How to create a prize-winning design for clothing and merchandise

A beginner-friendly guide

You don’t need to be an artist or fashion designer, or even use the fanciest tools or design software to create prize-winning designs for t-shirts, hoodies and other merchandise. According to an expert, all you need is a clear vision, an appetite for experimentation and a can-do spirit.

Everyone can be creative, but taking a creative idea from your mind to the page to a wearable design is no easy feat. So, we’ve brought in an expert, artist and designer Dawn Leyland, to share five simple tips for how to create prize-winning designs for t-shirts, hoodies and other merchandise.

With Dawn's advice, you can then create and submit your unique hoodie design to our 'Why Sydney' hoodie design competition. There's $1000 and a limited-edition University hoodie with your design up for grabs, so get designing! 

Start with a clear concept 

Every great design starts with a clear concept or idea. Before taking your idea to the page, consider what message or story you want to convey through your design and think about how best to communicate this visually. 

Creating a mind map or storyboard is a great way to begin thinking through your concept. From there, you can narrow down your ideas to one or two strong concepts. 

Tell a story 

If you want your design to make a lasting impact, it should tell a story. For example, if you wanted your design to showcase what makes the University of Sydney special, you could draw on the stories from our student communities – our clubs and societies, different faculties and schools or our international student communities. 

Speaking to different members of our student community about their experiences at the University can help you develop a strong, impactful story for your design.

Two students speaking to eachother on the lawns at University.

Every great design starts with a story.

Consider colour and composition 

Colour is a powerful tool for creating mood and conveying meaning in a design. For example, the colour yellow can convey a sense of hope and happiness while the colour red can convey danger, anger or even passion. 

It's also important to consider what colour combinations work well together. Canva’s colour wheel program, which explores colour theory, is a great guide for beginners. 

The composition of each element within the design is another important consideration. Elements could include colour, shape, illustrations or text. Canva’s guide to composition in design is another great resource, exploring the use of scale, repetition and balance in design.  

Keep it simple

While the meaning behind your design can be complex, it’s best to keep the execution of the design simple. This is especially important for designs on clothing, as most people will see your design in passing and from a distance. 

Consider having only one or two primary elements, keep your elements large and easy to interpret and keep your colour combinations to two or three. 

Don’t be afraid to experiment  

Expressing yourself through design should be a creative and fun experience. Don’t be afraid to express your ideas in new and innovative ways. There are many different styles of design, from minimalist to abstract, to highly detailed and realistic, so make time to experiment with different styles to find which one suits you best. 

Entries for the ‘Why Sydney’ hoodie design competition have closed.

5 April 2023

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