When Graham Brown first conceptualized his eye-catching Indiana-inspired flag design, the young artist had no idea what he'd be getting himself into.
"I started a rap group called Anderson's Most Wanted [while living in Anderson], and all the lyrics were basically just a big "fuck you" to anything except for Anderson," says the 27-year-old, Brown. "As I was getting ready for our last show I ordered some stickers. And while I was doing that, I just happened to come up with what is now the United State of Indiana flag — the vertical stripes with Indiana [where the stars would be on the U.S. flag]."
At the concert, Brown's merch idea was quite a hit, eventually leading him to start a business around the emblem.
"I just kind of realized, 'That design works really well. Maybe I should run with it a little bit.' So the name United State of Indiana just popped into my mind," says Brown. "It made a lot of sense to match that icon."
Since coming to this conclusion in 2011, the entrepreneur has seen his flag design take off, while also creating several other Indiana-centric t-shirts, sweatshirts, handbags, koozies and more. Due to this success, Brown has also managed to team up with many other local businesses and organizations, including everyone from Indiana City Brewing Co. to the Indiana State Museum. In keeping with this same collaborative spirit, Brown's apparel will also be featured in the locally driven OUTPOST pop-up shop at Circle Centre mall this holiday season.
Although he admittedly has no formal arts education, Brown has been an active designer since his teenage years. For example, in seventh grade he remembers illegally downloading Adobe Photoshop.
- Graham Brown in a United State of Indiana Tee
"My approach has always been more to design a product that makes sense for myself and then find a way to communicate why it makes sense to people who don't get it right off the bat," says Brown. "So if the vertical flag with the state of Indiana on it doesn't immediately make sense, that's okay. Give me six months, and I'll build something around it that hopefully does let you relate."
This approach is similar to that of Daniel Jewett, who works as the designer with the Indy-based clothing and apparel company Vardagen. With a permanent shop located on 116th Street in Fishers, Vardagen (which means everyday in Swedish) t-shirts often reflect midwestern themes due to Jewett's approach to his design work.
He explains, "A lot of it is kind of just inspired by what I run into daily. So I'll see something that piques my interest, and then I think about how that can be communicated in apparel form." Similarly to Brown, Jewett eventually fine-tunes a simple sketch of an idea, before it's sent off to be screen-printed. "It's all pretty much sketched in pencil," Jewett says of the concept-to-t-shirt process. "Then, I just hand draw it digitally for making film off of, and then we print it. It's pretty manual and analog to an extent." In doing all of this though, he also, like Brown, makes sure that the design makes sense for both himself and for customers of Vardagen.
"A lot of time and effort goes into creating each of these pieces so that they're significant to the person who wears them," says Jewett, who does a lot of drawing on the side of Vardagen, but mostly for himself. "It's not about trends, and it's not stuck on whatever culture is obsessed with at the moment. It's supposed to be more of a timeless investment on their part. That's probably my chief goal."
With the holiday season nearing, both United State of Indiana and Vardagen will have special sales, giving shoppers an opportunity to their local clothing at a low price. In lieu of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, United State of Indiana will have a huge online sale appropriately called Hoosier Tuesday (Dec. 1), which Brown says is usually the company's biggest online selling day of the year. As for Vardagen, several sales will run from Black Friday through December, both online and at the Vardagen store in Fishers. For more information on those, shoppers can check out the company's social media accounts.
United State of Indiana and Vardagen
Sales: Vardagen will have a black Friday sale. USI will have a sale Dec. 1