David Kopet, or DJKopet as we now know him, has hit Design By Humans like a hurricane of pop culture awesomeness. He is no stranger to the “shirt a day” world, but recently joined DBH with a very popular Collective Store. David resides in Florida, USA and brings a fun, often charming sense of humor to his art. His DBH Collective store hosts a horde of pop parody favorites with minions and classic reworking of character favorites. The new kid on the block has certainly got our attention, and now we have him cornered to find out more. Let’s not waste a minute!
Q: David tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be an apparel designer please.
A: I’m an art director for a web-based company in Florida, but for nearly 10 years I’ve been designing shirts as a side gig. Up until last year I was strictly doing promotional shirts for events and companies. Then about 7 months ago I became aware of some of the daily shirt sites out there and decided to refocus that time and energy into designing my own ideas. Needless to say, this type of work has been much more fun and rewarding because I’m focusing on subject matter that I love and working at my own pace.
Q: You are pretty new to Design By Humans, how are you liking it?
A: I think the Design By Humans community is great, and there is a clear level of love and respect between its artists. This market can be very cutthroat as artists constantly try to one-up each other, but there seems to be a high level of professionalism and lot of talent on display here. Also, from a UI standpoint, I am really liking the new store interface because it gives the artist a lot of options for customization.
Q: Let’s talk about your pop culture parody style. What drew you to this style of art?
A: I am learning that designing parodies is generally safer than doing straight-up fan art, but that is only the “legal” side of things. From an artistic aspect, when you take something that is very familiar, like an element of pop culture for instance, and transform it so that it has new meaning or intent, it adds an additional level that fans seem to really respond to. I think people like it when a design makes you think a little and is not so straight forward. There is an interesting moment that occurs when someone stares at the shirt you’re wearing for a few seconds and then has the “oh, I get it” moment. It’s a conversation starter.
Q: Now let’s talk about those minions. They are very popular. How did you come up with the idea to fuse these characters with some famous movie scenes?
A: My first Minion parody design came from the idea that the Minions share a lot of similar traits with the Jawas from Star Wars, so that mash-up seemed like a natural fit. Then the other designs sort of spawned from that one. The whole idea behind these parodies is that you can take any famous movie scene, whether it’s a serious scene or a scary scene, and swap out the characters with Minion-like characters and the scene instantly becomes comedic. The characters are almost oblivious to the peril that surrounds them, and that in itself is amusing to the viewer.
Q: You can certainly render some cool art, but you seem to really shine at ideas. Putting elements together to reinvent them and make them amusing. How do you get so many cool ideas?
A: Thanks! Some of my ideas are simply ones I come up with on my own, but a lot of the concepts come from my friends and coworkers… even my wife and 4-year-old son bounce ideas off me. At my day job, I am surrounded by creative artists, and they offer no shortage of shirt ideas. It’s good because most of them are younger than I am and grew up with different pop culture influences and interests, so it gives me a wider variety to work with and lets me explore ideas I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. Without them everything would be Ninja Turtles and Star Wars!
Q: Tell us a little about your process and the tools you use to create such eye-catching art?
A: Once I have an idea, I first check to make sure it hasn’t been done yet. That is very important! Then I start with a simple pencil sketch or Photoshop mockup of the idea, followed by a lot of research and gathering of reference images to make sure I am accurate with the details. From there, depending on the look I’m going for, I’ll either hand draw it to be scanned, or move directly to drawing it in Adobe Illustrator. I do every single design in Illustrator because I feel vector-based art lends itself better to screen printing than raster-based images produced in Photoshop.
Q: Why T-shirt design? Do you create other forms of art?
A: My main career centers around designing for web, which involves a completely different thought process. Web design is all about creating a fluid user experience and driving the viewer towards desired actions. It is very logic-based. With T-shirts it’s more about creating impact and triggering an emotion. A T-shirt is more intimate, and it requires a certain level of commitment for someone to not only buy your design, but to actually go around wearing it. I figure that if I design shirts that I like and that I would wear, there’s a decent chance that others would want to wear them too.
Q: Tell us something about you that might surprise our community?
A: I’ve been using Illustrator to design shirts for more than 10 years, but I do not use a drawing tablet, which comes as a surprise to some of my fellow artists. I never got a feel for it… so just a basic mouse and keyboard setup for me.
Q: Your art has a considerable amount of pop culture reference. Are you a huge pop culture nerd? Favorite Movie/Game/TVshow/ Comic/ – Go!
A: Well, my workspace is littered with pop culture figurines, so I’d say yes.
The Godfather, Halo, Game of Thrones, Batman
Q: When you’re not creating what do you do for entertainment?
A: I like to spend my free time with my wife and son, specifically doing things like visiting the Universal and Disney theme parks or simply going to the movies. I’m also a huge Miami Heat fan, so I try to watch every game.
DJ Kopet and his son Benji
Q: Finally, If you had to choose between being a Jabba the Hutt slave or being stuffed inside a Taun-Taun to sleep at night which would you choose and why?
A: Wow, both sound so enticing! The Taun-Taun option sounds less permanent, so I’ll go with that one. Being a Jabba slave doesn’t sound like it would end well.