During every anniversary, it has been a tradition that each course/course-related organization has its own t-shirt. So, every year, we see different colored, weird-looking designed t-shirts worn by students of different courses or different organizations. If you look at this trend once, you will never notice the irony of it. But if you’ll look twice, this is what you’ll discover:

An avenue of informal and unconstrained show-off of technical know-how’s or the lack of skill in designing. The result? A hodgepodge of different designs that make VSU void of a feeling as one entity.

Let me clarify my point. Even though a t-shirt is a good vehicle for expression, it can also give a bad image. What leads to a bad t-shirt is the overloading of some seemingly trivial elements of design. Following are some of examples taken from the shirts worn during the recent anniversary.

I could say that there was no consistency or continuity of design among course-related organizations within a college or even within the course itself. Take for example the Ed’s Teachers’ Republic in white shirt and ‘Teachers Made Them All’ in black. What can connect the students and the symbol of the t-shirt except for the word “Teacher”? The inconsistency brought confusion to the audience (those who see the shirts) and hindered recognition of their higher group or order (such as a college) to which this group belongs.

Some shirts were even quite irrelevant to their organization. See the capsule in the AFSAS (Association of Freshmen and Sophomore Agriculture Students) Shirt. The shirt lost its relevance to the course/course-related organization and its college when the designer did not understand the group’s “message” or he simply did not know how to relate it. That made the audience unable to recognize the group and the group’s message or properly connect the dots.

Another point, which I think is no trivia, is that most of the shirts were not artistically designed. The most common cause perhaps was that the designer was no artist. What we usually saw were many t-shirts of mismatched colors. Actually, everything has a matching color in the color psychology. Even the careers you choose have their own corresponding colors. Exempli gratia, scarlet are for theologians and gray for veterinarians. A designer can research the tested and proven color psychology bases that are professionally proven and used in the commercial market. If you look around, many of the shirts have mismatched colors. In the academic color psychology, there is no correspondence for black. I suppose the designers of these black t-shirts just thought it as “cool” and “what’s in”.

There were also poor color combinations. The light green ‘Solubility Rules’ text was really soluble and barely distinguishable from a short distance when it was mixed in the gray ChemSoc shirt. Simply put, contrast strengthens emphasis.

Some shirts were also results of the designer’s “Pizza Pie Syndrome.” That is, to stuff it with every piece that looks good, tastes goods, and all sorts of Photoshop effect or decoration that can be made. A good example of this was the blue CS3’s ‘graffiti’ shirt. One could barely see the ‘Computer Science Students Society’ camouflaged by all sorts of graphics in the front side. At the back, one could see the Windows Vista Ultimate package, the User icon, the desktop computer set bring the picture into a chaos. Just lately did I realize that a semi-transparent CS3 text was all over it. And yeah, the CEAI and the DCST logo were on both sides too. (Woah! One at a time please…). This is a common effect of the designer’s eagerness to tell everything in one snap, packing everything into the design without discretion. The result was a visually displeasing design – the audience got confused or ‘choked’, and the message disorganized, without a clear stand. Remember, you’re not making a pizza pie.

Another point is that graphics inappropriate for the design is not good to see. To the CS3, is Windows Vista a good representation for the organization? Computer science is far more than Microsoft and its business. The designer must move from advertising what’s popular to promoting what can be original and can be called their own. Ill-chosen graphics leads to the wrong message and a wrong image of the group. (The DCST are, in fact, still using the Windows 2000 OS.)

On the other hand, since the designer has no knowledge about layout design, the design will eventually be visually displeasing, too casual, or informal, and thus, will not catch attention. Let us take again the CS3 shirt for example. The User Icon at the back (like a human bust) is at the left facing left, thus bringing your attention far from the center and outside the design. A good example on the other hand is the DeCSo’s ‘Bridging the Gap’. The elements were asymmetrically balanced throughout its breadth, keeping your focus within the premises design.

Simply put, artistic ability is not measured by how good you can fumble for graphics (like the Vista package) and apply every effect you want. Instead, it is measured by the depth of perception, and discretion to manipulate elements and convey a message clearly with unity of elements.

My third point is that most of the t-shirt designs I have encountered lacked simplicity – of message, and of style. A message within a design is not simple when it is too much or too less. Too much is a result of the eagerness of the designer to convey all he wants to. A case in point is exemplified at the rear design of ChemSoc’s ‘Solubility Rules’. It is a hassle for a typical audience reading about “a physicist, biologist, and a chemist were studying about the ocean…” where the physicist and the biologist drowned in the ocean while the chemist says they “are soluble in water.” Add to that, who would not be conscious when somebody is staring at your back?

Another example is the Statistics t-shirts. The Statistical Society was printed in Greek-lettered styles and they had long argument, too, at the back justifying why you should be a statistician. Who would understand the Greek letters except the stat students who in fact only know little Greek-words? When the message is too much, the audience gets confused. It’s as if giving them your handouts, remember, they’re not studying what you are studying. However, if the message is only too vague or ambiguous, then the audience remains ignorant. For a t-shirt to be good, the proper message and moderation should be minded.

My fourth point is about the simplicity of designs. Designs lacking simplicity in style repels audiences. Styles that are too showy is a result of the eagerness of the designer to show what he knows. We all know that knowledge is displayed in moderation. For an illustration, you cannot flirt by blinking your eyes and wetting your lips simultaneously! Just the same, too much showiness results to indifference of the audience. Meanwhile, styles that are too simple to grasp makes the audience say-duh?.

These pitfalls of t-shirt design are just the results of seemingly minor things not taken into consideration. One important requisite for a good t-shirt design is that it should be a brainchild of an artist. Artists are the people who are destined to work in this aspect. It is important to note that not everyone are born artists, but are gifted in some other way. It has been a common misconception that if one knows how to use Photoshop, Corel, Xara, the GIMP and the like, are artists. No, it doesn’t automatically mean that way. In other words, let the artists do their jobs who must have a clear message to say, and knows how to say it even in simplicity.

Perhaps, the answer to this problem is the unification of the design as one university. One design, one pattern. This would bring out the feeling of one entity – as a university – especially during the anniversary, when we are celebrating as one. Unless, realized, every anniversary will still produce a hodgepodge of t-shirts, messy and unorganized. Just like the popular local commodity – different styles in mishmash – which we call ‘ukay-ukay’.

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