8 Things I’ve Learned from 8 Years of Ugmonk

8 Things I’ve Learned from 8 Years of Ugmonk

This month marks 8 years of running Ugmonk. As I was preparing for this milestone, I got thinking about how long 8 years really is.

It’s twice the length of my formal design education. It’s two presidential terms. It’s enough to get my infant son, who’s just learned to giggle, halfway through elementary school. That’s crazy to me.

I’ve learned so much in 8 years that it feels right to pause for a minute and reflect. So here are 8 lessons that stem from my time “in office.” I didn’t learn these things in school, and you probably won’t, either, but they’ve been instrumental in shaping Ugmonk into the brand it is today.

I hope they help as you navigate your own journey.

1. You can do a lot with a little.

Ever since day one, Ugmonk has been very DIY.

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8 Years of Ugmonk

8 Years of Ugmonk

Eight years! Eight years is a long time to do anything, and yet it seems like it was only yesterday I was just getting started. Thinking back, it’s hard to believe that I’ve spent twice as long running Ugmonk as it took to get my college degree!

It’s been 8 years since I launched this little “side project,” and every day I still wake up thrilled to run Ugmonk. I’m so grateful for the places it’s taken me, the people I’ve met, and the tens of thousands of you that continue to support me every step of the way.

Today, I’m incredibly excited to launch the new limited edition 8th Anniversary Set. Only 200 of these sets exist, so once they’re sold out they’re gone for good.

Anniversary Tee

For this year’s tee we chose a super soft triblend black fabric,

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Ugmonk x Square One Coffee

Ugmonk x Square One Coffee

Up until a few years ago, I rarely drank coffee.

I just never understood the appeal. To me, it always tasted bitter and burnt unless I dumped a bunch of cream and sugar into it to disguise the taste. I assumed that people drank it solely for the caffeine jolt or as a social thing, but that everyone agreed the actual taste was pretty terrible.

But everything changed when I drank my first cup of freshly roasted specialty coffee….

Specialty coffee (also referred to as “third wave” coffee) is a completely different drink than any other coffee I’d tried in the past. Technically, they are both coffee since both are created by pouring hot water through coffee grounds, but the end result couldn’t be more different.

Specialty coffee involves tight quality control through every stage of production, from growing to harvesting to processing to roasting.

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How I Stay Inspired and Come Up with New Ideas

How I Stay Inspired and Come Up with New Ideas

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is…

“How do you come up with new ideas?”

I think people are hoping I’ll answer with a specific website or resource that will unlock all of my creative secrets. But the reality is that there isn’t one magic source.

For me, coming up with new ideas isn’t exactly an event. I think of it more as a cumulative, evolving process rather than a simple exercise that I sit down and do.

It’s about always being aware of things around me, both online and offline, and filing them away for future reference. (I’ll get into how I actually do this further down in this post).

Ever since I was kid, I’ve always noticed obscure details and picked up on things that most people walk right past. I’d spend hours searching for the “perfect” rock to add to my rock collection,

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Wait, there’s a human on the other end?

Wait, there’s a human on the other end?

I received a really nice email recently from a longtime fan and customer:

I don’t know you and you don’t know me. But, I’ve been following your stuff for a long time now – just wanted to give you a quick congratulations. New site, branding, merchandise looks fantastic. Good work. —Chad

I’ve loved reading all your emails and notes of encouragement on the launch of Ugmonk 2.0, and this is actually a really good example of why I decided to do it in the first place. Not for the accolades, but because I value all of you who have taken an interest in my work.

Over the years, I’ve been able to connect with hundreds (probably even thousands) of you one on one via email, social media, or in person at events, but I know there are still thousands of you who have been following Ugmonk and have never had a direct interaction with me,

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Summer Sale & 6 New Products

Summer Sale & 6 New Products

Summer is in full swing and we’re excited to release 4 new tees today.

By now you’re probably familiar with the positive tone conveyed in many of our designs such as Get Uncomfortable and Endless Possibilities.

While naming these 4 new tees we realized that each design could represent a positive concept and stand in contrast to the very divided and divisive tone that seems to be permeating the world these days.

