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Abstract on the Perfect Conference T-Shirt

How Abstract used soft, stylish t-shirts to drive booth visitors at Adobe MAX.

Event t-shirts get a bad rap. Ask anyone who receives a t-shirt at a conference what they plan on doing with it after, and the best case scenario is that they'll use it as a workout shirt or something to sleep in. And more likely than not, they'll plan to donate it or straight up throw it away.

Contrary to popular belief, that doesn't always have to be the case. There is, indeed, such thing as a cool t-shirt you can get at a conference. They're just few and far between.

Abstract, a design software company headquartered in San Francisco, CA, knew there were better options out there, and when planning giveaways at their booth at Adobe MAX, they decided to work with Real Thread to create soft, stylish shirts that people would be excited to walk away with.

Continue reading for a Q&A with Daina Lightfoot, Sr. Designer at Abstract, to hear about her inspiration for their t-shirt design, what made their Real Thread t-shirts such a success at the event, and tips for creating a cool company branded t-shirt that people will actually want to wear.

Q: Hi, Daina! To get this started, tell us about Abstract. What does Abstract do?

A: Abstract is a platform that brings visibility to the entire design process by centralizing files, stakeholders, decisions, and assets needed to deliver products.

Q: What’s your role at Abstract? What can we find you working on day-to-day?

A: At Abstract I’m a Senior Brand Designer. I split my time differently day-to-day depending on what initiatives the team is working on. You can find me heads down in illustrations for our blog, storyboarding and designing our latest product video, writing job descriptions and interview questionnaires, managing and updating our brand guidelines, mentoring our newest Junior Brand Designer, and many other things. While it does get crazy, I’m lucky enough to be on an amazing brand team with Morgan Keys, Hugo Baeta, Vince Joy and Alden Spence which makes it a blast. 

Q: Abstract was a sponsor at Adobe MAX –– what did you have going on at your booth? And how were you using t-shirts as a part of it?

A: This was our first year at Adobe MAX. We just rolled out beta support for Adobe XD files and wanted to attend to get some face time with our newest audience and let them know how we can support their design workflow. 

We designed our booth to be fun and interactive. Earlier in the fall, we launched a brand campaign aimed at illustrating the painful process of collaboration around design (and how much better it could be with Abstract!). The “feedback hallway” showed a tangled web of communication that we wanted to bring to life. It ended up being the perfect canvas for our photo booth. Along with the photo booth there’s a cozy bench for taking breaks, a tear-away poster section, and a stand where you could play design BINGO with us. 

We printed two styles of shirts, one for the staff and one to give away to current customers, prospects and attendees who spent some quality time interacting with us over the week. The employee shirts being black with a large graphic on the back and the give away shirts being creme with the large graphic on the front.

Abstract's booth at Adobe MAX. Photo by Alden Spence.
Q: Why did you think it was a good idea to incorporate t-shirts into the booth?

A: With such a busy conference hall, it was important for the Abstract staff to wear uniforms so attendees could easily identify us. We live by the motto “the future of design is open” and we wanted to make sure we spread that message. The best part is that the shirt graphic is something we actually want to wear, not just store in the back of our closets. And we hope others feel the same!

Photos by Alden Spence
Q: When thinking about custom t-shirts for Abstract –– what are the important qualities that make a good t-shirt?

A: When I begin to design a t-shirt, I think a lot about shirt and print quality, in addition to the graphic itself. The softness and cut of the shirt are important so that it works well with a variety of body types and style preferences. When it comes to the graphic, we think it’s best to create something unique and not overly branded.

Q: What do you think makes a great company t-shirt design?

A: Cool graphics, minimal branding and high quality materials. My goal is to design something that someone would want to pay for. It needs to be cool.

Q: What else have you all used t-shirts for at Abstract?

A: These are the first shirts we have ever given away as a company, so they’re kind of a big deal! 

Internally, we have another conference-specific uniform shirt, as well as some fun shirts that we have given away to our staff at our bi-annual Team Week — an all company offsite as we are a remote-first company. There’s also a few department specific t-shirts to commemorate special events. 

Q: What has been your favorite part about working with Real Thread?

A: Our account manager was quick to respond to any of my questions, and was able to provide guidance around blank and printing options. Overall, the team was just SUPER nice and you could tell they actually cared about our project. Did I mention this was all a last minute rush order that arrived on time and perfect?

Ready to order your own?

Looking for amazing t-shirts for your brand? Whether it’s for an upcoming event or general company swag, our team here at Real Thread would love to help you get started. Click here to talk to our team!