Way back in the early 1800’s Sadi Carnot came up with the concept (I am over simplifying here) if you start a point and come back to that point later then the net change is zero. That is, you have done no work.
I don’t agree with Carnot as far as t-shirt production is concerned. Also, I doubt that Carnot was talking about t-shirts anyway. He was probably more concerned with physics and the rise of Charles X at the time. But French history is a different post for a different time.
T-shirt production is a cycle but, not one that ends up where you start. First lets over simplify it with this awful diagram:
First let me comment on that 1980’s 8088 PC, hot. Anyway, the process is very simple. I think of an idea then design it digitally. Then I pick a place to produce it and upload/tweak it. Now I have a link to an actual product and decide where and when I will put the designs out in social media. If I can give you one word of advice, “Plan”. I have a spreadsheet that tracks where and when I post designs and I helps guide me posting and kicks me in the butt when I don’t work. You can’t look at a bunch of empty cells and convince yourself you did something. Its a good motivator.
What do ideas look like? I draw on napkins, scraps of paper, or just about anything. In the case of the Smores shirt it was a doodle on a Gateway M275 from 2003. I know its hard to believe that a machine that old is still working but it runs Lubuntu just fine and has a built in Wacom digitizer. I just made the insanely crappy drawing below:
Then once I had it on my editing deck I could move stuff around and see what fit and what didn’t. Out of that super rough idea came this design:
(Shameless plug: you can get it here http://bit.ly/bc-smores)
This is where the Carnot cycle breaks down. I am back a square one looking for a design but in the last cycle I made something. My next trip around I will be making something new and I still have the old one. And so it builds.
If you are thinking about getting in this game, remember the Nike slogan of, “Just Do it.” Make your first design and go through the whole cycle. Don’t worry if it is crappy or no one buys it. The process is a learning event. Make a schedule and keep producing. It gets easier, your designs get better, it starts to be a happy place (at least for me), and your catalog grows. The moment someone buys one of your designs feels amazing. For me, that feeling has not gone away yet. Each sale is a reason to ride the whole cycle again.