Project: Steel Band T-Shirt


I've been a member of the Waubonsee Steel Band since early 2009.  If you want to have fun, improve your musicianship, and work on your upper-body strength, join a steel band.  I'm not kidding.

In 2012 the director of the band, Frank Check, asked me to design t-shirts that we could wear at the dozens of gigs we play each year.  The idea had been tossed around for years, so it was great to be able to finally get the ball rolling.  

I've done a few promotional posters for the steel band, so I had a lot of practice illustrating the instrument, but screen printing can be fairly limiting. I tried a new technique of illustrating the notes on the pans.  Then I incorporated some half-tone dots to give them more dimension. It seemed to work pretty well. I wanted to steer away from just having one steel pan (which seems to be pretty typical in steel pan themed designs) since most of the band members play 2 or more pans at a time.  

The main goal with this design was to portray the overall feel of the music we play.  For the most part, it's upbeat and fun.  The band has a good time playing, and audiences have a blast listening to the eclectic island sounds. I wanted to translate that into something visual without being cliche.  Also, because this is a community band, the group is very diverse. This meant I really needed to make sure that it looked like a t-shirt that people of any age or gender wouldn't mind wearing.

Once I got the design hashed out, I sent a bunch of color variations to Frank to pick from.  While it wasn't our first choice, we wound up choosing two color blue and white because that's what the screen printer was capable of.  I really think the blue worked out well though!

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