Simple designs on t-shirts may not change the world, but each of us can carry a message of unity and seek out Common Ground.

folded-4

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Our “Secret” Source for Custom Packaging

Our “Secret” Source for Custom Packaging

Custom packaging is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I spend a lot of time obsessing over the details of the product designs themselves, and I’ve always wanted our packaging to reflect the same care and quality that Ugmonk is known for.

Nice packaging elevates an already strong product, and it makes for a memorable customer unboxing experience. I want you to be excited when you open your mailbox and see an Ugmonk package waiting for you.

Most vendors’ minimum quantities for printed packaging are quite high, so I never pulled the trigger to order custom boxes or mailers. Over the years, we have added special touches like hand-stamped boxes and (more recently) custom-printed tape, but we had never produced fully custom packaging (other than for our limited-edition anniversary sets).

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The 30 Tools We Use to Run Ugmonk

The 30 Tools We Use to Run Ugmonk

Every week I receive numerous questions like…

“What app do you use to print shipping labels?”
“What program do you use for product design?”
“What service do you use for email marketing?”
“What type of camera do you shoot your photos with?”

Many of you reading this are fellow entrepreneurs or interested in someday starting your own business in some capacity and are curious what tools I use to run Ugmonk. When it comes to figuring out what services and technology to invest in, the amount of options can be paralyzing.

While a lot of it comes down to personal preference and your specific business needs, I wanted to walk you through all of the tools that I use on a daily basis.

This list will change and evolve over time as new tools and technology become available and our needs change, but I’ll be periodically updating our Resources page to keep things current.

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Why and How We Rebuilt Our Entire Site

Why and How We Rebuilt Our Entire Site

When I mentioned that we were redesigning our whole site, the response I heard from several people was, “Why redesign your site? It’s already so nice!” I appreciated that, but I knew it could be better. I don’t like to settle for anything less than perfect (yes, I know we are technically not perfect, but I strive to do everything with excellence).

The idea to redesign our site started with wanting to update a few things here and there like the home page layout and product photo viewer. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to do a complete site overhaul. Our current iteration of the site has served us well for three years, but the web moves fast, and we were due for a major update.

During this time, we also started talking seriously about the whole Ugmonk brand redesign and what that could look like. The 2.0 redesign was deeper than a simple visual update.

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Introducing Ugmonk 2.0

old-new

I’m excited to finally introduce Ugmonk 2.0! At first glance this may look like a simple visual update, but this is actually the biggest launch we’ve ever done.

When I launched Ugmonk over 7 years ago, I had very little idea where it would go or how long it would last. I didn’t start with a business plan or even much of a strategy about sustaining it or growing it. It was merely a passion project that I started on the side.

Minimalist, bold, and high quality was the promise. T-shirts were the medium.

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Redesigning Ugmonk: A Year in the Making

Redesigning Ugmonk: A Year in the Making

When I launched Ugmonk in 2008, I was fresh out of college and still relatively new to the world of design. I had been doing all sorts of art my entire life, but it wasn’t until college that I immersed myself in graphic design.I didn’t have a ton of experience designing logos, and I actually still consider them one of the hardest things to design.

Logos need to be so many things in such a small package: simple, unique, memorable, and versatile in both color and black and white.

They also need to instantly communicate the entire vibe of a brand, which is no small feat.

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3 New Tees + 1 New Crewneck

As I hinted at previously, I’ve been spending a lot of my time working on a big rebrand as well as redesigning and rebuilding our entire site from the ground up. But I’ve still been designing lots of new products, and we are excited to release 4 of them today!

Check out the full details in the shop


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Our Modern Kitchen Remodel: Designing a Space We Love

Ugmonk has always been about designing products that fit my personal aesthetic. And while I’m no home design expert I wanted to share the design process that went into remodeling our kitchen.

