One activity I really enjoy is entering Spoonflower’s design challenges. Held weekly and voted on by Spoonflower customers and designers, the challenges really stretch a designer’s creative output, forcing us out of our comfort zones and into new territory. I’ve had varied success since I started, with some flops, many mid-range results, a handful in the top tenth percentile, and a few standouts.
Flittery Linocut Moths, #8
Whether you decide to feature fuzzy green luna moths, the dramatic gum moth of Australia, or any other moth-tastic species, we can’t wait to see what you come up with! Like a moth to a flame, this week’s theme will have you rushing to grab your medium of choice and start designing! Did you know that there are over 160,000 species of moths in the world?
I used the blend tool in Illustrator to create filmy moths who flutter and flit on a dark, night-time background. This design came in 8th place out of over 600. I thought it might look nice as a scarf when printed on chiffon.
Candy Corn Trick or Treat, #12
Another design nearing the top was my “Candy Corn Trick or Treat” pattern for the Halloween Embroidery challenge which came in 12th out of 400. We were tasked with creating a design that includes some type of embroidery or stitching.
A mysterious chill in the air has slithered its way into the Weekly Design Challenges! From spooky to kooky, we’re challenging you to create an embroidery project inspired by the most bootiful day of the year. Whether it’s an engineered embroidery template inspired by your childhood Halloween memories or a hair-raising repeating pattern that springs to life with touches of hand-stitched embroidery, we hope this challenge will be all treats and no tricks.
Seek and Find Animals Playmat, #18
I think I drew more creatures for this design than I’ve ever done for anything else. And then I had to make up little cute poems to go with it! Thank you to my mom and husband for helping me out with the verses. My result here was 18 out of 476, which is in the top 4%.
Open-ended play is the name of the game with Seek and Find Playmats! This week, we’re looking for playmats that can provide family fun and empower imaginations as kids interact and look for specific objects in your work. The possibilities are endless! Hide animals in the forest or different vehicles in a cityscape. Illustrate a wide variety of everyday objects to identify or provide a guessing game with items of different colors to encourage color recognition. Think of the games you made up as a kid and think about the age range you are designing for. Identified as a trend in our Summer Trend Report, searches for playmats on Spoonflower are up +5021% over last year. These playful 1-yard designs can be made into a one-of-a-kind gift for a little one’s birthday or baby shower.
I created an entire collection to go with this design, including a cut and sew project with the animals.
Monsters in Space, #20
Monnnnsterssssss in Spaaaaace! (You have to say it in an announcer type of voice.) One of my first challenges when I started in 2019, “Monsters in Space” was for the Boy Wonder challenge. I was surprised and pleased to find that I had come in at number 20, out of 477.
What have YOU noticed is missing from the boys’ section in mainstream department stores? Colors? Themes? Pattern design? Have you ever met a kid who doesn’t like to chase butterflies? Or make rainbows with prisms? Or use their dump truck to give their friendly stuffed animals a ride? Boy Wonder is looking for a design as unique as each little boy out there. From the women who brought you Princess Awesome comes Boy Wonder, a clothing brand for boys that honors and reflects the full range of colors and themes boys love. Co-founders Eva and Rebecca believe that boys are not only strong and tough, but also sweet and cuddly and WONDER-ful. This is why Boy Wonder is asking the talented Spoonflower designer community to join in their design planning.
Fun fact: I drew these little monsters from real life models.
Love monsters like I do? Check out my monster collection at Spoonflower here.
Cactus with Desert Rocks and Sun, #48
The Home on the Range challenge in April 2021 gave us tons of great designs! Guess everyone loves a western theme, me included. My “Cactus with Desert Rocks and Sun” came in at 48 out of 663 entries, which is in the top 7%.
Yeehaw! We’re roping up the Old West and bringing it into modern times. Contemporary fashion designers, artists and musicians have been incorporating elements from cowpoke culture into their work while refreshing the classic image of the American West. Saddle up and hit the trail with the diverse history of cowboys and cowgirls. Hats and spurs, bandanas and saddle blankets, vaqueros and saguaros, there are countless icons to draw inspiration from.
This design took forever to create. First I had to fiddle around with making the horizontal waves that indicate sand and mountains. Then I cut them up into squares and recolored. Then I put in the rocks and sun and, finally, placed the cacti.
I had so much fun with this one that I went on and made an entire collection of western designs.
Textured Cattails, #67
My “Textured Cattails” pattern just squeaked into Spoonflower’s “Wild Grasses” top 50 in April 2021, placing at 67. I know, 67 is not in the top 50! Spoonflower includes all designs that tie, up to 50. So if there are 17 extra designs in the top 50, that means that there were several ties, either two way, three way, or more. There were 960 entries in this contest, putting my result in the top 7%.
