I've been an art director for the industry-leading licensed apparel company, Changes, for 15 years.
The advantage of working with Changes is that I work on all kinds of properties, a variety of merchandise and every retail tier.
The licensing business is unique. The best programs bridge a deep understanding of an intellectual property: what people love about it with an equal understanding of the customer: who loves it. The merchandise is an opportunity for a fan to connect more deeply with something they love, and express that to the world.
At Changes I've been able to work on every kind of property: the big new game or movie launch like Halo or Batman, the perennial property that needs a fresh interpretation like the Simpsons or Nintendo, the newest property like We Bare Bears and the nostalgic gem like Beavis & Butthead. I understand the full life cycle of a property: how to grow it and how to sustain it with fresh creative.
The Walking Dead
We've been licensees for the Walking Dead since season 2. It's a perfect example of the evolution of a property: a small program of a few horror shirts became a program for the biggest show on TV, generating hundreds of different designs. We have to stay on our toes, chasing the trends and keeping our product relevant to the evolving audience.
When JC Penney signed on as a retail partner, their customer needed a different approach to the gore splattered shirts we were selling at Hot Topic. So I developed a more mature program influenced by trends in poster design to appeal to their specific customer.
The challenge with the most popular show on television is that high demand and retail exclusives require a steady stream of new graphics. While I do some illustrations myself, it's necessary to collaborate with the best artists. For the above set I worked with Gabriel Pages, one of my favorite illustrators. I sketched up ideas based on scenes and posters from spaghetti westerns and vintage horror movies.
Even with a brooding show like The Walking Dead, humor sells. Since I cut my teeth on the Simpsons and Family Guy, I can aways find a sick joke that will appeal to the fans.
Another property I've been able to grow with is Adventure Time, the smart, other-worldly Cartoon Network hit.
For the first few seasons, the t-shirts were characters from the style-guide and popular lines, but as a property matures, we need to dig deeper to find fresh graphic approaches. I look everywhere for inspiration: from art to alchemy.
I worked with in-house illustrator Jon DeLoca to insert the characters into pop-culture. The mash-ups struck the perfect chord for the fan: their favorite cartoon character referencing their favorite, games, bands, and tv shows. The shirts worked on multiple levels, and that creates powerful engagement.
I also experiment with typography. "Words on a shirt" is the classic t-shirt formula, and there are so many great quotes for these characters, but a big block of text gets boring. So I found new ways to present text. These new looks brought in new retail partners because this style connected with a different fan.
DC is an excellent licensing partner because they understand the need for creativity and reinvention. This has allowed me to try a variety of styles that speak to different customers.
MTV is a fantastic recent partner. Like with DC the creative is very open ended allowing for a variety of approaches and therefore a variety of customers.
Here's a tribute I did to musicians we've lost since MTV launched. Can you figure them all out?
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