Archive for the ‘Small business’ Category

The Big Bang Theory and Other Geek Celebrities: Do You Know Someone Who Knows Someone?

August 15, 2014

Karin says…

If you’ve ever watched an episode of The Big Bang Theory, you know that Sheldon, a physicist working on string theory, always wears interesting t-shirts.

We think he would look very groovy wearing a Tees For Your Head t-shirt! Heck, let’s put any cast member in one of our t-shirts. A cute T Rex t-shirt on Kaley?

So here’s where you come in: are you separated by six degrees from Kevin Bacon?

No, wait, I mean, do you know Mayim Bialik? (Now there’s an attractive woman made to look not-so-hot, like Charlize Theron in Monster. Yikes.) Or Kaley Cuoco? Anyone? Anyone? (Just can’t stop referring to other movies.) Of course, if you know the wardrobe people who dress the actors, that would be the best thing ever.

I’ve tried the front door with Big Bang, going through the publicist for the show with a letter including a mock-up of Jim Parsons, the actor who plays Sheldon, wearing our tees. Here, for your amusement, is my quickie Photoshop job:

big bang blog

Or maybe you are a childhood friend or the next door neighbor of the awesome Neil deGrasse Tyson? You know he’s an astrophysicist, so that makes for one attractive guy right there. I’d send him our Astronomers t-shirt if I knew what size he wears. (Hint, hint.) Then the next job would be to catch a photo of him wearing it.

Bill Nye? He gets his own paragraph and needs no explanation.

Here’s a list of geek celebrities I’ve collected (and I’m aware that although there’s some surprising talent on this list, it’s not like I think everyone here compares to a serious scientist like deGrasse Tyson), in case you are connected to any of them:

Jade Raymond, Kari Byron, Danica McKellar, Katee Sackhoff, Morgan Webb, Tina Fey, Marina Orlova, Dexter Holland, Kate Beckinsale, Kevin Grevioux, Adrianne Curry, Wil Wheaton, Dylan Bruno, Masi Oka, Drake Hogestyn, Lisa Kudrow, Ally Walker, Dan Grimaldi, Rowan Atkinson, Tom Hanks, Terrence Howard, Dolph Lundgren, Trent Reznor, Brian May, Tom Lehrer, Sandra Tsing Loh, Normal Mailer, Montel Williams.

Whew. I commend you if you read the whole list. Most of it’s from an article on Computerworld, and it’s highly entertaining to see what these actors and other people can really do. Brian May, guitarist for Queen and PhD in astrophysics? Now that’s a seriously nerdy guy.

We’re looking for brainiacs of any stripe, whether science, tech, or the arts.

Are you someone who’d wear our shirt and let us talk about it? Contact me! Oh, or how about your adorable children in geekwear? We could even print some special onesies or tiny sizes, and as you may know, we can fit everyone from toddler 2T to adult 4XL. That should about cover (ha ha) everyone.

So who do you know? And thank you!


We’ve De-Grown! We’ve Shrinkened! We’ve Smallered!

December 16, 2013

Karin says…

If you can’t make up a new word from time to time, what’s the use of it all, anyway? I guess I can continue living now.

We’ve shrinked. Shrunked. Shrankened. Shrunk.

So our online store had its one-year birthday in June, and for that first year, we were madly growing. Adding designs every month. Fluffing up, getting bigger, expanding.

But something was itchy.

When you do any kind of creative work, your eye/taste evolves. Some of the designs I’d put out, and (uh oh) a couple of the designs Tom created were displeasing to my ocular evaluators.

Much as I usually hate to go backwards (what does that mean? I will press onward even if I don’t have all the ingredients for a recipe, I will not start over even when I don’t like something I’m making, because I’m so invested in it, and so on), it was time to pull the plug on some of the designs we’d released. I’m sure you noticed. Right? Am I right? You’d been tossing and turning, fretting that you’d missed some announcement about changes to our lineup?

Here’s the anouncement. We done smallened.

Turns out it was simple to convince Tom to cut and slash along with me. Sometimes we agree easily, sometimes there is Debate Team Girl vs. Debate Team Boy for As Long As We Can Stand It, and sometimes we just move on. This one was a quick decision, and here we are, trimmed down.

Heck, I’m writing about it for longer than we discussed it. We were each ruthless with our own designs, and there were a couple that one of us wanted to cut that the other liked, but we cut them anyway. All right already, quit talking about it!

Feel free to sleep better tonight, okay?

