Hamish Smyth is a graphic designer, originally from South Australia. He was fortunate to win the NewStar portfolio award through the AGIdeas conference in Melbourne, and began his career as an intern at Pentagram New York under Michael Bierut (the internship was the prize!). He ended up spending six years at Pentagram, leaving in 2016 as an Associate Partner after working on many projects, including the global rebranding of Mastercard.
In 2014, Hamish and fellow Pentagram alumni, Jesse Reed also founded the publishing imprint Standards Manual, with the goal of archiving forgotten parts of design history. They have since published 9 books and sold hundreds of thousands of copies across the globe. In 2017 Hamish co-founded Order with Reed. They have used the knowledge taught by their mentor Michael Bierut to work on projects for Kickstarter, MoMA, SpaceX, and more.
In 2020, Hamish co-founded Standards, a digital tool for designers to build and host brand guidelines. Over 19,000 people have registered for early access to the Beta, which is scheduled to begin in late 2021. Standards is co-founded by Order with Shore, a digital agency based in Seattle. With Standards, Hamish is using his experience in branding, guidelines, and design history to rethink how designers deliver guidelines, free designers from PDFs, and move the format forward into the 21st century. Hamish is an avid still film photographer (a littleknown prerequisite for being a graphic designer!). He is married to Alex Daly, founder of Daly, a public relations firm. They live happily in Brooklyn NY.
Looking forward, are you optimistic about the role of graphic design in business and society?
Absolutely. On the business side, good design is now table stakes for any company starting new, and the old ones who aren’t taking design seriously, well they won’t be companies for much longer. On a societal and cultural level, design has always played a large role in conveying ideas visually and typographically, for good or evil. I can only see design’s role becoming more intertwined in our lives, and it is our responsibility to ensure it we use our skills for good. We are quite literally the conduit for much of the world’s information. We must design responsibly, fairly, and with positive intent.
Have the challenges of the past two years changed the way you approach your work?
In a strange way — and this comes from a place of privilege — it almost felt too easy to slip into a remote way of working. The tools already existed, and we jumped right in. I do miss the immediacy of giving and receiving feedback next to a person. We’ll get back there eventually, but due to technology, the way we work will change forever. I think all of us have questioned our purpose in the last 18 months, and as an optimist I think good things will come from this tragic period we have endured. It’s amazing how resilient and quick to change humans can be, but also shocking how quickly we can forget.