CUSP Magazine: Winter Issue 2014


CUSP Magazine is a Chicago based publication focused on helping up and coming creatives gain exposure for their brand and products. Our company is a collective of highly motivated individuals who work together to bring a new voice to the creative community.

A: When WIRED Magazine coined the term “crowdsourcing”, they associated it with Threadless.

How do you think Threadless incorporates crowdsourcing and how has it helped the business?

J: One of the nice things about our model is we’re asking potential customers up front the stuff

that they’d like to buy. Before it is even available for purchase, you can go on the website and look

at the artwork that is available for scoring. We have a scoring model of one to five, with five being

the best. Recently this year, we enabled another way to participate through funding, so you can

actually fund designs that are up for scoring. I think that reaching out initially and having this

outlet for people to tell us what they are liking before we’re printing makes the model inherently

successful. The products available on our website are curated by our customers who will in turn

buy them.

A: What has been some of the company’s greatest accomplishments throughout the journey?

K: Just watching the community grow and new artists come through, as well as seeing

the improvements of artists who have been with us for a long time. The fact that artists can

communicate and critique on the forum throughout the process has been a really great thing to

see as far as success. We have also gotten interest from other intellectual properties like Disney,

Marvel, and Nickelodeon. These companies see what we are doing and how the art community is

so involved, and they in turn become involved with Threadless. We have a Spiderman collection,

we just released a collection of Disney Pixar tees, and we are currently holding a design challenge

for Big Hero 6. Bigger brands with intellectual property have approached us, and I think that’s a

great testament to the community itself and what we do here.

A: What are some strategic challenges for the company, or owning your own small business in


J: I struggle with the “people” side a bit. I’m a total introvert and it can be hard to keep up the

communication with my team and the community as a whole. As for strategic challenges, as a

web-based company that’s been around for 14 years, that’s a lifetime! Technology has changed

so much, and online communities have moved from forums to social networks to mobile. Even

the product-creation side of technology has changed from limited screen printing to on demand

printing. We are constantly upgrading the Threadless platform and adding new features to it and

doing it as independently as we can. We also unrolled something this year called artist tips which

you can throw a couple extra dollars in the checkout cart to the artist whose t-shirt you are buying.

They receive 100% of that money on top of the royalties. We are always trying to innovate here

and trying to stay on top of and be the leader of places for artists to meet and participate online.

A: What are the benefits of being in Chicago?

K: There is a ton of art inspiration going on here in Chicago. We see street art on the side of

the road every day and we are fortunate enough to have access to art galleries and some of the

best art museums in the world. Chicago is a really down to earth, creative place. For a company

like ours, where we are so surrounded by art all day, it is a comfortable feeling. We really try to

embrace the local art scene in Chicago here at Threadless. We have brought in some local street

artists into the space to paint murals on the wall, to do our garages outside of the building. Bands

and musicians come into the office to perform for the employees and we open that up to the

public. It is about embracing art and art culture in every way possible.*

Check out the amazing products by Threadless artists at



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