The Surly Process

MLB Design Challenge

So I recently saw the Baltimore Orioles logo on TV.  Immediately a design popped into my head based on the name being close to another word visually.  You ever do that, see a word and read it as another word be cause they are so similar?  The design in my head was clever but I didn't think anyone would wear it as a t-shirt so I moved on..... Or so I tried.  Two days passed and I was still thinking about the design.  This is my process, once I see the design in my minds eye I can't stop thinking about it until I create it.  Once I finished I was pleased it came out exactly the way I saw it in my head.  Then I had to do one for my beloved Cubbies.  Then I said why not try to do all 30.  The MLB Challenge was born......

I've seen these concept designs done before.  Someone always finds the artist and writes up something about them. Secretly I'm hoping someone sees these and does a cool write up.  So if you are reading this and you are a writer or know a writer hint hint.



Simple, take the name logo of each team and change it to a regular word fitting the same font and style.  If there is a graphic within the name logo try to make that reflect the new word.



I'll post the designs in the order that they are created.  The super hard part is that most if not all major league teams have their fonts custom made and they do not allow the artist to reproduce those fonts.  So a lot of this is creating the font by hand.


B More Origami

For my folks in Baltimore.  This is the first one in the series.  I saw the word Orioles and Origami popped in my head.  I use to really be in to origami, I wish I had stuck with it and got to the level of being able to create those animals from memory.  Anyway Fold Up B-More!!!


Chi Cabs

I love my Cubbies, but damn we have a basic logo.  There was not much I could do with this.  I thought about the "Cobs" which would have been funny IF you knew about calling NO COBS as a kid.  I thought Cabs were more universal.  Plus you could yell out "LETS GO CABBIES" in the same was we yell "LETS GO CUBBIES".  


Chi White Sax

So I kept going with my home of Chicago and gave the South Siders some love.  The interesting thing as I type this up I realize the first three are related to me.  I use to play the alto sax as a kid.  Yes this one could have been the "Sex" but baseball is wholesome and for the kids. LOL.  


LA Codgers

I flipped this logo before for my frat so this one was easy to do.  I think the false teeth put this one over the top.  I don't know that the elderly population is larger in LA, I think that's probably Florida where a lot of folks go to retire but who cares this is dope.


Cincy Crabs

This should have been simple or it appears that it would have been simple but it was not.  I always forget how to do the shadow effect on the letters and I was very picky about how the claw looked.  It's still not my favorite claw but I didn't want to change the C to much.  Eh, some will love it some with hate it, I think it fits the theme. 


Zona Diamond Rings

For the ladies.  Most proud of the font in this case. I had to cobble the pieces of other letters together to make certain letters in the word "Rings".  Also if you look at the rings carefully you will see a piece of the Diamond Backs original logo in there.  Clever.


LA Bangles 

Another one for the ladies.  This one started out as the "Bagels" but some where before I started "Bangles" made more sense with the play on the halo as a bangle.  I don't know if I did it right but trying to figure out the off color shadow pattern to create that B was hell.  I don't care if its not right to the naked eye I think it works.


SF Pints

The ironic part is I completed this one after having several beers watching Loyola Chicago advance to the final four. This is extra clean to me.  The word I initially saw was Gnats but I thought that was not that much of a challenge since all the letters would have already been there.  This one might actually make it to a shirt.


CO Sprockets

I know that this idea came directly from the Jetsons.  Spacely Sprockets where George Jetson made his coins.  Colorado has a lot of outdoorsy people and there is a lot of biking so the sprocket kinda fits if there was a bike shop for hipsters.


ATL Braids

This one took some thinking however I'm very pleased with it.  This one is for my two sisters, one sister in-law, mother in law, and two nieces living the natural hair life in the ATL.  Along with all my Spelman sisters.  They all know about the rat tail comb life.  


Mil Chewers

Almost quit on this one. The pattern of the font around the W E R S was tricky and I initially had it wrong but close enough and was juuuustttt about to say to hell with it but I figured it out.  I guess this one is for all my Dentists in Milwaukee.


Seattle Marinade


Seattle is known for the Pike Place Market and the flying fish so I had to flip this into something reflecting that.  So we got the fish sitting in some marinade.  The gloomy weather not included.


KC Religion 

One of my favorites created the day before Easter.  Its clean and I like the stain glass effect.  


Philly Chillies 

So when I wanted to go with Chillies, I had to look it up to see if there were 2 Ls or one.  Turns out you can use one or two, or at least both came up in google. Then to make it even more confusing I decided to drop the Chili's logo in there for fun.