We had a birthday!

July 2, 2013

Karin says…

We had a birthday! Or rather, Tees For Your Head had a birthday.

And our cake had one candle on it.

We opened for business on June 22, 2012. Since then, we’ve gone from 18 designs available to 48. We had our first international sale, to England. (France, you flirted with us, and we’re still hoping to date you.) We had our first day of selling multiple shirts. We had our first day of selling multiple shirts to more than one customer.

We still cheer when we get an order. It’s exciting! I love to see which designs people choose, and if I have the chance, I ask how they found us.

Since I’m the marketing department, I need to know what’s working to let our geeky tribe know we exist. Natural search (when someone goes online looking for a geeky t-shirt for a gift or for themselves) seemed like the best moment to catch people’s eye, and it turns out that is when we are getting their attention. Our images are all labeled for SEO (search engine optimization–hey, I started out talking about birthdays and now I’m talking SEO, hmmm) and the images are doing very well in search results.


As a new business, you have to decide where to spend your money. We had two main areas where we spent during this first year: we did a photo shoot for the website, and we paid for press release placement: two releases per month for a year. The photo shoot, done by Ariel Lieberman has been a fantastic investment. I highly recommend her–she’s organized, calm, knowledgeable, and did a great job.


An early contact I made with a tee reviewer said we had one of the ugliest websites he’d ever seen, and if he hadn’t seen the photos of our tees on models, he’d never have realized that they were any good. Okay, then! (We opened with product images on drawings of t-shirts.)

I actually like to get really blunt feedback, since one’s friends tend to be nice and supportive and don’t tell you the hard stuff. (Tell us if you think we’re doing something wrong! Please!) So thanks for saving us from complete disgrace with that tee reviewer, Ariel.

The photos also tie in with the press releases, which have become a vehicle for geeky t-shirt photos. Poifect. The press releases let us tie our keywords to our tees, like “physics t-shirt,” which help people find us, and the releases will live for quite awhile on the web. “Indefinitely,” in fact, which I am taking to mean at least a few years.

Now if I could just figure out how to reach the non-computer-using grandmas-of-engineers, because they need to buy birthday and Christmas presents for those perplexing grandchildren who are studying what?, that would make for a good Year Two for us.

The Winner of Our First Geeky T-Shirt Contest Is Crowned!

May 15, 2013

Karin says…

Too cute.

That was our winner’s secret. He was just too cute. You know how kids sometimes get super quiet when they’re in a new situation? I don’t know if K, our winner, is a big talker, but he was virtually silent while he tried on various hats, swords, and moustaches. So picture the little Marcel Marceau trying on this, trying on that, all without saying a word.

His adorable helper (sister? cousin? I’m not sure) encouraged him and handed him things to try, and he silently put them on.

Here they are together: don’t they make a great pair?

kids wearing geeky t-shirts from Tees For Your Head

Our Eventual WINNER on the Right

He decided that the T Rex tee he’s wearing was the one he wanted as his prize, and it’s being printed in his chosen size and color and soon it will wing its way to him.

I wish we could have chosen more winners, starting with K’s sister (cousin?). She was our single most enthusiastic dresser-upper. Way to go, both of you! Congratulations to the new supermodel of geeky t-shirts!

Another great pair I have to salute was Jade and Matt. Also very cute, but in a grown up way. Jade, thank you for your enthusiasm, and Matt, you look amazing in leopard! You were such a good sport.

Geeky T-Shirts from Tees For Your Head Funny Couple

I was pleased to see all the mileage we got out of our moustaches on sticks–I must say that was one of the more unusual things I’ve found myself doing for Tees For Your Head. Ironing over eighty t-shirts for the photo shoot last summer was something new  for me, and so was making moustaches. Definitely not a common business activity.

Here’s the photo that brought home the win. The little man, silently doing his thing:

K sports a stache and geeky t-shirt from Tees For Your Head

Tees For Your Head’s Party in the Park, or, ScaryTime for an Introvert

April 30, 2013

Our marketing intern, Kim, suggested a premiere party where we’d have free snacks and stickers and a playful contest to win a free tee: put on one of our t-shirts, choose props like mustaches on sticks, and get your photo taken. More about this below. The objective was to connect with UC Santa Cruz students and the brainy university community. With a party, we’d also be getting some fun photos for our social media presence and signups for our monthly discount codes for new designs.

