Steve Bonner

January 9, 2009

We interview t-shirt designer Steven Bonner.

TM: How long have you been designing t-shirts?

SB: I’ve been a graphic designer professionally for over ten years, but I only got into t-shirt design a couple of years ago when, like a lot of other designers, I stumbled across Threadless. At that time I was doing a whole lot of samey, boring layout & print work and welcomed a new outlet. It took me a while to find my feet and get my head around the medium but it’s been a lot of fun along the way.

T-shirts have given me a way to play around with different styles outside of client briefs and while some experiments are more successful than others, it’s cool to have the freedom to try in the first place so I look to loads of different places for inspiration. I can spend a few weeks doing nothing but illustrative horror work, and then go more traditionally graphic. Right now I’m on a typography bender and have been churning out loads of bespoke type work.

TM: Have you done t-shirt designs for any “big name” clients?

SB: I’ve done quite a lot of work for various online companies home and abroad, but Burton and Volcom haven’t called yet.

TM: Your t-shirt designs are really innovative. Out of all of the t-shirts you’ve designed, which one’s your favorite?

SB: I honestly don’t have one favorite. I have a real soft spot for ‘Put the Needle on the Record’ which was a more graphic based shirt printed at threadless. It used puffy ink to represent thread and has had two print runs so far there. I’d really love them to do it on a zip hoody too. I also love the Black Rock Collective shirt which came second to Collision Theory in the Design by Humans 10k competition. It was a collaboration between members of the BRC and I art directed it, drew the central figure & and a few other elements, and composed it. There’s also a couple of shirts coming out soon at Funkrush that I’m especially pleased with too.

Put the needle on the record image

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

SB: Ideas come from everywhere, but for some reason I seem to get loads while I’m trying to get to sleep which is a pain in the arse! I’ve got a pad and pencil next to my bed and I’ll often get up in the middle of the night to write something down or quickly sketch something which really pisses off my wife…

TM: What are the best methods you’ve used to promote yourself?

SB: I spend a lot of time (a LOT of time) on the internet using various promotion sites, and also get involved on socially driven sites like Emptees. Since it’s not my day job though, I’ve not went as balls out on it as I should. I’ve also been very lucky to be a member of the Black Rock Collective which has gotten me interest from places I don’t think I’d otherwise have gotten in with, and the bonus is you learn so much from some of the best shirt designers out there right now too.

TM: Out of curiosity, what do you mean by your tagline, “I Broke the Internet Today”?

SB: Haha, that’s one of those lines I had in my head and it just sort of stuck! I find it funny to think of the internet as an actual tangible thing that can be picked up and thrown at wall when it gets on your nerves. It’s sort of a random impossible thing, but I like it. They did something similar during this season of ‘The IT Crowd’ but I like to think I got there first.

Of course, if anything ever breaks the internet, it’ll be the amount of porn on it.

TM: What are some helpful tips you can give to those trying to get their designs seen and get clients?

SB: I think the most important thing you can do is to get a website up and running as soon as possible. If you can’t show clients your work right away or point them to a folio, then you’re just giving yourself a headache. It’s so easy to include a link to your URL just about anywhere so even if it’s nothing more than a load of images in a row, do it.

I’d recommend sorting out a pro Flickr account and join up with loads of different groups too, both from a self-promotion and an inspiration point of view.

For more on Steven Bonner, check out his site.