Can't Tell Me Nothin'

Can't Tell Me Nothin' - student project

My name is Justin Rodriguez and I'm a designer and illustrator in Chicago, IL. I'm in the works of starting my brand called The Elective. The name represents the decision I've chosen to take in pursuing this dream. Like an elective course in school, you choose a class you're interested in but aren't required to take. In a way, creating my own brand is like taking my own elective course because it wasn't something I necessarily had to do, but I chose to do it because I wanted to. So the philosophy of the brand follows that thinking — to follow your interests, pursue your dreams and do the things you're passionate about. I want my brand to remind others that they have a choice to do what they want in their lives. For those who will wear the brand and identify with it, I call them The Elective. My brand is my story and if I can make my dream a success, I hope it inspires others to do the same. Live electively. Choose your course.


Can't Tell Me Nothin' - image 1 - student project

I like this Roca Wear x Peanuts t-shirt by the design firm Vasava because it is using lyrics from a Jay-Z song with a visual of Snoopy. This juxtaposition does a couple of things. The lyrics are familiar, but when paired with the quirky and fun illustration of Snoopy it changes how you percieve those lyrics. It also changes how you percieve the Peanut's brand and makes it seem cooler because of the hip hop lyrics.

Can't Tell Me Nothin' - image 2 - student project

This is a poster I discovered on Tumblr or Pinterest or something. I remembered it because like in the previous example, it uses hip hop lyrics from a song I like and pairs it with a visual style that is unexpected. I feel like the way the content was visually executed reflects my personality and is a reason why I am so intrigued by this image. I am into hip hop music, but the way I dress doesn't really match up with it because I am a graphic designer with thick framed glasses and fitted pants. Get what I'm saying?

Can't Tell Me Nothin' - image 3 - student project

Aside from hip hop related t-shirts, I find myself very attracted to designs for Nike like this Pacquiao shirt by iLove Dust. Nike is one of my favorite brands because I love their cool personality, how they represent motivation and the "Just do it" mentatlity, and the masculine feel of their designs. I love the illustative type in this image.

Can't Tell Me Nothin' - image 4 - student project

Another Nike design by the company Vasava. I like the illustrative type and the look and feel. 

Can't Tell Me Nothin' - image 5 - student project

This is one of my favorite Johnny Cupcakes shirts because it is inspiring and I want my brand to inspire creativity and to move others to do what they love. I also like the playful illustrative type. I don't want all my shirts to looks super althetic/masculine like Nike's brand. I also really enjoy this kind of look as well.

Can't Tell Me Nothin' - image 6 - student project

I want to include an example of a Benny Gold t-shirt because he is one of my big inspirations and role models. He is a graphic designer who was unhappy working for others in the agency world and ended up starting his own brand to satisfy his creative needs. As you can see the shirt says, "Stay Gold" which is his motto meaning stay true to yourself.

Those are a few examples I wanted to share that I feel represent my personality and inspires my brand and what I want it to be. 


The t-shirt I want to make for this project is a concept that represents my passion to follow your dreams and do what you love despite anyone's doubts. I thought of the saying, "When pigs fly" as a visual, but wanted to pair it with the message "Can't Tell Me Nothin" using lyrics from a Kanye West song. Using these lyrics reinvents the saying giving it a fresh and cooler feel. I also love how bold the statement is.

Here was a quick sketch I did to just get the idea out:

Sketch #1 - Illustrative with character

Can't Tell Me Nothin' - image 7 - student project

Sketch #2 - Alternate version with script type and simple pig with wings

Can't Tell Me Nothin' - image 8 - student project

Sketch #3 - Revisited first sketch. Trying to figure out a composition to fit the elements within. Also trying a different styling to the character. More of a vintage cartoon look.

Can't Tell Me Nothin' - image 9 - student project

Can't Tell Me Nothin' - image 10 - student project

Can't Tell Me Nothin' - image 11 - student project


Can't Tell Me Nothin' - image 12 - student project

Can't Tell Me Nothin' - image 13 - student project

Can't Tell Me Nothin' - image 14 - student project

Can't Tell Me Nothin' - image 15 - student project

Justin Rodriguez

Creative Director + Owner of Coursewrk Supply Co.