Naughty Brats by brian walline, aka the abominable crow man (thunderpeel) won Threadless’s Ugly Sweater Challenge, and it’s a brilliant choice. Krampus references have been increasingly popular, and this piece does a good job of depicting the character and hinting as his appeal. The great thing abut Krampus is that he feels like a throwback to the style of storytelling of the past, where fables rarely have happy endings and there’s less concern about comforting children than there is for frightening them into good behavior. That kind of darkness feels refreshing in a season that can be full of crass commercialism and faux cheer. He looks appropriately menacing here and the child looks bewildered, which is a great contrast with the upbeat look of the rest of the art, which has pleasant patterning and large, delicate snowflakes. The best detail is Krampus’s festive sweater, which is a nice link to the art style used and also a funny moment that makes this Krampus feel more like an individual than just an archetype. Good stuff!
Ugly Jesus Sweater by Rodrigo Leonardo Batista Ferreira (rodrigobhz) is another brilliant take on the ugly Christmas sweater, choosing to parody the ugliest Jesus of all time. Although the portrait being parodied is very poorly made, that’s exactly what makes it so charming. Instead of just another of thousands of depictions, it becomes an unintentional shrine to confidence and optimism, to trying your best even if you’re spectacularly unsuited to succeeding at your task. Even though this Jesus isn’t much of a looker, there’s a sense that he was created with a lot of love, and that makes him an appealing figure. I like that the haphazard placement of elements around him mirrors his unsophisticated look, and of course the text’s playful slogan is a fun way to make the holiday link loud and clear even for those who might not have recognized the portrait right away.
1957: Sputnik 1 by Santiago Sarquis (metalsan) won Threadless’s Space Age challenge by giving Sputnik the movie poster treatment, taking some cues from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The stack of three orbs, crowned by the spherical shape of Sputnik itself, is an arresting image and has a strong, angular shape that draws the eye. It feels balanced, yet extremely dramatic- there’s a sense that we’re watching a sunrise on an epic scale, a kind of dawning of a new era. I think most space geeks, and more than a few folks who just like the retro look, will get a kick out of this one.
Things by Spencer Fruhling (spencer fruhling) is a fairly abstract spin on Stranger Things, taking a variety of small objects and arranging them to fill the facets of a 20-sided die. What I love about this technique is that it has multiple levels of appeal. There’s the simple joy of seeing things arranged neatly, but it also becomes a bit of a quiz or guessing game to try to recall each prop’s place in the narrative, what moment or character it refers to. Some elements, like the Christmas lights, demogorgon figure and Dustin’s hat, should be easy to recognize for even the most casual fan, while others take a bit more effort. And despite the plethora of images used, the design manages to stay very elegant by sticking to a minimal illustration style and a limited 3 ink color palette.
We Want Jetpacks! by Pawel Kania (pijaczaj) is an impassioned plea to scientists for jetpacks, a theme that might be familiar to some longtime Threadless fans. But while the previous piece focused on impactful graphic design and typography choices, this new design is all about raw, child-like enthusiasm. It’s a great fit for the theme because the idea of being able to fly through the air, totally free from gravity, brings out the kid in even the most hardened adult. Each of the three text styles is well chosen, with the Dear Scientists font feeling like a child’s letter to Santa, We Want Jetpacks packing bold, cartoon excitement and Everything Else Can Wait scrawled casually like an afterthought. Very well done.