Meet the Simple Shapes winner, Viet-Triet!

Hey John! How about a quick introduction?

Hello! I go by "John" but my real name given to me at birth is "Viet-Triet." I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but I've lived in Southern California most of my life in a Vietnamese household. I've loved art since I scribbled on paper as a toddler and proudest accomplishment was spending a year abroad in Italy to study painting and art history. My favorite animal is the manatee. Once, I was in Vietnam, I was punch by elephant with his trunk, I think because I was feeding him too slowly. An item on my bucket list: To climb Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

Congratulations on your Simple Shapes Challenge win with your design, What A Wonderful World - how did it feel to get that notification?

I was definitely excited and very happy when I received the news of winning the Shapes challenge for Threadless. I was always very confident about my design, my approach and my message behind it, but I also knew it was a a pretty unusual and different design. So I think I was more shocked and surprised. I was sitting at my computer by myself stunned for a little while before I actually started telling my friends and family.

Simple Shapes was quite a broad subject - how did you decide what you wanted to do?
At first I was considering illustrating faces using simple shapes to build each of the faces. I'm constantly inspired by many people and people have been my main subject matter to create when I am painting. I've always loved using a wide range of colors to create a vibrant, playful and cheerful vibe. I think someone posted comment online about how my design recalls artist, Mary Blair's concept art for "It's a Small World," and they happen be right to notice that both are a source of inspiration for a lot of my work. At one point towards the beginning of the challenge, I was probably bothered by some bad driver on the street, a tragic story on the news or a silly comment a friend said. I started thinking about various positive messages and inspirational quotes that get me through the day or personal obstacles. One quote that I always try to live by and love to spread is Ghandi's "Be the change you wish to see in the world." I am also a fan of design with hidden and subtle details. So arranged the colorful shapes while keeping in mind the hidden content.

What do you hope for people to take away from your design/t-shirt?
I hope with my design, people will take away my message I submitted with my design "The world can be an ugly, dark place. ...That is an easy thought to have, but let's not lose sight of all the beautiful things. The small things. The colorful things. The diversity. The good memories. The natural beauties. The best things in life that are free.... and especially all the beautiful and mysterious things we have yet to discover and understand...."
I hope that even with everyone's terrible moments in life that they can look to the bright side of things and be optimistic for nicer outcomes in life.

Do you work in typography a lot?

Typography is something that have been in my life for along time since playing around with fonts and lettering as a kid and it became more prominent in college when I had to take three classes in college just on typography! Typography is a huge thing and very important in design. I am happy to see that it has been making huge comeback and showing more prominence in the past several years in design and I am excited to incorporate it more into my recent work.

Did you draw any inspiration from Louis Armstrong's classic song?

You guessed it! I did, indeed, draw inspiration from Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" as the song and worlds tend to play in my head at various parts of the day. The song definitely delivers a message similar to mine of keeping a positive outlook on the world despite its not-so-great moments and images.

I noticed a bunch of flags hidden in your design - was that your intention or did the colors coincidentally just make it happen?

The flags were 100% intentional, but a definitely a process trying to strategically place them in the right spots to make it work just right! A flag is, without a doubt, a great symbol of pride. However it's another story seeing a group of flags. When I walk into, for example, a classroom full of kids's handmade international flags, I consider it a very positive and inspirational image. Seeing a diverse set of international flags is just as awesome as seeing the world spinning on diversity, kindness and open-mindedness.

Are you going to buy some Legos with your prize to recreate the design in Legos? :)

The Lego prize is an extremely delightful part of my prize for this design as they were probably my favorite toys as a child and even as a teenager! I will most likely be revisiting my lego days as an adult with a potential new Lego set. I also have a few relatives and friends that might receive some extra birthday love this year! ...but recreating my "What a Wonderful World" design??? Now that's actually an interesting idea I will have to consider!

Are you working on anything cool at the moment?

I have been creating many sketches for Threadless' current and exciting design challenges while balancing my time between some painting and some graphic design.

My latest project was creating artwork for ReCreation Camp of Orange County, a summer camp I am involved with. It's a camp for people with disabilities and special needs. In addition to being a volunteer at this camp, I am lucky to design various art for them every year for the past couple of years! This year we made a HUGE change and are moving to a new location. We usually have an awesome theme for each summer with previous years being: Star Wars, Disco, Christmas. This year's theme is "Homeward Bound," which is such a great theme because it is so open to interpretation and so fitting with our big move to our NEW CAMP. More on ReCreation Camp: {} "Hey camp How do you feel...?!"

The image I'm sharing is my design we are using to reveal the theme at our annual holiday party & fundraiser! This imagery and similar aspect will eventually be used for camp tshirts, banners and more! (The group of penguins is a nod to one of our favorite campfire songs that we always sing)

Free free to visit my website:

Any last words or shoutouts?

All my friends and family who've supported me in following my calling for art and design (especially for this particular design!) ... Shoutout to those of you who recognize this praise: "FREE THE FIRE!" ...Also a big thanks to Louis Armstrong for your song with positive and optimistic vibes! ...And another thanks from me to Ghandi for your words of wisdom:

"Be the CHANGE you wish to see in the World...."

Buy Viet-Triet's amazing design and others in this week's catalog!

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Congrats! We are very proud of you! M&D
Lovely interview & well deserved! :) Love the cheerful colors & I knew this would be a print when I first saw it! Congrats! :)
Robo Rat
Robo Rat profile pic Alumni
3 is the new 5. Great challenge winner. Yeah!
berlynhubler profile pic Alumni
wonderful!! :)
Congratulations! Great work :)
MrRtist21 profile pic Alumni
THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR KIND COMMENTS. It means the world to me. {}