When gaggles of local geeks stroll down University Drive in Tempe on November 1 for this year's PBS Nerd Walk, many will be clad in cheery, gold-colored T-shirts adorned with a particularly nerdy bit of artwork. And exactly what piece of art will be featured on said shirts? Well, that's entirely up to y'all.
Earlier this month, the staff of local PBS station Eight, Arizona unveiled six finalists in its contest to design the T-shirts for the annual Nerd Walk -- and it's now up to the public to decide which one is the best.
See also: PBS Nerd Walk 2013 in Tempe (slideshow)
According to Bob Beard, the station's promotions and events coordinator, a total of 15 entries were submitted to the design contest, which were narrowed down to a half-dozen choices by the Eight, Arizona staff, employees of Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, and representatives from PBS.
Each design incorporates the distinctive PBS Nerd logo, which was designed by Beard and based on the network's iconic sigil, and depicts a variety of specifically geeky pursuits or subject matter, Beard says, ranging from geometry and technology to genetics and comic books.
"All of the finalists run the gamut of what's nerdy and what people have an affinity for," he says. "And its what the PBS Nerd idea means to these individuals, so there's a comic book theme, some science and technology themes, and some gaming stuff, too."
In fact, gaming helped inspire at least two of the finalists, and (depending on your point of view) possibly a third.
For instance, a design created by local artist Austin B. that's titled "'Eight'-bit Nerd" involves the PBS Nerd logo gobbling up dots in a pixelated maze (à la Pac-Man). Meanwhile, a designer by the name of Rose H. invoked the geeky pastime of tossing multi-sided dice when playing such tabletop role-playing games as Dungeons & Dragons for her entry, "The PBS Nerd."
And "Polyhedral Nerdery," a design that's credited to local resident Jack H., features a three-dimensional and sharp-cornered geometrical object that's not unlike a nine- or 10-sided die used with RPGs.
The other finalists in the contest include "Nerdy Circuitry" by Eric J., which utilizes the PBS Nerd Logo as a processor or microchip in the middle of circuit board, and "D-Nerd-A" by Mark H., where several logos compose the strand of a double helix of DNA.
Local artist Jen B., however, eschewed science in favor of superheroes for her design, "The Nerd Signal," which recalls a famous illumination device that would call a certain caped and cowled crusader into service.
While the T-shirts at previous Nerd Walks were designed by the Eight, Arizona staff, Beard says that they wanted to "open the design process up to the community in order to broaden things a little more."
Beard adds that he enjoyed the imagination behind each the 15 entries in the contest and was impressed by the fact that people were able to complete their submissions in the approximately six-week period between the time the contest was announced in early June to the entry deadline in mid-July.
"The turnaround was so quick, because we basically launched it at Phoenix Comicon, so they basically had a month and a half to design some stuff," he says. "And it was limited to a two-color design and it had to fit certain parameters, so people couldn't go crazy like with the Phoenix Comicon badge art contest. So there were some restrictions, but out of those restrictions, we got some really great creativity."
However, he admits there were some hard choices to make when choosing the finalists, including cutting one entry that featured a design that might have ran afoul with the creators of a particularly popular sci-fi franchise.
"There couldn't be any copyrighted material or anything, but we had a great submission that involved Doctor Who," Beard says. "It looked great, but it had the TARDIS in it and you can't use that, unfortunately, just because BBC America could say, 'No, we don't want you to use that,' and we could be in a heap of trouble.'"
If you're having trouble picking your favorite design among the six finalists, Beard is sympathetic to your dilemma.
"The circuitry and DNA ones are cool, I've always wanted to do a gaming one, so those both fit the nerdy theme," he says. "I like 'em all, so I understand if people are having a hard time choosing."
There ultimately must be a winner, and as of this writing, "Nerdy Circuitry" is currently the frontrunner with 71 likes, followed by "The Nerd Signal" with 43 likes and "The PBS Nerd" with 41 likes.
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The public can vote online through September 15, and Beard says the winner will be announced shortly thereafter.
The PBS Nerd Walk 2014 takes place on Saturday, November 1, in Tempe. More information about the event can be found on the Eight Arizona website.