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3 Tips for Headwear Design Domination

Do you find yourself squinting at your headwear, wondering how the awesome logo you dropped off with your decorator became this awful, cramped and tiny blob? Are you wishing for a retail look like your favorite promotional hat, or that cap you bought to support your favorite team? Do you wish that your headwear had the awesome visual impact of the stuff you see in the stores?  We’re here to help.

At Black Duck, we embroider and screen print garments of all descriptions, yet the most popular garments, despite the incredible pace of innovation and all the new offerings in the space, are t-shirts, polo shirts, and, of course, baseball caps. Over the years, we have refined our techniques to create incredible results on all of these garments, but no matter what we do technically to decorate any apparel, the best outcomes are from designs that are most suited to the application. We’re going to give you the tips to make your headwear, and thus your logo, stand out in the crowd.

1. Design Size and Aspect – Go wide!

Red Cliff Contractors Appliqué Hat

This hat from Red Cliff has a 6" wide design and really makes an impact with it's fuzzy felt appliqué!

You want to make your logo visible, but once it’s on the cap it just looks so small!  Though you may have seen huge designs on retail gear that crawl all over a cap, those pieces were embroidered before the cap was put together. When you are embroidering finished caps, there are limitations as to the embroiderable area. Caps have a vertical area that’s limited to roughly 2 1/4 inches in height, but can have embroideries all around the crown, and designs up to 6″ in width are easy to execute. If you have a tall, narrow design you are going to end up losing a lot of detail when the design is resized to fit that all important vertical measurement. More than that, you are missing out on a lot of valuable real-estate that could be used to place your business name or other important info and images!

Fixes: Shrink your design to the finished height and check for tiny details- see what can be eliminated or altered. Move text inside the design area out to the sides and size it up so it can be read from the handshake distance. Stretch the design widthwise if it doesn’t damage the recognizability- you can even tilt the design or turn it sideways and place it off-center for an edgy, retail-inspired look!

2. Legibility – Remove, Replace, and Reorient your Text!

You really want people to be able to find you, get in touch with you, and use your business,  right?  So you decided to put it all on the cap– address, phone number, website, store hours, services you can render, and you even (sort of) fit a logo up there! The problem is, now everything is so cluttered and small that nobody can read a word. Well, in order to sew cleanly in the first place, text must be at least 1/5 of an inch in height, but even that is really to small to see at any distance. It may be time to reconsider both what you need to communicate and how you can make that work on your caps.

Fixes: Remove or move some text. Too simple, right? You might think that all your text is too important. Well, think about how someone will see your cap, are they going to stop your workers or the customer you gave the cap so that they can write down your address? Consider what information can you add to the cap and still make sure that your logo has enough space to really make a bold appearance; remember that you’ll have to catch someone’s eye before they’ll look at that all-important information.  Also, can you move the information to the side or back of the cap? It might be slightly more expensive, but having a name and website on the cap back might be more valuable than adding it to the front design area- after all, how often are you looking someone right in the eye compared to the amount of time you spend in line stuck looking at the back of someone’s head?

M80 Three-Dimensional Foam Cap

This cap from M80 is off-center, features three-dimensional foam and has a total retail look, made right in-house by Black Duck!

3. Impact – Consider Special Designs and Techniques just for Caps!

Let’s just put it bluntly, your cap is boring. It looks just like your business cards and you are happy it’s recognizable, but  it’s not like the crazy designs you see at the skate-shop in the mall or your friend got at that car show. Yours is a logo and some text front and center on a plain cap, and though it looks good, you want it to look cool.  Did you know that your local embroiderer can likely do a lot of the same processes you see on those caps in the store, or that they have more styles, colors, and finishes of caps than you can imagine?  What if you added something to your logo- left it recognizable, but tweaked it just enough to give it that wow factor? It might be time to talk to the designer at your apparel decoration shop!

Fixes: Get creative with an expert! For a fairly paltry sum you can bring in a trendy retail cap you like, a sketch, or just an idea, add your plain, old logo and have someone at your local shop work up something great. Most of us in the industry have a great deal of experience designing for apparel and likely have some concepts to show you! Consider off-center design placements or special techniques that don’t work anywhere but caps. Add three-dimensional foam embroidery to make your design stand out! So long as you have big, bold lines, you can have that logo puffed out for incredible impact! Use textured or printed appliqué, rhinestones for ladies’ designs, or specialty threads! Don’t settle for a carbon copy of your letterhead, do something awesome! It won’t necessarily change your setup costs, and despite the possibility of a little extra cost per cap,  the power of having a hat that your employees and customers want to wear is invaluable! After all, how will a cap promote your business, team, or club if no one sees it?

There you have it- the keys to awesome cap designs- Go wide, make your text count, and get creative! Caps may have limitations, but when you think about what is possible and plan ahead, you can make your caps really work for you.  Your decorator can handle it, and your employees and customers will thank you by wearing your awesome cap (and promoting you) the next time they venture out into a crowd.

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