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Thinkhead designs

The weather is finally warming up and it is time to box away those dark, heavy, long-sleeved knits and start looking towards the t-shirt side of things.

Perhaps you want something bold and that has a statement. Maybe you want to step it up a notch and try something that causes people to stop, or even ask (Sevenly changes the world just like that!).

Graphic tees are a huge hit with the 20-somethings. With popular websites like Snorg tees and Threadless, anyone anywhere can have access to cute unicorns excreting marshmallows or popular video game references splayed over your front. But these types of t-shirts, though fun, are overall just eye candy. Breaking into the graphic tee market is Thinkhead designs, where with their graphic tees you may find something that says more than meets the eye.

At the Vancouver-based company you are always encouraged—or even required—to think outside the box, and think positive. With various designs made to stimulate those rusty brain cogs, stiffened by the doldrums of a very grey winter, founder and head thinker Peter Yau challenges both the tee wearer and tee observer to “think more and be more aware [that] there’s things more important.”

Some brain tickling images printed on one of Yau’s tee-shirts will include:

  1. A slice of cake.
  2. A viking-ish opera lady.
  3. A Starbucks cup with gears in lieu of the twin-tailed siren.

Just like his company’s namesake encourages, you got to get those gears a-grinding. Has your mental lightbulb gone off yet? Yes? Good. No? Here’s a hint: What you may recognize are familiar phrases, idioms or culture or life references.

  1. “Piece of cake.”
  2. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.
  3. “Think juice,” because you may well know that many, if not the majority, of Vancouverites cannot start functioning properly until that venti triple shot hazelnut half foam latte each morning.

There’s always more than what meets the eye. Behind each print is a message and each message encourages you to stretch your mind and stay positive. After all, it was that train of thought that lead Yau to the graphic tee market after years of say… science?

Turning on the light-switch:

Yau found himself unemployed after years of studying business, chemistry and finance (not all at once, of course). It has been a tough market all over and 2011 was filled with worries and bleak job prospects. As his website describes, his initial jump into graphic tees was a “desperate attempt to make something happen, [and he] made an impulsive decision to try selling funny t-shirts at [the Richmond Night Market].” After all, the leap from the left brain to the right is a rather large one, especially going in blind.

At first he made shirts with the various asian expressions that he and his friends would use and joke around with and translate them to english, such as the Carlos Douh made popular term “princess sickness“.

“But then my vision didn’t really come till half way through night market,” Yau said, reflecting on the positive reception from the night market.

“My initial idea was to really go down the asian route and take these asian expressions and do them in english… But I think what really got us going was when I see our costumers look at our shirts and get a good laugh out of it and when they’re thinking and when they get it. That’s what really got us going.”

Joining the funny asian phrases were positive thoughts, and encouraging gear grinding ideas. Underlying it all was spreading the positivity, and for Yau to tie into God’s work.

Grinding the gears:

For Yau to tie Thinkhead into God’s work reflects on his own journey coming to know God. “For me personally,” Peter says, “I came to know God through learning chemistry.”

At the end of his third year at UBC he was searching for a summer research scholoarship but was rejected from several schools, except from the University of Alberta, which is wierd, he said, because the program is the hardest to get into.

Being called there against all seeming odds, Peter had to leave his friends and family in B.C. for an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people, save for his high school buddy.

“I got to know God because I didn’t really know anybody there except for my high school buddy who was also in the church,” he said. “So it was him who brought me to church and got me introduced to his friends, and I started seeking and asking questions. Because of my background in chemistry I realized that it was not just like the Big Bang [happened by coincidence], and that’s how I came to know God. And then through Thinkhead that’s sort of my wish, to fully get people to think more and be more aware there’s things more important.”

Staying positive is the main thing; it’s a long road ahead and this last year has been full of learning experiences.

“Its amazing like, where you go… you get pulled somewhere,” said Yau. “It was through chemistry that … made me a geek [and] that’s where all my ideas come from. It’s like the foundations of where you’re coming from… its not just the surface, it goes in-depth.”

Getting into the crafting and local creative market was their second step after going to the night market and the local anime convention. Getting into stores and consignment is the next. Meanwhile, anyone anywhere can purchase his attire at