David Tshabalala on the (D)ictionary of cool

December 7, 2016



David Tshabalala is an accomplished designer, Illustrator and co-owner of Suketchi, a design collective with an online store. The leader of Instabitions describes his style modestly as “pop, fun and refreshing”. Highly influenced by the 90’s era, it is with no surprise that his work displays a vast amount of beautiful blends and balances of bright colours.

We caught up with the Johannesburg based creator to talk specifically about his most recent collection of work called “(D)ictionary of cool.”




Lethabo Ngakane: Firstly, what was the inspiration behind the (D)ictionary of cool Series and who is it for?

David Tshabalala: In the bigger scheme of things, the series is part of a body of work I want to include in my self-published book. I’m also going to do a limited range of tees with the artwork. This series is for lovers and fans of design and illustrations and it’s an ode to topics and trends that I consider “Cool”.




Lethabo Ngakane: What do you intend on achieving with this project? What’s the bigger picture?

David Tshabalala: It’s a prelude to a body of work I want to exhibit next year and it’s also a way for me to share my work with people who love consuming it. That is very important me.

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LN: How has the general feedback been so far?

DT: The feedback has been amazing. I take the “likes” and “shares” as a sign of how many people actually dig the work and with that; I can measure what people like and dislike.




LN: How do you avoid the politics of “cool”? Surely some people will contest your personal opinion and mediation of it.

DT: My work will always be a visualised personal opinion and  I welcome that it may become open to criticism. I actually haven’t avoided the politics of cool if you look at my Trump “WTF” piece. I don’t actually avoid the politics.




LN: What is the common denominator amongst all the thought leaders that you have chosen to document/celebrate in this project?


DT: The common denominator is that these are people that I consider influencers in the purest form, not dictated by the number of followers or the brands they collaborate with.  A large part of my work focuses on current events and I translate that in fun exciting way, leveraging off the power of social media.

LN: I have to say, I admire your ability to develop art and content that is relevant to our times, where do you get the time to be so responsive to what is current within pop culture?

DT: Thanks!! I make time after hours. On average; I sleep at 01:00 AM. I’ve also developed a style and technique that makes my process faster, where I finish an image within 2 hours max. I also sacrifice things like just watching series or just chilling by using the time to share my work with my audience. 40% of this audience becomes my clients, so it’s a long-term form of building up a database as well.

Words By: Lethabo Ngakane


Check out more of his work on Instagram!



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