Many industries boast a commitment to philanthropy. And whether it takes the form of monetary donations, celeb-endorsed awareness campaigns, or donning a tux and bidding on that trip to Napa during a silent auction, funding the efforts of a worthy charity is admirable. But how many are offering their personal time and energy to a cause and using their skills to help others?
When his mom was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, Peter Deltondo decided to use his graphic design experience to do just that. "It really started off simple: I was going to create a few designs on my own, sell them and give all the profit to my folks." But what began as Peter's plan to help his mom and dad quickly became an industry-wide initiative to help other families in similar situations. "When my designer friends heard about the idea, they all wanted to pitch in, and before we knew it we had designers from the other side of the world working with us to kick off our first run of designs."
With help from a growing network of talented artists, Deltondo established Design vs Cancer, a philanthropic business fueled by hands-on support from the design world. And while it grew into a $12,208 Kickstarter campaign accompanied by an online store selling the inspirational designs, Design vs Cancer remained connected to its origin: one family's story. "We said if we could make an impact in a single person's life, that we would have succeeded," says Deltondo. "We've already far surpassed that, and love knowing we're helping those fighting cancer beyond just financial help."
Deltondo is thrilled by the enthusiasm his fellow designers have shown for the cause. "We reach out to designers that we really want to work with, but tons of designers get in touch with us about working on future designs," he says. The result is an effective symbiotic relationship between Design vs Cancer and talented artists. "We want designers to create a piece that represents them and their style that would do good for our cause and hopefully bring in new work commissions for them."
A few of the team's favorite designs
Deltondo may have a creative background, but he's also got the entrepreneurial bug. He's passionate about developing the Design vs Cancer identity, and took the lead in creating the brand poster. He says he was inspired during his time spent in a surgical waiting room during his mother's double mastectomy: "I was looking around and talking to people waiting for loved ones fighting all different types of cancer. I wanted to create a poster that showed our fight was united and supported our efforts beyond just breast cancer."
The goal of making Design vs Cancer a thriving business led him toward producing and selling apparel. But if you're picturing your average starch-laden charity 5k T-shirt that ends up crumpled in the back of your closet, you'd be mistaken. We're talking soft, cozy, dare we say trendy clothing exhibiting Design vs Cancer's inspiring creations. And for these high-quality production needs, the team turned to Real Thread, a cutting edge printing company with a knack for producing clothing people actually enjoy wearing (and not just to bed).
It makes sense that an organization with a refreshing perspective on the fields of design and philanthropy would turn to an innovator in printing for their manufacturing needs. "We wanted our products to stand out and to be something people truly wanted, not just because it was for a good cause." Real Thread's solid reputation in the design community made them an easy choice. "We wanted to work with them to have the best product possible," says Peter. "Our shirts aren't just well designed, they're well made."
The folks at Real Thread had heard the Design vs Cancer buzz as well, and were eager to get involved. "Peter contacted us a year ago about printing shirts during Design vs Cancer's first Kickstarter," says Community Manager Nathan Beam. "Through our circles, we had heard murmurs about what he was doing, so we were thrilled when he shot us a message."
Producing apparel with so much sentimental value for a company committed to aesthetics is no easy task. "We're printing shirts for a community of people who are obsessed with design," says Beam. "With that type of obsession, there isn't margin for mistake. The design files have to be on point, the inks have to be matched perfectly to the apparel fabrics and we have to be sure that the shirt is going to wash and wear beautifully for its entire duration."
It helps that the Real Thread team takes an artistic approach to their process. "People are tired of the standard 'throwaway' shirt and want retail-quality shirts that they will actually wear," says Beam. Amen to that. So Real Thread developed water-based and discharge printing techniques that showcases every detail on soft, flattering material. Because their inks dye shirts directly, they work to ensure that both the inks and the fabrics are ideal for the specific design they're creating. Beam describes their method as "more of an art process than a straight manufacturing method."
One particularly memorable shirt they produced together is the "Rejoice" tee, which features a design Deltondo created. He spent weeks playing around with words, phrases, and ideas to letter and illustrate, jotting everything in his Field Notes book. "I looked to the future of answered prayers, 'rejoicing' with my family when we would hear my Mom was cancer-free. A little under a year later, we got that news!"
So far the collaboration between Real Thread and Design vs Cancer has provided much needed aid to many families. But they're doing more than easing the financial burden of this disease. The designs that Design vs Cancer produces with partners like Real Thread help families stay motivated and inspired, which, as Deltondo can attest, means more than you'd think. The fact that the cause has brought a creative community together is an added, but significant, bonus.
At last year's Creative South design conference Peter asked friends and colleagues to sign Design vs Cancer's "The Fighter" poster for his Mom. He brought it home with almost 100 signatures as a surprise. "We all broke down crying the moment we gave it to her," he remembers. "It was amazing to see how much everyone's support, prayers, and warm wishes meant to her. She said she couldn't believe how big her 'team' is."
Want to learn more about the water-based printing technique perfected by the folks at Real Thread? Head here to find out how to incorporate superior printing into your brand's identity.
"Believe" artwork [top] by Sergey Shapiro.