Boston Red Sax

So I had to do this one as "Sax" to match the White "Sax".  Pretty straight forward, you know what it is. 


Tampa Bay Trays

More font work.  I suppose this could be an ice tray, a cafeteria tray, a TV tray, etc.  You pick your favorite tray and that's the one I meant.  


Toronto Blue Cheese

I've been Toronto and I've had blue cheese and I can't say that one is better than the other, honestly it's a close race. Another logo that is mostly font work but I dig it.  The old school blue jay that is featured on the had is mean, I need to get that in camo.  I'll probably have a black and blue burger, with bacon, before I find that hat though. 

Def Jam

Def Jam

So early on I was asked( key word here more on this later) to do a shirt that represented Def Jam the early years.  This one was to be for the true hip hop fans, 30 and up crowd.  I was down to do it but I didn't know quite how to capture it all.  Let me also state again, I'm not a music head, so I wasn't like super into how I should do this shirt, I just knew the main folks and I was going from there. 


Okay so I knew right away I couldn't fit all the people I needed to on one shirt.  It had to be readable from a distance so I decided right away to make a series of shirts.  This way I could capture each of the early acts on a separate shirt and I didn't have to shrink things to make them fit.  That seems reasonable right??  This is where I get caught up in my own head.  What I think is reasonable is not always reasonable.  This idea also directly reflected my skill level in tshirt design.  I was stuck on getting every face on a shirt when in actually I could've taken a mixture of faces , lyrics, song titles, iconic items (Adidas shoe, dookie rope chain, kangol hat , big clock, bulleyes target, shades etc) and still been good.  There is more than one way to get the message across, but I wasn't there yet.  So Def Jam , all separate shirts, hip hop , aight lets get it.


I started with RUN DMC.  I wanted the iconic red bars from the logo but I didn't want to just put the words in the middle like everyone else had done.  So I settled on the Mic, an shell toe Adidas, and the turntables for Jam Master J.  Those dookie ropes gave me a hard time.  You know how hard it is to make ink look like gold???  VERY!! I'm most proud of the way the turntables came out.  I did that piece by piece and had to make it on the slant to fit it in but it's got detail and looks dope.  This was also the first time I did no eyes.  I don't know why I did that, but to me it looks dope.  I know is creepy to some including my daughter, "dad why don't they have eyes they can't see". Meh, you will see this again in my work cuz I like it.

The next one I did was P.E., Chuck D and Flav.  With this shirt I realized that I was a minimalist.  What is the least amount of anything I can put on this shirt but make you know exactly what I was thinking.  All outline, say word, I mean why not.  The most detailed item here was the raiders logo.

Next up was the Beastie Boys.  Quiet as kept of the 4 that I designed this one was my favorite and this one I put the most time into.  This is where I knew I was becoming an artist and maybe a bit of a diva.  I wanted people to appreciate the amount of detail I had pumped into this design.  I would learn later (stay tuned below) that most folks won't be impressed, they will like it in passing but won't study it or look to deeply at it.  I mean it's a t-shirt Reese get over ya self.  These were my three favorite songs as well Brass Monkey, Paul Revere, and Fight for your Right to Party.

side note: Shout out to my dad, he use to drink private stock and under the cap was a picture puzzle.  He would drink and give me the cap and I would try to figure out the puzzle.  I thought that was the dopest thing ever, to be able to convey a message using only pictures.  So this style will repeat itself time and time again in my work because I'm a fan.

Last up LL Cool J. Looking back if I'm being honest this was the weakest of the lot.  However that's to be expected you do a run of shirts 1 will be the dopest and 1 will be the runt of the litter.  I think the concept of the two sides to LL was dope, the playboy talking about big booties and the romantic simpin about needing love.  I improved on the shimmer of a gold chain in this one though.  However I know if I were to print this that shimmer might get lost in translation. Ah well, can't win em all.


