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London, UK: I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi movies, superheroes and video games and as a lousy reader – but a very interested image/visual consumer – graphic things have always attracted me. The other day I happened to come across fan art website We Love Fine; as per their definition, it’s fan art made by fans for fans and you can find everything from exclusive personalised t-shirts to toys, all hand made by the community. I found it amazing how some crowds have such talented fans behind them and sometimes their creations are actually more attractive then the official merchandise sold by the studios.

The website also runs competitions (with prizes up to US$ 2.500 in cash) judged by expert panels, usually formed by famous actors and directors plus their official communities, like for instance this one for the “The Last of Us” PS3 game fans. This contest involved asking the fans to create and send up to 5 designs based on the story of the apocalyptic game and it’s characters. Five winners were then voted online (more than 100K votes were registered to all the 300+ entries), selected by the guest jury and then rewarded with prizes from cash to the game’s special editions and other goodies.

From a Marketing point of view, it’s an amazing opportunity to encourage fans to get creative and explore their relationship with the game or movie, get publicity and also to analyse their market from two different points of view: the fans creating it and the ones voting on their favourite later. Very clever too, I’d say.

Most of the contests done by the website, besides the prize, offer the winner the chance to create unique t-shirt designs and have it printed onto official licensed t-shirts. Participating in actions like that is always a good opportunity for up and coming artists to showcase their talent and make their creations accessible to a wider audience right away. All this at the same time as exploring their creativity through things they love.

At Printsome we’ve come across a couple of jobs that turned out to be fan-made for these types of contests. For one project we printed 5,000 t-shirts for a YouTube channel. We adapted and printed the original design, which was designed by a 14 year old, as a nine colour screen print on to dark garments and had them delivered in just 10 working days from the date of placement. This was just in time for their online store to start selling the t-shirts to fans across the UK and the US.

Participating in this type of fan art competition can have lots of benefits, but sometimes taking the initiative and contacting your favourite brand directly can pay off as well. This was the case of graphic artist Sam Brunell from Walsall.

After a tough childhood filled with health issues, Sam started drawing at a very young age and was able to develop a unique style, which can be seen here on this online portfolio at Behance. As a fan of the Adidas NEO Label, a branch of the big German sports brand, Sam approached their official Twitter account with a couple of designs and, a few months later, was surprised by a quick video featuring Justin Bieber with the t-shirt saying a few words about it.

We caught up with Sam to talk about the experience. Check it out:

Printsome: About the design you did for Adidas NEO Label: was it a contest or did you take initiative?
Sam: It was all independent really. I wanted to show Adidas what I could do and I knew they took their fan base seriously, so I jumped at the chance when they said I could do it. The first design I created, believe it or not, was the one they showed Justin Bieber, which was a shock because there were so many other designs too. The process of the t-shirt design took about 2 days to create; the inspirations that guided me were top urban clothing lines like Rebel 8, Sundown and Drop Dead clothing.

Printsome: How did you get Adidas to showcase your design to Justin Bieber?
Sam: It was just basically a shout out for all the NEO supporters really. NEO picked a group of their Twitter fans and luckily I was one of them it was amazing publicity for me. At first it was going to be shown just to their design team so I had no idea Justin Bieber would see it in the end. I was jumping with excitement!

Printsome: Do you usually participate on contests or was it the first?
Sam: Not really, it was the first time I tried this type of thing.

Printsome: Do you draw just fan art or do work on commission?
Sam: A bit of both but I mainly do fan art, I get a better response this way.

Whether you’re looking for new adventures on fan art contests or are an illustrator with amazing t-shirt design ideas for your favourite singer or clothing label, it’s clear that designing things you’re passionate about is the best way to start!

Massive thank you to Sam for taking the time to talk to us and the best of luck with all your future designs.

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