Depression By Design: A look into the CustomInk design factories

Fiona Zhao, Copy Editor

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The Voice takes a look at one of the most coveted and highest-paying jobs held by Irvington alumni—the “Inker”, a design reviewer at Custom Ink, Abrina Un. Custom Ink, a site where users can design and eventually buy their own custom apparel, may or may not have produced many ugly articles of clothing, to the frustration of its team of design reviewers.

When I entered Abrina Un’s cramped cubicle in Custom Ink’s headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, I nearly tripped over the sea of messily strewn tissue paper covering the expanse of the uneven carpet. It took me a while to identify Un, nearly fully camouflaged behind stacks of precariously placed plastic takeout boxes.

Unsure of how to approach her, I awkwardly cleared my throat, and she abruptly turned around, revealing a crumb-covered hoodie. She looked at me pleadingly, as if her life depended on this interview. Her gaze centered on the logo of my jacket, and she sighed.

Un groaned, rubbing her red eyes in the process.

“I have so much work to do,” Un said. “So many designs to review, and they’re just—no! Here. Look at this.” She frantically gestured to her computer screen. “This is supposed to be from Ohlone University’s Yearbook. Yearbook! Think of that!”

She tutted in disapproval at my blank face and said, “When I looked at it, I just knew that something was wrong, so I clicked into the AI file, and they placed the logo exactly 1 pixel off from the center. Inconceivable!”

The design submitted by Ohlone University’s Yearbook is one of the more bearable ones—that is, despite the fact that the logo was far too pixelated, in an “egregious” neon orange that was potentially chosen to go against a dark navy blue jacket, and in an “unbearably wrong aspect ratio.”

“That’s not even the worst part,” Un said. “Adobe offers so many fonts, and they chose Papyrus. That’s worse than Comic Sans.”

As a professional graphic designer, Un aspired to help create aesthetic custom T-shirts, but seeing the designs that people send in, she really just can’t do it anymore.