Welcome To The Latest Geek Shirts HQ T Shirt Brand Undressed Interview
……Where we try and get know the brands where you buy your tees from.
This week we have a brand that is a number of brands under one umbrella.An original brand which some highly innovative concepts, like the history league. This is what sets Amorphia Apparel from the competition, Jeremy’s drive to continually improve his brand and not be content with following the plethora of t shirts sites out there that offer nothing different.
Geek Shirts HQ Welcomes Amorphia Apparel
…….The Latest Brand To Get Undressed.
Who are the people behind Amorphia Apparel? Can you start by giving some background about yourself? Where you are from? Who creates the designs? How did you get into shirt design?
Amorphia Apparel is just me, Jeremy Kalgreen (well, and I suppose my fulfilment company Spreadshirt). I design all the shirts, code all of the non-cart aspects of the websites, and try my best to promote my work. Spreadshirt does all of the real work: billing, production, shipping and whatnot.
I'm from beautiful Columbus Ohio, and have been here since I went to OSU, deciding to plant roots here even after graduating in 2005.
I got into shirt design by accident really. I used to do this thing where every summer I'd take up a new skill to try and teach myself. In 2002, or 2003 my summer skill was learning to silkscreen. I was pretty terrible at it, but I thought it was a lot of fun so within a year my entire wardrobe of shirts morphed into just my own prints. I'd make a new batch each year, but as I said I wasn't really technically skilled at screen printing, so after a few years I started looking into the print-on-demand options out there.
I had been burned by the terrible quality iron-on stuff popular at the time, but I had heard about this company Spreadshirt that used a vector based plot-printing technique that produced better results than the iron on stuff, so I decided to give them a try. I converted seven or eight of my existing designs into vectors and uploaded them, intending only to print off a set for myself.
I was a broke art student at the time so I needed to wait for my next pay check to place the $100+ order for the batch of shirts, but as bad luck would have it my car broke down later that week, tabling the idea indefinitely.
After realizing that I wasn't going to be able to place an order any time soon, I decided to make the shirts publicly viewable on a whim. I figured since I had time, if I got even an order or two it would help defer the costs a bit. I sold two shirts the very first night, and suddenly I was hooked.
For about two years I was making maybe $300 a month, enough to pay a few bills and justify the time spent as a hobby.
Eventually though my site Teach the Controversy got discovered by PZ Myers which then caused it to get posted to Boing Boing and everywhere else in a fit of viral madness. That changed everything for me, and I was able to quit my day job and become a full time shirt-smith to this day.
What process do you follow when designing a shirt?
Whew, that's a tough one because it really depends on the design. These days I mostly just try and fulfil requests. I have literally hundreds of requests filed, and I get at least 5-10 new ones a week.
On the other hand I usually produce just one new shirt each week on average, so the guilt of all those unfilled wishes is my primary motivator. In these cases the creative part isn't deciding what design I should do, but how best to make it work.
First step is research, if the design is based on a real world entity. Then I fire up illustrator, work out a first draft, realize it sucks, delete it, start over, finally get things where I am happy with them, then upload, and publish.
Where did you get the name Amorphia Apparel ?
As an undergraduate in photography a lot of people like to take photos of what they called "ephemera", as in the noun form of ephemeral.
I always liked that word construction, but instead of wanting to make a noun out of the adjective "ephemeral" I wanted to make a noun out of the adjective "amorphous", since that my first batch of designs were intentionally ambiguous and a bit surreal.
So I decided to coin the word amorphia, thinking it was a cool new invented word I could corner the market on, only I later learned the word amorphia
Can you tell me more the brand Amorphia Apparel?
The Amorphia Apparel brand is now an umbrella for a whole family of geek friendly shirts sharing my sensibility: heavy on satire, celebrating obscure or narrow interests, but hopefully without an off-putting or strident tone.
Each year I add a new line-up to the Amorphia Family with its own theme, such as "what if famous scientists had their own band logos?", or "What if famous events in history had their own sports teams?" then I continue expanding on my existing themes throughout the year.
What makes Amorphia Apparel different from other Apparel Vendors? What is your USP?
I think I have a willingness to experiment and explore concepts that other apparel vendors wouldn't bother with. I think a lot of vendors' instincts it to try and cash in on what is popular at the time. "If X is all the rage, let’s try to get in on X".