When my wife and I bought our first house a few years ago it wasn’t in terrible shape structurally, but it needed a lot of cosmetic work, updating, and repairs. The previous owners had a very eclectic taste with their decor and color selection so it’s taken a lot of time and sweat equity to transform it into our modern,

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The Craft of Collaboration

Ugmonk has always been about creating better versions of products that I personally want. My strength and skills are on the creative and design side of things, but I’m certainly not an expert on the manufacturing side. The way I’ve been able to achieve this is by partnering with great manufacturers who have helped me turn my ideas into physical products.

A couple months ago I flew out to the Black Anchor in Tacoma, WA to film the detailed process that goes into crafting our leather mousepads, wallets, and card cases. Though the products look simple from the outside, there’s actually a lot that goes into making each one of them by hand.

The beauty of collaboration is that when we play to each other’s strengths we’re able to bring great products to life that otherwise would have never been made.

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Endless Possibilities

According to “studies” our age, race, family background, or economic status determines our fate. In reality, though, we’ve been given a gift: the gift of creativity!

It’s not as easy as “you can do whatever you believe you can do.” Often life is full of hard work, tough failures, and unexplainable losses, but the worst way to respond is to retreat. Your experiences, your story, your skills, your sphere of influence, your creativity are all unique to you.

Explore your endless possibilities to create, give, help, and make an impact.

View the new tees here >

endless-blk-1000

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Holiday Sale Starts Friday

The holidays are just around the corner and so is our special Holiday Sale. Get your shopping lists ready because everything in our shop will be 20% Off on Friday.

Along with the sale, we’ll also be releasing 11 new products!

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New Ugmonk Lookbook

I’m excited to publish our newest Ugmonk Lookbook today!

Ever wonder what a product will look like in person? Whether it’s that missing piece in your wardrobe or that gift you’ve been scouring the web for, these photos will give you a better sense of what our products look like in context.

For this lookbook I teamed up with my friend and talented photographer Patrick Chin. He took my specific vision and aesthetic direction and captured the essence of the Ugmonk brand perfectly with these beautiful images.

Scroll through the photography and click on the “+” symbol on any of the photos to shop the specific products in each photo. View the full lookbook here >

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From Concept to Product Launch:
How I Designed the 7th Anniversary Set

Designing and launching a product may seem like a relatively simple task from the outside, but there are hundreds of steps to getting an idea from inside your head to a physical product in your hand and then releasing it to the public and finally shipping it all over the globe.

Back in 2009, when Ugmonk turned one year old, I thought it would be fun to celebrate by designing a special limited edition anniversary shirt to celebrate. At the time I didn’t think much past that, but the next year I decided to design a full limited edition set and each year I’ve continued this tradition. It’s a fun challenge to raise the bar each year.

Here’s a detailed look at what it took to design, manufacture, and launch the 7th Anniversary Set:

1. Concept & Design

The first stage was brainstorming the general concepts and ideas.

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Letterpress: Behind the Scenes

After shooting this video of Iceland and then seeing it go semi-viral, I became really interested in learning more about the craft of filmmaking. To be honest I shot the Iceland video on the fly without much planning or experience. I love the challenge of learning new things and it’s been fun to dig deeper into the world of video.

This behind-the-scenes Letterpress video was the first full video that I shot and produced since picking up my new camera gear a few months ago. Since the letterpress shop is local it was a great opportunity to put my skills to use and shoot the printing process for the new 7th Anniversary Sets.

Music plays a huge role in video. Rather than picking a stock song I had the neat opportunity to collaborate with Vyking (my brother-in-law) to write an original track for this video.

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116 x Ugmonk Collection

It’s not often that I do any design work outside of working on Ugmonk products, but when my friends from Reach Records approached me with an opportunity to collaborate on a special artist collection I couldn’t pass it up. I’ve been a fan of Reach and the 116 movement for quite some time and was honored to team up with them.

We’ve been working together for the past year to dial in all of the details, from cut and sewn hoodies to special woven tags and embroidered patches to custom stitched snapbacks.

I designed a custom script and 116 typography that’s used throughout each of the 13 pieces in the 116 x Ugmonk Collection. Each item relates to each other with a slightly different interpretation of the 116 theme of “Unashamed.” Limited quantities are available here.

About 116

116 is the movement of the unashamed.

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