On the Friday night before our Sunday event, I couldn’t get to sleep. Would anyone come to our do, or would we be sitting alone? Would I really stay all four hours doing something I dreaded? The mental self-torment of an introvert. I knew from past experience that the actual event would be okay, even if the worst happened and no one came, but the anticipation was painful.

Our morning in the park started in misty fog with wet grass that made our shoes damp and our feet cold. We had a few dog walkers for company and no one was interested in t-shirts. It was chilly, but an hour later the sun was out and families were trickling into the park. I found a formula that made it possible for me, former shy person, to walk up to strangers and ask them to come check out our set-up. People were invariably nice, although some of them said “Okay! Great!” and walked away from me.

Kim’s roommates paid us a visit. They were great sports, putting on t-shirts and loading up with the props I’d collected including wigs, a plastic sword, a leopard-print skirt and handbag, and a small plastic guitar.

geeky t-shirts from Tees For Your Head

Kim’s Friends Strike a Pose in Our Geeky T-Shirts

The most fun was watching the kids who got into the spirit and played around with what we had. Our superstar was a nine-year-old (?) girl who dressed herself in several ways and handed hats and props to her little brother. She even cajoled dad into participating. She was free-spirited and creative, and it made my day to see her enjoying herself. Doesn’t she look good with facial hair?

kids wearing geeky t-shirts from Tees For Your Head

My Favorite Model, Known to Some as The Instigator

funny picture family wearing geeky t-shirts from Tees For Your Head

Dad and the Kids Get Mustachey

Some parents were apologetic when their kids wanted to come see what we had but then suddenly got a bad case of the too-shys. Really, I understand! Come stand by me and be shy, it’s okay. Take a candy bar and a sticker.

By the end of the day, we’d taken photos of some fun families and some cool college students (yowie, check out the blue eyes on the one wearing the blonde wig!), and I was relieved to know that soon I’d be home, free to talk through the written word. Ahhhhh.

Come to the Tees For Your Head Facebook page and vote for the photo you like best. The supermodel with the most likes will win a free t-shirt!

T-Shirts and Neuroscience

April 9, 2013

Warning: Eye Candy Below.

Recently I (Tom) started taking an online course over at MOOC provider Coursera.  What does that possibly have to do with geeky t-shirt designs? Well, let me tell, and show, you.

The course I’m taking is Synapses, Neurons, and Brains taught by Idan Segev at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His enthusiasm for his subject is infectious, though I come to the course already infected. But I’m merely self educated at a surface level in the subject, so I jumped at this chance to take a course from a real brain.

A surprisingly effective path to discovery in science is to break things. For example, biologists love their “knockout mice,” wherein researchers disable specific genes in order to study the consequences for the mice. OK, that’s a twisted use of the word love, but you get the idea.

Back to t-shirts and neuroscience. I love visual illusions and recently I’ve been working on our growing illusions category. I think of illusions as a delightful way to gently and temporarily break the visual cortex – or at least cause an argument inside it. They are also a clear illustration of just how little of your own brain you are in control of. With illusions, knowing it’s wrong will not make the visual confusion stop.

The intense neural processing that it takes to see the world begins in your retina and proceeds all the way to the back of your brain, where the heavy lifting is done, far away from peering eyes. Along the way there can be disagreement as to just what is being seen, and from this disagreement both illusions and insight can emerge.

A very simplified take on many illusions is that they result from disagreements between different parts of the “seeing workflow” in the visual cortex. Things that make sense at a detailed level (small part of the visual field) are not consistent with higher-level conclusions about the bigger picture. Here are two exhibits for your consideration. The one on top is a static illusion, while the one below it is an example of a motion illusion.

The Devil's Triangle, also called the Impossible Triangle

The Devil’s Triangle, also called the Impossible Triangle



A Motion Illusion. This is not an animation.


In the Devil’s triangle each corner looks legitimate by itself, but a glaring problem arises at a higher level when those corners are put together into one object. Our brains have a learned sense of what can exist in three dimensions, which collides with its attempt to interpret this image as a representation of a solid object. As an amusing aside you can build a physical model of the impossible triangle but the catch is it only looks right – in the wrong sense – when viewed from a single angle.

The second image is even more interesting, to my mind at least. Here there are actually two illusions. The most obvious one is an odd kind of rolling motion apparent over the field of circles if you don’t hold your gaze very still or if you look off to the side. The other illusion is that there appears to be an ephemeral grid of faint, thin grey lines running between the circles. There is no motion and there are no gray lines. I’m certain of that because I wrote the code that made this image. You can click on it to see a larger version, which might make the ghostly grid more apparent.

