Copies of my poster for William Tyler's sold-out show last week at the Belcourt Theatre are now available in my online shop. This one's an 18x24" screenprint made at Kangaroo Press, one color on 100lb Orange Fizz French Paper, in a signed and numbered edition of 80.

My Levon print also back in stock!

Grab either at samsmyth.wazala.com.



 This month my design podcast The Poster Boys will pore over the history of Penguin book cover design. Every day this month on my Tumblr, I'll be posting a cover I love by one of the many great designers and art directors that contributed to the company's aesthetic history--- please follow along. 

Polish artist Romek Marber, after fleeing a Bochnia ghetto as a teenager, made his way to Britain, earned an education scholarship, then studied art at St. Martin's School of Art and the Royal College of Art before beginning his professional career designing covers of The Economist, among other editorial work.

Around 1961, after designing a few covers for Penguin Books, Marber pitched to the company's new art director Germano Facetti a winning re-brand for Penguin Books' Crime series (I am quite curious to see the other two designers' submissions). Based on the now-famous Marber Grid, these designs retained Penguin's signature brand reliability while moving a new modern aesthetic direction; Penguin's traditional Gil Sans type moved out of the way for a sans-serif Groestk face (note quite Helvetica, which came later) which, in the Crime series, was allowed to not even follow strict capitalization rules. With the branding, title, and author all situated handsomely atop the board, Marber left the remaining negative space for bold, abstract, psychological visual interpretations of the moody stories within.

Marber designed over 70 of these covers himself, and called up top British designers David Birdsall, John Sewell, Alan Fletcher, George Mayhew, Ursula Noerbel, and a dozen others to cover additional titles, none of which I've shown here as they deserve their own posts.

In a great example of Penguin's ongoing effort to brand certain authors within their overall brand, Marber hid a white cutout body on each Dorothy L. Sayers cover-- I love this.

I imagine that Penguin-- and their fans-- loved these covers as much then as we do today. No surprise, then, that Facetti wanted to try out Marber's solution in other series outside of Crime. In Fiction, where orange was Penguin's famous identifying color, Marber tried some illustrated Simenon covers, and after that it was a go. As it turned out, a two-color design looked just as great in blue or orange as it did in green.


The Marber grid stuck, first more strictly in the Pelican and Fiction series, and then only in spirit; When the formal lines of Marber's grid needed to have some flexibility, they moved, and when the Marber grid eventually went away, the Marber style and influence remained stronger than ever in Penguin's cover type and composition.

Marber's work under Facetti remains iconic as ever. Other folks have written about this period more eloquently than I have, and I encourage fans to check out Penguin by Design, and The Penguin Collector's Society's Penguin by Designers which transcribes one of Marber's recent talks (he was hired to create a new cover for Penguin's 70th birthday celebration). You'll find more designs in Postcards from Penguin, and with any luck we'll see more gallery shows devoted to Marber's great work.

P.S. You know how great a designer is when you see how many imitations crop up years later. I'm only issuing one coupon for Marber imitators, and it goes to the same guy who got my only coupon for Saul Bass (Anatomy of a Burger anyone?).... Olly Moss. It doesn't hurt that he made waves for this early on, seeming to have been the first to riff on Marber with a clever mash-up-- here of some classic video games. I remember being filled with ecstatic jealousy when I first saw these. But remember, he gets my only coupon!

Follow The Poster Boys on tumblr and subscribe on iTunes to make sure you don't miss our upcoming episode on Penguin. And until then, follow MY tumblr for daily Penguin covers all month long.



Hi! Here's a new set of three Little Heroes mini-prints inspired by a galaxy far, far away, available in limited quantities in my store now. Also available once again are the first three prints in this series, in a newer cuter 4x4" size. Three random orders of either set will include a new mystery print. Pick them up in my store while supplies last!



