From Crayons to ‘Create or Destroy’


Steve Gelenter was enthralled with art at a young age, and recalls plastering his grandmother’s walls and furniture with drawings. “She’d pull me away and couldn’t stay mad because she was actually amazed that my little drawings weren’t scribbles, but little characters with movement,” Steve describes. “The moment she sat me down with crayons and paper, it was my start.” Years later, the lure of creating art has not left him, and instead has morphed into Create or Destroy Designs, or CoDdesigns, a brand of graphic design T-shirts.

While preparing himself for college interviews, Steve diligently worked on his portfolio, and after taking a graphic design course at a nearby college, he finally decided to become a graphic designer. He settled on attending Rowan University and obtained a BFA. He also studied CAD/Print classes at Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC after graduation. Before turning to a full-time job to supplement him, he tried relying solely on making shirts. “I would literally spend 30-40 hours on one design to reap very little reward. I know the hard work has paid off and it gained me some recognition, but I needed to make sense of my hours spent on this side gig.” Steve recalls discovering the combinations of colors and designs that most people enjoy wearing while working on “Space Pioneers”, a shirt he made in tribute to the short-lived cult classic Firefly. “I based my idea off the idea that I would capture as many things as I could in a simple one color design. The fans loved it and I didn’t have to kill myself over it. I’d say it took me about six hours to complete.”

Influenced by pop culture, Steve also uses his fellow artists as inspiration and artistic muses. Some of them include UpsideDownOwl Studios, TeeKetch Illustration, Truly Epic, InkOne, TeeVsTee and Zerobriant. Steve also credits technology for easing the process of promoting and selling his designs. “It probably would have been really difficult had I not made so many artist friends on Facebook that not only help me promote, but guide me in how and when I should promote. Setting up the online shop was easy since is a very artist-friendly store.”

Steve has a wide variety of designs on a number of major T-shirt websites such as Teefury, Ript, and Redbubble, among others. When not creating new designs or selling his most recent ones, Steve is navigating the social landscape in search of new fans on Facebook, followers on Twitter, and T-shirt lovers all across the world.

About the Author

Megan BandeltMegan is a dramaturg, writer and actor based in NJ and NYC. Follow her adventures on Twitter @heyyymegz.View all posts by Megan Bandelt →