From Start to Finish: A Blueprint for Creating Merch


May 16, 2024
5 min read

Before a finished piece ever lands in our hands, it starts as an idea.


As a church, we believe in tapping into creativity as an avenue to express our message and move our mission forward. 

From Servant Leader t-shirts to launching full collections, we've established a blueprint for creating merch. But before a finished piece ever lands in our hands, it starts as an idea. The journey from concept to commerce is a blend of creativity and strategy — behind every finished product lies a structured process guided by clear objectives and thoughtful execution. 

Whether you’re launching a collection for the first time or looking to refine your current process, we hope this merchandise blueprint is a resource for you.


Our merch creative process follows steps in five phases:


Step 01: Mood Board

Before we dive into the design process, we start by building a mood board. This is the time to explore how the collection should look and feel, and define new ways to express our brand and messaging. We like to present a few different mood boards for approval with every collection. 



Step 02: Garments

Once the overall look of the line is approved, it’s time to source garments. Garments become the canvas for every design, so we take time in choosing the right pieces. This step allows the team to check the fit, comfort, and durability of each garment. At this stage in the process, we connect with our Finance Department to finalize the budget and determine the quantity of items for the collection. 

One strategy that has worked for us is building a sample closet. As we’ve created all kinds of merch collections over the years, we’ve kept sample garments from different vendors. This way, we don’t have to reorder the same samples over and over again. For future merch collections, we reference samples we already own and order samples we might like to try. 

Step 03: Design

After garments are sourced, we begin the design process on the selected garments. This step is entirely focused on creativity based on the approved mood board. All graphics, artwork, copy, and print finishes are explored during this step and designed to scale on the selected garment type.


Step 04: Presentation Deck

Once all designs are finished, it’s time to present for approval. We build a presentation deck for every merch line. The deck should contain all proposed pieces for the collection and as many details as possible. We specify all garment details and colors, and attach references for garments we’ve never utilized before. 

Leadership teams review the deck, either giving feedback or final approval. If any feedback is given, we make the requested adjustments to the designs, edit the deck to reflect the changes, and submit the deck again. We repeat this process until every piece is approved. 



Step 05: Production Sheet

If we haven’t already started communication with print vendors, this is when we start. The size of the collection determines how many vendors we order from. This is the time to share key details, like the hard deadline for products and links to the production sheet and Dropbox folder containing all tech packs and art.

We utilize a production sheet to be as clear and detailed as possible. The production sheet includes the following details:

  • Name of the design
  • Blank garment and garment color
  • Woven tag
  • Specialty print (puff print, embroidery, etc.)
  • Hangtag
  • Quantities per size
  • Delivery due date and delivery address
  • Images of the entire collection

Check out this production sheet template

Step 06: Tech Packs

Tech packs are the files that the vendor utilizes to pull art for your garment. To avoid any mistakes or confusion, tech packs should be clear and include:

  • Product mock
  • Art for design
  • Measurements for art
  • Color callouts (Pantone colors that have been cross-referenced with our PMS Booklet and embedded in the file through the Pantone Connect Extension)
  • Garment callouts
  • Any notes or specifications needed for blank garment prints or cut-and-sew items


Once the hard deadline, production sheet, and Dropbox link with tech packs and art have been confirmed with the vendor, everything can be sent to print.


Step 07: Final Steps

At this stage, we let our Operations Department and Photo Team know that the vendor is printing the collection. After resourcing the Operations Department with the shipment arrival date, total number of pieces, and images, they will manage the incoming shipment. At this stage, the photo team can begin ideating and planning a photoshoot of the new line. For more information on preparing for a creative shoot, check out this article


Once your collection is received, it’s time to resource your community with the new pieces! We start by taking inventory of the shipment to ensure we received our full order. After comparing quantities to the order placed with the vendor, we split the merchandise per location. 

We sell merch at all four of our Sunday locations. We consider traffic and storage space at each place when determining how many items go to each location.

After finalizing the merch split, we update our commerce platform to reflect the new collection, adding inventory, sale price, item descriptions, and product photos to Shopify. We color-code items so our Operations Coordinators know which boxes are going to which location. From there, items are stocked and ready to sell!

Get help with the hard-to-answer questions.

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