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Creating Healthy Classroom Competition With Custom T-Shirt Design Contests


Who’s ready for a little friendly competition? According to research, healthy competition among students leads to higher motivation, engagement, and self-esteem. It also teaches students valuable interpersonal skills that they can carry with them into college and the workplace. Competitions and contests can also be used to introduce students to new fields of study and encourage them to interact more deeply with subject matters they may have otherwise passed over. So how can you inspire healthy competition amongst your students? With a custom t-shirt design contest of course!

Atmosphere Academy rewards students for academic success, hard work, and achievements with custom t-shirts.

In another blog post, we talked about how many schools have begun recognizing student accomplishments with custom gear and seeing amazing academic and individual success. At Sparks Middle School in La Puenta, CA, not only do they celebrate students who have earned a GPA of 3.0 or higher with custom t-shirts, but they also let them design the shirt themselves.

“In my class, we use the [Custom Ink] Design Lab to generate t-shirt drafts,” says teacher Jessica Shaw. “Prior, they research ideas that would be attractive to their fellow middle school peers. Each student submits one design, but we all vote on our top three and eventually the top one. Students provide feedback to each other and the winning design gets sent in for approval.” The t-shirts are then used for a Rennaissance Rally where the school celebrates student work and individual successes. The rally is held twice a year, which gives students two chances to create different shirts.

A picture of Custom Ink's design lab with a white t-shirt featuring the text "your design here" on it.

Custom Ink’s Design Lab is a great design playground that allows students to easily create designs they can save and share.

Design contests like this are a great way to inspire creativity in students, encourage healthy competition, and also reward students for their hard work. The process of creating the shirt gives students an outlet to express their ideas and forces them to think outside the box. Voting on their favorite designs gives students valuable experience in peer review as well as giving and receiving feedback. This healthy form of competition is a great way to motivate students, and whether the custom t-shirts are being used as an academic reward or simply a fun art competition, there are lots of different ways to bring this contest to life using Custom Ink’s Design Lab.

Pick a Theme

Senior shirts are an easy theme for students to begin riffing off of.

A great way to start a design competition is by setting a theme for students to design against. It can be as specific as creating your own superhero logo or as open as sharing an inspirational memory. Setting a theme gives students restrictions and guidelines that can help ease them into the creative process. By building the design in our Design Lab, students can also use ready-made clip art as a starting point for their designs.

Word Art

An orange custom t-shirt with the names of family members arranged into a wordle for a family reunion.

Wordles are a fun way to combine words into an image.

There are hundreds of different fonts in our Design Lab, and with the popularity of Ascii images (look it up—it’s cool), inspiring your students to create an image composed entirely of letters, symbols, or words is a great way to get their creative juices flowing. While they might not be striving to create a perfect self-portrait, word art of all kinds gives students a way to express their ideas in both a written and visual format. Try asking them to create a word cloud with words that relate to a common theme and then structuring the cloud in a visually appealing way.

Assembly of Shapes

A custom t-shirt design with a geometric bull on it.

This bull’s head is made entirely of different geometric shapes.

Did you know that computer graphics are comprised of millions of individual smaller shapes? Another great contest idea is to challenge your students to create an image comprised entirely of other smaller shapes. You can give them free rein of the shapes they choose or set a specific selection of shapes for them to select. Another fun twist is to give the students an end result that they are trying to create and see how each student uses different shapes in order to express that idea.

When it comes to design contests, there are endless ways for you to inspire your students to do their best. So go out and start a little friendly competition amongst your students and share their designs and any other fun contest ideas you have with us below.


Grant is the Copywriter at Custom Ink. He loves stories of all kinds and actively seeks to enthrall everyone around him with exciting tales, even if they’re about everyday events. Outside of storytelling, Grant loves to immerse himself in movies, television, books, and games, as well as go exploring in order to draw inspiration for the worlds in his mind.

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