Here’s my take on the second illusion, at least the rolling motion part. Lower-level parts of the visual cortex (VC – this is getting geeky so we need at least one acronym here) interpret each circle as a shadowed object due to the high-contrast black and white circumference surrounding the blue interior. If you make a version of this image with the orientation of all the black/white surrounds the same, the motion will vanish. But because I’ve introduced a small rotation of the circumference from one circle to the next, the implied changing shadowing is dissonant to higher levels in the visual cortex. Why? Because the big-picture part of our VC evolved in a world with a single bright light source high in the sky, and so the array of close by circles should all have very similar if not identical shadowing. The one aspect of the natural world that can cause shadows to change their location is motion of the object or light source. So a higher level “injects” some motion into your overall sense of the image in an attempt to reconcile what lower levels are telling it. If you force your gaze to remain very still on one circle the motion will stop because not enough of the changing mock shadowing is available to the higher levels. That’s my guess. What do you think?

I have no idea if I’m right about this. But I do know that using this idea has not only let me understand many motion illusions out there, but has also made it relatively easy to make my own. There’s a lot more to getting a motion illusion to work well, but starting with this idea of implied shadowing dissonance has worked well for me so far. As for the illusory grid I have only a wild guess: could it be that some part of the VC is trying to isolate the circles from one another? I guess I’ll have to add a real grid and see if that stops the motion. Maybe that’s a future post.

I think illusions could be a neat way to learn more about the two-way conversations that go on between different parts of the VC, but I’ve seen little discussion of illusions by neuroscientists. One book that does go a bit beyond just mentioning illusions is Visual Intelligence by Donald D. Hoffman.  Personally, I’d love to volunteer to view illusions while having real-time scans done of my visual cortex. Maybe there would be a clear “illusion signal” that could be detected. Looks like I have a few questions for my professor…


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Behind Every Great Geeky T-Shirt Is a Blank

November 28, 2012

Karin says…

It’s crazy, really. You don’t think about it as you merrily make your way through life as a consumer, but any decorated tee shirt (that’s the lingo; learn it and use it) is, of course, printed on a blank tee. These are called, surprisingly, blanks.

So it turns out that blanks are like hot young actresses: popping up, catching your eye, then disappearing. And not returning.

What in the world makes blank t-shirts so crazy elusive? Even big names, like Anvil and Hanes, are always messing with us.

Let me back up a little. When we started out learning to print, we had to select a line of blanks. We ordered all kinds of t-shirts so we could see the colors with our own ocular equipment and touch them with our tactile receptors. We wanted good quality, and we had to determine that by ogling and fondling and printing and washing and wearing and washing. For months. Because we want to understand what we sell.

So we find a brand we love, order our first case…and find out that the seller is discontinuing the line. We finally settle on a second candidate, and love everything about the blanks.

Then we decide to outsource our printing (to U.S. companies, yay for keeping jobs onshore!), and find out that the blanks we so painstakingly chose are not available through distributors. This adds a big layer of complexity if we have to order and have printers stock our specially anointed blanks. And most printers don’t have room for cases of our blanks, anyway.

So we find another source of blanks that we’re happy with. Then, suddenly, they discontinue the chocolate for women. Just women. Luckily, we have a little pile of the blank that doesn’t sell through distributors, so we send those to the printer when we get orders for women’s chocolate shirts.

Okay. So then we get all fancy and extend the styles we offer, adding a classic-fit men’s crew neck in heavy cotton (because some guys let us know they aren’t going to wear those fitted, lightweight shirts, because ick) and youth sizes and a v-neck for women. (Because some women let us know that they weren’t going to wear a crew neck, because ick.) No complaints yet from any kid-shaped people.

And lo and behold, before we’ve even had one order for a v-neck, the nice one we chose is discontinued!

You have to laugh.

This is why brand names for blanks have disappeared from our site. We cannot guarantee what brand of blank we’ll be printing on from one day to the next. This means that exact sizing, and size charts, and exact shrinkage varies, and we have to keep up with that.

Picture it like log rolling—we just have to run in place as fast as we can and try not to fall off the log and drown. (Okay, log rolling is not a very good analogy to buying blanks, but the sense of precariousness is what I’m trying to convey. Because I feel like I’m running and running and not getting anywhere!)

Who would have ever guessed that it would be so hard to find a nice blank t-shirt? If you know any secrets in this area, tell me!

