When we think of ‘catchphrases,’ we usually think of Rick’s “Wub a lub a dub dub!” Or Joey’s “How you doin’?” Or Barney Stinson’s “It’s gonna be legen – wait for it – dary.”

But sometimes, it’s the same ‘ol catchphrases of every day life that need to be properly celebrated. And Rafael – a.k.a Vó Maria – proved that sometimes you can do the same old sh*t in an awesome, new way.

We talked to Rafael about his studio with Mathiole & Hafaell, the typography behind his winning design, and the time he rode a go-cart that looked like a giant poop emoji (yeah that’s right). Check out his interview below!

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Tell us a little about yourself! What’s your username about? Where are you from? Who’s your favorite superhero?

My username is my grandma’s name Maria (and the word “Vó” means “Grandmother” in Portuguese). She is actually my great-grandmother – a 96-year-old lady with a young mind. You can see that I like to play with her:

Dona Maria

My real name is Rafael, I’m a freelance graphic designer and illustrator from Brazil, and I own a studio here with Mathiole and Haffael (I think you know them), named Verso. We have some printed designs in Threadless too.


My favourite superhero is the ’70s Mexican TV anti hero, Chapulin Colorado. wolverine-pobreDo you guys know him? He is very famous here in Brazil. But I must confess: I tried to be superhero once. Low budget, of course (see left).

Ooh I don’t know who that is but that name is fantastic. Back to your design! Excited about this win?

Wow! Too much excited with this challenge, ‘specially because it’s about typography (what I really enjoy!). I have two grand prizes for the Vevo Music and Lion King contest, both amazing themes.

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“Be Prepared!”

The typography in this design is great! Did you hand-letter this? 

Yes, this is all handmade: pencil sketch, then vectorized in Adobe Illustrator and final treatment in Photoshop. I was looking for typography references with swashes, sketching a lot of ideas, inspired by vintage letterings.

“Same Old Shirt”

I ‘specially like Adobe Caslon and Cheltenham Old Style typefaces. There are amazing works from calligraphy masters using these ones.

“Same Old Shirt” process art!

Why’d you pick this catchphrase in particular? (It’s rad) What was the brainstorming process?

We need to make different things everyday. It’s boring the same routine, same thoughts, same old shit everyday. I think many people live it. It’s also a call to action, so you can try new things. I have many ideas in Portuguese (Brazil speaks Portuguese, not Spanish, ok?) for catchphrases, but not much in english. I saw an episode of Jimmy Fallon on Youtube and listen to a “Cake Happens” phrase that was very cool to print on a t-shirt (I’m a cake fan). I also like Forrest Gump’s scene where he gives an idea for a “Shit Happens” sticker design to a man. I sketched some letterings with these ideas, but the 3-word lettering with “Same Old Shit” was way cooler. And that vintage look could justify the meaning of the words.

That’s awesome. I see you’re also a graphic designer! What specific type of work do you do? How’d you get your start?

Yes, I am. I like many subjects in Graphic Design, but special feelings with typography and illustration. I like logo and package design too. And editorial. And animation. And motion design. And product design. Well, I do a lot of things. Actually, t-shirt design is what pays my bills.

Pop-up book

I always liked to draw and create stuff. I used to do a lot of caricatures when young, which was where I started to make some money. I’ve worked as a freelance graphic designer since age 15, so, was a natural way.

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“Lord of the Ring”

Is your graphic design job super creative or are Threadless challenges, for instance, your creative outlet?

Working with graphic design allows me to use creativity to guide my work, since I need it every time to think different. Threadless challenges are an amazing way to show off our new ideas, even if they are bad. Somebody may like it..All the comments, suggestions and critiques from the community are very helpful, always. And I feel free when I submit designs for you, because I am my own client, with no pressure. I am very, very thankful for Threadless to exist!

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“A Long Time Ago…”

We’re thankful to have a community of great artists such as yourself! You’ve been a member of Threadless for awhile! How has your style evolved?

I think I have more solid ideas now, and more cool references. Trying new things too, by studying more techniques. I used to do too much parody, and now I can see that some ideas are cool for t-shirts, and others aren’t. I wish I had a unique style, but it may not happen for me. Meanwhile, I keep creating.

Top left: “Cats & Lasers” | Top right: “Sports?” |Bottom left: “Come Closer” | Bottom left: “Nonsense Ending” | All via Vo Maria’s Artist Shop

I see you have a Threadless Artist Shop too! How did you pick what designs to sell in it?

Since Threadless doesn’t print all designs I submit (hehehe), I think the Artist Shop is a good way to make available the designs I wish were printed. Some aren’t good at all, some haven’t that popular appeal, but there they are. If I like, I put them there. Like this: 

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Excuse me for creeping, but on your Instagram there’s a photo of you riding what looks like a go-cart in the shape of a giant poop – what is this from, tell us everything.

Haha, that was for RedBull Flugtag, a competition where we have to build a flying machine and make it fly (or not) for the longest distance. We have participated 3 times, with three different machines: 1. a giant poop (didn’t fly. But floated.) 2. A Chicken with a flying egg (This was R-A-D! And we have a video) and 3. a Flying Saucer Egg (almost caught on fire). 


What inspires your designs and your art?  

Wow…Too many references here. Let’s say that I like creativity.


Shop the winning design!

CategoriesBehind The Tees
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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.