Charlie Smith Design

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Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas from all of us at Charlie Smith Design. Thank you for your continued support this year, have a great break and see you all in 2018!


Wake Up & Draw


Good drawing doesn’t have to be a work of art, just art that works’. That’s the motto of studio Scriberia, ‘the home of hardworking pictures’, founded by Dan Porter and Chris Wilson. They focus on ‘helping their clients to think, work and communicate in a visual world,’ by using drawing to convey ideas clearly. They also run a range of events and we were lucky enough to go to their ‘Wake Up and Draw’ workshop, hosted by YCN, to learn all about the power, and superpower, of drawing. 

When we arrived we were handed A4 sketch books and thick felt tips pens, so it was clear that we weren’t going to be doing delicate pencil sketches that we could rub out and start again. Even though we were all a bit shy about our (lack of) drawing talents, our only option was to just dive right in. 

First, we were asked to draw some squiggles on a page. Then, taking a different coloured pen, we had to find a way to turn the squiggles into birds. It became apparent how, armed with a little imagination, and by adding some simple beaks, wings and feet to the squiggles, they could be easily transformed into birds. Our ‘drawing brains’ had been woken up.

A whole range of clever and challenging drawing exercises followed, and here’s what we learned from them:

Keep it simple
Dan and Chris introduced us to their ‘drawing alphabet’, a series of twelve shapes consisting of squares, triangles, lines, dots and squiggles, that can be used to draw anything. They encouraged us to focus on the important visual cues needed to make a drawing recognisable.  For example, when drawing an elephant, the main ingredients you need are ears, a trunk and tusks. Yes, you can then add further details like a thin tail or big feet, but these aren’t crucial to others for identifying the drawing as an elephant.

Context is key
After simplifying our images, the next main challenge was to make our simplified images recognisable. For example, if you draw a goldfish, how do you make it clear that it isn’t just any species of fish? Answer, perhaps draw it in a gold fish bowl. This way of thinking continued throughout a range of other objects, such as how do you draw a violin that doesn’t look like any stringed instrument? And how do you draw a duck that doesn’t look like any bird? We learnt how to use just enough contextual detail to achieve our aim.

Use your superpowers!
The drawing challenges became more complex as the workshop went on, but we were regularly given tips and tricks to make us able to tackle anything. The pair taught us about the many superpowers of drawing and how we should use them. We learnt how to use drawing to visualise the invisible, by using devices such as thought bubbles, directional arrows, and ‘x-ray vision’ to depict parts of the drawing you couldn’t normally see, by zooming in to certain areas and highlighting key parts. This allowed for a more detailed drawing whilst still being clear and precise. 

Thank you very much to Scriberia and YCN for organising such an interesting and enjoyable morning. We left with tired hands, well-exercised brains (full of images and ideas), and a wider knowledge of how to use drawing to communicate effectively. We are looking forward to put this new way of thinking through drawing into practice.

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John Lewis Childrenswear


We recently redesigned the identity for John Lewis’s own brand childrenswear range. This covered everything from swing tags to backpack labels and packaging for accessories. The brief was to design a system that would work across the whole childrenswear range, without using gender stereotypical colours such as pink for girls and blue for boys. It was a fantastic project to work on; we were allowed to look at a problem from a different angle, and print some seriously bright colours, which is always something we love!

Using the flexible system we created John Lewis has since taken this idea further, stating that they intend to remove all gender specific labelling within their in-store and online childrenswear departments, as well as creating a new gender-neutral range for ages 0-2yrs.

It was interesting to see our designs used in another way. By simply placing Girls and Boys and Boys and Girls tags on different pieces of clothing. The emphasis on boys or girls first was removed and so It felt like a wholly more general phrase. The original design was intended to feel more inclusive, but seeing how a simple change in the placement of our designs can alter perceptions so greatly has been thought-provoking.

John Lewis’s fresh approach to labelling their childrenswear has turned out to be quite a divisive decision. Although largely supported by their largely supported by parents and their own customers, they have also met strong criticism from some media organisations and public figures, the overriding sentiment being that moving towards gender-neutral labelling is a sign of ‘political correctness gone mad’ and that they are alienating parents and creating confusion.

