Winning design keeps Fort Worth funky for M.D. students

TCU students participated in T-shirt design contest for inaugural class of medical students.

By Prescotte Stokes III

FORT WORTH – If you come across someone wearing a navy-blue T-shirt with a bubbly, yet funky graphic on it around Fort Worth,  that is all by design.

“As a fan of the color blue when I saw that was the color they chose I loved it,” said Kyle Schneider, a first-year medical student at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine. “Knowing a little bit about the history of Fort Worth I felt like it (the tee) connected us better.”

On November 5, the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine revealed the winning T-shirt design to its inaugural class of 60 medical students. The Fort Worth M.D. School collaborated with Texas Christian University’s College of Fine Arts on the T-shirt Design Contest in which TCU students created artwork that encapsulated the unique, innovative new medical school.

From left to right: TCU Design Instructor Jan Ballard with students Elizabeth Ireland, Sarah Inorio with her winning T-shirt design and Jennifer Kiser at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine on November 5, 2019.

Sarah Inorio, a senior at TCU majoring in graphic design, won the contest with her “Funkytown M.D.,” bubble lettering design.  She was one of four graphic design students who were finalists in the contest.

“It was really cool to see the whole class of medical students and be a part of this,” Inorio said.

Jan Ballard, an instructor of design at the TCU Department of Design, teaches the professional recognition course where upper class students were encouraged to compete in the graphic design contest.

Ballard said she wanted the design to be something that would resonate with the medical students and with the City of Fort Worth.

“I collaborated with the Fort Worth M.D. School to create a contest where T-shirts would be designed with a mantra,” Ballard said. “The mantra that was selected was Funkytown M.D.”

If that name sounds familiar, that’s because it is entrenched in popular American culture. Fort Worth was first dubbed “Funkytown Fort Worth” by R&B and hip-hop performers in the 1980s, according to Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy in a 2017 column. The moniker “sustained the city’s rich legacy of blues and jazz, which crosses racial lines from saxophonists Ornette Coleman and “King Curtis” Ousley to writer-producer T Bone Burnett or singer Delbert McClinton,” Kennedy wrote.

When the popular disco/funk group Lipps Inc. released the dance club song “Funkytown” in 1980, R&B deejays started calling the city “Funky Fort Worth.”

“My mom who lives in Montana was a big fan of the song,” Schneider said. “When I showed her the shirt, her first thought actually was the song.”

In 2000, when the rallying cry of “Keep Austin Weird” was born, the quick T-shirt response was  “Keep Fort Worth Funky,” according to Kennedy’s column.

Inorio was aware of the history and it only took her a few sketches in her iPad to come up with the final design:  “When I saw, ‘Funkytown M.D.,’ I thought you can make it fun. You can make it bubbly and funky. Knowing it’s on T-shirts and people are going to be wearing them it’s pretty cool.”

The reference to jazz/blues/R&B/hip-hop strikes a chord with medical students who are embarking in a curriculum that blends innovation, improvisation, communication and technique.

“I am definitely excited because we all had been awaiting the T-shirts,” said Samantha Evans, a first-year medical student. “It’s also so comfortable so it’s something I’ll have in my wardrobe on a weekly basis.”

TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine students with TCU Graphic Design Major Sarah Inorio (center).

Prescotte Stokes III is the Integrated Content and Marketing Manager at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine. You can reach him at