Top 5 Design Tips For Making Stylish Swag 2021

March 17, 2021

Your brand is more than a name, and your branded swag is more than merch with a logo.

Plus, by taking into account our five design swag tips, you can ensure your marketing efforts lead to the very best swag items. That way your new merch can make the biggest impact and have the farthest reach with plenty of staying power.  

According to a 2019 survey by Statista, promotional products were kept in the United States anywhere from eight to 16 months. If you’re looking to amp up your marketing efforts and brand awareness, you can’t go wrong by personalizing popular swag items like outerwear, T shirts, polo shirts, drinkware, desk accessories and more with your company’s branding. 

Top Five Design Tips for the Best Swag Items: 

1. Clearly identify your brand.

When it comes to designing for your swag items, don’t lose sight of one of your brand’s best recognizable assets: your company’s logo. Afterall, one of the reasons you probably invested in swag in the first place is to get your company name out there. Not only should you use your logo, but design artwork around your brand to show off colors, illustrations and textures.

Logo design tip: All too often we want to incorporate anything and everything including the kitchen sink into our designs. However, if you really want to flex your branding muscles, a safe rule to follow is less is more rule. And, to really make an impact, make sure your logo, icon, tagline and/or website (if you choose to incorporate it), have the space they need to stand out. 

For example, to keep your logo from getting lost, frame it in negative space so the eye is drawn to the logo. Case in point: if your swag t shirt design is on a white tee, the negative space around your logo is white. 

2. Use the power of collaboration.

If you’ve chosen swag by a well known brand, go ahead and brag. The idea is to market your brand, but sometimes, leaning on the power of a name brand can help take your brand from “oh, cool,” to “I can’t believe this is you’re giving me this!” Also, your customers and employees are familiar with certain name brands, so leverage their product, materials and lifestyle branding to boost your logo.

Simple swag design tip: If you are branding name brand outerwear like Patagonia, North Face, Marmot, Carhartt or Columbia for your VIP customers, let them know! Nothing says “we value you” like high quality merch made even better with your company branding and all the bells and whistles. For top notch design custom t shirts nothing beats brands like Grays, Glossier, Champion, and Nike. 

3. Uniquely design for your brand and audience.

One of the most important things you can do when choosing the best swag, is identifying what your intended audience wants and incorporating a design they’ll want to use or wear. You want to make sure that your swag will be used and used often. For example, if your audience is for a younger, Gen-Z crowd, you will want to lean on cool, high quality apparel and accessories.

Design tips for new wear: If your target audience is bankers, then you might choose a polo shirt with your logo in a conservative color that they can wear on casual Fridays and weekends. Other popular swag items may include laptop bags, tech gear, a truly great pen, or other office accessory.  Whereas the swag you choose for your in house creative team can vary from hoodies, beanies, caps, tees, and laptop stickers in a variety of fun-loving, bold designs and a pop of color, like Justin Beiber’s Drew House Clothing line is known for.   

4. Customize creatively.

Whether you're going for low key cool and subtle with your branding or all out logo palooza, depends on your brand identity, your chosen merch, and your intended audience. You want your logo/artwork to stand out, but you also want to balance being colors and location of your logo or artwork. One of our top suggestions is customizing your merch in a unique way--whether that's tone-on-tone embroidery, using patches or gradient imprinting.

Unique T shirt design tips: Think outside of the box or swag when you’re ready to design your brand. Awesome shirt designs for swag could include logos all over, like this one from Supreme. For more placement ideas don’t forget to utilize the shirt’s sleeve and that area across the back. 

Another idea to make your swag extra special is to add a hidden message on the inside of your tee. Just remember, this is in addition to featuring your logo in a prominent position on the outside of the shirt. So, for example, you could add a quote or inspirational saying on the inside of your tee that connects your values or service to whoever is receiving your brand merch. Other awesome swag ideas could be adding a secret message to the inside of a mug or engraving the inside of a bracelet. When it comes to swag gifting, it’s all about the extra details. 

5. Invest in quality items.

Think through the life cycle of your swag. Your design should always match the longevity of your item. Sustainable items should incorporate timeless designs that last as long as your branded merch.  Whereas swag with a shorter life cycle can be more trendy. Just remember,  clarity always wins over clever, but if you can find both, you’ve got a gem!

More T shirt design tips to consider:
When launching your merch in cold weather versus warm weather, change your swag not your branding. And for shirts that say swag, remember creating brand recognition for your company is key and to do this your branding should be consistent. If you’re wanting a surprise element to really play up the creative, look for ways to incorporate your logo with unforgettable techniques, like an unexpected experience as those seen in guerrilla marketing.  

3 tips to help you choose the best swag for your customers and audience. 

Find yourself back at the drawing board? Sometimes, thinking through your perfect swag design, leaves you rethinking your merch. Here are 3 tips to help you choose the best swag for your customers and audience, whether they're purchasing or receiving your PR packages / media packages for a new launch. 

1. Let sustainability be your guide.

As society continues to place a bigger emphasis on sustainable goods and services, you will want your company merchandise to do so as well. Not only will you be helping the environment by reducing waste, but your swag will have a much longer life cycle. So if you were thinking of investing in labeled water bottles and a plethora of branded cups, a much better option would be branded stainless steel tumblers, like Corkcicle and S’well. While the initial investment in sustainable goods may be higher, you’ll have a product that keeps markets your company’s name long after the event is over. 

2. Apparel merchandise may have a farther reach long term.

Apparel usually lives on in some way or another. Through resales and donations, or passed down to family or friends, people love vintage brands (think Beatles, Attari,  and everything and anything 90s). Plus, apparel gets better and softer with every wash. If you are looking for cheap swag ideas, you choose inexpensive tees, socks, hats or even accessories like enamel pins, and hair bands.

3. Get merch your employees will love.

Happy employees are motivated employees. Invest in great swag for your employees and they’ll help you market it and your company every time they use or wear it. Plus, who better to speak about or answers questions about your company than your employees.

To get your employees excited about your company branded merch, let them have a say in which swag you select. Even giving them the power to weigh in on the color, brand, or style will keep them engaged and pumped about your new merch. 

And, once you find the best merch for your brand and your audience, make sure your swag design goes the distance. If you don’t have an in-house creative team, you may want to invest in a local designer to create your swag art. To get the most use out of your design cost, you’ll want to stipulate that you have total rights to the design to be used however you see fit—now and in the future. You will also want to request multiple file variations of the artwork. For example, artwork files vary for print and digital, and you will want the best resolution for both. And, even if you’re not skilled in updating or using the files you’re given, your future creative teams or freelancers will be and that can save you money and them design time. 

Ready to start sharing your swag? Don’t forget to keep extras on hand for swag kits and swag ideas like onboarding, giveaways, rallies, conferences, executive trips, and more. As your company grows, you’ll want to make sure you and all of your employees have branded merch so that together you can advertise your business all day, every day.

Now that you know the five best design tips for making unforgettable swag and merchandise this year, you’ll want to document how well your swag takes off. From employee excitement to customer engagement and increased brand recognition, knowing which pieces had the farthest reach can help you easily narrow down  future corporate gifts, regional and national event marketing giveaways, and so much more. Plus, if you happen to design corporate or employee swag that everyone loves and no one can stop talking about, it’s time to consider making variations and selling it for a profit.

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