Every year, ADS gives out a free Warrior Expo t-shirt at check-in to show attendees, exhibitors, and ADS employees. Since Warrior’s inception 11 years ago, the t-shirt design has gained notoriety as a collector’s item and is highly anticipated.

We wanted to walk you through the design process of the Warrior Expo t-shirt to show the amount of time and effort ADS continues to put into making it unique. Get your shirt on July 11 & 12 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center by registering for Warrior Expo East.


By: Parker Williams, Product Content Manager

To kick things off for this year’s shirt design, I threw down some quick sketches to figure out what kind of warrior I wanted to go with this time around. Eventually, I landed on a few ideas that I wanted to explore:

  • Mounted Cavalry Soldier
  • Gladiator from Ancient Rome
  • Samurai from feudal Japan
    (Left to right: First to last sketch)

I worked up some quick comps in Photoshop to see which idea felt solid enough to move forward with. We decided to go with the one of many samurai concepts I presented, which (to the surprise of no one) I was super excited about.

Look, I’m not saying I’m obsessed with Japanese culture or anything like that, but I watch more anime than your average nerd, eat sushi twice a week, and this won’t exactly be the first samurai I’ve ever drawn—to put it lightly. So yeah, I’m stoked.

I felt the eye-level profile view was a little boring, so I sketched out a more interesting angle and played around with adding other elements—lotus flowers and smoke.

Working on this design was as difficult as it was fun. I really wanted to push the detail much further than any other ADS shirt design I’ve done in the past while also making sure the image was immediately recognizable.

Adding the smoke ran the risk of making the design too busy, but after some work I think it helped add some much-needed dimension, making the helmet look less flat.

Two BIG problems came to light at this point:

  • First, the mask looks like a smile instead of snarl…not exactly intimidating.
  • Second, the helmet tie-down looks like a noose, which is not the intention.

Those rather substantial changes required quite a bit of drawing and re-drawing. After changing the mask/facial expression, I gave our warrior the name Serious Sam, the Warrior Expo Samurai, since he started to become much less smiley, as opposed to the previous version: Silly Sam, the Smiling Samurai.

At this point, I got so into the design and details that I completely forgot to take progress screenshots. After pushing the value/shading, thickening up the lines to help with readability and adding the copy/branding, Serious Sam was off to press!

Drumroll…The final 2018 Warrior Expo t-shirt design:
The Final 2018 Warrior Expo T-shirt Design
The Artist: Parker Williams

A native of Virginia Beach, Parker Williams, Product Content Manager, has been with ADS for over 15 years in several positions, including Senior Graphic Designer and Creative Director. Parker’s artistic talent shines through his design work, logo creation, branding and managing of thousands of supplier products on the ADS website. Over the years, ADS employees and customers alike recognize his work through various catalog covers, shirt designs, and logos, such as the Mythics logo, and TEK Solutions logo.

Outside of work, Parker spends time with his corgi, Panda, works on digital illustrations/paintings, and operates an online clothing store for his personal t-shirt designs.