T Shirts as a Story

T Shirts as a Story

So AMAZON invited me to become one of their image providers for their Merch-by-Amazon TShirt enterprise. I think this is wonderful, but I mostly consider myself as a storywriter, not really an artist. This is not necessarily a crisis, because it seems reasonable that whatever one is working on, well…. How hard is it to make that into a story, anyway?

Medal in the palm of the hand

Could Tshirts become a story? How is that done exactly? I called together the design team and off we went. It seemed pretty clear that stories really are a type of presentation. Stories start somewhere, lay out (either with very broad strokes, or in whatever detail is chosen) what the issue is and how it’s being addressed, and then the addressing of the issue is presented, and an ending is offered. From a design viewpoint it seemed for a while that this understanding of what is a story simply was not Tshirts. TShirts have no setup, perhaps not even any words, no directions, no hints, and not much in the way of start vs discussion vs end. It stumped the team.

How in the world could one tell a story in Tshirts? Round and round we went. Finally, one of the team just set out a thought progression…..

Here’s how one tells a story with Tshirts…..

“Just tell the story with Tshirts….the end”

First of all, everyone is familiar with how stories work. They know what the parts are and how the progression works. If those components aren’t there, no one is going to make the inference that this is just nonsense, instead what they’ll do is just add in (as a mental note to themselves) the following internal conversation:

“OK, not much structure for this story here….”

“This means I am supposed to infer the structure and put in all the parts that are missing.”

The message was very much along the lines of a couple or just old friends as they sit around just chillin’ out. Conversations are short, sentences are started and just aren’t completed. One or two words, well placed, set up the entire thought, and everyone knows what’s being discussed, why there’s whole conversations where no one even says anything. This is old buddies, old friends at work with each other…

The rules for this are pretty clear. “Hey, this is ‘cuttin’ to the chase’ stuff here.”

“I’m not going to lay out this whole story or argument again. We’ve been down this memory path, you and me, over and over, I’m just adding one more thought.”

So there is a story there, it is happening, it just has only present the absolute minimum of information needed. Everyone knows the expectation from the speaker to the listener is that the listener will just need to fill in the structure and parts. This keeps the conversation short, sweet, focused. It’s something friends and acquaintances do.

In bringing this back to Tshirts the point was made. Get in your head what it is that you’re putting out as the concept, split your attempt at persuading someone to understand that point into a few images, and lay them out as images on a sequence of Tshirts. This is a story in Tshirts.

Gold Side Magnifying Glass hand v8.377

Well…. I thought, gosh, it just seemed that stories would need to be told, particularly if you’re trying to do it in another medium, but I realized the team was correct. People will understand that a story in Tshirts is a form of condensed information transfer… “Just the good stuff, no more than that”

I wanted to introduce a piece of artwork that is also a great demonstration of what can be offered by use of 3D printing capabilities if they are used at the micro level and their medium of construction is precious metals and gems, either using the gems as objects to see, or using the material of gemstones as a construction material.

I continue to have the opinion that the general public just doesn’t really understand what can be offered with these fabrication techniques.  My feeling on this was very much along the line of, “Hey…Look at this.” “You should see this, it’s pretty neat.” The thought was that as the public became aware of the objects that can come out of these technologies of construction, there would be enough of a demand for the corporations to start refining and optimizing this style of fabrication.

Of course, moving the attention of the public to a new arena is another way to say the word “marketing.” Marketing involves getting the target audience to choose to devote some of their attention time from the myriad of other topics that are out there towards the topic that you are marketing.

It is my feeling that a reasonable technique of attention re-direction is to start deeply inside the familiar and use a series of steps to go away from the familiar toward the new area. Considering this concept of re-direction in the area of TShirts, my thought was,

“Let’s be in a very mainstream topic zone and the series or sequence of TShirts will lead toward the micro 3D printing object that we are featuring.”

Here’s the wooden box

“Let’s see if we can construct a story that is interesting enough that people would follow it, we’ll have it end at the micro3D printing object, and we’ll tell the story in TShirts.”

The start of the sequence seemed fairly easy to me. We’ll go outdoors, give a feeling of space, and peace, and happiness, a light and airy sunlit place of nature.

Afternoon scene

“Who wouldn’t want to be there, even if just for a moment?”

I did consider hyper-realistic imagery, but with the advent of unbelievable photographic image capture technologies, well….. everyone has all the real images of real stuff that they could possibly want. My thought was: let’s adjust the colors, and the angles, and the granularities so that the image would “jump out” a little bit.  People would know, even if subconsciously, that “there’s something not real” about the image, but my feeling is that this would actually tend to draw in their attention and would not drive away interest because there would be no trickery. The image would just be sort of not really real.

