Maybe you saw it on Facebook. Or someone walking down the street was wearing one. A Grant & Alvernon t-shirt. What gives?
The Grant & Alvernon intersection in Tucson is a fascinating place. It’s an iconic intersection for its weirdness, but it’s not self-aware. Think of your favorite dive-bar that is now ‘cool’ for its dive factor. Grant & Alvernon is not that.
There’s a plethora of pedestrian traffic, a Circle K, Wal-Mart, Church’s Chicken, and a now shuttered Fry’s grocery store. Some call it the worst intersection in town. It’s not.
Growing up in Tucson, I remember the first time I passed through the intersection. It was early evening, in the back of a pickup truck and I seriously thought we just entered a different town. Over the years, I’ve mostly been frustrated waiting at the stoplight for people crossing the street. There seems to be more people using the crosswalk at Grant & Alvernon than in heavy foot traffic areas, such as Fourth Avenue and downtown.
So, why the shirt? Well, I’m a fan of great design. And the ubiquitous Helvetica list shirts are like a pop song you can’t get out of your head. I lived in New York City for a summer and remember the bold, urban design of the subway signage. It’s the same font as the Helvetica list shirts. So, without thinking much about it, one morning I awoke – as many of us do – with an idea on my mind: Grant & Alvernon would be interesting in the style of the list shirts and subway signage. So I made an image of one mocked up on a t-shirt and posted it on Facebook. In fact, here’s the original post:
Needless to say, there was enough interest to actually make this into a shirt. I mean, it wasn’t a crazy huge response, but enough to give it a shot.
The first run of 40 shirts sold out in three days. For the second run, I changed printers, found a poly-cotton blend shirt I liked more, updated the font to be a bit bolder, kerned it tighter, did another 50 shirts, and sold all of those, too.
I did this all on the side as a fun little side project. People had to come to my office for a shirt. Now, you can get a shirt without having to find me in person.