Artist and illustrator Geoff McFetridge knows how to pull on my heartstrings. From time to time, to commemorate his daughter's school plays, he has designed and printed these posters. I love them, and not just because I cut my poster design teeth with my own school play posters back in high school. In their composition and their imagination, they really inspire me. I would love to see them at a larger size; these images come from Geoff's Instagram feed where he has posted them without great fanfare, as side projects made for the love of it.

Visit his Tumblr and Instagram to enjoy pages upon pages of Geoff's great paintings, drawings, and designs.



Paul Rand, the topic of this month's upcoming episode of The Poster Boys, didn't design quite as many posters as he did book jackets, corporate logos, and magazine covers. But he did design some, and they caught my eye when I first started learning about graphic design. Here are my favorites; Visit The Poster Boys for more on Rand coming soon. 



This week on the brand new episode of our design podcast The Poster Boys, Brandon and I discuss the work of one of our very favorite poster artists, German designer Hans Hillmann. I first posted some of Hillmann's posters a while back (see those here), and this week we've been loading up the Poster Boys site with all of our favorite Hillmann designs (see those here). But here I wanted to post a few of Hillmann's early posters, where he enjoyed rendering his subjects in black painted illustrations on bold colorful backgrounds-- a trick for cost saving during the silkscreen process back in the early days working with film distributor Neue Filmkunst. Later, his work evolved to display a masterful mixture and back-and-forth between illustrative and photographic styles; Look for another post of more of my favorite designs this week. 



In catching up on blog updates, I realized I hadn't yet announced the start of my new design podcast with my colleague Brandon Schaefer, The Poster Boys. We're four episodes into a series of long and casual conversations about important poster artists, designers, and movements in graphic design history.  The hub for The Poster Boys is our Tumblr page, theposterboys.tumblr.com, where we attempt to solve the problem of making a visual topic aurally stimulating by showing you the images and posters we're talking about, all in one tidy and chronological spot. Check it out and follow us.

Posters by Brandon Schaefer 

As Brandon and I both design movie posters, our conversations naturally veer into this area as we discuss the challenges and rewards of working in that particular industry. Brandon and I met designing movie posters online for fun and have remained friends since as we both moved into the world of professional design. You can see his great work at seekandspeak.com.

Our first topic was an obvious choice: Saul Bass, legendary designer of movie posters, title sequences, and short films. Such a towering figure of design that we had to take two full episodes to stretch out the conversation (hear Part One here, and Part Two here). We discuss his work with logos and corporate branding, his film icons and posters, his industrial films, his artistic collaborators, and his philosophy about what makes good design.

Episode Three looked at a different kind of movie poster legend: painter Drew Struzan. Anyone of my generation knows Struzan's work from a variety of 80's and 90's adventure posters that adorned the theater halls of their childhood, including his iconic work on the Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars films (we saved Star Wars for a special "galaxy far far away" episode coming later this year).

In Episode Four, we switched gears to less of a household name, but one that we hope will be known by all budding designers: Bob Gill. Gill outlines a concise, refreshing, and potentially game-changing philosophy of design problem solving in his various books and talks, and we celebrate his rules and vocabulary in this episode. Each episode we also open up "The Flat File" to look at the posters for a particular film that were produced by different designers and artists around the world for various purposes, and here we have a particularly interesting and sobering example of the artist's eternal struggle with the marketing machine.

Which brings us to Episode Five, coming later this month, on the Polish Poster School. It's a mammoth topic, and I'm sure we'll only just scratch the surface of this influential movement in design, where Polish artists and designers of the 40's and 50's worked through the post-war social realist era and gave birth to an entirely new and daring language of film poster design. I'll be sure to post again when this episode is up, and you can click around on my blog here (or use the Categories section on the right) to find a whole slew of Polish poster posts.

To keep up with what we're doing, subscribe here on iTunes, and if you can, leave a rating and/or review to help us reach a wider audience. And keep your browser aimed at theposterboys.tumblr.com where you can listen to episodes and view all relevant and related visual materials for the episodes. We're also on Twitter at @PosterBoysShow and on Facebook as well. Have a listen, stay in touch, and let us know what you think.