The short version is that Shirt Thirteen came about because I love the college-inspired typography of Shirt Twelve so much. But working "Recognize" into the Kill Hubris lexicon hasn't been quite that straight a line.


Coming of age in the '90s, I heard "recognize" every time I turned around (particularly in West Coast rap). Admittedly, I wore it out myself. If we know each other IRL, you know that the majority of my vocabulary comes from Friday and Tombstone, but—outside of work—a good chunk of the remainder comes from the music I grew up with. As a result, it felt natural to use "Recognize" to succinctly emphasize the responsibility each of us bears for the way we conduct ourselves. It also has an exhortational quality that fits nicely with the concept of arrogance as a self-imposed obstacle, thus the tagline—First Rule Of Holes: If you're in one, stop digging.


Over the years, I have brainstormed, sketched, and commissioned other "Recognize" designs. I even produced one of them four years ago but shelved it at the last minute because it didn't feel all-the-way right. In contrast, everything about this one feels right, and I'd like to thank Bobby Cerda for his typographical expertise on both Twelve and Thirteen.








Shirt Six first came about as a way to point up the connection between the brand name and the expression "eating humble pie." I was planning a trip to Chicago at the time, which brought to mind the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the original Ferris Wheel.


(Image credit: Wikipedia)


And with the Iron Man 2 Blu-ray also on a constant loop in the background, it didn't take long to arrive at the idea of a food tent at a public festival.


(Image credit: Stark Expo; color inspiration speaks for itself)


Shirt Six bears the most purposefully-playful Kill Hubris design to date. As the concept developed, I felt a light-hearted presentation was important to offset the weighty centerpiece - the Wheel of Fortune. In ancient Greek and Roman times, Fortune was considered fickle. The goddess spun the Wheel to unpredictable results. Not being a subscriber to coincidence, I prefer to believe that it is possible to make your own luck through hard work and treating others as you'd like to be treated. People notice. Positivity radiates.


Aside from the introduction of humble pie into the Kill Hubris parlance, there are several other brand-specific symbols:

  • The use of a hot-air balloon for big-headedness;
  • The clown literally playing with fire; and
  • The recurrence of Shirt Three's self-aware elephant.
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Bringing balance to this elaborate design while simultaneously watching it come to life was exhilarating, and I'd like to thank Alex Lopez for his hard work.




*Purchase Shirt Six here.



I majored in English Literature in college. Latin and Greek were my foreign-language credits. BulfinchHamilton, and Campbell have been on my nightstand for years.


Shirt Two is my love letter to the role of mythology in storytelling.



Although Cupid is often used in pop culture as a mischievous remedy for unrequited love, many of his myths are darker than you might expect. In "Cupid and Psyche," for example, his mother (Venus, the goddess of Love) tried to use him to punish a mortal whose beauty offended her. Unsurprisingly, her plan backfired. Literary tradition aside, most people are familiar enough with "Valentine's Day" Cupid to know that his lovestruck subjects are unable to focus on anything (or anyone) other than the object of their desire - an exaggerated reaction used to great dramatic or comedic effect (and sometimes both).


For the purposes of Shirt Two, however, I chose to interpret Cupid's function more in line with Kill Hubris philosophy. Cupid has long struck me as an ironic expression of the importance of selflessness in romantic relationships, and this design stands for the proposition that it is our responsibility to be self-aware enough to know that the world doesn't revolve around us. Further, with self-awareness comes the opportunity to self-correct (figuratively, a self-inflicted Cupid wound); thus the tagline, "To truly love, you have to think of more than yourself. Cupid can help." 


On a historical note, the currently-available version of Shirt Two is a reboot of an earlier release that featured the same classical art (which I love) but also bore the brand name (in a font I grew to hate). Shirts One, Two, Three, and Four were all released at the same time and, because the full brand name didn't appear on any of the others, I felt pressure to include it with Cupid. Unfortunately, I chose the font before I was aware of how commonplace it was (irritatingly, almost always alongside bad design).


This is the version that should have been all along.




