Optimizing Rationality T-shirts

by Gleb_Tsipursky1 min read12th Nov 201518 comments


Personal Blog

Thanks again for all the feedback on the first set of Rationality slogan t-shirts, which Intentional Insights developed as part of our  broader project of promoting rationality to a wide audience. As a reminder, the t-shirts are meant for aspiring rationalists to show their affiliation with rationality, to remind themselves and other aspiring rationalists to improve, and to spread positive memes broadly. All profits go to promoting rationality widely.


For the first set, we went with a clear and minimal style that conveyed the messages clearly and had an institutional affiliation, based on the advice Less Wrongers gave earlier. While some liked and bought these, plenty wanted something more stylish and designed. As an aspiring rationalist, I am glad to update my beliefs. So we are going back to the drawing board, and trying to design something more stylish.


Now, we are facing the limitation of working with a print on demand service. We need to go with POD as we can't afford to buy shirts and then sell them, it would cost way too much to do so. We decided on CafePress as the most popular and well-known service with the most variety of options. It does limit our ability to design things, though.


So for the next step, we got some aspiring rationalist volunteers for Intentional Insights to find a number of t-shirt designs they liked, and we will create t-shirts that use designs of that style, but with rationality slogans. I'd like to poll fellow Less Wrongers for which designs they like most among the ones found by our volunteers. I will list links below associated with numbers, and in comments, please indicate the t-shirt numbers that you liked best, so that we can make those. Also please link to other shirts you like, or make any other comments on t-shirt designs and styles.


1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17


Thanks all for collaborating on optimizing rationality t-shirts!




Personal Blog


18 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 5:47 PM
New Comment
[-][anonymous]5y 7

If you want to spread rationality to non rationalists, you don't sell them on messages that only rationalists understand.

Instead, just encourage rationalists to bait non rationalists with content pertaining to other subcultures like the Serentity Prayer (used in self help groups) or Start With The End in Mind (personal development circles). When likeminded people talk to rationalists with that chat bait we can lure them in to a better life.

Or you know, you can not spread rationality to people who actually express an interest in it than commercialising it?

Can you clarify why you believe only aspiring rationalists would understand a message like "Glad To Change My Mind" or "Please Provide An Example?" These are particularly resonant for rationalists, but strongly resonant for non-rationalists as well. I will be glad to update my beliefs if I'm confused.

The content of the shirts was terribly distracting from the style, especially 1-3.

8 and 14 seem strong, clean, legible, and a good length for a quip.

You don't have much room for visual distraction if you're trying to say something at all complicated.

As for what to put on it...

ooh, I just thought of a bumper sticker, in the style of 'I brake for X': 'I Update on Evidence'

'I Update on Evidence'

"Update" is LW jargon, for most people "updating" is what their computer does at inopportune times.

It might be a bit obscure, but it's not LW jargon!

...actually a bumper sticker that mentions something about updating one's posterior might be worthwhile X-)

Thanks for the feedback!

Form and content are not that easily separated. For instance, I like #15 (a bit), because the typography fits the message.

Instead, I'd suggest you focus on design that reinforces, ideally in a humorous way, the message of the slogan.

I feel strongly that "Please Provide an Example" ought to have the word "example" consist of hairy green ball things, in homage to Fenyman's famous explanation of how he would debug math or physics claim by turning abstract concepts into imagined examples.

"I notice I am confused" could play on a classic "magnifier" icon in the word "notice", and jumble up the letters of "cnfosued", or mess up their typography.

Oh, nice ideas, thanks!

Would appreciate an explanation from whoever downvoted the parent.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

I guess the first step is to decide what exactly do we want with each product (because going for mixed solutions will likely be suboptimal):

  • signalling to other rationalists (including oneself)
  • a short interesting message that can serve as a discussion opener
  • a standalone explanation of some rationalist technique

The lower on this list you get, the more words you need, and probably the more elegance you have to sacrifice. Because generally, in design, less is better, but in explaining rationality, the inferential distances are huge. For example, for signalling to yourself and fellow rationalists, writing "LessWrong" or just "LW" would be enough.

I generally have a goal factoring approach to this. The aim I think should be to both signal to other rationalists and oneself, while also spreading positive memes to nonrationalists that would at the same time serve as a discussion opener. The slogans are all intended to do that - "Glad To Change My Mind," "Growing Mentally Stronger," and even "Less Wrong Every Day" - all function to fulfill both goals.

While all those are useful, looking stylish happens to be important because we want to look well dressed when interacting with other people. The things you are listed are additional features.

You might also want to hire (or otherwise team up with) people who publish designs on sites like RedBubble or Threadless.

Yup, right now I'm more concerned with getting the style right for those Less Wrongers who have a certain sense of what they want, and then figure out how to achieve that outcome. One thing at a time :-)

Yeah, I don't like any of these. But I don't really wear tshirts that are about text anymore. I care a lot about my clothing being aesthetically attractive. Meaningful is also great, but the only things I wear that have text on them are ones with logos I'm very aligned with... which is basically just CFAR. And even that shirt is elegant (nice cut, nice fabric, and the logo is pretty).

I have this cool old SingInst shirt that has a gorgeous work of art (see the art) on the front and says Towards The Singularity in small letters below. That's the kind of thing I'd like to see, both on myself and on other LWers. Although more up to date, obviously :P

Fair enough about not liking any of these. And nice artwork on that shirt!

Why would anyone wear that? I never really got this special print T-shirts or whatever. Can anyone explain this phenomenon?