This is the shirt you’re looking for…sorry, couldn’t resist!

Designed by Carla McLaughlin & Carl Mitsch who, with their powers combined, make up “TheFactorie,” the winner of our Vintage Signs challenge is the perfect, meta balance between being a vintage sign and a vintage geeky reference.

I interviewed the Carl half of TheFactorie about his design, fangirled about the quirky “Fred” products he designs (ever “awww’d” over Russian Doll Matryoshka measuring cups? Like sloth photo holders? Thank TheFactorie), and, of course, talked some Star Wars.

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Your products have such a fun, whimsical element to them! How do you come up with your ideas? What inspires you?

I’m really lucky that my “day job” is being a product and package designer for an unusual housewares brand called Fred. We work super hard at making items that are useful but have an extra level of fun. 

Just a few awesome Fred products!

Inspiration comes from all sorts of places, but mostly what inspires me is looking at what cool stuff other artists and designers are doing, and trying to make connections between functions we need and forms that are interesting.

That’s one of the reasons I love Threadless so much – there are so many super-talented people involved. It’s really fun to see what new stuff will pop up, and how the community is constantly evolving.

“Power Converters!”

There are so many iconic places in the original Star Wars films – Mos Eisley’s Cantina, Bantha farms (I’m sure that’s a thing) – what made you land on Tosche Station?

Wow, now I want to see the rodeos at a Bantha ranch! I bet everybody wins…

Because we never actually see Tosche Station, it could be anything. It could be like Home Depot for landspeeders, with an arcade downstairs. All the 16-year-olds would be there. Those early scenes with Luke are so much fun because he’s so whiny & helpless. That line about Tosche Station is probably the most un-heroic thing he ever says. So it’s a low-point on the chart, but it’s funny as hell.
Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 3.18.43 PM
Then there’s the Joseph Campbell angle – the hero refusing the “Call to Adventure” is one of the hallmarks of the quest in “The Hero with A Thousand Faces.” The time from Obi Wan’s invitation to when Luke finds his family killed is very short, but it’s part of the formula. Obi Wan says, “you must learn the ways of the Force, if you are to come with me to Alderaan.” Luke wants to help, but he feels tied down by his family obligations.
A “Star Wars” comic panel drawn by Carl.

Even though he can’t wait to leave the family farm and begin his own journey, he has to have the life that he knows destroyed completely before he gets “on board” with Obi Wan. To me, Tosche Station represents the adolescent distractions from Luke’s previous life, before he becomes a part of the struggle.

Two early “Tosche Station” designs.

I see you’ve submitted it a few times before, what do you think stood out to people about this final design?

Mostly I think it was good timing. A gas station sign is kind of a tough sell in the General Contest. This is a good moment for an obscure reference because the new movie is so great – there’s a wave of fun nostalgia going around.

“Scoundrel’s Apology”

Who is this design for?

It was really fun to make something for the die-hard fans. There was a time – before “nerd” culture made such inroads into popular culture – when ANY Star Wars reference was like speaking in a secret code. But now we’ve all heard “the droids you’re looking for” and “do or do not.” I wanted to make something that wasn’t so much “LIGHTSABERS!” but just a quiet nod, you know?

What attracted you to this challenge?


I really, really love vintage signs, especially crappy old gas station signage. In a way, they remind me of the abandoned way stations in the “Dark Tower”– I love the idea of these old depots that have been untouched for hundreds of years because the world was stretching out. That’s super-geeky. I know.

You both design so many different products for so many different mediums – did branching to T-Shirts seem like a natural progression to the next thing?

I’ve always loved printed t-shirts. There’s something about believing in something enough to wear it on your chest. My wife is my art-director and the first person I go to for advice on shirt designs. Unfortunately, I don’t always do what she tells me…

Me and my coworker Jason Threadtwinning “Nope.”

I see your Fred products everywhere! Do you use a lot of your own products?

I don’t want to sound like an infomercial, but I actually do. Whenever I find one of our products has become a part of my daily routine, I know we did our job.

Your logos all seem to have a very outdoorsy-inspired element to them – do you like working with companies that are very nature-focused? Is beautiful Rhode Island an inspiration to you?

Courtesy of “TheFactorie

Most of those logos were pro-bono, and outdoorsy organizations have been the ones I felt the most like donating my time to. I guess sitting indoors clicking a mouse makes you really miss being outside. And Rhode Island is gorgeous!

What’s been your favorite project to work on?

It’s really hard to say, because each new project is the most exciting at that moment. Sometimes getting a prototype from a vendor is like Christmas morning.

Last question, and most important…did Han shoot first?

Hah! Is it really possible to miss from that range? Poor Greedo – he got that kickass tracksuit, and he managed to corner a really high bounty. That was going to be his best day ever, right?  

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Carlyn Hill

Dad joke aficionado, cartoonist, & contributor for sites like HelloGiggles and The Mary Sue by night. When I'm not writing or drawing, you can find me in my cave of a room hanging out with my boyfriend, Netflix.