We feel that removing gender labelling from children’s clothes actually achieves quite the opposite. It is a move towards wider inclusion. John Lewis has righty pointed out that all the same floral dresses and dinosaur themed t-shirts directly geared towards girls and boys respectively are still there and remain very visible in store. The sole difference is that the swing tag will either say ‘boys and girls’ or ‘girls and boys’, and these will be placed at random on any piece of clothing. This allows children and parents to feel free to choose what ever clothes they want, without having to feel like they are going against the wishes of the retailer (and larger society). By ignoring gender rules prescribed by retailers, shoppers are subjected to unnecessary added pressure when simply buying clothes, which does more harm than good.

It has been proven that the gender stereotypes that we teach our children in developmental stages are largely set by the age of seven, and are detrimental to their wellbeing, and often inform paths taken in later life. These stereotypes teach girls that they are of less value, they should expect to achieve less than boys, and that their self worth is directly linked to their looks. They teach boys that showing emotion is a sign of weakness while violence and a ‘stiff upper lip’ is a sign of strength. These lessons are taught subtly but constantly throughout our daily lives from innumerable outlets, and that includes through the clothes that are marked out as appropriate by retailers.

There have recently been more and more cases of parents challenging retailers on the types of clothes that they market towards girls and boys, often focused on the derogatory slogans that are used on girl’s clothing, the limited colour ranges, or the exclusion of girls from themes like science and maths. Retailers have principally responded by removing the offending slogans, but little has been done to actually change the retail landscape on a larger scale. This move from John Lewis is taking things just a little bit further and we support that. Hell, we are celebrating that! Well done to John Lewis in being brave enough to take the lead, paying attention to the wider world and answering it with action.

Looking around it seems like this is part of a larger awareness that has been building up for a while, and it is likely that other high-street stores will eventually follow suit. This is one of the reasons we love working with John Lewis. They are always striving to create own brand ranges that are pushing forward rather than playing catch up, and we are glad to be a part of that.

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Charlie Smith Talk at the V&A


Charlie’s talking at the V&A this Sunday as part of the London Design Festival.

For tickets and more information, please visit:


Touch Sensitive


You may not know this but as well as being our Studio Assistant, Cairo Clarke is also a freelance curator. Cairo recently curated a week of performance and installation at Guest Projects art space.

Guest Projects is an artists residency space run by Yinka Shonibare MBE. Yinka is a British-Nigerian artist who’s work explores post-colonialism and cultural identity. Guest Projects allows artists and curators to submit proposals to use the space and take up residency as part of their yearly programme, supporting the work and emergence of artists in London who are troubled with finding affordable and better yet, free spaces to share their work.

‘Touch Sensitive’ was a week long art series inviting six female artists to explore representations of the female body through the sense of touch. Each day or night a different artist took over the space to share the newly commissioned work developed in collaboration with curator Cairo Clarke.

The series began with Act 1, a performance devised by Hannah Perry. Inspired by her recent arts residency in Las Vegas, Hannah wanted to explore hyper sexualisation of female bodies. Teaming up with dancer Vee Slinky, the performance combined a monologue written and produced by Hannah over the top of Vee’s performance.

The Harlot’s Progress by Harriet Middleton-Baker was a proposal for an opera in the form of a one day exhibition. Harriet reconstructed Hogarth’s cautionary tale in the form of an opera set in Hackney Wick, taking on a sci-fi theme where women come together in a futuristic revision where a woman’s sexuality is not to her detriment. The exhibition was split into parts including stage plans, moving image, set design and research posters. In one image we see the strange coincidence that Hackney Wick is shaped like a uterus.

Suzannah Pettigrew took over the space the following day with The Difference Between (a mirage and realness). Part performance, part video installation, the work explored relationships between our IRL and digital lives and the phasing patterns between them. Performed by dance artist Simon Donnellon, with a soundscape produced by CKtrl, the multilayered performance played with the tension between real/digital and constructions of identity.

On Friday night, Lotte Andersen created the perfect start to the weekend with Dance Therapy a workshop come dance party where the public became the performers and were captured letting loose in a series of dance portraits. Lotte wanted to capture honest uncensored bodily movement. The final images will be used in an upcoming exhibition curated by Drawing a Blank.

Performance artist Diana Chire shared Hair Manifesto, a body of work exploring the artists relationship with her black identity. A selection of three works invited you into to a personal and shared portrait about growing up as a woman of colour. One of the works Pillow Talk had the artists hair woven into the statements on pillow cases. Her hair which had previously been shaved off in a performance back in 2016. In the evening Diana played a pre recorded audio piece to an audience. Dark Matters was a conversation recorded in the space with 5 women of colour about their different experiences growing up and their relationship with their hair.

