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Designer of the Week: David M. Smith


Celebrate the 25th year of HOW Design Live with dazzling inspiration from the brightest minds and biggest brands—not to mention a healthy dose of camaraderie with your fellow creatives.


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Name:  David M. Smith

Name of Studio: The BlkSmith Co.

Location: San Francisco

Design school attended: The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire

How would you describe your work? Hardwearing, tangible, romantic and symbolic.

Where do you find inspiration? That seems to be a loaded question for most creatives.

But some of my obvious influences are objects of the past, folklore, myths, and most importantly mood. When I watch a Nicolas Winding Refn film, I become altered afterward, whether it’s good or bad. He creates a visual mood that makes me feel something. That’s what I strive for. Driving late at night, finishing a book, cold weather—all those feelings that produce an immeasurable mood are what get me off.

Who are some of your favorite designers or artists? In terms of designers whom I admire and can’t help but want to high-five every time they work on something: Dan Christofferson, Tyler Deeb, Curtis Jinkins, Danny Jones and Justin Pervorse are no-brainers. Outside of design there is a hand-embroiderer out of Chicago named Tinycup who is doing some impressive stuff after my own heart. Scott Laufer, a painter from LA, continues to make my jaw drop with his talent, and Cleon Peterson always has my attention. I wouldn’t consider myself a big art nerd though; actually, fictional characters/ideas probably influence me more than flesh and blood.


Before you dive into your next project, take a few minutes to appreciate all you’ve created, and then take a few more to explore your creativity. In The Imaginary World Of… by Keri Smith, learn how to push the boundaries of the existing world we live in and encourage yourself to innovate.

Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on? I tend to be pretty intimate with the work I produce for clients and fall in love with each project in their own way. That being said, it doesn’t compare to making something for yourself. The last two years I’ve slowly been scaling back client work to only gigs I really want to sink my teeth into to spend more time developing goods and products of my own.


I make these small little lapel pins and while they are only about an inch in size they have become my favorite thing I’ve gotten my hands on. They are just so tangible, and I love the idea of making these little trinkets that I have to individually package, stamp and ship to people I’ve never even met and could one day end up in someone’s garage sale in 10 years. There is a different level of ownership and intimacy when you make for yourself and others respond to it.

Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far? One recent project comes to mind. Not that it was challenging or difficult in a negative way—it ended up being the opposite. The job was a piece of stationery collateral for a magic/card company called Theory11. Jonathan (theory11) and I wanted this project to be memorable, something that felt incredible in your hands. As we were building it, we kept pushing it further and further, and each time we thought it was done we knew it could be better. Everything about it was considered, from the paper choices, mixing foil stamping with letterpress, to the overall messaging. When you get to work with a client that is just as critical and passionate as you are [about] what quality really means, then that’s when you get to test yourself—just expect to lose some sleep.


Outside of specific work, something that I’m guilty of—and I’m sure a lot of creatives out there are as well—is the challenge of not being able to fully appreciate what you put out into the world. It’s a fast-paced industry, and once you finish a project and ship it off you jump back into the trenches on that next gig. Sometimes you just want to take a step back and realize how lucky you are to even be getting your hands on this stuff.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future? There is too much that I want to do, and I’ll kill myself trying to do so, but I won’t be able to get to it all in this lifetime. All that matters is that I continue to question and learn as much as I can. Understand that I’m responsible for what I make and that I try [to] find solace in that.

What’s your best advice for designers today? Don’t have a plan B.

Additional work by David M. Smith:







For profiles on our brilliant 2015 judges, tips on winning and roundups of last year’s best work, check out our rundown below. To enter, hop on over to our RDA site.

#davidmsmith #SanFrancisco #sanfranciscodesigner #HDL #theimaginaryworldof #DesigneroftheWeek #RDA #fastpacedindustry

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