Numskull Designs’ Karl Mizen on designing Christmas jumpers for Jaws, Jurassic Park and Back to the Future

Karl Mizen, Creative Director at Numskull Designs, discusses how to successfully bring brands to life as Christmas jumpers.

It’s that time of year where mince pies are back on shelves and you might be starting to scope out Christmas jumpers…

Fortunately, Numskull Designs has launched a new range of licensed Christmas knitwear, spanning brands like Jurassic Park, Jaws and Shrek.

We caught up with Karl Mizen, Creative Director at Numskull Designs, to find out more about how to successfully bring brands to life as Christmas jumpers.

Karl Mizen, Numskull Designs

Karl, it’s great to connect. To kick us off, how did you find yourself working in design? And when did licensing enter the picture?
I’ve always had a love of design and knew it was something I wanted to do from a young age. It ultimately motivated me to earn a degree in design, and I haven’t looked back. I gained a lot of experience working for a UK fashion brand which eventually led to Numskull in 2015. That’s when I began working with licensed products.

Brill. Now, as Christmas sandwiches are on shelves and the John Lewis ad is out, it feels like a good time to discuss Numskull’s collection of licensed Christmas jumpers! It’s a really fun range, so what do your first creative steps look like when designing them?
The first step of any design is looking at the graphics we have access to and working out how to translate them into a Christmas Jumper. We do have restrictions regarding manufacturing, so knowing what will or won’t knit well is critical.

Ah, so what sort of thing doesn’t knit well?
Any element that includes very small or delicate parts may look great on screen but will not necessarily translate well into a knit.

Karl Mizen, Numskull Designs

A great insight! What else can make designing a licensed Christmas jumper tricky?
A limited colour palette can make this stage challenging, so selecting the right assets and working out what we have to create from scratch can save a lot of time in the long run. Assets do vary brand-to-brand, so the design process is different for every jumper. Some are a lot easier than others!

What do you think makes for a great licensed Christmas jumper?
Iconic imagery makes a great design; we’re making jumpers for the fans of these franchises, so we like to use recognisable graphics. How we lay those graphics out is the challenging part! Over the years, we have developed a few styles that have become our go-to templates. The chosen artwork in the previous step will usually dictate which type we would select.

If a detailed asset works for the design, we can embroider the image to retain the detail. If a licence works better with icons, we will go for a 100% knitted jumper with a Fair Isle structure.

We had access to some very iconic artwork for Jurassic Park and Jaws, which were similar. As both are from Universal, we wanted them to look like they were almost part of a set. It’s usually a lot of trial and error, but the final products came out very well.

Karl Mizen, Numskull Designs

They look terrific. Can you give us a few more examples of your favourite designs from across the range?
Our Shrek jumper is one of my favourites this year and contains a lot of clever touches. The more you look at it, the more the elements of the movie jump out at you! The Gingerbread man is hidden within the orange stripe; there’s an onion around the top of the sleeve – because Ogres are like onions, remember!

Karl Mizen, Numskull Designs

The Where’s Wally design is a mixture of simple icons and traditional Christmas patterns, but it’s the use of the red and white stripes that gives a subtle nod to Wally’s actual shirt. That’s a nice touch. And of course, we’ve hidden an embroidered Wally on the back.

Karl Mizen, Numskull Designs

Of course! We’ve mentioned brands spanning Jaws to Where’s Wally… Are some brands tougher to give the ‘Christmas sweater’ treatment to than others?
We can often hit a brick wall trying to make a particular brand work. It tends to be with older properties that may not have had a lot of attention for a while. Assets can be very limited. Shaun of the Dead was probably the toughest nut to crack, but it also became one of the most popular.

Karl Mizen, Numskull Designs

I can see why! Finally, how do you fuel your creativity?
I’m a fan of the publishers we work for, and what we do. That definitely helps; it’s tough to sit through a movie without thinking about what we could create for it!

I’m also a fan of brainstorming sessions outside of the office. It’s amazing what you can come up with in the pub!

Another great advert for team trips to the pub! Perfect place to wrap things up! Huge thanks again Karl and good luck with the range.

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