Welcome to the Geek Shirts HQ Designer Unlocked Interview Series where we put the best independent designers under the spotlight.
This week we have a designer who has calls himself a "prototype geek" Ian Knight or his online persona Zort70.
His designs reflect his interest in popular culture and his design style does not in my opinion fit any one type and can be varied. My favorite design has got to be the Sci=Fi Swearing design. I really love the clever use of typography within the design. 

Geek Shirts HQ presents Zort 70, the latest designer to get unlocked.

When not designing Zort70 can be seen championing  what seems to be lost causes, he was part of the campaign to bring back Fringe. He once started the campaign "To Save The Clock Tower" and look how that turned out! into a trilogy of films.
He relaxes away from designing not on his PC like most "prototype geeks" but hunting down serial killers in a similar vein to Dexter. To finds the rush of adrenaline when killing a serial killer really does get him into the mood for some serious designing. 
Ian can you turn off the FBI's ten most wanted website, I want to get this interview finished before you learn about my dark secrets.

Can you start by giving some background about yourself? Where you are from? What is your background? How did you get into design?

I currently live in Staffordshire, England, but I was bought up in a village near Swindon in Wiltshire.
My background is not particularly interesting, just a prototype geek growing up at the start of the home computer age. I am currently a software tester, having had all sorts of roles in the computer industry, so all my design work is done in whatever spare moments I get.
I started designing things and releasing them to the public a couple of years ago. I got involved in blogging about the LOST Art Project that was run by Jensen Karp of Galleries 1988 to coincide with the final season of LOST. This inspired a love of the limited colour screen printing world and I designed a t-shirt for an event that was taking place for all the people I had met via the blog.
With the feedback from that, I decided to try a few other designs and everything sort of snowballed from there. I try not to limit myself to just t-shirts and have produced a few posters, but t-shirts are my main medium at the moment.

Scifi Swearing T Shirt

Available at Redbubble and CafePress

"Do you curse in Klingon, get annoyed by the Smeg Heads or simply love to know the sci-fi alternative swear words.
There is everything from Firefly to Farscape, Red Dwarf to Discworld and so, so many more.
How many Comic Book, TV Show or Cartoon substitutions for swearing can you see ?"

I think Zort is a really cool name!  Where did you get the name from?

If you are familiar with the cartoon Pinky and the Brain, which started off as part of Animaniacs, then you will know that Pinky has a kind of cute Tourette’s, one of Pinky's words used regularly is "Zort"
So that's where the name came from, I set up my own personal website many years ago and used that as the domain name. When I sign up for the latest hot internet site I use Zort70 to be consistent. The 70 is because when I signed up for one or two sites originally Zort on its own was taken and the number stuck with me.
I had a Pinky and the Brain t-shirt published on Qwertee recently and Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen (The voices of P&B) both mentioned it on Twitter and Facebook, which was quite a big deal for a fan of the show.

Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?

Mostly pop culture references influenced a lot by what I watch on TV and Films, I don't very often sit down to deliberately design something on a particular theme I usually watch or read something and an idea gets triggered.

SMASH ! T Shirt 

 Available at Redbubble

"A smashing way to write a musical, it’s a shame they didn’t write one about the big green guy."

When you create a new t shirt design, what is sort of process do you follow?

The first thing I usually do is research; I don't like creating anything when I'm not completely familiar with the subject. Then I try and search for similar ideas to make sure I'm not recreating something that already exists.
I haven't always been successful in that search as I found out that my Sci-Fi swearing design that was on the TeeBusters limited edition t-shirt site recently did have a similar idea published about a year before, but the execution was completely different so I wasn't too upset.
This may sound odd, but I can't draw for toffee using paper and pencil, however on the screen I seem to be able to. Maybe it's just the ease of correcting mistakes that I like and the ease of replicating elements without having to draw them many times over.
I usually start off by creating a rough version of the main design element I want and then add other elements in what I think is the right place, I'll then go on to refine them until what I have looks right. I usually start with a black ink outline and add colours and extra details as required.
I find that after spending a few hours creating something I always need to walk away from the computer and then come back after a short while to reassess what I'm doing, to make sure I'm not obsessing over the tiniest of detail that will never be seen on a finished design anyway.
Most of the time my idea / vision exceeds the limits needed for a good t-shirt design, and quite often my own skill level! So the end result is usually a lot simpler than I planned but quite often being simple is better.
As I mostly work in the electronic world I don’t often keep much history of my design progress as old versions tend to get altered rather than saved. This is one example of a design I did keep some history of that was on Qwertee.com.
The main element was going to be Tyrion from Game of Thrones, so I started with creating this, based on a reference image from the show.
I knew I wanted to feature the Lannister lion and that I couldn’t really have a full face version of Tyrion. I also wanted to indicate he was the King’s hand so played around with hands on the design.
I started adding some words as I had a Monty Python vibe in mind. Also the hand turned into a hand chain.
I added some paper so that the design now looks more like a medieval poster.
Added some paper texture and made the background colour the intended t-shirt colour.
I’m still not happy with the hand chain and I may revisit this one sometime soon to see if I can improve it and re-upload to Qwertee and other voting sites.

Looking at your own portfolio what is your favourite design and why?

