Can a slogan really have that much influence in our lives?

The Creation of a Slogan

Henry Bernstein is the director of the Hirsch Solutions Studios in Solon, Ohio. He specializes in multimedia graphics combining embroidery, laser cutting, direct-to-garment printing and screen printing. You may contact him at (440) 498-4200 x103; e-mail: or visit the website at

A slogan—can it really have that much influence in our lives? Apparently. Companies spend considerable money in creating just the right phrase for their product, brand or service. They have the ability of getting into both our consciousand unconscious thoughts, which makes them a very effective marketing tool.

Think of the brand recognition of “sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t,” or “got milk,” “bet you can’t eat just one” and, of course, “it’s Miller time.” The food and beverage industry has a way of getting it just right. Motivation is another perfect place for a good slogan, though, with calls to action that get our attention the way Nike did with their “Just Do It” campaign.

Imagine creating such a slogan with clients… and providing them with the apparel that helps their business gain traction.

I’m always asked how to capture new business. My normal reply is to find the niche business programs all around us. (Aside: I should create my own slogan, “hitch with a niche.”) We tend to look for the typical business programs and forget to see the smaller entities that surround us at every corner.

Besides corporations and sporting teams, there are groups, clubs, organizations and even exercise classes, as in this example. They all love to show their affiliation and are especially proud to wear it. In the case of this example, a trainer/instructor had a motivating slogan that is not only a great driving force, but a perfect marketing tool for her business.


“The burn... find it, feel it, own it!” The creator of this saying, Christine Hales, is a certified personal trainer and group instructor, whose body sculpting class I take at 5:30 a.m. At that hour and given the grueling exercises, class attendees need to hear something to get us through it. Trainers learn quickly to belt out something in order to push their subjects for one more or to hold it five seconds longer. That’s when I heard “Feel it! Own it!” And I got through it (even though I still cried). Her ringing phrase became mine. Kind of funny how that happens.

As every good student/apparel decorator does, I felt compelled to print Hales’s encouraging words on a shirt as a gesture of appreciation. Call me teacher’s pet—I’m just looking for some business.
I decided I could make it quick; find a dumbbell in clipart, drop it into Photoshop, add a fun font. But it’s never as easy as we think.

First dilemma: wading through the millions of clipart choices in this category. There goes my lesson on how easy it is to find digital business and the simplicity of putting it all together.

I looked for something artsy, something female, and something with weights. Plenty to choose from, but one piece caught my eye—a square design, something I normally don’t care for, but it was colorful and a bit abstract, which gave it a modern feel, so I went for it.

My intention was to rush this job just to prove that a slogan can go from a thought to a shirt in just a matter of minutes. But, knowing I was also pushing for brownie points with the trainer here, I had to make it good, too.

Finding the burn

Taking the phrase and applying it to a visual wasn’t too difficult. We’re looking to illustrate the “burn” associated to weightlifting, something the clipart already embodied through the dumbbell and weightlifter. So the next step was simply to wrap the art with the slogan in a font that would evoke some emotion.

I selected the popular and, yes, well overused Comic Sans. But maybe no one will notice if I get creative with it. Each part of the phrase had its own color, starting with black, then going to blue, orange and finally red, emphasizing “own it!” which, of course, is the point of it all. The colors would help emphasize the progression: blue as cold, orange, warm and red, of course, would be hot. I sized it to fill the front of the shirt. A slogan that powerful needed to be loud.

On to production. I uploaded the design into our digital direct-to-substrate printer, positioned the art, set the color passes and let technology do the rest. We do this every day and it still amazes me that a picture can go from computer to printer in a matter of seconds. After 30 seconds in the heat press, there was the printed garment. The results were nothing short of cool; the shirt was a hit and my trainer loved it.

Perfecting the concept

With sample in hand, Hales was more than excited when I asked if she wanted to further her slogan into her own brand. The sample proved to be a springboard—what appealed to me as I was creating this quick garment was less important than her vision. I sensed a less-outward voice in our discussions, so I knew I had to calm down the design size and recreate a simpler version of art and graphics.

Back to clipart for a substitute set of dumbbells in place of the square box art. I actually appreciated the chance to redo this in a more subtle look, something more in-line with Hales’s personality. Instead of a lot of color, I opted for only three, black, gray and red.

The first attempts were very good, at least to my eye. But the linear layouts missed in delivering a viewable message from a reasonable distance. Resizing and putting the emphasis on a couple of the words improved it, but the design still didn’t have the right feel. Something was just not right. Flames would be the ticket! The word “burn” was stoked up with flames (pun intended). This little change energized the slogan.

New test samples proved unacceptable, the linear graphics cut across the chest in what may have brought too much attention to the wrong part of the body. Not a problem—a few modifications, and it got uglier. It’s okay to be honest here, since the term is “trial and error.” This version felt as if I had haphazardly stacked the words of the slogan with no particular intent.

Now I decided to sit down and just think this out. Hales is all about an intense workout, but she’s not in-your-face about it. She actually tends to smile a lot, so this slogan needed to deliver a positive message with a smile.

We knew the words and loved the flames, just needed to make it a bit happier. I don’t think anyone owns the upward curve of a smile, so why not try it? Bingo. But did it meet all the criteria of driving a message of a slogan with proper placement? Yes, yes and yes! Out of that pile of attempts and mistakes, a new business slogan was finally born. Now all we can do is hope this is the next “life is good” success story.