Designers upload their t-shirt designs to the website,
where visitors and members of the community score
them on a scale of 0 to 5. On average, around 1,500
designs compete in any given week. Each week, the
staff selects about ten designs. Each designer
selected receives $2,000 in cash, a $500 gift certificate
(which they may trade in for $200 in cash), as well
as an additional $500 for every reprint.
On occasion, special contests—known as "Loves
Threadless"—run in association with various
sponsors. These contests set a theme for designs,
with a selection of additional prizes being awarded
to the chosen winner; special prizes often relate
to the sponsor. The success of this concept led
to several spin-off projects by the same company,
including ongoing design competitions for t-shirt
slogans at OMG Clothing and
neckties and wallpaper
at Naked and Angry. The competition from OMG Clothing
was later integrated into the main website with
the introduction of Threadless TypeTees. Multiple
other companies have adopted the community model
created at Threadless. Nevertheless, in mid-2006,
Threadless expanded in a more traditional direction,
adding shirts designed by selected artists. These
designs, known as Threadless Select designs, are
not subject to the voting process.
In the open source community, a Threadless
t-shirt or design
is considered to be crowd sourced because the designer
and the company retain all rights to the design.
As the "source" of a design—i.e., its
vector graphics file—is not available for download,
it cannot be considered "open source".
Threadless shirts are run in limited batches. When
shirts are sold out, customers can request a reprint.
However, reprinting occurs only when there is enough
demand, and the decision to reprint is ultimately
up to company. New shirts are released on Mondays.
Additional product lines
In June 2006, Threadless added three additional
Selected winning designs printed on American Apparel
kid-sized t-shirts and
onesies. In March 2007, Threadless launched
ThreadlessKids.com, a site exclusively featuring
Winning slogans printed on standard
Fruit of the Loom
or American Apparel t-shirts using fonts courtesy
of T26.com, the result of the integration of OMG
Clothing into Threadless.
The Select Series
Designs contributed from Threadless designers who
have previously won the main competition four times
or more, bypassing the usual voting system, printed
on American Apparel t-shirts, with the usual restrictions
on designs extended somewhat to permit the use of
more colours (8 instead of the normal 5), foils
Blik Wall graphics
In August 2007, "surface graphics" company
Blik began producing a line of decals based upon
selected Threadless designs.
In May 2008, Threadless announced that they would
designs on high quality paper. Threadless
On May 19, 2009, Threadless partnered with
Twitter to allow
users to submit "tweets" to be voted on
by the community. The winning tweets are designed
by and printed onto Threadless shirts. The winners
receive $400 and a $140 gift card to the Threadless.com
family of sites.
In November 2006, Threadless announced that it would
begin printing designs on a proprietary brand of
tee shirts. Threadless posted in the Blog Forum
on its website:
a tee that is less boxy than a Fruit of the
Loom, but not as skinny as an American Apparel.
Imagine a tee whose fabric is softer than American
Apparel but not as thin."
The first design printed on the new shirts was titled "I
Heart Threadless" and featured the Threadless
logo on a charcoal-colored
This change in tee shirts had long been encouraged
by community members, although there were some complaints
regarding the sizing of the new
Beyond this, complaints had also been posed
regarding the side seams on the new tees. Worried
customers had been voicing their opinions of the
new shirts on the Threadless forum; in an effort
to ease the concern, Threadless employee Craig Shimala
posted "We're still toying with the
specs [of the new
tees]." On January 3, 2007, Shimala posted, "[Threadless]
made some changes based on everyone's input and
should be receiving the revised samples soon."
On December 3, 2007, Threadless posted, "Over
the past 7 years, we have took [sic] to heart your
comments, compliments, and complaints to help create
our very own custom Threadless brand tee. [...]
Over the next few weeks, we'll be introducing more
and more designs on this new and exciting tee and
eventually we'll be using them exclusively!"