Jon McCarthy: A Design Contest Success Story

Jon McCarthy: A Design Contest Success Story

Grassroots California Hat Contest

Ever dreamt of having one of your designs featured on a Grassroots California hat?  This is your opportunity! Our Hat Design Contest is the perfect way for you to turn your artwork into merchandise!  Our Chicago- and Colorado-themed contest is currently underway and will remain open to submissions through October 31st. That’s how our Art Director, Jon McCarthy started his legacy with Grassroots California. Jon submitted artwork to a design contest and now continues to work professionally with Grassroots as one of our top hat designers.  From GRiZ to Method Man, Jon has designed numerous hats for other artists and brands, as well as his own designs!

“This is a great opportunity for anyone who is a designer and has an idea. Nothing is better than seeing an idea become reality and this is your opportunity to create something that may be worn by people around the world.” - Jon McCarthy, Art Director & Designer at Grassroots California

It’s easy to get excited about these opportunities, but even easier to procrastinate, forget about a deadline, or not see a piece through.  It takes real grit and perseverance to complete the hat template and hit “send” an email addressed to We wish to celebrate the artists who take this challenge head-on and are ready to celebrate the sweet success of developing an idea into a product.  

I wanted to know more about how Jon took full advantage of an opportunity like this, which ultimately opened doors to his professional career.  Here is his story.


When did you first hear of Grassroots California and the Design Contest?

I first heard of Grassroots when I was in college. I actually was just browsing the depths of Facebook, looking for new unique brands to follow for inspiration, and stumbled on Grassroots California. I began looking more into their brand and was really drawn to the inherent difference their designs had from other headwear companies. The first hat I ever purchased was the Minds Matter Fitted (2016 Version available here). Still one of my favorites to this day! A couple weeks after, I learned about the design contest and knew I had to start thinking of ideas.


What inspired your initial designs?

Grassroots California Hat TemplateI was just trying to have fun on my first designs. The interior panels of the hat reminded me of slices of pizza, so, for my first hat, I started with a pizza lining! I wanted to really make the brim and the inside of the hat loud, so when you flipped it over it was a nice surprise. I also wanted my designs to be something I would wear, so I kept the outside more simple for daily wear. I went with the theme “Classy Outside, Party Inside” and it worked!  We even pulled off the tie-dye brim work. It really brought the hat to a new level! There are still a few of the V2’s in stock!


How did your relationship continue with Grassroots after your first hat?

I knew I wanted to keep designing with Grassroots, so when I was offered the opportunity to work as a freelance artist after the contest I couldn’t pass it up. I would spend a lot of my free time just working on Grassroots projects as a freelancer while going to college and working two other jobs. It was a lot of fun and I got to work with a lot of cool brands and people.


What do you enjoy about your work and opportunities with Grassroots?

Method Man Grassroots CaliforniaI always think it is crazy when I see a random person walking around somewhere wearing something I designed! The fact that someone spent their hard-earned money on something I had a hand in creating is the best feeling. I also enjoy getting to collaborate with other brands and artists I respect and am inspired by such as Jeremy Fish, GRiZ, Method Man, and so many more.


When were you first inspired to create and design?

I grew up in a very artistic home with a lot of opportunities for me to be creative. I was always doodling or trying to make something. I enjoyed action sports like skateboarding and BMX, even though I was miserably bad at them all. Growing up, a lot of my time was spent attempting to get good at those activities with friends. Those industries, the products, and the art had a major impact on me and had me really thinking about how it could affect my life later on. That is where a majority of my inspiration comes from still to this day.


What education and experience helped prepare you for art and design?

My Mom and her family owned a portrait studio in Illinois when I was growing up and had one of the older versions of Photoshop that I was able to mess around with when she was at work. I always had a lot of fun with the program.

 I was originally going to school for Architecture and thought that was where I would end up. My high school Graphic Design class was really what made me shift directions. Since taking that class, I knew I wanted to be involved in Design, mainly focused in Apparel Design. Before I got a job at Grassroots I was working part-time at a Screen Print Shop in Illinois and really enjoyed learning more about that side of the apparel industry.  I bought a bunch of screen printing supplies and was printing clothing in my basement for myself and my friends to wear. My first clothing brands were called “Question Mark Clothing” and “Nothing Special…” and they were just an outlet for me to learn about design, apparel, and the processes behind it all. 

Thank you, Jon, for your hard work and contributions to Grassroots California!

Hat design is one of the most important parts of what we do here at Grassroots California.  Not only do each of our hats feature unique art on the front, but we also put a lot of attention into the patterns in the satin lining, the brim work, embroidery, thread colors, our iconic G-Sprout's design, and more.  We have an incredible design team who puts in a ton of work into each hat, shirt, hoodie, a pair of leggings, pins, etc.

As the deadline of this contest quickly approaches, consider putting in that extra effort to take all the amazing ideas you have and see them through.  Find your quiet spot or favorite workspace (like Phoenix, Jon's dog pictured above), sketch what you imagine and go for it. You can do it! Like Jon, this opportunity could open doors to a future of design and collaboration for each of you artists and creatives. We wish you each the best of luck and can’t wait to see what you’re working on!



Article Written by Niki Graham of Grassroots Chicago

Images Courtesy of Jon McCarthy & Grassroots California


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