Remember back up top I said I was "asked" ok well let me get into what I learned about that first.  So I was asked to do this, not hired to do this, so what's the difference you ask?  It's simple a hire is a contract with a deposit, an ask is a favor for the homie.  The ask happened and I expected the homie to buy all four which didn't happen.  I was quite pissed.  However if I sit back and look at it 1) He asked for 1 shirt I turned that into 4, why would he go from $25 to $100?? I wouldn't. We discussed the 4 shirts before hand but again looking back I can see where someone would say OK but not really be to quick to take that up sale.  2) It's on me to get the money or set the price, get a deposit up front, Fat Tony taught me that, I didn't that's on me.  3) later on it was brought up that the homie didn't like all the designs. <---THIS is something that will pop up over and over and over.  Just cuz I think it's dope doesn't mean others will.  Do I change what I think is dope to move units??  Overall I don't , I live and die by what I think is dope, if in the end it doesn't move units then hey it is what it is (more on that in a min). I try to direct people to my website to look at my catalog of work (yeeeaaahh I'm big time now I got a catalog of work) to see if they like my style before I do work for them.  I have a style and it's not for everyone, I'm comfortable saying that now, I don't think I was early on. 

Even though the money up front thing was a big lesson to learn early on I must admit I still have not learned it fully (hard head make a soft ass as they use to say).  I still get asked to do things and I'm not consistent in how I handle it.  It's cost me money and maybe even some cool points with folks. On the other hand some folks have enjoyed the process and appreciate having their idea come to life.  Yeezy shrug, meh, (I went to edit and came back to this spot and lost my train of thought...soooo fade out)


So how have the shirts done you ask??  Run DMC did very well and has done very well over time.  PE sold the second best.  It breaks my heart to say I've not sold not one Beastie Boy shirt!!! Like that shirt is so dope to me it makes me mad every time I think about it. Like people are you seeing all the elements on that shirt.  WAKE UP PEOPLE!!! (woo saaa) This is one of many shirts I've done and been very proud only for it to go no where.  LL I don't know if I even ever released it, and if I did it was a short run.  I think after the Beastie Boys flopped I just gave up on this lot. 


I liked this project because it challenged me to do a bunch of shirts I never would've thought to do on my own.  The challenge of coming up with concepts and images that people like enough to buy is something I chase every time I design a shirt. It's often a crap shoot, I think its dope and it doesn't sell, or I think it's meh and people buy it that day. Every once in a while like Jr, I KNOW I rocked it and I get to drop the bat and slow walk as I watch it leave the yard.  Overall every project is a chance to get better at my craft.



**I'm sure this blog is full of typos and what not, it's ok, it's just a blog.





Just two dope boys in a Cadillac!!  One of my very first shirts.   When I first started I had a lot of requests from people asking me to do something that represented their city.  I had previously done one for the Chi with Yeezy which the people got behind so other cities wanted their turn.  But whatever I'm from the Chi and I was really only focused on shirts I wanted to create.  However after much encouragement from the homies from the A (O, Moham, Jamario ) I decided to try to come up with something for ATL.
This one is pretty straight forward.  I arrived in ATL in 1996 to attend the greatest school on the planet, Morehouse College, right about that time Outkast was blowing up with Elevators.  So began the introduction to music in the South.  This was a year after Outkast won best new rap group and let the world know the music scene would be changing.  So aliens in a space ship leaving the planet Georgia was a no brainer.  I think anyone who takes a look at the design knows exactly what it means.
The design was actually pretty easy on this one.  Drew the faces first as I believe in get the hard stuff out the way and go back and do the rest.  Big Boi's glasses, so I want the mirrored look but didn't know how to achieve that look.  Somehow I stumbled on to the some of the effects buttons and I found one that worked.  I was early on in the printing game and I just found out that each different color cost money so this mirrored look wasn't going to work for print.  (more on that later)  The next thing I worked on was the ship.  The hardest part was the Caddy symbol, each piece by hand.  I had not yet learned how to use the image trace function so I did the whole thing by hand.  GA was just a tracing of the state but the ring around it was my new favorite toy , effects, this was a distortion effect which made a solid line blurred.  The biggest challenge, outside the symbol,  was the reflection on the ship, more tools I had no clue how to work but figured out thanks to YouTube.  Overall the design came together the way I wanted it to look.
I learned that printing is different from creating.  I can create whatever I want but when I go to print there are limits.  Colors cost money when silk screening.  So I had to strip this one of colors in order to get it printed. The mirrored glasses had to go and become one color.  I think in the end I did 4 colors using the shirt as black.  Green, Dark Green Grey, White.  This was still an expensive shirt to make compared to the others I made to start.  BUT its by far the dopest.
I also learned to listen to the homies.  I am not a super music fan so I don't know that this shirt ever gets made without folks pushing to me to make a shirt for ATL. 
So how did it do?? It's one of my best sellers.  I bought a box of like 36 initially and sold all but 1.  That's right there is small on the sale tab that is from the original batch.  After that first box I linked with my new printer and he does direct to garment printing and I was able to add the colors back.  This one still moves units.