Bortwein's Artist Interview Making Graphic Tees

Bortwein's Simple Designs and Fun Flavor

Blue Diamond ShirtBortwein AKA Brandon Ortwein has won at DBH 6 times and his first winner 'Mine Shaft: Gold Found' back in 2007 is still one of my personal favorites. Brandon is a designer who brings bold, eye popping design to the T-shirt canvas. He can create intricate pieces or keep it really simple, either way he'll deliver a tee that is striking and fresh. Recently we printed ISO808 and I thought I better snag an interview with him while his tee was still in stock!

V8V Shirt Triangles and Skulls GeoMetic Graphic Tee MineShaft 4 T Shirt Design

Bortwein'€™s T Shirt Designs Highlight Simple Styles and Complex Ideas

Bortwein has just opened up his collective store with a variety of simple designs and witty cartoons. This includes the sequel to 808; 365, a typographic tale of the seasons and days of the year. Brandon Ortwein'€™s t shirt designs are creative typographic designs, including creative characters as well. He like to use replacement design compositions and create a design with some meaning or saying. Here'€™s the DBH 1-on-1 with Mr. Bortwein.

Q: Hi Brandon, tell me did you always dream of designing for a living? Were you a doodler as a child?

A: I don’t know how much of a doodler I was as a child but I do know I was creative in some way. I used to cut snow flakes out of paper before I got into actual art classes. They were very intricate in their cuts and I was only in 5th grade at the time. My sister shared some of the snow flakes with her middle school art teacher at the time and I think I really liked the positive attention I got for creating them. I was hooked. Art was going to be what I did from then on out.

Q: What got you started in the T-shirt design business?

A: While working in a job that left little creative freedom I came across some t-shirt contests and began to submit designs to them in my freetime.

Bortwein ShirtsQ: Do you freelance full-time or do you have a day job too, if so what is it?

A: I have a full-time job designing packaging and products for a major golf Retailer headquartered in Austin Texas. Yes, I get to design golf clubs and a whole lot more. I also have a background in Advertising as well as Identity Design before I made the transition into product design.

Q: Your latest winning shirt, ISO808 was a slight departure from your usual style, how did that happen and what'€™s the story behind it?

A: I recently learned a few new design tricks that involved Isometrics and I have always been interested in typography so it just seemed like the perfect chance to experiment with the two. A lot of my design inspiration comes from music and the number 808 has always stuck out to me as a great music reference. It always makes me think of the Beastie Boys.

Q: What’s more important to you as an artist, money or fame?

A: Fame'€¦I enjoy being in the spotlight and want people to like the products that I helped create but of course the money helps pay the bills..

Q: You are good at using the T-shirt as a canvas and really utilizing all the space, is that intentional?

A: It is very intentional. I always try to sketch out my design ideas with a t-shirt outline as the framework.

Q: When you’re not designing T-shirts, what floats your boat?

A: I enjoy doing marker drawings, watching TV, playing golf and spending time with my family.

Q: If I asked you to name one artist out there who you consider to be an inspiration who would it be?

A: Barnet Newman. His zip paintings changed my view on art. They are simple and yet very beautiful to me.

Q: When you get an idea for a tee design do you sketch it out, do you keep sketchbooks or are you straight into the computer?

A: I usually try and sketch it out, first on a post-it note so I can get the idea down on paper, then I either redraw it in my sketch book or I go straight to the computer with the little doodle as a guide. My sketch book is full of post-it notes and drawings.

Q: If you could select the next winning tee at DBH which design would you pick and why?

A: If I was able to pick one of my own I would select “The Ocean is Alive” because it was another one of my experiments that I felt really found that bold and simple print style I like at the moment. 
If you asked me to pick another designer’s work to print I’d have to say “Precious Iceberg” by paulobbruno ( It is a simple yet very bold design that gives you a great visual with an interesting story without having to over illustrate it.

Q: Finally, If I told you could only ever watch one T.V show for the rest of your life what would it be?

A: Wonderfalls

Bortwein's T ShirtStore

Bortwein has recently joined the collective and posted some new shirts. Mesmerized by the Light Blue Diamond is a instant classic portraying the mockery of shinny objects. ISO 365 is a sequel to 808 reppin'€™ 365 days in a year and the colors of the seasons. He is mostly known for his creative illustrations and witty use of symbols.

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