For University High School, money does grow on trees.
FOR THE RECORD:
At least, it does now since a junior at the Irvine campus designed a winning T-shirt featuring a tree in a smokestack.
Lisa Xie, 16, earned $5,000 for her school's 150-member marching band as the grand prize winner in CustomInk's first New Year, New Gear contest.
Along with the money, which will go toward instrument repair and buses, the national contest's prize includes 150 T-shirts with Lisa's design for her bandmates and a $250 American Express gift card for herself.
"I think we were really excited," Lisa said, adding that the money really helps this year because the marching band has to rely on donations instead of student fees.
Her design was chosen out of more than 80 entries after it garnered 445,000 votes on Facebook — about 300,000 ahead of her nearest competitor — and the attention of CustomInk, a Virginia-based custom T-shirt company.
Design Manager Ben Carter said Lisa's design, an urban landscape with a tree coming out of a smokestack, was bold, vivid, clear and creative.
"I think the design she did was really cool — a juxtaposition between jungle and industry," he said. "It really expressed the vision."
Lisa, a former trombone player who now plays baritone, heard about the contest through a friend and decided it was worth a try.
She sketched out a design incorporating her marching band's musical theme, "The Jungle," which is based on Upton Sinclair's groundbreaking 1906 novel of the same name.
She fixed up her design in Adobe Illustrator before uploading it into CustomInk's design center. Lisa said she taught herself how to illustrate.
"I design websites and other types of apparel," she said.
Winning came in part from band members reminding each other daily to vote for her design.
"I think a lot of it had to do with a lot of participation and votes from band members," she said.
CustomInk put on the contest to cultivate high school students' creativity and show how T-shirts foster relationships, Carter said.