Back in 2013 I wrote a series of blog posts titled, Sketchnote School: 6 Steps to Great Conference Sketchnotes. Step 3 of that series is about Characters and Locations where I write about how to draw simple characters in the form of stick figures.
By adjusting, moving, and positioning the sticks of a figure, they help tell a better story. Below is the sketch from that original blog post.
Fast forward four years to 2017 when I received a random email from a reader. Bobbi Jo was vague in her request asking if she could use this image. I recall the conversation over a few volleys to try and garner some sort of context in why she wanted to use this image. Honestly, I kept one eyebrow raised with suspicion on why she was adamant about this particular image. It was just stick figures. Anyone can draw stick figures, right?
I don’t have the original email any longer, so I’ll paraphrase the conversation the best I can from memory.
Bobbi Jo explained that her 12-year old son, Toby, suffered from a rare disease that prevented him from going outside. Each Friday night a group of Toby’s friends would come over and play with him. They’d play games, watch movies, eat pizza, and generally hang out like any group of young teenage friends would do. They call themselves the “Misfits”.
She saw the image of the stick figures as her son’s band of misfits and wanted to make them a t-shirt. But she wanted them on an island in reference to the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Island of Misfits. She also downloaded the image and mocked up an idea she was thinking about but didn’t know how to get her idea on a t-shirt.
If my heart ever swelled, it was at that moment.
I offered to take her idea and prepare the design in vector format so all she had to do was send it to whatever printer of choice to make the t-shirts. Here’s that design from her island idea.
Bobbi Jo was so grateful and offered to pay, but it only took a few moments to whip up and I was starting to get excited about surprising the boys with their very own “club” t-shirts.
A few days went by and I received another email from Bobbi Jo that she was having a hard time understanding what the printer needed. I get it – if you’ve not dealt with getting custom t-shirts printed before, there are a few technical things to sort out. I asked her if she would share the phone number of the printer she’s been talking to and I would work with them directly preparing the artwork to their specs.
When I spoke with the printer, there was nothing unexpected and I knew exactly the file format they needed. I don’t recall what day it was, but I remember it was early in the week and I wanted to help get these t-shirts made in time for the upcoming Friday gathering of the Misfits.
I’ve designed a lot of t-shirts over the years. This design was not even intended to go on a t-shirt, rather a simple sketch to support a blog post.
What makes this my favorite design of all time is the story behind it.
That’s Toby in the front. He and the Misfits seem to like their new t-shirts, too!