July 3 2012 12:00 AM

Colus Havenga makes cool iconographic shirts

Colus Havenga is not just a talented designer. He's also an amazing shirt model. Here he is wearing his latest design, "hunted."
Kimberley Lostroscio
A little something I like to do for the Urban Scout Handbook is introduce you all to some of the awesomely talented designers and makers that live and create right here in San Diego. There's so many of them that I doubt I'll ever run out. If I do, though, I'll just make someone crotchet exquisitely by brute force. If it works in third-world countries, it should work here.

Previously I told you about Leslie Thompson and the adorable cards and mirrors she sells in her etsy shop, SparklePaw. This time around I'd like you to meet Colus Havenga. He designs original, hieroglyphic-looking prints on black or white T-shirts under the design name Colus. He also sells acrylic plastic jewelry and prints of his designs, and is looking to start creating toys in the near future. At the moment, he's focused on his shirts, which are cool, clean and perfect for those who are into typography and iconography. ---

A bit of backstory: Colus is originally from South Africa where he grew up watching cartoons and drawing in a notebook. He eventually went on to study CG animation and work in an animation studio. In 2006, he started his brand as a side project, creating one-color prints and simple, iconic designs that would become his trademark. After two years, he put the Colus brand on hold while he relocated to our lovely city and then relaunched in early 2011. In that time, he says, he "worked hard on evolving my style to the current form."

I asked Colus a few more questions about his work. Here's what he had to say.

How would you describe your design style?
Symbolism meets character design while working exclusively in black and white. 

Why do you hate colors that are not black or white?
(Laughs) I love all colors, but for this brand, I really want to focus on simplicity and design. There are so many things you can do with screen-printing, like adding gold foil, puffed ink and, of course, having a million color layers that makes things look very busy and complicated. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but I want a platform where I can strip all those things away and focus entirely on the design itself, where there are no printing tricks that I can hide behind. If the design is weak, you will see it immediately. I think it's a fun challenge.   

Where do you find inspiration?
Ancient symbols linked to civilizations, cults and movements fascinate me. Apart from that, music. I am a bit obsessed with dark electronica, also the "witch house" genre that has sprung up in the last few years. I love the atmosphere and tone that it brings and I tend to incorporate that feel into my designs. I have a blog where I post up music that I find inspiring: colushavenga.tumblr.com

How do your South African roots play a part in your designs?
I think deep down it has great influence on me. I feel that it's very hard for a creative entity to be noticed globally coming from Africa. Growing up, this has always driven me to try and be unique and try to stand out from the crowd creatively. This idea steered my entire approach to my style as a brand.    

If you could see anyone wear one of your shirts or jewelry designs, who would it be and why?
I've been fortunate enough to have people like Kidrobot founder Paul Budnitz and HipHop artist WEM... wearing my shirts on TV interviews and music videos. To be honest, anyone is the right answer. Every time someone buys one of my shirts and sends me a photo of them wearing it somewhere in the world, it's just the most fulfilling feeling. My style is not everyone's cup of tea, so when other people relate to my aesthetic, I'm over the moon.

To check out Colus' rad shirts, and maybe even buy one, click here.


  • The renowned Mexican black and white photographer presents an exhibition exploring the principal themes within three groups: "Bestiarium"," Fantastic Women" and "Silent Natures."
  • Presented by Pacific Arts Movement, the sixth annual mini film fest features 14 film programs from 10 countries that includes everything from docs to romantic tearjerkers. See website for full lineup and...
  • Debunk some of the stereotypes surrounding cannibalism at this new exhibition that takes a hands-on approach to the subject. Includes video games and interactive activities where patrons will have to decide...
  • The former local boy and creator of the highly influential blog, Advanced Style, will be signing and discussing his third book, Advanced Style: Older and Wiser, which features inspiring pictures and stories...
  • C.J. Chenier and Bonsoir Catin headline this annual Cajun inspired festival. Also enjoy 10,000 pounds of crawfish, dancing and cooking demonstrations. Held at Spanish Landing Park, across from the...
  • A Cinco de Mayo party featuring $2 tacos, cocktails and live music from Bostich+Fussible, Javiera Mena and Gepe
  • A spoken word showcase hosted by English instructor Karla Cordero and her City College students. There will also be a special reading from poet Mercedez Holtry, as well as an art and photography show....
  • Widely known as host of "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live and for his role in the Showtime dramedy Weeds, Kevin Nealon brings his unique humor back to the stand-up stage
  • New works from over a dozen UCSD undergraduate students. Participating artists include Charity Algarme, Richard Lin, Joseph Maas, Ignatius Nguyen, and more
  • This video art exhibition from UCSD MFA candidate Stefani Byrd features two installations that explore the themes of breath, mediation, and the nature of time. Takes place in the VAF Performance Space,...
See all events on Thursday, May 5