TA Interview: Insert Coin Tees

By DavieMarshall, 6 years ago
Today we bring you an interview with Dan Long, Insert Coin's Head of Comms to draw your eye to the fantastic work these guys have been doing on their latest and greatest range to date. The new Devil May Cry and SEGA: Reloaded range brings some of Insert Coin's (and our!) favourite games of the past 23 years to a torso near you.

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Inspired by Shenmue, Jet Set Radio, Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, Shinobi and Devil May Cry – the new gaming shirts and hoodies are 100% official and 100% awesome.
And, as well as the sleek designs themselves, every single preorder also receives an extra special bonus – one of our exclusive, limited edition prints, absolutely FREE! Preorders are processed on a first come, first served basis and shipping is expected to start in early-mid July.
We're teaming up with Insert Coin to offer you guys the chance to win one of the t-shirts from the Devil May Cry range. Full details in our competition thread!

Insert Coin has been growing in popularity in leaps and bounds as of late with some awesome new ranges. Not only do we have the new Devil May Cry and SEGA: Reloaded line, but recently we were spoiled with the Assassin’s Creed selection too. How have things changed behind the scenes since the early days of ICT?

There’s not been a huge change at Insert Coin Towers to be honest – we’re just doing more of the same stuff and working more and more closely with developers and publishers. Our relationships have really blossomed – both with the industry and our community – and we love being another handy link within the world of gaming. Our team has grown of course, so we can be even more responsive to our community’s needs and work on even more designs.

How many hours of love and work goes into each design that we see hit the ICT store on average?

Well, it is difficult to say – even as an average. Some designs just fall into place straight away. Others need lots of research and gameplay to nail the finished design. In terms of the design itself, it could take days to find the perfect font or visual tone of voice that we’re looking for…it’s all fun though, we love every second!

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And when it comes to narrowing the design for a specific down from a HUGE range of potentially amazing sources of inspiration in any given game, how does that happen? Is there a massive brainstorming session? Do you all pitch in an idea and bare knuckle fight to decide a winner? Or do you just sit down with the games and explore the title to grab new ideas and make some quick doodles of things you see?

Generally, the best design ideas are normally pretty strong enough to take on a life of their own – so they’ll be formed after long discussions about the game – or we might load it up and take a trip down memory lane. It’s all about the experience and what points make a game stick in the memory… and what will look good on a shirt of course!

How ‘deep’ are you willing to go design wise to create an image that is truly unique and ‘niche’ with regards to its respective title? For example, some designs like the ‘Team Sonic’ t-shirt would be recognisable to many non-gamers. Your new ‘Devil Never Cry’ is a really cool reference to the history of Devil May Cry. Is there a point where you’ve ever said, ‘no, this design is too obscure’, or perhaps a company has rejected an idea?

We always have to check ourselves to make sure our references aren’t too oblique or tough. It’s probably harder for the games that we really love as they’re the ones we pore over obsessively while we’re playing them! It’s always important to take a step back because often, even with a level head, you can get caught up in the detail. Some of our designs are definitely more obscure than others – Calber’s is probably up there as the most difficult reference, but as soon as you know it, the memories come flooding back!

On that note, how do you approach securing the rights to a title or idea. Do you usually approach studios/publishers or are you seeing them come to you about getting an idea off the ground? And how do you guys come to a decision on the final design? How much input did SEGA have for example on your final interpretation of Jet Set Radio for example?

It’s a mix of both to be honest. Sometimes we approach publishers, sometimes they approach us and – more often than not – it’s a mutual thing. We’ve been incredibly lucky to deal with so many responsive, progressive companies. We work in an industry that definitely understands that not every gamer wants to wear box art on their chest. Anyone can print that. Pretty much all our partners just let us get on with the designs and trust us to make something special – that adds to the gaming experiences they offer.

You must get countless suggestions and requests from your fans as to what you should produce in the future. Does this have much influence on these many secret projects you guys always seem to be involved in?

We get hundreds – if not thousands – of suggestions every week and we always read them all. It’s difficult as often people are suggesting things we’re already working on or are already on our to do list, but that does just show we’re moving in the right direction. To be honest, we have a massive long list of things we can’t tell you at the moment… but hopefully we’ll be able to spill the beans very soon!

