Creating T-shirt slogans is a lot like writing greeting cards. In both cases, you have to get your point across in just a few words. One way to think about T-shirt slogans is to ask, "What if the T-shirt could talk?"
Some slogans that are often cited as among the best for products and services include "We try harder." (Avis), "Just do it." (Nike) and "Where’s the beef?" (Wendy's). Political slogans such as "I like Ike!" (Dwight Eisenhower) and "Yes, we can!" (Barack Obama) are also considered very strong.
Making It Great
What makes a great slogan? Ask a dozen speechwriters and advertising executives and you’ll get at least a dozen different answers. Think about the first five slogans that come to your mind. Chances are they are short, memorable, and meaningful. The problem with great slogans is that they’re a lot easier to remember than they are to create. What if there was a formula proven to create great slogans? Wouldn’t there be an app for it? Oh sure, random slogan generators exist, but they rarely come up with one important element: meaning.
That said, there are a few tricks experienced writers use when brainstorming slogan ideas. People remember rhymes, for example. Words that convey double meanings can be clever and therefore memorable. Understanding basic human psychology can help you come up with good slogans. But when you’re charged with creating a T-shirt slogan, you’ve got to remember your advertising vehicle is unique.
We all know that people come in a variety of sizes, but a T-shirt slogan has to appear, and be readable, on only a small portion of the shirt. That means you don’t have much room to make your point, and nobody wants a T-shirt slogan that they have to explain. Also worth considering is how people wear T-shirts. Generally, T-shirts are the workhorses in our dresser drawers. A good slogan can’t rely on a detailed illustration when the wearer is mowing the grass, washing the car, or going for a jog.
One way to get in the right frame of mind to write a T-shirt slogan, then, is to imagine what the shirt might say as it was working, or jogging by. In other words, what if your T-shirt could talk?
Phrase, Command, or Label
A good slogan might be a catch-phrase associated with a popular character. Sometimes it’s opinionated. Sometimes it’s simply a label that identifies the wearer as a member of a group or declares an aspiration. "What’s Up, Doc?" identifies the wearer as a cartoon fan; "Hang Up and Drive'" is pretty opinionated. On the other hand, "Class of 2014'" clearly places the wearer in a group, and "World’s Best Grandma" suggests a sense of pride and love.
When using a commonly-heard catch phrase, of course, you must take care to avoid copyright infringement. If you have any doubt about whether you have the right to use a name or phrase on a T-shirt, especially if you’re selling the shirt for profit, check with a legal adviser before you take orders.
There are three important things to remember when creating T-shirt slogans. First, they must be short, memorable, and meaningful. Second, they shouldn't rely on detailed illustrations to make a point. And finally, don’t use a quote or tagline unless you have the legal right to do so.