Behind the Scenes – Design

June 28, 2012

Karin says…

A number of our shirt ideas come from Tom explaining a scientific principal to me, where it enters what Tom calls The Mixmaster and comes out amusingly mangled.

I’m not offended. It’s true that I have a “creative” way of remembering science I don’t understand, but after more than ten years together, I can still stump Tom by using words he has never heard. As we like to say, everyone has a place in the ecosystem.

Here’s one real-life scenario.

Tom: “So cortical folding is related to intelligence, essentially, because it creates more surface area. Each person’s folding is as distinct as a fingerprint…”

Karin, thinking: What would that folding look like for different people?

Karin: “So Martha Stewart’s cortical folding would be pinch pleats.”

Tom is silent for a second, parsing pinch pleats. I see the question mark floating over his head.

Karin: “Like on drapes. Pinch pleats.”

Tom (laughs): “So Cary Mullis’ cortical folding is tie dye. And Bill Clinton’s folds look like little sex organs.”

Karin: “GWB has no folding.”

Tom: “Bill Moyers’ is fractally complex.”

I don’t get that one—Bill Moyers delves into ideas at ever more detail?—but the beginning of a tee shirt design glimmers in our minds, lighting up our incredibly dense cortical folds. Would you buy a tee that showed various people’s cortical folding?

The Rot Rate Experiments – January 2011

February 19, 2011

Tom says…

I have a skeptical streak, especially when it comes to green claims made for products. Since there’s not yet any way to deliver tee shirts that does not involve shipping them (I’m just waiting for those in-home 3D printers that will be available in oh, say, 2020), we have tried to find a shipping envelope that is both robust and environmentally friendly. So we (Karin, actually) found these compostable bags that we are using as our initial shipping solution. (When you’re a real business person, it’s important to overuse the word solution.)

I really want to believe these envelopes will compost to useful organic matter. I think this is a perfect opportunity for a little tee-shirt based science fun that will let me know, rather than believe.

So I’ve cut one of these bags, which feel like plastic to the touch, into six strips. I’ve put two strips each into three glass containers we had lying about. Karin claims they are meant for glowing candles, but to me they looked perfect for either an ant farm or this experiment. Anyway, I’ll be documenting here the progress of this little effort at determining the rot rate of our environmentally-friendly packaging.

Here is one of the shipping bags cut into strips.

I’ve labeled each strip January 7, 2011, the day it was put in the dirt. The soil was recommended by the local nursery as having the highest organic matter content, all the better for the degradation process.

The strips in their containers, and the soil we’ll be using.

My plan is to remove one of the six strips every three months. Then I’ll post a picture of what it looks like after it’s washed off. Unfortunately, I didn’t weigh each strip before putting them in the dirt, but that just creates an opportunity for me to do another, better experiment later.

According to the product specs, full degradation occurs in 9 to 60 months. It’ll be fun to see how far these little strips get in 18 months.

This is a situation where bugs are good, real good. Go bugs!

Hi there! Tees For Your Head Makes T-Shirts for Geeks in the Arts and Sciences

February 19, 2011

We’re glad you found us. Like a bat signal flashing over the city, our geeky t shirts sent a signal straight to your brain.

Whether you’re fascinated by numbers, software, and the measurable things in life, or you’d rather wear tee-shirt-wearing Tee Rexes, colorful art, or portable poetry, we hope that we have a tee shirt that makes you happy. There’s enough bad news every day to cause a wobble in the earth’s rotation, so how about some nice, innocent tees to take the edge off?

We’re geeks ourselves, and we hope to find the people who appreciate the same things we do. We’re Tom, a physics/software kind of geek, and Karin, a language/artsy geek. We met in the tech industry, and never would have imagined that one day we’d be putting the contents of our crazy brains onto cotton.

Oh, and that’s 100% organic cotton! It costs us a whole bunch more to buy the blank t shirts, but it’s so worth it because the cotton is grown without the heavy, heavy load of pesticides, herbicides, and artificial fertilizers—and lots of water—that conventional cotton uses.

We also ship our t-shirts in what is being billed “the world’s first compostable envelope,” and we’re very happy to do so. Plastic has a lot of downsides (Benjamin had a good idea when he declined plastics as a career path), so we’re excited to see how well these compost! For more exciting news on the envelope, see the entries here on our blog. We’re collecting data, something dear to our nerdy little hearts.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tom and Karin

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