Steven Gelenter was born in a place called Hackensack, New Jersey. Hackensack. Real place. New Jersey, you might remember as being where Tony Soprano lived. I don’t think Steven is part of the New Jersey mob, though his designs are gangsta! Oh! Steven goes by CoD Designs in the t-shirt world.
Steven is quite a busy artist. In his day job, he creates pop culture designs for kids clothes and at night he creates pop culture designs for kids of all ages. He likes to dabble in different styles and learn new things. With the help of his many artist friends, he has been able to create art in a wide variety of styles. His degree in Fine Arts probably doesn’t hurt, either. Read more about Create or Destroy Designs here.
CoD Designs Interview
For a long time, I thought your brand was Call of Duty Designs but it is actually Create or Destroy Designs? How did you come up with this name?
*Laughs* I have heard that before so you’re not the first person to think it. The problem with the name is that it was too long so I had to shorten it for T-shirt submission websites when I first started out. Create or Destroy stems from the philosophy that to Create is to Destroy and vice versa. It also comes from my skateboarding background.
I see you were born in Hackensack, New Jersey in the US of A. Is this where you still live?
I live in Hawthorne, NJ now with my wife, son and 3 dogs.
What do you like most about where you live?
Everyone is so friendly and our neighbors are always eager to help us when are trying to fix something.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I used to skate and play baseball a lot but since my wife gave birth to our son I spend most of my free time with them.
You said that your day job is a sports licensed apparel. Could you tell is more about that?
Actually, I have been working at a licensed children’s apparel company for almost 2 1/2 years now. I primarily design Disney/Star Wars/Marvel/WB clothing for mass market stores like Target, Walmart, and Kohls. Not as quite as often, I get to work on different licenses like Rubik’s Cube, Pac-Man, Pink Floyd and Muhammad Ali
About the Artist
When did you start creating art?
I started as soon as I can pick up anything that colored or wrote.
Do you have a formal art education or are you self-taught?
Formal. I got my Bachelor in Fine Arts degree at Rowan University.
Apart from t-shirts, are you involved in other art/design projects?
I make posters, pins, custom toys, hats and have worked on pretty much all types of clothing.
Could you describe your typical design process from concept to completion?
My process involves watching or playing something. Once I get struck with an idea it usually starts to blend with something from my childhood. Then I pencil out the layout. I gather references, take photos of poses, and hunt down good typefaces. I usually use PhotoShop to draw the characters first. Then I ink and color everything in Adobe Illustrator. I set up my type and extras as well in Illustrator. Finally, I go back toPhotoShop where I add extra effects, textures and prepare the file for print.
About the T-Shirts
How did you first hear about daily t-shirt sites like TeeFury and RIPT?
I think I was online looking at shirt examples for work back in 2011 and saw a design pop up on my birthday. It was a Dragon Ball Z shirt that looked like the Red Bull logo.
Do you remember your first print? If so, what was it and how did you feel?
My first print was Monopoly Empire on ShirtPunch. It was the 2nd or 3rd design printed on the website in its infancy.
A birdie named rtofirefly gave me the idea for this design. Being a good friend of mine he comes to me and says why not do a Boardwalk Empire shirt and make Nucky look like Mr. Monopoly… I said I can do more than that! I transformed the boardwalk and Atlantic City skyline into the cover art for Monopoly as well.
You have had t-shirts printed by TeeFury, RIPT, and ShirtPunch. Who do you usually submit to first? Why?
I know the directors at each site pretty well by now so I usually just design specifically for 1 site and their current needs.
You sell your designs on TeePublic, RedBubble, Design by Humans, and NeatoShop.
Which performs best for you? TeePublic has been outstanding in sales and NeatoShop supplies my personal store with the best quality shirts.
Which is easiest to work with? I would say TeePublic and NeatoShop are by far the easiest. Redbubble is such a massive headache.
Of the t-shirts that you designed, which one is your favorite?
The Silver Smurfer hands down. I made this design in the backseat of a car on a MacBook Pro on the way to a wedding in Chicago. It was purchased by at the time an unknown artist who to me became my best buddy and Comic-Con booth partner! I’m talking about Italo Perocheno who goes by Italiux.
Do you wear the t-shirts that you have designed?
Yeah, I have quite a few and wear them sometimes. I like to represent my friends work more often.
Have you seen somebody wearing one of your t-shirts in the real world?
At this point, I have many times. Especially since working a vendor booth at New York Comic-Con for 2 years now. I get customers wearing my stuff who weren’t even aware of me and buy something at my table. I take pictures with every single person I spot 🙂
Photoshop or Illustrator?
About the World
What is the most exotic location you have been to?
Antigua for my honeymoon. I don’t travel much.
About Other Designers
In the Barrett Biggers interview, he mentioned that you had collaborated on some t-shirts. How did that happen?
Barrett, I met through FB artist groups like most of my artist friends. I gave him an idea one day and we worked on it together. It’s been magic since!
For you, what are the advantages and disadvantages of collaboration?
I don’t see any situation to work with someone else as a disadvantage. Every experience is a tool that can be used for growth. I collaborate to keep my work fresh and exciting. I don’t like having one particular style and I like to be able to try anything I want. Sometimes I need help with new styles and I call upon my friends.
Who would you like to see interviewed on the Shirt List next?
I would say Italiux next.
Any advice for new designers/artists?
Never compare yourself with other artists…. to me that is like comparing Apples to Oranges. We are all doing what we love and to the viewer what we make is completely subjective. Just keep doing what makes you happy.
What are you watching on TV at the moment?
Silicon Valley and The Leftovers
What’s your opinion of Netflix’s Iron Fist?
I didn’t think much of it.
What’s the last movie you saw in the cinema/movie theater?
Guardians of the Galaxy at the Marvel Premier showing in NYC.