5 Things That Make Great Streetwear Illustrations

November 10, 2018

When learning to find your own feet in a creative field, it can be overwhelming to find your voice with the ample amount of inspiration that we're exposed to via the internet. How do we distinguish between what is genuinely unique to our personality or what trends we are just mimicking?


Throughout my career, I tend to create pieces that I'm currently inspired by. Dependant on the project I'm working on; I tend to take on board the direct influences I’m comfortable with, rather than trying to create a unique subset of my diverse influences. 


When listening to the creative pep talk podcast episode 193-How to win Dream Opportunities, I was really inspired by this idea of writing down the top 5 elements that make up the best aspect of what moves you within a creative field. 

As someone who has a broad set of influences, I wanted to start blogging about the design and illustration styles that most inspire me. Today's blog post will focus on The Top 5 Elements that make a great Sports inspired Streetwear Illustration. 


Bold, Legible and Dynamic Line Work




The thing that’s attracted me the most to streetwear inspired illustration is the boldness and the simplicity of the line work. Often the linework is incredibly simple in taking a straightforward thick and bold “outline” approach. Which is the approach taken in a lot of cartoon artwork, which this style draws a lot of influence from.




There are exceptions to the rule, but typically most modern pieces have quite a geometric approach to the lines in making sure the shapes are quite simple and aren’t say “loose” or “organic”. There often more confined to display the make of simpler shapes like squares circles and rectangles.  The simplistic approach is the main rule of thumb within this style. 




To create more dynamics in the line work, there’s often apparent use of “tapered linework" which can aid in adding more dynamics and a sense of motion.  With the limitations of having simple line work, tapered lines add in creating more variation and hierarchy within the piece. 








Vibrant Colour Palette 



As colour is often our biggest attraction to design, the real captivation to this style is the very primary and bright colour palettes. As this is an enjoyable and infectious style, the colour palettes very much reflect this feeling of fun and happiness. 




Another element that’s used to make this flat vector style more dynamic is elements of different shading values. Typically speaking you have a base colour and a secondary colour which generally is one shade darker of each of the primary colours used. This helps make the piece have more contrast and depth. 





Dynamic Pose



Often these characters are captured in an “active pose”. As these characters are inspired by sports mascots, you can usually see a lot of these characters marching with pride. From this influence, these characters are commonly depicted as doing something "active" that has its roots and inspiration leading back to sports-related pride. 




The exception to this "active pose rule" is showing our characters in a stance inspired by hip-hop culture. Often these poses tend to be illustrated in a quirky yet confident manner. 




As this style became highly influenced by the hip-hop culture and lifestyle, these poses are often illustrated to be how most “gangsters” would stereotypically be portrayed. 







Human Personification




What makes this style so relatable is it often personifies either objects or animals to have quite “human” personalities. If an animal is being drawn, typically the anatomy is quite similar to a human “pose” by having an animals face with human arms and legs. Another favoured characteristic is to have the central character utilising material objects that people typically use such as clothing or accessories. 



We often get attracted to these illustrations as they are quite surreal. In day to day life, we're not familiar with say "a crocodile being concerned with money and material objects". Yet characterising this animal in such a way with human elements makes it both relatable and humorous as it's taken out of context. This is what makes these illustrations very interesting and funny. 




Upbeat/Humorous, Gang Related Energy



This style draws a lot of inspiration from the American Sports Mascots. These initially were used to invoke a lot of pride and vibrant energy to inspire a team and capture mighty energy. Depending on the team, some of these animals were drawn in a happy and upbeat tone. 



As this style has evolved to being utilised in a lot of streetwear (most of these labels being heavily inspired by hip-hop culture), this style had taken this “cheeky” tongue in cheek format that these sports styled illustrations used, to then introduce elements of hip-hop culture. Typically by the poses or gestures depicted, a lot of these illustrations take this form of characterising this “gangster” or “hip-hop inspired” culture and then using visual puns to make them seem humorous and relatable. Nowadays this is often the context of how this style gets used. 




Admittedly before writing this, the only two elements I would focus on would be the vibrant colour palette and the line work. Forcing myself to come up with three points that characterise this style really forced me not only to look deeper but also made me learn a lot about this style myself. A lot of elements I wasn’t even aware of and can now better explain and or express. 

It might sound like hell, or like you’re back in Uni, but I highly recommend doing this for a lot of styles that you’re a fan of. You’ll be amazing about how much you learn and how much more there is to the surface of work you much love!


Really want to encourage everyone out there to do the same and write the 5 things about creative work they love that they think to make up the strongest and best elements. 




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