Create Print on Demand Design Ideas Like a Pro

Posted by:
Tom Bell
April 24, 2019

A picture is worth a thousand words. Put that picture on a t-shirt, and it can be worth a thousand dollars - or more. Coming up with a winning idea is sometimes harder than it seems. We are here to help you put systems in place that generate successful ideas over and over for your print on demand products.

"Innovation is the process of turning ideas into manufacturable and marketable form." - Watts Humphrey

The Power of Observation

The first thing we have to consider is your “idea-generation habits.” To find ideas and trends your first job is to become an active observer.

Observe what is going on around you. What interests people? What’s hot? What’s going on virally?

Likewise, observe what is going on in your own life. We are so close to our daily lives; sometimes we miss the obvious. If you are interested in hobbies, animals, sports, activities, then most likely other people are as well.

To observe potential topics in your own life - make a list of your interests and hobbies.

What is your job - are there other people that would understand inside jokes, quotes or images that unite the group?

Perhaps you have a type of pet of which you have great affection. For instance, you think golden retrievers are the best pet ever, and you want the world to know.

So dig deep - find your passions. Other’s share your interests as well.

Since you are now an observer, it’s important to keep a place where you can quickly write your ideas. In the notes on your phone, voice notes or somewhere you can quickly and easily access them for the next step.

Make time to work

The more serious you take this adventure and make time for it - the more your efforts will pay off. We understand your Print on Deman business can be a side hustle at first. It can quickly turn into a full-time gig if you have dedicated time to work.

Take time just for idea creation. Look at the notes you wrote down. Learn to find the ones to take to the next step of design.

Ask yourself these qualifying questions:

Is it sellable?
Is it approachable?
Do you have enough of an audience?

“Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use – do the work you want to see done.”― Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Do the research

In the popular book “Steal like an Artist”, it encourages you to research and find what you like and then transfer those ideas into your own expression.The book also stresses the difference between inspiration and copying. And I can’t enforce that enough. There are copyright laws to protect artists, creatives and your ideasHere is how we can use the basic principles in Steal Like an Artist:

  • Collect inspiration from multiple sources
  • Transform
  • Remix
  • Create designs you’d want to buy

Exercises for Idea Creation

There are millions of ideas floating around in your mind. What we need to do is train your mind to let them flow in.  

Conquer the Blank Page

At first, when you sit down and expect the universe to bestow on you a million dollar t-shirt idea - all you may hear at first is crickets chirping the background.

To break through that deficit of any thought related to what you want - start with the thoughts actually occurring. Perhaps it’s what to make for dinner, you forget to pick up dry cleaning. Whatever it is write these ideas down. Let the ideas flow and start to fill up that blank piece of paper.

It’s incredible how daunting a blank piece of paper actually is.

And ideas may not flow the first day or even the second. But when you keep this practice up, you’ll find that ideas come easily. Keep going.

25 Observations

Throughout your day, write down 25 things, types of people groups of people, actions whatever that you observe.

So often we go through our days on auto pilot, and we forget actually to see what’s going on around us. When we heighten our observation skills and make ourselves aware of what’s always going on - we get better of noticing trends and potential opportunities.


This is one of my favorites to do. But it’s actually more helpful if you are sitting around with friends or family.

Mash up two subjects - just shout it out.

Look up ideas in both and see how you can mix them together to create a fun version of the two. It helps generate ideas, write them down. It’s also interesting because there are so many things you can mash together that often times it leads to original ideas or thoughts that haven’t been done over and over again.

Get Up and Get Out

Sometimes when we work online or on our own we need to remind ourselves there is a whole world out there with ideas and interests. It’s good to get out and just participate in some of those so we can revive our own interest and perhaps learn about others.

  • You can find so many events in your area
  • Facebook events
  • Meetup
  • Ask your friends about their interests

The most important thing is just to start. Write ideas down. Become more observant of trends around you and what is going on in your own life. Most of all have fun being an idea-generating machine.