What’s up guys! Welcome to the interview – thanks for joining me! So you guys are unstoppable together… about to be 4 for 4 in collaborations. How did this all start?
Dustin: I met David on a cold stormy night in April 2011, and at first we were adversaries – competing art directors – and we hated each other. But after a few projects, we developed a mutual respect and we started our first “collab.”
David: Did you rehearse that? Sorry, Dustin is still getting used to Threadless lingo. Well, I’ve been on Threadless since college – 5 or 6 years now – and I try to introduce it to as many people as I can. Dustin and I randomly decided to do a sub together, and it printed. So we did another one, and it printed. And another one, and it printed. And a fourth one and it’s getting printed. It just keeps going – I feel like he’s my lucky charm, so I’ve just kept him around.
What’s the sory of your first print?
Dustin: I noticed that Soames was doing Threadless subs instead of his real job that he gets paid for, so when he was out on production, I scribbled him a bunch of t-shirt ideas. One of them was a dog whose tail turned into a hand and walked itself. When he came back he said, “THESE ARE HORRIBLE!” until he got to the dog. Once he got to the dog, he was like, “Dudeee, can I sub this?” and I was like “Sure!” and that was our first collab. And then he forced me to make a Threadless profile.
So Dustin, are you more of the ‘brains’ behind the submissions?
Dustin: I wouldn’t put it that way. Together we have a nice ability to come up with ideas. It might start with one guy or the other, but the other one will plus it. And then we’ll figure out the best way to execute it together. Since we’re both art directors, we both have a keen visual eye. But, at the same time I think we don’t like to be categorized solely as art directors because we both consider ourselves very conceptual creators.
David: Being that Dustin and I work in the same space on a daily basis, it’s made it way easier to throw ideas around. He can hover over my back like a backseat driver and make sure I don’t mess up the designs.
Do you think that being art directors has helped your success on Threadless?
David: Definitely. I think it’s a slight edge that we and the other guys on Threadless that work in advertising or other creative jobs have. Our job is to produce creative solves for stuff, so we’re always thinking conceptually as is, which is kind of what we bring to the table on Threadless. Some guys can draw or paint a lot better than us, so our strength is in the ideation process and coming up with cool concepts.
Dustin: We’re so used to getting some marketing or advertising problem to solve creatively that we can’t even really think of making a Threadless submission that isn’t some sort of conceptual solve. A cool design, to me, has to be something that rewards me from a brain perspective. I want to be like “I wish I thought of that!” not “I wish I drew that!”
Going off that, your collaborations are on the more simple and witty side. Do you think that’s more effective/marketable as a t-shirt than the heavily illustrated, vectored, gradient designs that have been abundant lately on Threadless?
David: I think so, personally, but I feel like Threadless changes everyday. I can’t keep up with it. They’ll churn out a run of these abstract and super surrealistic paintings that I don’t get, but some people love. It’s all based on taste. I tend to gravitate to what they started with: really simple designs that make you smile, make you laugh, and that are cleanly illustrated whatever the style is. I hope they never lose that. I’m cool with them experimenting, but I feel like that was the core that I fell in love with when I first stumbled upon Threadless.
How did you guys celebrate your first print?
Dustin: There’s a story to that too. I didn’t really know what it meant to get printed. Soames has spent so many years on Threadless, he knows to celebrate when you get a print. I had no context and didn’t know how difficult it was to get a print. Soames just brought me just a bunch of cash. So I looked at Soames and said “I’ve always wanted to do this,” so I took all the cash and threw it all in the air and we made it rain on ourselves.
David: Well, my first print was a slogan because I couldn’t get a print. But I finally got my first design printed, and I was in college at the time, so it was everything. I was jumping up and down. I think I took out all my buddies for beer or something. For some brewskis.
David, you said you couldn’t get a print – did you look to other Threadlessers for advice?
David: I did! I got a bunch of guys I’ve used throughout the years that helped me grow, but the first guy I looked to for inspiration was Aled Lewis. My style kind of resembles his in terms of line width, but he’s infinitely more talented. He helped me find the way of Threadless and how to make a good shirt. I could do cool illustrations, but they weren’t t-shirt prints. So, I give a lot of credit to Aled Lewis.
So David, I have to ask about Jesus Everywhere. How did that come about and did you ever expect it to blow up that big?
David: Ha, I’ve been making silly, pointless blogs for a while now: non-threatening vampires, ear balls, etc. Some have gained good traction (non-threatening vampires was featured on Huffington Post), but none have ever taken off like Jesus Everywhere has. It was initially pitched to me by my boss as a t-shirt design. His favorite shirt design of mine is A Day in the Life of Frank and he thought this could be a sequel. I thought idea was way too big for Threadless and also out of their comfort zone. Some fellow coworkers jumped on board and now it's taken on a life of its own. We've posted stickers all over the country and are starting to sell prints, stickers, and shirts next year. And yes, we are religious dudes, but we just have a sense of humor and figured that Jesus would, as well.
Any upcoming collabs coming out?
Dustin: We plan on it. We made a resolution to be more regimented in doing that, but it’s just busy times. Soames has been too busy getting engaged! I’ve got a baby on the way, and Soames has a wife on the way.
On Threadless, there’s always people looking to collaborate and don’t know how to approach artists – do you have any advice for them?
Dustin: Sometimes your collab partner sits in the desk right next to you! But for real, it’s a lot easier if it’s in person.
David: Find someone that you work closely with or that you can actually talk to on a regular basis.
That’s pretty much it! Any last words or shoutouts?
David and Dustin: Shoutout to our main man, Kevin Sutton – our boss. And of course our main squeezes Sally Johnston and Temple Taylor.