Master Sign Writing: David Smith

Curator: Caleb Bennett
date: May 13, 2013
Categories: Typography

If you’re anything like me, and you come across a good music video or something of the like, you immediately hit the replay button as soon as it’s over. Except, they’re usually about five minutes long (give or take). This beautifully captured short film by Danny Cooke featuring the enviable sign writing work of David (Dave) Smith is nearly 18 minutes long. I watched it three times in a row.


In addition to sign writer, Smith calls himself a glass guilder, graphics artist and reverse glass artist—each of which is on full display in the film. Cooke does a brilliant job capturing the essence of each process and technique Smith employs. The video gets really good for me at the five-minute mark when you begin to see the stages of hand-drawn sketches. It only goes up from there.

A hand-rendered sketch by David Smith for John Mayer's album "Born and Raised"

Whatever your musical tastes might be, you must tip your hat to John Mayer for having a taste for the ephemera that led him to find Dave Smith for this project. Not that he discovered him, but many of us may have never seen Smith's talents otherwise. The album cover design, however, isn’t so much what I envy. It’s the passion and dedication to this nearly forgotten style of design. In a separate documentary Cooke made about him a couple years ago which is also worth a watch (or three), Smith said—like so many claim—that he believes he has the best job in the world. Except I actually believe him.


I, along with many designers, have a strong appreciation and even affection for craft. There are few people left in the world creating authentic, original designs of this nature and Smith hopes to preserve the art form by passing on to others the skill sets that were passed down to him. It’s refreshing to sense a genuine passion that gives him the patience and determination to create each one of his remarkable pieces.


I hope you’ll allow yourself at least one view. Even just for the end credits.
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