HAWAII AT WORK
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Garret Kojima leads an active life, which helps inspire him as a graphic designer for Crazy Shirts. Above, he stood last week under a painting where he works that was the first acrylic painting he ever did, called "Painted Pipeline."
Painting in paradise
Garret Kojima designs wearable art for Crazy Shirts
Garret Kojima is a graphic designer who found out that you can go home again.
Title: Graphic artist
Job: Develops T-shirt designs for Crazy Shirts Inc.
It was a mentor at Disney Studios
in California where he had been interning who made him realize that Hawaii is one of the greatest places in the world to live, so he dropped his plans for a career on the mainland and focused on finding work here in the islands.
After a series of jobs at other local companies, Kojima landed at Crazy Shirts Inc. in Halawa, where he works with four other artists coming up with designs for the T-shirts that the company sells through its retail outlets, catalogs and Web site.
The job also has been a learning experience for Kojima, as the art director, Eric Robison, has taught him some techniques and styles that he didn't learn about while in college.
Born and raised on Kauai, Kojima graduated from Kapaa High School, then moved to Oahu to attend the University of Hawaii, from which he earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts.
Age 37, Kojima is single and lives in Kaimuki.
How long have you been a graphic designer at Crazy Shirts?
Garret Kojima: Almost 11 years.
Q: What basically do you do as a graphic designer for Crazy Shirts?
A: Come up with ideas for shirts. Just design T-shirts, pretty much.
Q: Do you design brochures and ads for the company?
A: No, just pretty much T-shirts.
Q: How many other graphic designers are there at the company?
A: Let's see. ... five.
Q: Do they all work on T-shirts?
A: Yeah. The art department is pretty much T-shirts. We have an advertising department (that handles brochures and ads).
Q: Do the designers in the art department break down into categories, like sports, humor, music, island-style designs or whatever?
A: Actually, they give us a list of subjects, and we all work on them.
Q: How many new designs do you have to come up with a month, let's say?
A: They give us a designers' list, which has bunch of topics, and we have to come up with designs, like maybe Kauai, and like chocolate-dyed shirts. It always varies. But it's a list -- about every five weeks or so.
Q: So you guys don't come up with that list?
Q: Who does?
A: I think it's probably merchandising.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for new designs?
A: Sometimes it might be I have an idea off the top of my head, and I think it will be pretty cool. Otherwise, it comes from all kinds of things. The more you get out the more inspiration you get.
Q: Is it hard to constantly come up with new designs?
A: Sometimes it is. But sometimes, especially when you're on a roll, you have a bunch of ideas.
Q: Do they all get accepted?
A: No. Unfortunately, no.
Q: Who passes judgment?
A: We have a committee -- store managers and merchandising and the art director.
Q: How do you keep up with trends in your field?
A: Actually, I do a lot of things; activities like surfing, snowboarding, play paintball. I do a lot of things, so I see a lot of stuff. And traveling.
Q: Do they stock you pretty well with design equipment?
A: Yeah. We have lots of supplies because of our new art director (Eric Robison). He orders a lot of supplies for us.
Q: Do you do the rough drafts in pencil or pen?
A: I'll sketch in pencil first, and sometimes go over it with a pen. Depends on the look I want to get.
Q: So how long does it take to come up with a design?
A: I come up with designs within a few hours before deadline, which took maybe several weeks.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Garret Kojima last week said that getting a job at Crazy Shirts was for him "probably like winning the Hawaii lottery." Above, he took a break from creating a new design to flash a smile.
How did you learn to be a graphic designer?
A: I went to school, at UH. Studied graphic design.
Q: Did you always want to become a graphic designer or do you have some other ambition?
A: Actually, I kind of stumbled into art when I was in college.
Q: How did that happen?
A: I was just taking general classes, and you had to take an art class, and I took interest in it and realized I could do it for a living.
Q: Did you go right to Crazy Shirts after college?
A: Actually, I had an internship on the mainland, with Disney, for six months. After Disney, I had to come back for one more semester, and then I decided to just live in Hawaii.
The guy I was working under (at Disney) was telling me something pretty interesting. He was saying, "Why are you coming all the way here from paradise?" Everyone over there was saving their money to move here. So that was pretty interesting. I remember what he told me to this day.
Q: Do you remember what his name was?
A: Yeah, James Barkley.
Q: And then you got hired by Crazy Shirts?
A: Actually, I got jobs here and there. I was freelancing for other surf companies, I worked for an educational software company. Then eventually I ended up at Crazy Shirts.
Q: Among graphic designers in Hawaii, is Crazy Shirts like a desired spot to be?
A: I don't know, because graphic design is so broad, ranging from ads to brochures, and photos to T-shirts. But in the category of T-shirts, it's one of the best places to get a T-shirt job. For me it was probably like winning the Hawaii lottery.
Q: Do you have any favorite designs you came up with through the years?
A: Yeah, I have some favorite ones. My most recent one would be called "Painted Pipeline."
Q: What is that about?
A: My new art director, he taught us how to paint with acrylics, so I started using all these new techniques. Actually it's the first painting I did -- lesson No. 1.
Q: They didn't teach you how to do that in college?
A: No, actually. They taught us how to illustrate a little here and there, but mainly compositions, concept designs and stuff like that; I guess this is more in the fine arts, painting.
Q: So they treat you real well at Crazy Shirts? You have a nice lounge and all that?
A: Yeah. Other than the whippings, they treat us good.