Featured Typographers, Illustrators

Stuart Smythe

June 2015

We catch-up with the kiwi born typographer / illustrator Stuart Smythe. Stuart tells how he got his start in design, what he would have done differently and how he maintains a good work life balance. Lots of great words of wisdom, so read on and enjoy!

If you were going to start your career what would you do differently?

I have good memories of the beginning of my career. I started with a self published art / illustration zine and blog, promoting other emerging creatives. This gave me a solid head start with my passion for art, developing connections and making myself seam bigger than I was which helped me to get a jump in the industry. My first real design job was creating app graphics. After which I got picked up by the amazing National Grid Design Studio / Gallery, who trained me in all things creative. This allowed me to grow immensely as part of their small creative team and get involved in every aspect of design, digital, print, branding, art, illustration and production. I’m really grateful for the creative freedom they gave me, and the network they supplied. Looking back with all of my experience now, I would have started my career with a clearer direction of what I wanted to specialise in. The thing with design is there is so many facets, and to choose one when starting out seams nearly impossible. To focus on one style or subsection of design like hand drawn typography and typesetting or illustration would have allowed me to become a master of that one skill. The other side of this story is that now, I’m a multi faceted designer who can visualise, illustrate, typeset, build websites, art direct and think creatively across the board. I guess it takes a while to find what you really want to focus on and even then it's a moving ball.

When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started?

I really began to fall in love with design at design school, Enmore Design Centre. I always knew being a creative was my calling. Having a huge library resource, super fun projects, creative freedom and being surrounded with creative people really opened my mind. It opened the beauty that exists in every thing and every place. Learning how design is intrinsically integrated into our daily lives and goes unnoticed by most humans, allowed me to learn the visual phycology behind aesthetics and communication. I learnt to see the world in a new visual light. Paul Rand’s book Form and Chaos, Herb Lubalin's amazing typography skills and Saul bass's work helped my love affair with aesthetics and design. I thank all the masters that have paved the way.

Where do you think design is heading in the next five years and how will you adapt?

I think a large chunk of design is heading down the digital freeway. There is vast need for good design in this electronic world. Print will hang in there because you can't beat the smell of fresh pages. I think online sourcing companies like freelancer.com are ruining the industry slightly. It’s terrible that people can get a crappy startup logo done for $20, or buy a $5 logo template and customise it to their needs. Lots of people are going down this road and it's really hurting the industry. What will stand strong is solid skills in illustration and hand drawn typography, these hold valuable space in the industry, because of timeless aesthetics and skill. I will adapt by staying as analog as possible, keep developing my style, and pushing forward with personal projects. Personal work and exploration always gives back in some form.

Whats on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?

I see the next 12 months being pretty exciting, I'm working on a new brand called CLVL Apparel Co. It's an amazing place to bring all of my training, experience and skills into together. Logo design, photography, art, repeat patterns, layout, web, marketing, etc it's the ultimate place for creative freedom. A platform to develop a brand story and aesthetic with my own vision. On top of that I have a solo art show coming up with DEUS EX MACHINA later this year, and I’m going to be focusing on my freelance illustration and typography work. Personally I'm going to keep trying to be the best human I can be, loving, kind, thoughtful and compassionate.

What does a typical working day include for you right now?

Right now Im working on a TVC storyboard presentation, and my day's involve a lot of coffee, short food breaks and no sleep due to the looming deadline. But my ideal freelance day goes like this…. Wake up do some yoga, make some scrambled eggs and bacon, with coffee of course. Check the waves and go for a surf. Come back to my desk to do some emails and then any work that needs to be done, in or out of the studio. I’ll usually pick up my guitar and jam for bit during the day. I’ll make some art and put some ideas on paper. Hangout with my beautiful girl and sleep. Sometimes it goes like this, other times it doesn’t.

What do you think the design community could do more of to give back?

I think designers and artists have a responsibility to give, to share, to entertain, to beautify, to educate, to evoke thought and to share goodness. Through-out time creatives have been intellectual communicators and have commented on important social issues. In this day and age the goodness is over shadowed by ego and greed. Not much thought goes into the background of the company who is hiring you, and who or what, they or you are harming. I think designers could start saying no to ethically unstable practice, corporations that are doing more harm than good and covering it with four layers of plastic packaging. I think that creating from an ethically aware perspective can lead to a greater message of good being sent to corporations and the people. “Designers have the power of the word, and a word can say a thousand truths”. - Stuart Smythe








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