If you’ve seen my twitter, some of my blog posts, or if you know me personally, you know i’m big on professional wrestling, its a past-time I’ve had for many years, watching and having opinions on, more often than not strong opinions, as it is presented in different flavours, some you come to love, others are flat out distasteful and shouldn’t be mentioned or talked about.

A key component for the business to sustain itself, is merchandise, and the biggest one on this, no surprise, is WWE. The biggest corporation for pro wrestling in the world. They run a slick operation of unique merchandise for each of their wrestlers. Where all of them get t shirts made that helps build that person as a brand. And graphic designers take painstaking care to make sure that the designs that are approved for sale are befitting of the people they represent, and that the consumers can proudly wear them in public.

Im just kidding..

If you skim through WWE’s merchandise website, for a lot of the talent that are on television as well as the ones in the lower leagues, you find lazy, silly, and at times outright ludicrous designs, that a sane rational human being must have been high to approve. And the latest example, possibly the most offensive example, got pulled from shelves yesterday.

The product is as pictured above, a black t shirt, with white letters, and a red background for the text. that’s at face value what you see, if you are 8 years old, braindead, or have never been on the internet. There is this semiotic term, or connotations that comes into play with this. (connotation meaning any other meaning you can attach to something) and with the design, one connotation is blackface. An offensive trend of painting your face black to mock and make fun of human beings because of skin color. Another is blatant racism, from the color selection, and how the red conveniently is the background for white letters. making the text more «teethy» as has been described in an email that Mr Jordan Myles posted on his twitter. Thats two connotations that you can take from this, and none of them are particularily good

This is where the talk of professional wrestling ends, and the design, and its connotations take over. I have been a graphic designer myself for 10 years. I know from experience the effort you should go to when creating a good design for a publicly consumed product. There is no, feasible way, that this shirt went through a process of that sort. Its rather poorly handled from the get go. And ill explain why.

Here are some things i always take into consideration when i design t shirts, and my critique of how hard the designer has dropped the ball on this.

The core principal is make it a visually appealing product, with symbolism and deeper meanings the more you go into it. Something that is worth spending money on, and something that someone would be proud to purchase and wear around

Racism sure is symbolic and carries deeper meaning for sure, but thats not appealing in the slightest.

Not to mention, this is strictly personal opinion though, Black t shirts with a single logo on the chest, is the single laziest, unappealing piece of clothing you can put a pricetag on. the one way to make that piece of clothing appealing, is through a great design. And something this lazy, i can recreate that in 20 minutes flat in photoshop…

(12 actually, i just stopped writing, and recreated it on a timer, took me 11:53,65 from opening the document till i had the exact same thing in place, and that’s all the effort needed to make a commercially viable t shirt folks).

Also there is no attempt to hide or guise this as something different than a mouth, while doing my little speed test, I noticed the curve at the bottom of the letters, that clearly are supposed to look like teeth exiting the gums.

Gloss over the design itself for a second. I want to talk about the process here for a second. this is good business practice when you work on stuff like this.

When you start creating a design, start by brainstorming ideas, put any and all ideas down on a sheet of paper, notepad, whatever. pick your favourite ideas from that, and take them to the next phase, where you take the ideas from brainstorming, and start drafting something that looks cool for a lack of a better term. Try every variation, maybe you have one particular idea that sticks in your head and you are excited about, but you should never stop at one option. Because if the recipient or critic doesn’t like it, you are back at square one.

Let the recipient or critic review what you have, and determine if there is a pleasing option, or good idea out of the ones you present, move forward in the direction that the recipient has expressed interest in, and finalize a first design.

This one tiny bit of know how, can take days, or weeks, depending on what you design and who is reviewing.

Do you seriously mean to tell me that we have had a process going, for this design, in which NOBODY, even Mr Myles, spoke up and said «Yo, this is a shit design, we should try another idea.» because to me with my experience, this tomfoolery looks a lot like someone had one preconceived idea that they went with, didn’t bother to sketch up more options, submitted it for review, and then didn’t have the balls to speak up about how this is a poorly designed heat seeker.

This got approved either by way of ignorance, or by way of making a PR stunt, both of which quite frankly, i do as any other person speaking on this find the design offensive for its connotation, everyone else will talk about that. For me personally, it has another layer. Because now, this prick who drew this, the prick who approved it. Those who printed it, those who made the listing on the website for it. You have all collectively squatted down and taken a big creamy shit on good design, and pride that millions of folks around the world have for that profession.

And for it, quite frankly, you should be as ashamed of yourself as the world currently is disgusted with you, then turn around and do a better job, or find something better to spend your time doing than making things for the world to be more hateful over.

Sincerely Kornelius

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