Threadless Crowdsourcing

Kay at Threadless Headquarters in Chicago

Kay at Threadless Headquarters in Chicago

I had heard of the T-shirt giant Threadless before, but it wasn’t until a 2009 Public Works gathering where Harper Reed of Threadless spoke before I really became interested. Obviously it was three years ago so I can’t recall details. To sum it up, I just remember a lot of laughter, good company, great design and an appetite for more.

Shortly after that gathering, I purchased one of my very first community approved threadless t-shirts, “Three Keyboard Cat Moon” a mix of the 3 wolves howling at the moon design and the internet meme Keyboard Cat. The moment I saw this gem, I thought it was genius, incredibly funny and I just HAD to have it.

Thus, began my relationship with Threadless, one of the first successful crowdsourcing sites. When I think of crowdsourcing I think of outsourcing tasks to a bunch of people or a group of people to accomplish jobs and save money, I don’t think community. But, that’s what Threadless is, a community.

Threadless t-shirt quilt at Threadless Headquarters

Threadless uses the community or “crowd” to vote on designs submitted by its members to decide who will get their designs printed. This validates the product before it’s even printed! The great thing is that anyone can submit a design and anyone can vote. Threadless depends on their community to submit ideas, vote on ideas, collaborate, interact etc. etc. just as much as the community depends on Threadless to keep delivering amazing experiences and awesome designs to their customers!

Threadless and its community of people are personal, thoughtful, engaging; one reason I believe they continue to be such a success. Threadless took crowdsourcing to a level where some type of harmony exists between product and development and the emotional connection to its community of Threadless members. It’s amazing to think Threadless started with just 2 people and $1000 bucks of their own money and through crowdsourcing and thinking a bit differently evolved into what it is today.

After three years and many more t-shirts later, I’m still following Threadless and now part of the community. Mobium’s own Gordon Hochhalter is even a fan of Threadless! Are you part of the Threadless crowd? What t-shirts do you have?


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