Naughty but niche: inside Turbo Island

Combining a keen eye for visual puns, illustrated one-liners, nerdy-leaning music taste and a predilection for ideas that are a bit, well, daft, Turbo Island is a T-shirt and print brand that’s built up a cult following over its eight-year life.
Turbo Island’s designs are usually simple, bold and cartoonish, belying the serious tones its usually subjects tend to be discussed in: there’s a shirt with minimalist composition pioneer Philip Glass’s name over a pane of glass, carried by two chipper builders; another with John Carpenter as an actual carpenter. Elsewhere, it plays with household name brands or nostalgia: the Debenhams logo reads ‘Debbie Harry’; the Fila wordmark is combined with that of Philadelphia to become a ‘sport cheese’.

John the Carpenter Turbo Island
John the Carpenter

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“Arthur Russell was my favourite musician at the time and you couldn’t buy Arthur Russell T-shirts, it’s a pretty niche thing,” says Chris Wright, the Bristol-based illustrator who started Turbo Island in 2014. “So I thought I’d make some, and it went down alright.”

Posted by Contributor