Medieval Institute Unveils New T-shirts

Author: Dov Honick

MI Shirts Ellis West Family 2019The Ellis-West family modeling the new MI shirts, which come in sizes for the whole family! Erik Ellis is a recent graduate of the MI's Ph.D. program, and his partner Becky West is a Ph.D. candidate.

This fall, the Medieval Institute unveiled new t-shirts, redesigned for the first time in over a decade. The t-shirts round out a complete update of the public face of the Institute by the assistant director, Dr. Megan J. Hall, with input from the broader medievalist community and with design help from Marina Harper, wife of the Medieval Institute’s 2018–19 Byzantine Studies fellow, Dr. Demetrios Harper.

The new t-shirts are available in two colors, charcoal and navy, and in a variety of styles, including adult and ladies (slimmer) cuts and youth and toddler sizes, with options for short or long sleeve and v-neck or crew neck. Sizes run from XS to 4X.

Faculty fellows and Institute graduate students, if you didn't collect your shirt at the opening reception, you're still welcome to do so! Additional shirts are available to all for purchase in the Medieval Institute main office (715 Hesburgh Library) at the production cost of $10 each.

We sat down with Megan Hall and Marina Harper to learn more about the new shirts.

Dr. Hall shared some thoughts about the process of planning, designing, and creating them:

Why was now the right time to redesign the t-shirt?

"In 2017, following the appointment of its new director, Professor Thomas E. Burman, the Medieval Institute began refreshing many of its resources, starting with releasing a totally revamped website in fall 2018.

"Following that we introduced a variety of new promotional items, including magnets, coasters, keychains, and 100% cotton tote bags.

"The t-shirt redesign is part of this process of renewal, a good opportunity to honor what was terrific about the past design but also reflect the ways in which, as all organizations do, the MI continues to grow and evolve."

What was your vision for the new look, and how did you go about the process of imagining the design and then producing it?

Full Color Herald By Jonathan BoultonFull color herald by Jonathan Boulton. The simplified version appears on the t-shirt (and you might recognize our crest pin in there as well!!

"A number of months ago I sent out a poll to our community to vote on possible new t-shirt designs. A little over half of the respondents requested that we keep the armorial achievement that Jonathan Boulton, Professor of the Practice Emeritus of the MI, designed a number of years ago, while the rest were happy to have a new design.

"We decided the best approach would be to blend the old and the new, combining the achievement, an important and long-running visual element of the MI's branding, with our new tagline, 'Meet us in the Middle Ages.' Our designer, Marina Harper, took all of this and turned it into the gorgeous new design we currently have.

"I'd also gotten much feedback from the MI community that they wanted a t-shirt that looked polished and modern and was also comfortable to wear. Marina and I worked together to identify the best printing process to give an ultra-soft screen print, and I worked with our printer, AP Image Team here in South Bend, to find a 100% cotton, medium weight shirt whose production adhered to the University's licensing and labor standards. (The University of Notre Dame is a founding member of the Fair Labor Association and is a member of the Worker Rights Consortium.)"

Speaking of our designer ... we asked her to tell us a bit about her design inspiration:

"When I first met with Dr. Hall to discuss the project, it became clear that the Medieval Institute was looking for a fresh t-shirt design that would help attract a broader audience on and off-campus. To this end, I was tasked with creating a design that would repurpose the MI's intricate and much-loved crest used on its previous shirts, but highlight the organization's logo and slogan.

MI Shirt Back

"Wanting to find a way to use the crest in a 'Medieval' way, I landed on the idea of wrapping it around the side of the shirt, mimicking, somewhat, the thigh-shields awarded by Emperors of Medieval Byzantium to the leaders of their armies. These 'shields,' which were traditionally worn on the outside of the right thigh, were quite elaborate and seen as visual testaments to acts of extreme valor and great achievement. Integrating the crest into the lower right portion of the shirt is, therefore, not only eye-catching, but also a way of tipping the hat to the Medieval period itself and, of course, acknowledging the achievements of the MI as a much-lauded leader in Medieval studies.

"With such a relevant and unique way to reuse the MI's crest close at hand, all that was needed was to place the MI's logo and slogan in bold across the back to ensure that all those admiring the design would know precisely where the shirt came from and, hopefully, feel inspired to find out more about the Institute's wonderful program."