The Turning Prayer TShirt is available on Amazon

And off we go out into the forest, or at least somewhere with a tree and a brick lined path and a peaceful light blue falling away horizon, with (I hope) a good bright, but faintly yellow tinged light that just implies one of those pretty quiet late-summer early-fall kind of days that everyone can pull up in their memory banks.

There’s a Little Wooden Box next to the tree

“Oh yes,” they would say, “I’ve had a day like that, yes I have.” And we’ve hooked em’.

With that the story has begun, and its ending could not be simpler, we just get the sparkly well-lit “come on, look at me” type of marketing image that is all over everywhere, and this image would be the hyper close-up of the 3D printing object.  It’s the in-between that we’re working on in this posting. How does one make a journey that starts with that pretty sky blue outdoor day and winds up looking closely at a tiny object of jewelry?

I wanted to use the concept of “Hey….Look what I found.” “Would ya’ look at this, wow.”

The little wooden box containing the Turning Prayer coins was inside the starting image, and my story sequence was to just slowly ease away the size and space of an outdoor day and bring the people into a focus on a much more closely constrained space.

Front of the Turning Prayer T Shirt

Here’s where LinkedIn made what is perhaps a blunder, at least with respect to me, because I’ve never understood the concept of a short to-the-point clear and understandable presentation. My reply to the question of how many subtle, probably not so important, but, technically, applicable points need to be included in the proper discussion of any topic and my instant reply  is always…….”a million.”

Back of the Turning Prayer T Shirt

LinkedIn sent me a note, they said I could add images to my posts, no longer was only one allowed.  Yay for me, I knew that my 3D printing TShirt story probably needed to be about 4 images, which put me in the quandry of working through how to get

From the beginning: outside in the cloudless perfect day moment of the starting image

To the end:  all the way to a jewelry object

And I needed to create this journey  in 4 images. Stresses me out.

I thought perhaps I could just post all the in-between images and just see what happens.

The TShirt folks set the image limit for the images on the TShirts at a max (for each side of the TShirt) of 4500×5400 pixels at 300 dpi, and with that I was off to the races….

The design team kept a constant drumbeat of….”Ummmmm, ya’ know, just because we have all those pixels, there’s no real design requirement that we use all of them….”

“Just sayin”

Each time, as I checked the images on hyper magnification, someone would try to remind me,

“Tshirts are not maps, you know.” “No one stretches a TShirt out on a table, then starts at the upper left corner of the TShirt image and works their way down to the lower right corner.” “Taking notes as they go along.”

“Nobody does this.”

The design team kept repeating, “Look at the TShirts that are out there”

“Let’s look at what we will call the ‘general purpose human being focused basic T Shirt’”

“The entire process of image presentation, concept generation, and message implantation by that general purpose TShirt is all completed in 1/10th of a second”

“1/10th second,” they said, over and over….”1/10th second, 1/10th second…”

Medals in a Wooden Box

“Sheeeeesshhh….,” I keep thinking to myself. “I’m caught up in all those available pixels.”

“To have that much image space to convey information and not use it….”

“Well, it just seems wrong to me, almost artistically wrong…. I don’t know.”

The decision to give away all that image complexity just so one can stay inside a 1/10th second time space is hard to process.

“One thing we can tell you,” the design team pressed on, “We think you should not run away from the 1/10th second time space until you’ve at least been there a little while and tried it.”

“Ok, Ok, Ok,” I replied, “I’ll do some of the 1/10th seconds stuff just to get a feel for it.”

“I’ll split my attempts out into three different areas.”

  • Politics
  • Human beings
  • Art

“I guess we could call this ‘T Shirt Quickies’”

Let’s see if I can make 1/10th second TShirts…

Back of the AMERICA T Shirt

Politics: Here’s an example:

Back of the TShirt….image= the word: AMERICA

Front of the TShirt …image= (using the stylized DOT road sign yellow diamond form used for highway caution messages) with the message saying “CAUTION: Hard left turn ahead”

Message sent, 1/10th second

Hard Left Turn

I was working through this post and a hand went up from one of the design team members.


“You’re not going to be able to use that example, in that manner.”

“I’m not.”


“Well, come on, why not?”

“That example, as you’ve done it, is in violation of the Wryness Laws..”


The Hard Left Turn AMERICA T Shirt

The AMERICA series T Shirts are available on Amazon

“The Wryness Laws, ya’ just can’t set that up like that….clear violation, not allowed.”

“Thinking to myself, ‘this is a presentation to persuade an audience’ there aren’t even any real objects here….what tha’ heck?”