 Usually my favourite design is the one I have just had printed and looking fresh on a crisp new t-shirt.
There are a few in different media that I am particularly proud of; one is a t-shirt that has just 5 copies produced. When the Japan earthquake and Tsunami happened I created a t-shirt that I thought might be used to raise some money for the relief fund. It was based on a song that Queen wrote called Teo Torriatte and was a very simple design. Obviously I couldn't sell it without the band's permission so I sent it via the Queen Fan Club. The design made its way to Brian May and Roger Taylor, they decided they liked it and asked for a few copies to be printed. They signed one and put it in a charity auction run by EMI, it ended up raising over £560 for the one t-shirt.
I also created a LOST stained glass window design with "The Numbers" and that got printed on a 4ft window cling that was used in the apartment that a whole bunch of LOST fans stayed in at San Diego Comic Con in 2011.
The other design that means a lot is a Shepard Fairey, Obama Hope style poster of the Actor Jonny Coyne. It was created as I was a fan of the TV show Alcatraz, and a friend over in the US got some printed and presented them to Jonny at a convention. I now have a signed poster from Jonny and actually met him myself earlier in the year. The image is now used as one of his IMDB photographs. You can find out more about this here
Finally last year the TV show Fringe was in need of help to show fan support in the quest for a fifth season. A group of fans that call themselves Fringenuity decided to create a twitter campaign to show demand for more episodes. Each week the aim was to get a twitter hash tag to trend around the world.
They asked for designers to create icons to promote the show and the weeks hash tag. Each week for 13 weeks I, and other designers, created and contributed an icon for the campaign, plus a few extra for the UK version. That really pushed me as I had to come up with an idea that fitted the tag and create the design in a couple of days each week, but I love the set of icons that were created, and you can download them as a phone background from my website

Fringe Icons

I'm very glad to say the campaign was successful and I'm looking forward to the new episodes to start in the next few weeks.

What current projects are you working on now? And can we get an exclusive peek?

 I'm not working on anything much at the moment, I have a new Game of Thrones design I've been trying to work with and something new that will involve a soufflé.
The most recent thing I have created in the last few days, and something else I have wanted to do for a long time, is a set of Fringe glyphs. I created a flower glyph icon for the Fringenuity campaign but have always wanted to create my own version of all of them. I've seen a lot of people produce designs based on the on screen glyphs, but I wanted to create a single colour vectored version that I could use in other Fringe based projects.
In fact I did quickly create a simple t-shirt design using these glyphs, my Twitter icon currently has the design and the first person that is following me and tweets me with what it means after this interview is published will win a t-shirt with it on.

Fringe Glyph Code Message With Gene Shirt

Available At Redbubble & Cafepress

Geek Shirts  HQ: That is right, Ian is giving away one of these tees to the first person who tweets him with what this design which is also on his Twitter Avatar means. The first person to tweet him the correct answer will win this tee.

Who are your favourite designers?

People from the limited edition poster world like Olly Moss, Kevin Tong, Daniel Danger, Eric Tan to name just a small few. I am in awe of their work, and it really gives me something to aim at. 

Do you try to convey any message in your designs?

No specific message, but I always like what I create to be fun and have some humour. I am a big fan of the newspaper cartoonist Giles, and always want to make people smile.

 Star Wars or Star Trek? Which do you prefer?

That's not a fair question for someone who grew up with both, but purely on the amount of material available I'll have to say Star Trek.

Lost – Apollo Bar And Grill T Shirt

 Available at Redbubble & Cafepress

"If you are LOST then this might be the place you need to go to"

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I don't see myself as a full time designer as I don't think I'll be able to make enough money to live on, but if a decent lottery win comes my way who knows.
I’d love to be in a position where people are coming to me to ask me to create designs!

What other interests and hobbies do you have when you’re not designing?

Designing is really my hobby at the moment so I don't have a lot of other spare time, but watching TV and Films and listening to good music  also takes up a fair amount of time. I play the occasional game of Badminton and Tennis (badly), and enjoy the odd real ale or two when possible.

Do you have any advice for budding designers?

Just do it, doesn't matter what you think your talents are you might surprise yourself. Start creating based on what you like and refine your style and art over a period of time, don't assume the first thing you produce will be perfect.
Use the daily t-shirt voting sites to gauge reaction to your designs, you can also get some good feedback on the forums, but be prepared for criticism, constructive or otherwise.

Mr Papaya Diner T Shirt

Available at Redbubble & CafePress

"Get some molecular gastronomy at the friendliest of diners, home of the Hot Cinnamon Breakfast Cocktail and Baconberry cupcakes.
Look out for the specials on naked Tuesdays."

Anyone you want to give a shout out to?

Everyone from the LostARGs blog site that started me on this path.

Where is the best place to find your designs and buy some of your shirts? And of course get in contact with you

The best place to find out about new stuff is to follow me on Twitter, Tumblr or Pintrest; I usually post new things on all three and also on my own website
Twitter id @Zort70
Also @Zort70Designs, but I only use that for promotion to other twitter users so only follow that if you want loads of marketing info!
I don't tend to use Facebook much but you can find me on facebook.com
T shirt store
At the moment I have a Cafepress and RedBubble store


I currently have several designs up for voting on :
Qwertee.com, although they had a clear out recently before their site revamp and removed what I think are some of my best designs !

One last question, do you having a burning desire to create a Back To The Future tee as it would make me very happy?  🙂

I would love to create one, but every idea I've ever had for BTTF has already been done, if I come up with something interesting I'll let you know.

Finally here is a design that is currently only available for voting at the following sites

IOU T Shirt

Only available for voting at



Thank you for a really great interview, you can learn more about Zort70 at the links provided and don't forget to check out his cool Cafepress and Redubble stores.