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The art of Maritime Race Weekend swag

Maritime Race Weekend T-shirt design

I am lucky to have talented friends and I give them complete credit for the amazing swag designs at Maritime Race Weekend.

Designing the best swag ever is definitely a project of passion and time consuming but worth every minute. The retro T-shirt design starts when I draw a really basic layout idea and send it to an artist to create the actual artwork.

image002 (1)Clearly, I failed art class but my friend Michie is a phenomenal artist. I explain to her that I want a hand-drawn, vintage, pirate look. We’ll print Michie’s design on a comfy cotton T-shirt with the intention of it being casual and probably worn with jeans. She needs all these details to fully understand the look we’re trying to achieve. Michie then sketches her interpretation of what I tried to describe.

On a Saturday morning in December, I receive an email from Michie at 6:30 a.m. It feels like Christmas has come two weeks early! Michie has worked through the entire night sketching. She literally didn’t sleep.

Maritime Race Weekend T-shirt designMy first reaction is “Wow, don’t change a thing!” Her ability to grasp the layout and idea from my bad drawing exceeds my expectations. She even added a sea creature! I shouldn’t be surprised; Michie is the same artist that designed my running tattoo a couple years ago. She hit a home run then too.


Michie suggests we move the pirate map to the back of the shirt and put a crest on the front. I never thought of that. I love her idea, so we do it. She then re-designs our existing race logo to become the retro pirate crest.

Michie lives in an isolated Northern Manitoba town and the artwork is too big to scan at home. She mails the original artwork to the graphic designer in Southern Ontario, who then converts the design into something that is printable.

Maritime Race Weekend T-shirt designThe graphic designer is Janet. I’ve worked with her for ten years. Janet has to maintain the integrity of Michie’s hand drawn sketch while working within the limitations of print technology. Janet researches our print options and tries not to compromise the artwork – some modifications are always required. I’m not worried. She’s the best.

Michie and Janet have never met before, but technology makes our remote team possible. Why did I pick talented ladies so far away? Both are East Coast girls, coincidentally transplanted away from Nova Scotia because their husbands are in the RCMP. Both run and are also close friends of mine. I respect them as artists and their opinions about the direction of our swag designs. This is a collaborative process with plenty of phone calls, texts and emails. We don’t stop brainstorming until we all believe we’ve nailed it!


The retro T-shirt design is done but we still aren’t ready to reveal the shirt. The graphic designer and I will first explore different ink colors. We narrow it down to four: white, black, brown or grey. We’ll ask the artist what she thinks. It’s unanimous: we decide on grey ink on a white shirt. Do we need to be this particular? Yes, we want to create swag that you’ll love and that we are proud of.

Every year, I look at a lot of shirt samples. Quality and range of size are more important to me than price. At the end of the day, what’s the difference of a dollar or two per shirt on a $12 shirt? I’d rather pay more and provide a shirt you’ll want to wear.

We all believe the design is perfect. It’s time to reveal the retro t-shirt! Janet creates a spectacular graphic for the big reveal.

Maritime Race Weekend T-shirt design

How long does a shirt design process take? Usually a month, sometimes two, but this year it was over three months because we are juggling finisher medals, buff, running hat, gloves and sock designs also.

Even though the retro T-shirt design is complete, the process isn’t over. We still need to find the perfect cotton T-shirt. We want one that will become your favorite shirt to wear after work or on the weekend. The search is on. I’ll wear the samples and wash the shirts to test for shrinkage. I’ll show friends the shirt options, ask for their for feedback and then decide on a brand. Luckily, we still have a bit of time before we need to order the shirts.

This is only one of the shirt options at Maritime Race Weekend this year. There is still the technical shirt design and it will be a completely different look to the retro t-shirt. That second shirt design isn’t quite where it needs to be, but we’re close and when it’s perfect you’ll learn about it on Behind the Scenes.