How To Research Design Ideas

I know you’ve been waiting for this- it’s time to start brainstorming design ideas! Now that you have a deep understanding of your niche, we’re going to focus on creating designs that focus on a message.

Ideas are a dime a dozen. They’re popping up in your head all the time, but when it comes to coming up with ideas for print on demand products—not so much. It’s easy to get stuck in the brainstorming stage and never see anything come of it. But once you learn how to find inspiration from everywhere, you’ll be able to create products that people want without breaking a sweat.

So, you’ve picked a niche and you have some ideas for designs. Where do you find them?

When searching try a combination of different keywords, such as:

• Niche + funny
• Niche + joke
• Niche + quotes
• Niche + slang

Remember, it’s not just shirts so add different product categories to your search as well.

• Apparel (Shirts, Hoodies, etc.)
• Mugs
• Masks/Gaiters (Buffs)
• Hats
• Jewelry (Necklace, dog tags)
• Wall Decor (posters, canvas prints)
• Dogs (Shirts & Bandanas)

Marketplace Research

A few years ago, this is where you’d have to be super creative. Luckily, the industry has matured quite a bit since then. There are literally thousands of designs that have been made across dozens of marketplaces that you can use for inspiration. You can start gathering design ideas to recreate for yourself, it’s just about finding them and deciding the best way to market them once you have.

Remember, we aren’t just ripping the designs, we’re looking for ways to use concepts to improve your own ideas that you learned about in the How to find an audience training.

In some cases, the designs lack appeal but the concept is strong. It’s up to you to learn what works and what doesn’t. A lot of storefronts have a “Trending” or “Top picks” collection. Don’t blindly trust them. You need to search deeper into the marketplaces to find designs that could work for your niche. We want to create products with a great concept and strong visual appeal.

When it comes to print on demand, ideas are everywhere…

Merch by Amazon

The platform itself contains a massive collection of designs from some of the best designers and sellers in the world. The process is quite simple. Simply go to the platform and search for the type of design you are looking for along with the niche.

The keyword you use for the search will show the relevant designs. You can’t determine the bestselling design simply by the way it looks. There are ways to know which designs are selling the most.

What to look for:

• Amazon BSR (Best Sellers Rank)

• High number of reviews – if a design has a lot of reviews, that equals a lot of sales.


When you first visit you will find a section called “popular now” on the homepage, where the most trending and popular designs are displayed. If there is any popular holiday nearby, you will find trending designs targeted towards those specific holidays.

A great way to find ideas is through Etsy’s search bar. The search bar will give you suggestions based on the keywords you type. And even if you don’t type anything, the search bar will show popular suggestions.

What to look for:

• High number of reviews
• Top selling / Trending – if the design is listed in these sections, it’s in demand.
• Ads – Sellers wouldn’t be promoting products that aren’t converting for them.

Here’s a list of some other marketplaces for you to do research:

Social Media


On Facebook you can go to the search bar and type in the niche + product you’re looking for and head down to the photos tab and filter by the year,. It will pull up all the recent posts with those keywords.. For this example I used “scientist shirt”.

Facebook Ads Library

You can now search all the active ads on Facebook through the Facebook Ads Library. Just type in a keyword into the search bar and it will pull up every active ad with those keywords in them.

If you did your competitor research from the previous training on How to find an audience for print on demand then you should know a few brands that are selling to your niche. This is where you can use the Facebook Ads Library to ethically spy on your competitors.

You can go in and type in any Facebook page and it will show you what ads they’re running. For this example, I went ahead and typed in Viralstyle to show you. Pretty awesome right?


The same method can be used to find cool design ideas on Pinterest, except in this case you’ll use the number of “pins” to gauge a design’s popularity. Pinterest will also help you narrow down your search by displaying popular keywords associated with your initial search.

They also have a “Shop” feature where all of the products are linked to specific sites selling the products. Make sure you add those to your competitor list!

Reddit and Other Social Platforms

Your niche doesn’t have to be news or politics for this tip to be useful for you. Whatever is trending in your niche, there’s a good chance that you’ll find a clever quip about it in one of these platforms.

Platforms where you can search trending, viral, or meme items:

  • 9Gag. A website and social site where you can publish and curates jokes and memes for a variety of niches.
  • 4Chan. It’s similar to Pinterest in a sense that it’s a bulletin board for images, but the difference is you don’t need an account and you’ll see lots of comments on some images, which might be helpful in your research
  • Reddit. The site is divided into different communities, and some communities will have sub-groups (a.k.a. “subreddit”) to further organize the conversations. The best posts get the most replies and votes (a.k.a. “upvotes”) from community members.

Not everything you find in these websites is applicable to POD, as the majority of the information you’ll find here isn’t commercialized. These are just people talking about all sorts of things, so you’ll need some creativity to imagine how the information can be translated to a POD design.

The relationship category on 9Gag is full of jokes and complaints about relationships. But there are posts like the one below where the image’s concept or a text version of it might work well on an apparel design.

You can find many unique quotes on subreddit threads, and almost none of these quotes are trademarked because these are from ordinary Reddit users being their sarcastic or funny selves. Unfortunately, digging into Reddit to find puns and jokes is a chore because there are so many active conversations to track.

Simplify your research easier by searching for “pun trains,” the term used when users play off on each other’s puns. Another way is to look up Reddits dedicated to jokes. MerchPursuits used a great example of how to use Reddit Pun trains for print on demand.


Search Google and Pinterest for ideas by category, theme, holiday, and product.
Ej. “Valentines Shirts”, “Funny Truck Tee”, “Ugly Xmas Sweater”, “Mug Designs”

Also search for quotes, phrases, and memes about your niche. They can be funny, motivational, or inspirational.


Remember that I mentioned researching your competition? This is why.

There are thousands of microbrands that can be found that have great design ideas.

For example:

searching “dad tshirt brand” in google we found

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