What about your favorite artists and designers, and who or what influences the style of your designs?

It varies because we like to keep all the designs fresh, vibrant and different. We are always looking at new design inspiration and the next style we can work on. Recently, we’ve been looking at old psychobilly designs, next week it might be high school football teams – there’s always something new to research. We get loads of inspiration just walking around or watching films and TV – t-shirts and hoodies are everywhere and there are so many styles and colours and designs. It’s almost impossible not to get inspired from all those!

You have an impressive collection of games you designed for, but is there a series past or present that you're really hoping to work with in the future

There are loads of games we’d still like to celebrate in t-shirt form… but we’ll get there in the end, definitely! We have a few coming up that are ones we’ve wanted to do since we started, but they’re very, very secret – ha ha!

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The great thing about your designs that give them the huge appeal is that they can be worn and appreciated by pretty much everyone. But once every so often you’ll get that double-take from a passing stranger followed by a knowing nod and a sly grin. Two fellow gamers meet in the wild. What do you think it is about gaming that means it’s hugely popular, yet like meeting a long lost friend in the wild when you discover that guy you just passed played Streets of Rage as a kid too?

Gaming was – and to a certain degree still is – something of an outsider’s pursuit. If you were into gaming and geekery, you kind of had your own world you shared with close friends. Now, when someone else knows that same reference on your chest, it’s like you’re instantly back in that awesome club where people get the reference and no words need to be spoken to explain it. It’s kind of a beautiful thing really – it’s like our online community spilling out into the real world and we always love hearing the stories people tell us about seeing other folk in Insert Coin gear and sharing a knowing smile. It’s a great feeling.

Do you guys personally have a favorite design in your catalog?

Ha, it’s a bit like choosing your favourite child isn’t it? Umm, everyone always changes their mind, but it’s usually always the newest ones that are the most popular in Insert Coin Towers – mainly because they’re fresh and we haven’t seen them before.

I remember a short while back seeing you mention on Twitter that there might have been some non-official Insert Coin merch floating around some sites such as eBay. How can people be sure they have a genuine ICT product?

Yeah, it’s a weird thing – kind of flattering in a way that people would want to reproduce counterfeits of our designs! The simple way of telling is that – aside from a very small number of indie stores in the UK – the only place you can buy official Insert Coin merchandise is from www.insertcoinclothing.com. The second thing is that we put our own IC label in all our shirts. Some tee companies just put their own label into any old tee, but our tees are all made from scratch – we hand select the cotton flowers to use – so you can tell from the overall quality of the tee (or hoodie!) too.

Your blog notes that July 8th will be your big two year birthday! Early congrats from us here at TA! Since throwing open the doors of your internet store nearly two years ago, what would you say your highest point has been?

Thanks so much! Yeah, it’s been a mad 24 months really – not sure where it’s all gone! We’ve had so many highs – building such an amazing community, launching so many ace designs! We’ve loved every second to be honest… personal highlights though, I guess the mad scenes at Eurogamer Expo last year (back again this year too – hooray!) were fairly incredible and having our designs worn and featured pretty much everywhere – from BBC1 to Inside Xbox and PS Access – was epic too. We’ve been incredibly lucky – but we certainly don't take it for granted, we’re always looking to make things bigger and better every day.

And talking more generally for a moment, we’ve just had E3 and you guys were lucky enough to head down. What games are exciting you the most right now? We know you’re avid gamers!

E3 was fantastic, although we were busy with lots of meetings to play that many games. However, what we did play we were very impressed with. The one real stand out at the moment is Halo 4. That is going to be very, very special… think fans will be impressed with what the lovely 343i have done!

There’s plenty to look forward to in games and Insert Coin Clothing! Thank you for your time, and the opportunity to team up on this awesome competition!

Thanks for the great questions – and good luck to all the comp entrants!

Our thanks again to Dan for taking the time to speak with us about all that is new and exciting, and everything else besides! Now it's time to head over to the competition thread and get yourself entered, or check if you've automatically qualified just by being part of TA! It's going to be good!