“I’ll let the cat out of the bag here,”  “I didn’t know about the Wryness Laws.”

Hard Right Turn

“Well, you wouldn’t, you’re scientifically trained and you’re a scientist, and we all know, wryness and scientists… there’s nothing there, not in their lexicon.”

“So, then, OH great one, possessor of Wryness Skills and Knowledge,” “How do I fix this?”


“Well, as you’ve constructed it, not a biggie…. Such a clear implication of that “Hard Left turn” could be seen as implying that “Hard Left turn” is bad…..”

“What’s needed is you would have to make a TShirt of identical type, except the front image would caution that “Hard Right turn ahead”

Presenting the two sides of the Turning Prayer Medal

“Ahhhhh, of course….”

“Well, thank you, Your Wryness, for bringing me up to speed, let the record show, example of new second version of a 1/10th second image acquisition…

“back image: America”, “front image: Caution Hard Right turn Ahead”

“So, on this side topic, we’re done, right?”

“Well…. While you’ve addressed the basics of the Wryness Mandate, there is this chance you could have tripped over a subtopic.”

There’s the Gold Side of the Medal

“OK, give it to me”

“Well, its one of the WryLaws that you’re stepping on>”

“This is so rich, I thought, the main topic, and the WryLaws….of course”

“The AMERICA word on the back slopes upward from the bottom left to the upper right. This is a clear imagery  of America as in an ascendant, or good direction of motion… So, if America as ascendant on the back, and whatever is cautioned against on the front, implies this caution is against the ascendant AMERICA.”

“Not allowed, WryLaw violation.” “You’re gonna’ have to have an AMERICA going up version and an AMERICA down version and a ‘Hard Left” and “Hard Right” caution for each AMERICA version.”

“4 Tshirts, minimum”

Several hands went up. “We need to get into this,” they said.

“We agree, you’re out from under Wryness Penalties, but with Politics we feel we’ve got to tell you something.”

Multiple Hard Turns Ahead

“Hit me,” I told them.

“With Politics, at any point, if you add a clear message, well……”

“This is well known in Politics…” they cautioned. “Nothing good comes from a clear message.”

“Keep the message fuzzy…”

“With what you’ve shown us with these turn signs,” we feel that

“You’re just getting’ ready to step in it, so to speak.”

And we think, they continued on, with those T’s as described above, you’re gonna’ have it all over both your feet, no doubt about it.

“I kept thinking to myself,”   “Is everything this complicated?”

“Any thoughts here, to keep my feet clean, so to speak?”

“Oh yeah, easily fixed.” “Take out a specific direction indication.”
“Just put in that line that bends one way, then the other, then back, etc., finally finishing up lined up with straight ahead again.”

And, they added, “Keep the sign phrase more opaque, use this phrase”

“CAUTION: Multiple Hard Turns Ahead”

“Alright, OK, Politics has its T Shirt.” “Onward, ever Onward, Human Beings next….”

It’s at moments like this that I always remind myself, “So, anyway, can there be anything in the Universe better than a meeting where one is surrounded by people offering you their advice???”

I pressed on.

On the topic of Human Beings, here’s the 1/10th second concept T.

Reality Contact Area

Back of the T image: the words  “Your life”

Front of the T image: (this image is in the form of those information or notice signs that are all over everywhere. You know, they have a color bar at the top with the word “NOTICE” in the color bar, then they add their message below, like those “This is a Community Watch Area…etc.”

Anyway, the notice image would include (of course the big NOTICE word, then this text:

Reality Contact Area T Shirt

The Reality Contact Area T Shirt is available on Amazon

“This is a Reality Contact Area.”

“Reality may intervene at any time!”

“Reality may intervene without warning!”

No hands went up.

The Gold Side of the Turning Prayer Medal

“Safe,” I thought.

And now we’ll make an attempt at the Art topic.

Back of the TShirt image the words: “Take Note” rendered just under a close-up of the Little Rectangle

I asked the design team for their opinion about the front image.

“Here’s some pure art,” they replied. “We suggest, let it be there as drawn.”

The “Little Guy” Rectangle

Front of the TShirt image: “This is a wider shot of the scene that was used to form the back image. The camera is pulled back some, and the viewer now can “see” all that’s going on. We see two green rectangles, the rectangles are not exactly the same color, each is standing with a tilt, the tilt of one being slightly different from the tilt of the other, one rectangle is bigger than the other, and the rectangles are supported by a ground area with blades of grass growing up.”

“Message delivered, 1/10th second, perfect.”

I looked and looked at this proposed “Art T”, and eventually I had to offer my confession.

“I don’t see what this is all about, and I don’t see why it is even art…” “Sorry.”

