Ensure that logos are seen on printed fabrics by following some clear advice from Erich Campbell

If you’re like me, you’ll have counselled at least a few customers whose previous decorators’ attempts at branding on printedmaterials have rendered their logos unintelligible. Sadly, many decorators confine themselves to stitching the same logo on all garments, in the customary colours, regardless of the print on which it’s placed.

With a modicum of effort, however, you can create a decoration over a print that stands apart, both from the background and from the competition. You simply have to decide to go beyond the standard rendition, and choose either to fight the print or gowith the flow. The following simple concepts provide a method for educating the client, allowing you to start the design process with predefined examples to speed your client’s decision-making process.

Fight the print

Select colours that stand apart from all colours in the print to increase contrast. This can be quite difficult on highcontrast multi-colour prints.

Set it off Add an outline in a contrasting colour to both the print and main logo, setting simple elements apart from the background pattern. This strategy is not well suited to small, unsupported text or highly detailed free-floating shapes, but for larger text and simple shapes, outlines can work wonders.

Make a move Relocate the design on garments featuring a troublesome pattern or print in the standard decoration area. Use a non-traditional placement and target an area with an easier background to handle. Imagine a smaller identifying mark for a collar tip, sleeve or hip. Not every customer is so flexible, but those who refuse to alter their logos often appreciate options without additional background or framing elements.

Back it up Cover the print with either a fully filled background area or a patch-styled appliqué that supports and surrounds the logo. A carefully created, pliable fill or well-placed appliqué in a shape that complements your logo can provide an uncomplicated background to frame your decoration.

The DKD band’s large, simple and single-colour logotype would lend itself well to swapping colours to boost contrast against the printed fabric; however, the brand really doesn’t like to change the colour of its logo. With such a simple piece, a bold outline is all that’s required to set the piece off, even on this busy paisley print

That same highly contrasted paisley shown in the DKD example can demonstrate how going with the flowmight be a worthwhile option for some logotypes. The origami duck logo from my previous company, Black Duck Embroidery and Screen Printing, is recognisable enough that even when stitched in one of the four primary colour families seen in the background print, it maintains a fair amount of recognition. Moreover, the tonal look exudes a little dressier feeling than the outlined look shown in the previous example, and fits betterwith the style of garment one usually sees with this sort of print

Go with the flow

Create a variant version Include the print as an element in your design. Design a new version of your decoration just for this garment that uses shapes and colours from the print, or which uses negative space to showcase it. Imagine the logotype reduced to a bold single-colour outline, leaving it to be filled with the print underneath.

Blend in by design Recolour your logo to align with the palette of the print and intentionally go for a lower-contrast tonal look. For brands that exude a calm class, these understated looks can hit the perfect note. For established brands with high recognition, or garments that won’t carry brand recognition alone, hinting at the logotypemay be enough to carry the identity.

Accessorise Rather than decorate the printed item, you could use an accessory or a coordinating piece of apparel that canworkwith the printed piece while offering a better canvas for your design. This would mean a price increase for your client, so it won’t be the preferred solution for every order, but it can’t hurt to prepare a coordinating garment as part of your pitch.

No matter which strategy you adopt, make sure to clear all alterations of a design with your client before the needles meet the garment. Although these solutions do mean more active consultationwith your client, the delight they feel when the end result is easy to read and more integrated with their printed product will help to cast you as a favourite branding partner rather than a commodity.

This is an original concept that I designed for a redheaded friend who rehabilitates Japanese cooking knives. It was originally created for black garments, as seen in the upper left hand corner. Shortly after the original concept, a secondary designwas added to be more versatile on other colours. That said, it wasn’t prepared for novelty patterns…

…My friend asked if I could run his design on some customer-supplied shirts. As soon as I said yes, he sent me a fuzzy picture of this fabric swatch. You can see howwith black,white and dark red areas, it would be hard to choose contrasting thread colours for this piece

In order to show my friend how the background would affect his logo if he didn’t change colours, I recoloured a similar vector pattern and brought it into my digitising software behind his original logos. Often customers need a visual example to really understand the conflicts in colour and line

Noticing that the ‘ninja head’ portion of the logo looked good, we tried several text colours to no avail. No colour stayed true to the brand and maintained a nice contrast. My friend asked me to come up with a new treatment of the logo specific for apparel that could be used on any background without alteration. I created a new patch-style logo based on the smaller ‘ninja head’ element, which provided a solid colour cover-up to eliminate the pattern behind the logo, while adding an outline to the outer edge to set the logo off from the dark colours in the print

Erich Campbell is an award-winning digitiser, embroidery columnist and educator, with 18 years’ experience both in production and the management of e-commerce properties. He is the partner relationship manager for DecoNetwork in the USA.