“Design a shirt for Strip Search.”
One hour. Black and three other colors. Erika, Kiko, and Levin are the judges. The winner’s shirt will be printed, go up in the PA store, and will receive all the profits from sales.
The premise of this first challenge is that somewhere along the line in every webcartoonist’s career, you will need to design a shirt. Unlike many of the variable elements that can go into successfully monetizing a webcomic, there’s relatively little mystery to shirt selling. It’s a revenue stream you can lean on even if you don’t have a significant level of traffic. And you don’t even have to purchase a thing. There are so many sites that allow you to upload a design and sell it on any number of items including shirts that you can pull in a significant secondary income with only a few hundred readers. It all depends on the design.
To the competition.
An hour isn’t a whole lot of time to design anything, but it does force you to spew out ideas quickly. You can stumble on moments of brilliance when it’s just raw scribbles on a page. Unfortunately, a number of our strippers fell into the logo trap. Strip Search already has a logo, kinda, and a lot of our strippers took their cues from the magnifying glass icon. Even the winning design incorporated the magnifying glass.
I don’t necessarily think designing logo shirts is an exercise in failure. But I believe that your logo has to be strong enough to justify a shirt design. The Strip Search logo just doesn’t do that for me. The magnifying glass icon on its own doesn’t say shit about comics. Certainly, it communicates the idea of searching. But searching for what? The next great food truck? A place to recharge my smart phone? Fansubs of Kamen Rider? The icon depends on the words for context. And honestly, the text treatment makes it seem like we’re looking for pole dancers. There’s certainly humor in that, but it’s not strong enough for a shirt.
As for the winning design, while I think it’s certainly one of the strongest of the bunch that clung to the logo, you have to know what the show is about to understand the meaning. Certainly the Penny Arcade audience will get it. But random people on the street will have no idea what the it’s for. And while I think it incorporates the brand very well, I just don’t think it says anything about webcomics. I guess for branding Strip Search, it’s a success. But for comics, it’s a fail.
Now for the fucked up twist. The winner gets to choose two artists for elimination. Talk about manufactured drama. I suppose there is something to being judged by your peers. You have to be able to give and take honest criticism of your work. Otherwise, you’re no help to anyone and you can’t really grow. In a non-competitive atmosphere, getting crits from peers is awesome. Sometimes when your head is in the weeds of your work, you miss things that may be obvious to others. It’s awesome to get that outside perspective.
In the setting of the competition, I can foresee choosing artists for elimination becoming part of the game. It’s a bit early in the process to see how our strippers will choose, but it could easily degrade into strategic gamesmanship instead of honest critique. Which I guess is the point of a goddamn reality show. Ugh.