Geoff May

December 5, 2008

We interview t-shirt designer Geoff May.

Dinosaurs t-shirt

TM: So how did you decide that t-shirt designing was your thing?

GM: I guess tee shirt design chose me. When I first started doing freelance graphic design, about a year and a half ago, I solicited a bunch of labels that I wanted to work with but never heard back from ANY of them. About 6 months later I started posting some tee designs on All of the sudden, the record labels were contacting ME! It just snowballed from there. I’m to the point now that I don’t have to look for work, people just contact me, which is always nice. Though now and then I do reach out to clothing companies, labels or bands I want to work with.

TM: Have you done any designs for high profile clients? Do you plan on working with any in the future?

GM: I’ve done a bunch of designs for high profile clients, mostly high profile, major label bands. I do plan on continuing to do that. Even if I don’t like the band, the pay is always good so it affords me the luxury of working with a smaller band that I actually like who might have a more modest budget.

TM: Out of all of the t-shirts you’ve designed, which one’s your favorite? What challenges have you faced as a t-shirt designer?

GM: I think the biggest challenge is to keep pushing yourself and not get stuck doing the same thing over and over, which is hard since people see a design of mine that they like and just want me to do the same thing again. It gets old quick. The trends are always changing and I think it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. Not to say that I’m pushing the boundaries, but I think I get closer and closer to that goal with every tee. Hell, I haven’t even been designing tees professionally for a full year yet.

TM: How do you get inspiration for your t-shirt designs?

GM: The big thing for me is just seeing other people’s designs. There’s always some elements of people’s designs that inspire me and I try to take bits and pieces from a bunch of stuff and make it my own. I hate when a designer says that they’re not influenced by their peers. It’s just not possible. Even on a subconscious level, you’re going to get some inspiration. Embrace it!
Also, just seeing things in the real world serve as great inspiration. Some architecture has cool lines or shapes that I try to mimic. Things in nature are always inspirational. Certain color combinations in nature sometimes spark an idea. I always think that you need to be receptive to receive inspiration from ANYTHING.

TM: Which artists have served as an inspiration and been an influence to you?

GM: I think my main influences as an illustrator are Todd McFarlane and Coop. I can’t draw like either of them, but they’ve definitely influenced me. I’m also a big fan of pinup artist Gil Elvgren. I wish I could paint like him. I’m a fan of fine artists over graphic artists, though there is an exception. I just think that fine art skills are going the way of the dinosaur, and that sucks. As far as tee shirt artists go, there’s a ton that influence me. In no particular order, Godmachine, Derek Deal, Kyle Crawford, Jeff Finley, Chris Rushing, Ray Frenden, Jimiyo, Laurie Shipley, AJ Dimarucot, and a ton of others that I can’t remember. These guys (and gal) are at the head of the class when it comes to tee designs. Well, in my opinion.

TM: What are some helpful tips you can give to other t-shirt designers out there?

GM: The biggest tip I can give is just get your work out there. Post it all over the internet. But please make sure it’s good. Don’t rush stuff. We’re all guilty of it, but just take your time and do it right. Nothing worse than seeing a good concept that is executed badly. Another tip is NETWORK. Pick the brain of other designers and see what makes them tick. Most of the designers I know are cool people who would gladly give some advice on the craft. But for the love of god, don’t just email them asking for their contacts at merch companies and record labels. You gotta pay your dues and EARN your contacts.

Check out Geoff May’s website.