*Buy Shirt Two here



I hold effective use of allusion in high regard. If successful, it rewards those who detect the reference to another work but doesn't detract from the experience of those who may not. Like an Easter egg on a Blu-ray disc. By design, the name "Kill Hubris" offers plenty of Easter-egg-planting opportunities, and Shirt Nine contains several (with a splash of recurring symbolism for good measure).



In general, this design came about because I wanted to experiment with Surrealism - the juxtaposition of the familiar with the bizarre and dreamlike. Rene Magritte's The Son of Man was one of the works that opened my eyes to visual Surrealism and was the more specific inciting inspiration for Shirt Nine.



(Image credit:


The films of Tim Burton were also on my mind at the time, particularly Sleepy Hollow. Surprisingly, H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man was not, but I obsessed over this vintage poster at a bookstore in Memphis recently when it reminded me of the similarities, both to The Son of Man and the finished Shirt Nine. Science fiction and Surrealism have much in common.  



I've also been a fan of the Rat Pack since I was old enough to appreciate the similarities between my maternal grandfather and Dean Martin. Confident yet affable. Fun. Smooth. Effortlessly cool. (Pockey also loved velour track suits, which may too be hereditary.) Shirt Nine's tailored black suit, undone top button, slim tie, and tie bar are a nod to them... and him.


(Image credit: Reel Art Press)


A bit of KH symbolism also recurs - the balloon representing big-headedness. If you've read up on the Brand Philosophy, you know that I view arrogance as an obstacle - ironically, one we place in our own paths and whose removal is therefore within our control. Having the balloon leashed to the subject by a ribbon is meant to convey that, while our ego sometimes over-inflates our sense of self-importance, its effects on (a) how we view ourselves and (b) our interactions with the world are indeed within our control. In short, true cool doesn't get carried away.


Having the ego leashed is also a play on my good-luck song, "I've Got The World On A String" by Louis Prima. Coincidentally, there's a Rat Pack version as well.


To my great satisfaction, this design turned out exactly as it looked in my head and I'm grateful to Jeremy Biggers for the patience and sure hand that helped bring it to life.




PS - Grab one of your own here



If you approached me on the street and asked me about Kill Hubris, no doubt I'd have a fair bit to say. But I'm terrible about blogging.


So, as an exercise in self-correction, I'm reviving the Director's Commentary series and putting myself on a weekly blogging regimen. Each week, I'll talk inspirations, evolutions, and processes of notable Kill Hubris product designs - beginning next week with Shirt Nine.

For anyone who missed out or enjoys a refreshed memory, Shirts One and Four were covered some time ago.


Talk soon.





I’ve always loved the figurine sets that pantomime the old maxim, “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” The first covers his eyes, the second covers his ears, and the last covers his mouth – simple but meaningful.


It was with that message in mind that I doodled this concept for Shirt Four in the spring of 2010 in a hotel room in Minneapolis, Minnesota:



Over time, that rough sketch has matured into a couple of finished products.


The original colorway:



And the 1st Anniversary Limited Edition in desert camo:



If you missed the first installment of Director’s Commentary on the Kill Hubris logo tee, check it out here.







When I first started brainstorming logos for Kill Hubris, I really only knew one thing for certain: I didn’t want to rely on including the full name as descriptive text. I wanted a recognizable image that could grow with the brand and stand on its own. But what to do for a baby brand with no name-recognition yet?


I admit, I was a little overwhelmed. But as I bought several books, discovered mind-mapping, and combed the web for insight into the process of a graphic designer (I’m not one), I was immediately taken by the use of negative space to form the true subject of an image. (This post on David Airey’s blog “Logo Design Love” has some great examples.) I loved that the negative-space approach placed confidence in the viewer, that it engaged them, and, if it was done right and was interesting enough, that they would engage back long enough to make letter-sense of the shapes.


Thankfully the logo has been well-received, and watching the look of recognition come over someone when their eyes fall on the image just right has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve experienced so far with the brand.


One of my earliest concept sketches from March 2010:



Which ultimately became Shirt One: