Create a t-shirt design that would be chosen by fellow high-school students as the best.
In the early 1990s, Designs for Education (DfE) operated design contests in high schools across the nation. Student-selected designs were printed on apparel and sold at stores such as Macy's and Kohl's. Top sellers in any given 6-month period received fixed-amount college scholarships.
In the '90s Minneapolis South High School was one of seven public high schools in Minneapolis. Hallways were full of students of many ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds. Unique attire was common as was challenging the status quo. In various magnet programs (Open, Liberal Arts, and All Nations) we learned to think, not to regurgitate facts.
As someone who floated between different social groups my goal was to create a design that expressed how being different makes our world a better place. The turtle shape was inspired by my biology textbook. I spent a long time considering whether I should use the word conformity versus uniformity but ultimately selected the latter for its less negative interpretation. I was working on improving my watercolor techniques at the time, so everything came together in a painting on my dining room table.
I remember the numerous submissions being pinned from clotheslines in our windowless school lunchroom. It was a happy surprise when fellow students voted for my design. I don't remember hearing much from DfE and was pretty shocked to see my design on a t-shirt in a Kohl's circular. Uniformity is Boring was in the top 20 the first six months and the top seller for a year.
A pretty fun 15 minutes of fame!
May 26, 1995
melanie at melanieclarke dot com