The “Big Guy” rectangle meets the “Little Guy” rectangle

SIGH  SIGH   SIGH  materialized in the room. It was a giant, unspoken, pervasive force filling the entire space.

One of the designers popped out with the comment, “As Art, this image is so self explanatory.”

“Well,”   “For Fun,”  “Why don’t you go ahead and let me hear what this Art is, here, in this image.”

“The whole T concerns a moment where wisdom is being transferred…” “Got it??”

“More details,” I replied.

“It’s the life lesson for the Little Rectangle.” The design person continued on, “I just see the Little Rectangle as a ‘he’ although, I guess, I might be projecting…”

“Project on, please,” I was using my best ‘keep talking’ voice. “More please, I’m not seein’ it”

“Oh come on, You know,”  “That Little Rectangle is absolutely just full of himself.”

“He’s sayin’, “Ha… I’m created under governance by the Golden Mean.”

“I have ultimate and perfect proportions” “My green color is the green everyone wishes they could carry with them… And what a perfect jaunt there is to my jaunty tilt.” “I am IT.””

The design team people were all smiling and pointing, looking at me like…

”We knew you knew this.”

“More please,” I pressed on to them, “I can’t get it all lined up yet what the Art exactly is here.”

“The message is completely from the Larger Rectangle.” “The Larger Rectangle is schoolin” that Little Guy.”

A little more close-up view of the red side of the Turning Prayer medal

“The Larger Rectangle let him know the Art points..”

Red Side Left Hand turned up 24.394

“You’re just drawn by the eye of your Creator. Your proportions are what looked good or proper to the Creator. Your green has some blue in it, and blue always pulls in some sympathy and empathy from Humans. You’re showing some ‘jaunty’ but my tilt is enough that one small error and I’m flat on the ground. You’re jaunty, but I’m takin’ a chance. I’m bigger than you and my proportions were derived via multiplication with the famous ratio phi. I really am perfect. You didn’t notice the grass and the chlorophyll green of that grass is what eventually allows all the life that there is here on this little planet. My green comes from that green. And I got the right side of the image, and (at least in the Western World), it flows from left to right, they took you in and then arrived at me.”

“So there, Little Rectangle Guy,” “You think a lot of yourself, but the truth is…..”

“If you’ll widen your perspective, back off from yourself just a bit…”

“You will see that every time, just as you begin to think that you are really ‘on it’ and ‘you’re the one’, why…”

“Just outside your perspectives is a bigger, better, more perfect, updated rendition of whatever it is that you are up to…” “ Remember this..”

Then the Big Rectangle just lets the Little Guy look at him for awhile…

“Do you get it?” the Big Guy said. “Do you get it?”

“I’m the Big Rectangle and I’m IT, not you.”

“What a Life Lesson,” the design person concluded. “Condensed into one image.”

“I’ll let ya’ll know,” I said, “I thought I was looking at two rectangles and some grass.”

And with that, there we had the 1/10th second of “Art in a T Shirt”

Bringing the red side of the Medal into view

The meeting continued. We went back to creating our Story in TShirts. The story of a small beautiful art object arising from 3D printing.  At this point we were really adding art thinking everywhere.

We studied, one by one, our collection of images containing the 3D printed art object.

“Is this image our message?” “Does this image direct the audience’s attention to the next T??”

Art this and Art that.

My thoughts were “Boy, are we really doing some arting around now…”

And then it happened….

Up pops a hand and here comes the comment

“You know, you’ve got the starting image, and the ending image, and about 16 in-between images.”

“There’s a lot of brainpower just churning away right now.”

“Why don’t you just take those in-between images, put one separate in-between image on 16 separate individual T’s, and just let your audience decide which of them tells the story as they like it??”

“They’ll buy whichever TShirts grab them….the end.”

Red Side of the Turning Prayer Medal











18 LinkedIn Closeup Gold side of coin from Hands Plus Grass 9 coins bip v20.242

“Huummmmthhhh,” I thought to myself, “This person must have been an engineer before joining this design advisory group.”

“This person has taken a perfectly functional art thinking extravaganza… and just stopped it cold. Just like that.”

I looked around and was able to get out….”Well I never….”

I was thinking of more words, but nothing popped up, so I glanced at the clock on the wall, and announced..

”Hey, lunch time, we’ll make a plan to get back to this after the break.”

I absolutely have a plan to send out as a post the final output of the design meeting, as soon as that meeting can get to its logical end..

The Turning Prayer Medal is finely polished
letters inside cross gold side v26.374
letters inside cross v22.361
letters inside cross red side v24.365
cross red side letters only v26.372