I got together with the designer of the 2000 Bloomsday T-shirt, Matt Milligan, and we painstakingly analyzed each of the 24 past Bloomsday T-shirts, trying to decide what it is that makes a good T-shirt.
"Having a good strong graphic element, something like a logo is very important," says Milligan, now a production artist at The Inlander, "that, and having a popular color for the actual T-shirt. Sadly, it is the color that really makes or breaks it. The Bloomsday people usually pick the color, but on mine I asked them if we could use a navy-colored shirt because navy is a really popular color -- I think that is why people liked mine. I saw three people wearing it just today."
Looking through all 24 T-shirts, we realized that many of the ones that didn't work were ones that were missing a human element and, shockingly, that all-important theme -- running. This is, after all, a T-shirt for a running race.
"If the 1983 T-shirt didn't have the word run in it, you'd have no idea what is was for," Milligan criticized.
And, of course, we all want something striking, something eye-catching, something that will jump off the T-shirt and beg to be recognized as a Bloomsday T-shirt.
So here's our list, not including the year 2000, which would probably be our No. 1 if we didn't think that would seem unfair and terribly biased:
The Top five
1996 The 20-year anniversary T-shirt won for Best T based solely on its creativity and skilled illustration skills. It used an element that is very familiar to runners, the discarded cup, to illustrate its message.
1999 This shirt uses a nice graphic element -- it really flows the people into the type. There is a good use of diagonal lines to show movement and some great sketchy shadows. This T-shirt may be dated in a few years, but for now it holds its own.
1993 This one reminds us of Halloween, with the black background and long, thin lettering, and the use of orange. Matt says it reminds him of Lollapalooza in its hand-drawn style. It is bold and daring and jumps off the shirt.
1980 Both Matt and I got a good laugh out of this one. The memories it triggers range from The Beatles' Yellow Submarine to Monty Python's Flying Circus. Our Spokane lilac hides in the cartoon-esque clouds, the font is truly dated but works. The whole thing is really simple with three very basic colors.
1990 This one really has a strong logo with the upside-down triangle and the assertive font. It jumps off the shirt; if you were walking down the street and saw this shirt, you'd know right off that this is a Bloomsday shirt.
The not-so-Top five
1983 We spent a lot of time on this one. Where's the runner? Are these plants you would see around here? Why plants? There is something Freudian about it, with the long spiky plants piercing the half sun above. Matt thinks it looks like something you would pick up on a trip to Hawaii.
1981 Putting a photo on a shirt is always a bad idea, as it immediately dates the shirt. Plus there is the fade-factor with a photo; in fact this one already looks faded when new. What do these flowers mean to Spokane and why is this woman running through them. There is nothing striking about this one and certainly no strong graphic element.
1987 There is no human element in this one and no running. Matt thinks it looks like they were trying to do a Picasso kind of thing. I feel out of balance looking at it, like I should have had a V-8.
1994 Matt's big complaint with this one is the unrecognizable and somewhat weak graphic. What is it? It is supposed to be a man running, but there is some strange leaf growing out of him instead of a leg, and those toothpaste lines don't really work.
1998 This one looks like it's trying to be a stained-glass window. The runner/river symbol once again is too abstract, the colors don't work together and they used those big bubbly toothpaste lines again. Just not dynamic enough.
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"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
-- Henry David Thorea