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Tips for Designing Custom Spirit Gear

Morale is an important commodity in educational spaces. Graduations, field trips, fairs, fundraisers, and special events are all important to keeping students, staff members, and families involved in the institution’s mission. Just like any other campaign, special school events can benefit from unique spirit wear. Displaying school colors, logos, and insignias on a t-shirt or sweatshirt can reinforce feelings of belonging, pride, and excitement. School years can be impactful times, and it’s important to commemorate them in style. But before dashing off a design and trusting a print shop to realize your vision in earnest, considering the following questions may help you develop an effective design and avoid pitfalls.

What’s the purpose of this spirit gear?

Your design, style, and fabric choices will all be determined by the general purpose behind creating custom school spirit wear. Whether your spirit gear will be bold and colorful or direct and refined depends on if it will be worn for a paint fight, tug of war, or PTO fundraiser. Besides fun, group t-shirts can serve practical purposes in a school setting. Consider a few of the following possibilities.

  • Create excitement around an event. Special tees for a major event like a school carnival or theme auction can generate buzz and let people know who to approach with questions—plus they’re a great keepsake.
  • Promote your parent group. It’s like having a personal billboard! Officers and members who wear your PTO’s T-shirt can help introduce new families to the group.
  • Commemorate graduating students. Wish the members of your oldest classes well with a spirit wear gift before they move on. Schedule a special day just for them when they can wear their tees and sweatshirts to school.
  • Welcome incoming students. Providing a t-shirt to children starting at your school can be a great way to help them (and their parents) feel like they belong.
  • Commemorate a schoolwide milestone. The 25th, 50th, or 100th year that a school has been open or a parent group has been in existence is worthy of celebration.
  • Promote an academic milestone. Get kids and parents excited by academic and athletic achievements like reaching the 100th day of school or reading for a million minutes schoolwide.
  • Keep track of students. Having students wear matching school T-shirts on field trips helps chaperones more easily manage their charges.

What should they layout look like?

Generally, for custom spirit wear, your design will include your school or team’s names and colors. Bold typography, paint splatters, hand prints, and other graphics may also be included. A simple and clean but fun design might be best. To achieve impact and keep your purpose front and center, consider how t-shirt layout can create your desired effect. Here are a few of the layout choices you might use:

  • Large and centered – With this placement, your school pride is for all to see. Round graphics work wonderfully in this location.
  • Frocket – The frocket (short for “front pocket”) is the perfect place for a logo.
  • Across the chest – Thin, horizontal graphics and lines of text look their absolute best if they are perfectly placed at the chest’s widest part.
  • Full back – A large graphic on the back looks best when its center is high up and covering the shoulder blades.
  • Across the back – This print places a thin graphic or line of text high up on the back, centered on the shoulder blades.

How should I choose a printer?

Unfortunately, the best t-shirt design and layout can be sabotaged by poor print service. T-shirt printing can be a complex, time-consuming job that requires patience, experience, and skill. If a printer reproduces incorrect coloring or typography on a batch of t-shirts, you may find yourself stuck with unsalable merchandise. This can harm morale rather than promote it. On the other hand, a great printer can render your vision in high-fidelity and more.

When choosing a printer, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you have references?
  • Do you provide graphic design support?
  • Are there charges for graphic work?
  • Are there charges if my design features more than one color?
  • Are there extra charges for large sizes, such as 2X and 3X?
  • Can I see the design before you print the item?
  • Are there charges for shipping and/or handling?
  • What is the turnaround time for an order?
  • What is your policy if there is an error in printing?


Custom spirit wear can stoke pride in the hearts of students, staff, faculty, and parents. By asking a few questions, your organization will be able to narrow down the design and styles that work for you. Once you’re ready for printing, reach out to the experts at Marathon Sportswear. Our team offers t-shirts, sweatshirts, and hoodies in a variety of styles. Call today and let us put the “pep” in your pep rally.