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Local graphic designers have banded together to help small businesses shuttered by COVID-19 the best way they know how—creating art. Communi-T, founded earlier this month by D.C. graphic designer Matthew Snyder, makes limited-edition T-shirts featuring artwork inspired by local restaurants, coffee shops, and farms.

The concept is simple: You buy a T-shirt for $30 featuring your favorite small business. Approximately $15 of the money goes to the printing company making the T-shirts, while the other $15 goes straight to the business represented on the shirt. Snyder says he pays additional costs out-of-pocket for printing the shirts, including taxes, to ensure more money goes straight to the businesses.

Restaurants, among other businesses, closed in mid-March and are expected to remain closed for on-premise consumption until at least May 15. Since closing, few restaurants have reported receiving financial aid and most have been forced to lay off workers. 

Snyder, a longtime designer and creative director for a D.C. agency, says he felt helpless watching local businesses struggle. He was inspired to give back and looped in his graphic design friends to launch Communi-T. Some of his previous graphic design projects introduced him to D.C.’s restaurant scene, including doing work with Union Kitchen and a local cold brew company. 

Since the project kicked off earlier this month, designers have created six different tees that support restaurants like Purple Patch, Roscoe’s Pizzeria, and Mikko Nordic Fine Food. Communi-T has disbursed funds twice already and the first week of sales yielded more than $430 total. 

There’s no legwork required for the hospitality businesses. “They just need to tell me it’s OK and provide me their Venmo accounts,” Snyder says. “We’re just doing these prints based off of the persona of the business or the research we may do. I don’t want to take them away from their day-to-day.”

All he asks is that businesses promote the shirts on social media to bring in more revenue as well as to encourage other businesses to take part. 

Patrice Cleary, chef and owner of Mount Pleasant’s Purple Patch, says she is giving the money from the shirts to a pregnant server who is due in July. Purple Patch’s T-shirt features the Washington monument with white leaves growing around it. 

The project isn’t just beneficial for local businesses, but for the designers, too. “The designers love to design,” Snyder says. “They love to be a part of something bigger than themselves.” He hopes more designers and local businesses will consider taking part in the project and looks forward to getting to know more of D.C.’s restaurant and arts scene.  

How this will end or even when, Snyder doesn’t know, but says “creativity, art and compassion have to be a part of how we find our way forward.”

Communi-T isn’t the first apparel line to support the hospitality industry and its workers. A D.C. bartender started a quarantine clothing line last week.