Show your support for your state’s alliance at: unitedpixelworkers.com
BC: Who are the United Pixelworkers? And who is responsible for this madness?
UP: United Pixelworkers is a fictitious worldwide alliance of designers and developers. We’re web workers, but anyone who makes things for display on screens could rightly be called a pixelworker: type designers, tech bloggers, illustrators, animators. We’ve had so much help from so many people in promoting the idea of UP.
From the biggest names in web and graphic design who have floored us repeatedly by helping out in creating our most popular shirts to the flood of tweets we’ve seen gleefully announcing the arrival of one of our shirts in the mail. Sometimes it seems like every person who bought a shirt snaps a photo to share on Instagram the minute the mailman drops the package off. That kind of pride and excitement is contagious. It validates our enthusiasm and investment in the project. In turn, it helps us spread the word by letting their friends and co-workers know who we are.
UP is still a production of Full Stop, our web design shop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The last time we talked, UP was a fledgling side project for us. At the time, we were selling a few dozen t-shirts a month; now we routinely pack and ship over 500 each month. Talk about madness. We’ve needed to completely re-imagine our fulfillment processes more than once. On that subject, it might be time for another blog post about the ins and outs of selling t-shirts.
BC: What sort of arm twisting took place to finally do a shirt for each state?
UP: The original concept for United Pixelworkers was a populist one: we wanted to enable designers, developers, and everyone else involved in making awesome websites to show some geographic pride by representing his or her area. We started by making shirts for some of the bigger cities in the country, but we kept hearing from people in Iowa and New Hampshire and dozens of other smaller locations that they wanted shirts too.
We decided to have one big nationwide extravaganza to cover as many people as possible. Of course the bigger states have sold a bunch, but we’ve been surprised by the response from smaller states. Let’s just say Idaho is representing strong. (And don’t worry if you live outside the US like more than a quarter of our customers do, we have something coming for you very soon.)
BC: Where did the idea for UP come from?
UP: The idea of an online t-shirt storefront for a fake union of web designers came to Jay on a drive across Pennsylvania last March, but it’s gone through many permutations to get where it is now. We’ve changed the way we sell t-shirts, moving to a 4-week pre-order model. We’ve redesigned the website twice. We’ve switched print shops (we now use Bandwagon, the same shop that prints Ugmonk products). But most importantly, we’ve added guest designers—people like Aaron Draplin, Jessica Hische, Ethan Marcotte, MIke Monteiro, and others—who’ve done more to increase awareness of UP than they could ever know.
The core idea itself has remained steady, however. We saw that the industry we’re proud to be a part of had conferences and journals and heroes, but almost no way to represent itself collectively. We wanted to be able to celebrate being in this together, and it wouldn’t hurt to show off the places we live and work in a clever, well-designed way.
BC: If you were to lead a passionate crowd of designers in a protest chant, what would it be?
UP: This one’s tough to narrow down. We can all rally behind “STANDARDS NOW,” or the hot topic of the moment (again), “NO MORE SPEC.” But maybe we’d opt for something a little more contentious: “HELL NO, DESIGNERS DON’T NEED TO CODE.”
BC: You consistently knock it out of the park with your BC customizations, can you talk about that process a bit?
UP: Our client sites tend to be more restrained, so United Pixelworkers really gives us the chance to go over the top. With the 50 States Project in particular, we wanted the design of the site to match the massive scope of the undertaking. We’re fortunate to be aimed squarely at a crowd of people who run the latest possible browsers, which means Nate gets to play with the newest HTML and CSS toys. We had a lot of fun on this project making the box wiggle on the product page and spinning the stars on the home page navigation and taking advantage of too many other advanced CSS luxuries to mention. Thankfully, we’re able to do almost anything we want with Big Cartel.
BC: What can designers do to more actively support the United Pixelworkers?
UP: Aside from, you know, buying our shirts, spreading the word is the key. Nearly all of our sales come from word-of-mouth, so the best thing to do to support United Pixelworkers is to tell your friends, tell your coworkers, tell people on Twitter, on your blog, on Facebook. If you live in a place like Nebraska, who knows when we’ll make another shirt for you, so help us rally the troops.
We’ve heard so many positive reactions, but we also routinely get emails and tweets lamenting that someone missed a run of their favorite city or designer. That really kills us. Follow us on Twitter that way you won’t miss a thing. And, oh, by the way, we might be giving away a few shirts later today, so now would be the ideal time to start.
Thanks to Big Cartel for featuring us again on the blog. It’s a real honor.