool and incredibly meaningful t-shirt design! 

Hire an Artist in Your Community

Local NY artist Beatriz Lozano designed this shirt for the Bed-Stuy community. Bed-Stuy Strong was founded in March 2020 in response to COVID-19, as an online community and a mutual aid network.

If you’d like to hire an artist to design your t-shirt, look no further than your very own community! We can guarantee there is an artist in your midst that you can work with on this project. If you’re not sure right away who to contact, create a “Call for Artists” flyer to share on social media and include information for how they can reach out if interested. Ask to see samples of their work to see if their artistic style pairs well with the aesthetic and overall vibe of your organization. 

Remember, if you are planning to hire an artist you need to be prepared to compensate them for their time and their work. Find the funds in your budget to pay them before reaching out to them. If you are unable to pay them, be upfront about that fact from the beginning. If an artist is willing to donate their time, at the very least offer to give them proof of that donation and its monetary value for tax purposes. Once you have agreed on mutually beneficial terms, the project can begin! Working with an artist from your community of supporters will be an incredibly rewarding experience. 

Their creative talent, as well as their passion for your organization, will both be present in their final design and the results will be magical. Once the design is complete and ready to be put on a tee, create a post that showcases both the artist and the design. Your supporters will love learning about the artist, so be sure to include information on them and their work. When posting on Instagram or Facebook, always tag the artist and credit them in the caption. 

Just think how special it will be to have a t-shirt designed by an artist who supports and loves your organization. That’s the best-case scenario right there!

Ask Your Community to Vote on Design Elements

Limit the number of options for each vote so they are able to make quick, informed decisions. Keep it simple and keep it light. For example, each time you ask your community to vote, give them two options – think “this or that.” If you are asking them to vote on the color of the shirt, narrow it down to your two favorite color options first.  Example: What color should the shirt be? White or Gray? You can use Bonfire’s design tools to show your community an example of what each color would look like. You could also have them vote for their favorite t-shirt font, shirt style, imagery, design placement on the tee, or even the actual design itself. There are tons of design elements to choose from – pick what works best for you! 

You can collect votes by using the “poll” feature on Instagram stories. Type your question into the template and edit the “yes” and “no” buttons to say the two voting options. Example: Which apparel option do you prefer? Premium Unisex Tee / Classic Long Sleeve Tee. Your community will be able to cast their vote by simply tapping a button. Another possibility for collecting votes could be to create a post that displays the two options and asking people to write their votes in the comments. If your organization is hosting an in-person event, you could print surveys for people to fill out. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it’s easy and enjoyable for both you and your supporters. 

Asking your community to vote on individual design elements lets them know that you value their opinions, both individually and as a whole. Keep them updated along the way with voting results and thank them for participating! 

Collaborating with your community on the design of your next t-shirt will be a memorable experience for everyone involved. Your supporters will anxiously await the final product and will be excited to purchase the tee when it launches. We hope these ideas for involving your community in the design process have you feeling confident and ready to get to work. We can’t wait to see what you and your community create together!

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