From the very beginning of Threadless, Design Challenges have been a huge part of what makes our vastly diverse art community so fun and engaging for everyone. If you’re new around here, this is how a Design Challenge works:
- We present a design prompt. Past themes range from cyberpunk to dad jokes, and literally everything in between.
- Artists submit designs based on their interpretation of the prompt. They specialize in so many styles of art, so there’s always variety in the submissions.
- Our community scores the designs. Your participation directly impacts who wins!
- We select a winner from the highest-scored designs. Victors win cash prizes, gift codes, and more. Plus, they receive earnings each time their winning design sells in our marketplace.
With 2021 in the rear-view mirror, let’s take a moment to appreciate all of the wonderfully eclectic Design Challenge winners of the year. Their ingenious works of art help tell the story of 2021 and give us much to look forward to in the new year. Shout out to ALL of the artists who submitted designs. Y’all are the real MVPs!
2021 saw the arrival of an exciting new addition to our Apparel selection—Double-Sided Tees! To celebrate, we prompted artists to create a new T-Shirt design with both a front and back print. Felix Pimenta won the challenge with an uplifting message from a rather friendly extraterrestrial visitor.
For this challenge, we asked artists to hark back to a bygone era of sports. You know, when basketball shorts were tiny, football helmets were made of leather, and pitchers threw perfect games while tripping on acid (for real though, Google Dock Ellis). “Armchair Quarterback” by crispytees throws a game-winning pass from the comforts of a recliner. Touchdown!
Curse words are the funnest damned words to say. They’re surprising, they’re naughty, and they make people squirm. For this Design Challenge, artists went blue by creating designs featuring the best swears to wear. “Cursing” accurately expresses what we’ve all been feeling the last few years.
Gen-Z commonly uses “cheugy” as a term to describe folks, usually Millennials, who follow out-of-date fashion and lifestyle trends. Examples: skinny jeans, side parts, and overused Instagram captions like “I did a thing.” “Triple L, Revisited” pokes fun at one of the cheugiest trends ever—“Live, Laugh, Love” wall decorations.
Monsters from classic horror stories were meant to send chills up our spines with their hideous appearance and heinous intentions. But there’s something lovable about them! During spooky season, artists drew inspiration from these retro monsters to make fun, campy designs like the winner, “Party Monsters” by ppmid.
For this Design Challenge, we wanted to channel the vibrant, resilient spirit of Pride Month. Juan Martelli’s “1969 Tribute” commemorates the days-long Stonewall riots in New York City, where the LGBTQIA+ community fought against the police to protect their safe haven. This event inspired the first Pride marches of the ‘60s and onward.
The best shot we have at ending the pandemic once and for all is the COVID-19 vaccine—literally. For this challenge, artists created designs that say “I’m proud of being vaccinated” in their own unique way. “Stab Me with Science” by lxromero sure does get the…ahem…point across.
We owe a lot to our bones. They give our bodies structure, protect our organs, and, in many cases, remain on this earth long after we’re gone. To give them their due respect, we challenged artists to make a fresh work of art portraying the day in the life of a skeleton. “Unassembled Bones” exposes the complex puzzle we all have beneath all that skin and muscle.
Cottagecore is a lifestyle trend that romanticizes simple, old-fashioned living in the countryside, away from the stressors of the modern world. “Simple Life” captures the spirit of cottagecore with a frog plucking a banjo beneath the starlight. It’s a reminder that we should all take time to disconnect and enjoy the world around us. (After reading this post, of course!)
Many people go through mental struggles every day but avoid seeking help because of the stigma still associated with mental health. With those folks in mind, we asked artists to help spread the message that mental health should NOT be ignored. “Not All Wounds Are Visible” shows that our minds need as much TLC as our bodies.
It’s our collective responsibility to protect the environment so it continues providing natural resources for future generations. But what happens if we don’t? Well, take a look at DinoMike’s winning design, “Go Green.” Let’s just say we know at least one frog who won’t be happy.
For the inaugural Design Challenge of 2021, we asked artists to incorporate Pantone’s Colors of the Year—Illuminating and Ultimate Gray. “All Seeing Cat” employs these colors in epic fashion with a god-like cat peering through the gray clouds and shining its radiant yellow light. Why does it have a surprised look on its face? Well, it does see everything.
This past February, we prompted artists to make designs in the spirit of preserving and celebrating Black history and culture. “Do Right” incorporates a quote by civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In his 1965 commencement speech for Oberlin College, he explained that human progress requires us all to do hard work. We can’t just wait for things to get better on their own. Most importantly, “the time is always right to do right.”
Art throughout history has always challenged the status quo. Continuing that tradition, our community created designs challenging social and political systems that largely favor men and perpetuate oppressive gender roles. Char Bataille’s winning design, “Gender Roles Are a Social Construct,” explains that not everyone fits neatly in the boxes society tries to put us in.
Aside from our faces, our hands might be the most expressive parts of our bodies. For this Design Challenge, we asked artists to portray hands in unique ways that are both striking and artful. In this pandemic world we live in, “Filthy Hands” is a reminder that good hygiene is important, whether your hands are attached or not.
Socks might be the most overlooked part of an outfit despite the many purposes they serve. They absorb moisture, provide warmth, and our cushion feet. For this Design Challenge, artists transformed these largely utilitarian garments into fashion accessories. “Shark Bite” by Agimat ni Ingkong makes it look like two sharks are slowly devouring the wearer. NOM NOM NOM.
Humans need fire to survive, however, when mishandled, it can wreak all sorts of havoc. For our series of element-themed Design Challenges, artists illuminated their minds with the concept of fire. It doesn’t get any hotter than AguLuque’s winning design, the cynical and apocalyptic “Hell is Empty.”
This Design Challenge brought in so many submissions with an environmental message. The winner, “Earth Day” by Steppeua, is a cute cartoon revealing the not-so-cute impact humans have on the planet. The moral of the story? Earth must cool down soon or everything might just burst into flames.
Although we can’t see air, it’s essential to all living things. It helps maintain the temperature of the planet and contains oxygen and nitrogen, which most species need to survive. You can practically breathe in the cool, crisp air in The Paper Crane’s “Fresh,” which depicts a serene mountain scene within a set of lungs.
Just like feathery haircuts, high-powered muscle cars, and roller discos, Ringer Tees were all the rage in the 1970s—especially within the burgeoning rock ‘n’ roll subculture. “Skaters Gonna Skate” won this challenge with a retro-inspired design made specially for a Ringer T-Shirt. Wear it the next time you glide into the roller rink and boogie oogie oogie.
Wear them on a jean jacket. Pin them to your favorite hat. Stick them on your backpack. Buttons are not only a versatile fashion accessory, but they’re also a fun, simple way to get a message across. For example, Thiago Correa’s winning design tells everyone to “Fuck Off”—but in the the nicest way possible!