I try my best to avoid doing what everyone else is doing. Instead of trying to grab a piece of a big popular pie, and end up as just another cookie cutter shop, I try to cater to fringe interests and low volume concepts.
In my experience 95% percent of people might have no interest at all in my designs, but that 5% who do are so happy that someone is making something for them that they become not just my customers, but my evangelists?
For example I do a series of shirts called Sir Critter featuring classy animals in top hats and whatnot.
Perhaps you'd think that the biggest sellers would be things like Sir Cat because the internet loves cats, but instead one of the most important designs I have in terms of finding new fans is Sir Phage.
There really are people out there that would love a cute bacteriophage shirt, not many of them, but they exist, and those people are so happy that someone finally made a shirt for them that they go above and beyond what other customers will in terms of sharing my work and spreading the word.
So instead of focusing on 20 popular designs I might throw out 100 variations on a theme, which individually might not be worth the time of other tee shirt shops, but that in aggregate make my business work, and give me what I believe are the best fans in the business.
What’s coming next for Amorphia Apparel?
Good question! I do my yearly new site launch in the fall or winter, so my latest launch The History League is still so recent that I haven't even began brainstorming what is next. Until then I'll be fleshing out my existing concept shops and hopefully making some headway on my mountain of requests.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years both for yourselves and your business?
Perhaps the Amorphia Empire, rather than the Amorphia Family?
How much importance do you place on Facebook Twitter and similar sites when marketing your brand?
Facebook, twitter, and other social sites are huge! They really are the engine of making my business work.
My business is primarily word-of-mouth, and I rely heavily on fans of my more obscure designs sharing these designs with their likeminded friends. Without social media, there would be no way for me to sell things along the long tail in a cost effective manner.
When getting your apparel printed what is the process that you prefer?
Print-on-demand plot printing. Print on demand, since that carries no overhead, which in turn allows me to freely experiment with even the most obscure designs (Dmitri Mendeleev's beard anyone?) without having to censor myself if I don't expect to sell 10+ units a month. Plot printing since I feel it has the best quality of the print-on-demand options.
What brands of apparel do you prefer to print on?
I love the American Apparel stuff. It feels great, looks great, and comes in a lot of colours. The only downside is that it is much, much more expensive than just using Gilden or something.
On my site I have things priced so that I make exactly the same amount regardless of what brand of shirt you print on, so the large difference in pricing is all about production cost.
What would a customer expect when ordering a product from you?
He or she should expect to get a shirt I myself would be proud to wear, hopefully within a scant few days of ordering.
Anyone you want to give a shout out to?
I already mentioned a few of them above, but I'd just like to thank the sites that have really supported my projects through the years.
PZ Myers at Pharyngula for giving me my first big break
The folks at Boing Boing for blowing things up and making it possible for me to quit my job
Metafilter for an awesome amount of support
And Laughing Squid for always showcasing my latest project.
Who are your favourite designers and/or brands?
It’s sort of embarrassing, but I actively try to avoid looking at other stores. Mostly because when I see something good I can't help but feel like "Dang it! this is great! Why couldn't have I thought of that first!", but even worse I don't want to start second guessing myself and be tempted to join in on the latest trends.
I think for my business model it is better to work in isolation and stay ignorant of the competition. The only exception to that is before producing a new idea I have to Google the concept to the best of my ability to insure sure no one got there first, which has led to disappointment more than once.
That being said I am familiar with a few folks work, and there is one designer in particular I am in awe of: Glenn Jones of Glennz Tees. Clever, well-illustrated, and fun. All in all just a great line-up.
Who are your influences?
That's a good question. In the very beginning, when I was screening my own shirts, I think I absorbed most of my original design aesthetic from stencil based street artists, I liked those large flat areas of colour and minimalist designs. Of course most of those folks (who aren't Banksy) are essentially anonymous, so I can't really give them the proper credit they deserve.
Is there anything else you want to add? Where is the best place to find your designs and buy some of your shirts? And of course get in contact with you
I'm 100% online print on demand, so the only place to buy from are directly from my shops, which you can check out from my home base at amorphia-apparel.com
Social media wise I'm here: