Blogpost 3
January, 2023

Should you design merchandise

In this blog post we’ll try to help you decide if you should design T-shirts for you programming event, hackaton or some other type of contest. We’ll go into details and try to answer some of the questions: should you design your merch? is it a bad choice to have merch? can you reduce cost by partnering? Generics design vs Specific design?

There are 2 types of developer T-shirt designs:

  1. Generic design
    • Think of all the programmer jokes you can print on tee’s and mugs

Generic merchandise - there is no cloud

Generic merchandise - it works on my machine t-shirt

  1. Specific design
    • Think of golang or treafik producing a tee with their logo

Specific merchandise - traefik tee

Specific merchandise - go deploy tee

Generic Merch

Generic merch designs can be good when money is tight. It shows that you care about your event and that you want to hand out some memorabilia. When handing out generic design people will still remember you, each time they see their merch they might get a warm feeling about you. If you go with generic design you hope that your audience will eventually communicate with other people and do word of mouth marketing of your event.

What you want to achieve is this type of conversation between developer that attended your event and his friend:

Mike: Hi Jhon.

Jhon: Hi Mike.

Mike: That’s a cool T-shirt. where did you get it?

Jhon: Ow i got it from this cool event XYZ.

Mike: That’s cool, could you tell me more about it?

Specific Merch

Specific design on the other hand is more expensive but forms a tighter connection with your audience. Remember that you need to pay your illustrator/designer, you need to figure out design brief in collaboration with him, and you probably need to handle production. All this things cost both money and your time.

With this type of merch you want to inspire following conversation:

Mike: Hi Jhon

Jhon: Hi Mike

Mike: Ow that’s a React’s t-shirt, how did you get it? I want one?

Jhon: I have 3 pr’s merged into react open source repo

Mike: That is soo cool. I envy you

Keep in mind that for this type of conversation Mike also needs to know what is react

This type of merch acts as a certain status symbol, It frankly doesn’t matter if it’s a tee, mug, sticker or an nft. It serves it’s purpose for as long as your audience can brag with it

Inspiring examples

From business standpoint there are some great examples of utilizing developer merch to do promotions. We’ll name just a few here:

1. Hacktoberfers t-shirts

By opening a 4 pull requests during October to any open source repo, you get a cool developer t-shirt and some stickers

Reason why this works so well is that Hacktoberfest is highly marketed event, Almost any developer, programmer or a person in IT industry knows about this event. It is backed by famous companies like digitalocean, dev, and intel.

As mentioned in example for specific merch, if it wasn’t that famous it probably wouldn’t work that well.

Specific merchandise - hacktoberfest t-shirt award

Specific merchandise - hacktoberfest t-shirt award

2. Reactify programmer t-shirts

By attending reactify event (networking for react) you get a t-shirt.

Again this works so well, because it is promoting a famous event between react community. It has an appeal to react developers, and by leaning on to react’s popularity they get a free marketing to reactify events.

Specific merchandise - reactify t-shirt award

Specific merchandise - reactify t-shirt reward package

3. meetups developers t-shirts

There are plenty of examples when programmer’s t-shirts shops are sponsoring small meetups events by giving speakers or attendees free t-shirts and free stickers. Sticker mule is famous for doing that.

Reason that works well is because there are 2 sides. For one bootstrapped meetups get to actually give something to their speakers and attendees. From meetups standpoint they immediately become more valuable because people like “free stuff”. And from sponsors standpoint they get a cheap exposure to their target audience, by handing out merch to speakers they increase their perceived value.

Partners for generics

If you are bootstrapping and money is tight consider generic designs. Consider pinging developer merch shops and partnering with some of them. You also want a “free” marketing boost of your event from a merch shop.

We’re just gonna list a few here, but keep in mind that all of them have a contact on which you can ping them and ask them to sponsor your programming event:

When you shouldn’t give out merch

If you are constrained with time, you’re having a hard time finding a sponsor for your event. At start it might be a good idea to just ditch the merch and focus on quality of event. Having a good speaker’s lineup, a good venue, and a good attendance, takes a higher priority than handing out event’s merchandise.

What goes into designing t-shirt

If you decide to design your own programmer t-shirt, keep in mind it is up to you to figure out what needs to be on a shirt.

Your designer or illustrator will also expect you to produce a certain design brief for him. You can read more about what is a design brief here. It would be a good idea to produce you programming t-shirt design brief before starting you search for illustrator/designer. After that, you’ll need to handle feedback loop with your t-shirt designer. Our advice would be to be as honest as possible.

Once that is done, all that is left is producing your t-shirts, for which we would suggest our partner

Costs list:

  • 5 hours to figure out T-shirt design
  • 10 hours spent recruiting your programming t-shirt designer/illustrator
  • anywhere between $200-$1000 as payment for your illustrator
  • 5-10 hours spent on feedback loop with your designer
  • 5 hours spent on handling production side of merchandise

Giving merch to all vs giving it to the selected few

Once you have your developer’s merchandise designed, you need to figure out if you want to give it to all attendees, or just to a selected few. For example if you have a developers meetup and want to hand out some tees, you need to figure out if you want to hand it to speakers only, or to every attendee. If you hand it out to everybody, you will decrease its perceived value. While on the other hand if you hand it out to just a few people, others may feel neglected. There is a fine balance that needs to be found.

In ideal scenario we would hand out generic programming tees to speakers, and hand out our event specific stickers to everybody. That way nobody should feel neglected, you will save out on cost, and everybody will have a nice memorabilia to remember your event for.

Best of luck

With all this knowledge passed down to you we wish you a best of luck with your event 😊

Know that we would love to find out what path have you decided for. So feel free to tweet us and let us know.

<< Christmas t-shirts Our value proposition >>
Latest Release
Released in September 2023


Available by subscribing

Which of the popular clouds do you prefer? Are you an GCP or AWS type of guy?