We’re big fans of florals, but wild and native grasses take the spotlight this week! As we celebrate Earth Month in April, we honor these powerhouse plants as an eco-friendly addition to any garden. Often overlooked in landscapes of bright blossoms and towering trees, wild grasses can offer texture and color to a scene along with incredible other benefits to an ecosystem. Wild grasses help with erosion control, are inviting to important pollinators while providing protection and create shelter to wildlife. We can’t wait to see how you turn this low maintenance and beautiful plant into a repeating pattern this week.
For this challenge, I immediately knew that I wanted to do cattails, because they have a cool shape and texture. Unfortunately, it was that texture element that really challenged me. My textures were so large my computer kept locking up. It took forever to finish my design and I worked right up to the deadline!
Yeti and Friends Roast Marshmallows, #70
Crypto critters are my fave so I was all over the Cryptozoology challenge! Right away I knew I would do Yetis but it took some fiddling around to come up with my creature. Of course, I wanted my Yeti to look different from others. But Yeti looked lonely so I made him some unicorn, dragon, and jackalope friends. So fun! Enough voters agreed that my design came in at 70 out of 652.
Bigfoot and jackalopes and the loch ness monster, oh my! Cryptozoology is the official word for the study of creatures like these that are only rumored to exist. Many cryptids are well-known like the Yeti or the aforementioned Sasquatch, but have you ever heard of the Wolpertinger that allegedly hide in the alpine forest of Bavaria or the Bunyip that may call Australian swamps home? Have fun this week researching and illustrating the many legendary animals from regional folklore.
This was a different color palette for me. I used Spoonflower’s Spring 2021 Trend Report colors of peacock, dark oak, goldenrod, along with purple.
If you like these silly critters, I’ve got an entire collection for you here.
Arabian Oryx Antelope, #97
The “Comeback Species” challenge was fun because I enjoy drawing animals. I usually go cutesy but for this one I went more realistic and abstract with lots of texture. I just did heads but maybe someday I’ll go back and draw their bodies and make a new design. See it here.
Earlier this year, the U.S. officially declared 23 new animal species extinct (goodbye, Ivory-billed Woodpecker!). But did you know that there are many species that have made remarkable comebacks with the help of conservation efforts? This challenge is a celebration of those species, because everybody loves a comeback! From the giant panda, to the gray wolf, northern brown kiwi, and many more, get your field guide out and draw your inspiration from one your favorite “comeback species” from anywhere in the world.
I wanted a grassland type of color scheme so I went with a sage green and charcoal gray. This one came in 97th out of 685, which was fewer entries than I would have thought for an animal challenge.
Baa Baa Yellow Sheep, #108
Some designers really hated Spoonflower’s Yellow and Gray challenge. There were some really negative comments! Poor old yellow and gray. I happen to love yellow and gray so I enjoyed using these colors.
Have you heard the news? Pantone’s 2021 color of the year is a gray and yellow color combo that together symbolizes strength and positivity. Although specific shades of both colors were announced (Ultimate Gray and Illuminating), we’d like to see what particular shades of yellow and gray most resonate with the Spoonflower community.
I did silly yellow scribble sheep on a gray background with stars and clouds that I called Baa Baa Yellow Sheep.
Square Bear Goes Hiking, #110
Sometimes I spend weeks on what I think is a killer design, enter it excitedly into the competition, and wait for the magic to happen. Then the magic does not happen. That was the case with my Square Bear Goes Hiking pattern for the “Take A Hike” challenge. I thought it was adorable, had great colors, and hit the brief but the voters only gave it 110th place out of 602, the 18th percentile. Meh.
Water bottle? Check. Map? Check. Sense of adventure? Double-check! Grab your backpack and your best pals to explore the great outdoors on an epic hike. Summer is the perfect time to get out for some fresh air with your friends and family. What will you pack and what will you see? Highlight the terrain, creatures, plants and flowers native to your favorite local trek or from memories of your favorite vacation walkabout.
Love Square Bear as much as I do? See the collection here.
Alien Plant Monsters, #120
One of my favorite designs was for the Otherworldly Botanicals challenge. The description was:
“You’ve just discovered a new plant species from another world… what does it look like? Color and shape will be the two design elements to focus on for this challenge. Explore bright, saturated and unnatural colors for your out-of-this-world botanicals. Form the stems, leaves and petals something weird that would be talked about in alien documentaries for centuries. Or, maybe they don’t look like plants or flowers at all!”
My design started out as alien fingers and turned into a creepy alien plant monster! I was pleased with it but the voters thought it wasn’t the best. It came in at 120 out of 1178 which is in the top 12%. Maybe that’s not so bad! See “Alien Plant Monsters” at Spoonflower.
Lest this list give you the wrong impression that all my designs do well in the challenges, let me just say NO. No. Sadly, no. I’ve had some real duds. Maybe I’ll share those with you in another post. Or you can browse my shop at Spoonflower and see if you can pick out the duds yourself. lol.