The final part of the series was a day of film screenings as selected by Girls in Film. Embrace was a series of screenings looped throughout the day that considered the fame body from a nonsexual perspective. Nikola and Cairo worked together to create a soft space to watch the films which made people consider personal and private space on screen and in real life.

For those who didn’t get a chance to visit the live space, http:// has launched as a digital archive/database for the different works to be explored further and seen in relation to one another. On the website you will find images of the performances, press releases, as well as imagery and video that inspired the development of the work.

You can read an review of the show at

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Pizza Masterclass


We were lucky enough to be one of the first to test out Radio Alice’s, Pizza Master Class, held by co-founder Matteo Aloe.

Although we have been working with Radio Alice for a while now, and you would have thought we knew all there was to know about their pizza, the masterclass took it to another level. Matteo took us through all the details of what really makes a Radio Alice pizza better than all the rest.

We had always assumed that there was one type of pizza that was better than all the rest, Italian pizza. But as it turns out, within this there are many other different types of pizza. And even seemingly small things from the way the dough is risen, to the way it is stretched out, to how it is placed into the oven can change the whole character of the pizza.

So, it wouldn’t be fair to go on about how awesome it was to hear all this stuff, without actually telling you a little about it! We started off with a sneak preview of tomorrow’s dough. Matteo brought out the beloved mother dough for us all to have a sniff at. Not as weird as it sounds, it smells like wine, or yoghurt due to the bacteria doing it’s thing inside. The types of flour and the temperature are also very important, Matteo selects grains that are grown traditionally. They take longer to grow, which is why they aren’t grown on a large scale, but the extra time means the crops can draw more nitrogen from the earth. The naturally present nitrogen is then much easier for us to digest than the more common, artificially placed nitrogen that is in most flour we eat.

Radio Alice’s dough is carefully timed so that it is at it’s peak just as service picks up. Often pizzerias chill their sourdoughs so that timing becomes less important. But this kills the bacteria, and it’s the live bacteria still present in Radio Alice pizzas which helps us digest the dough making it lighter on our stomachs. So they go about it the hard way, making sure to carefully calculate when to make the dough and how much they will be needing.

Next we were shown how to gently pat the dough into shape, and carefully stretch it over the backs of our hands. These little doughs are clearly sensitive souls and need a lot of care. This all means that less air is knocked out of the dough. No fancy twirling the doughs over our heads here (we were a little disappointed not to learn this trick, but if it means a fluffier crust we’re willing to let this slide).

The most nerve wracking part after successfully shaping the life out of our doughs, was getting the things onto the pizza paddle; a giant spade like thing with holes in. The paddle with holes is used because by not scooping up too much semolina they can get the perfect crunchy base without getting a burnt flavour.

The cooking process we found out is actually a little slower than traditional pizza, 4 minutes in a 300 degree oven, rather than 90 seconds in a 500 degree oven. This means they can get a nice even bake without scorching either the dough or the toppings. It allows them to get the tell tale sign of a good Radio Alice pizza (it stands up on its own!) Rather than flopping over like a classic Neapolitan pizza would.

What they put in the oven and what they don’t is another carefully thought out point, there are some of their ingredients that would be ruined by the 300 degree heat, things like the prosciutto for instance. Some ingredients love the heat of course, and so their fiordilatte are put in just at the right moment, Radio Alice’s pizzas are as big on creamy, melty cheese as any other!

At the end of the class we each got to enjoy the pizza’s we’d made, and a little of everyone else’s. Not as good as the real thing, but not too far off! We were sent home with a little sourdough mother of our own and the knowledge to give pizza making a go at home.

It was great to see and hear all about the little details that go into creating something that we are likely to scoff down in about 10 minutes… There is often so much more to a brand than what comes across on a day to day basis. Workshops like these are great for building a deeper understanding of a company and what they do. The tricky part is balancing informing people about all these great qualities without turning an evening into a lecture.

Hopefully by giving customers the chance to delve deeper into the brand, these workshops will strike the right balance. And, who doesn’t want to spend a couple of hours over some good pizza with interesting people and a glass of organic wine or two!

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Finding the best people for the job


At CSD we pride ourselves on working with the best collaborators, searching long and hard until we find the right people for the job. A recent branding project for a jewellery company proved just that.

We commissioned a beautiful but extremely intricate illustration from Olivia Knapp which we needed to be foiled in two colours on a range of collateral including carrier bags.

With a tight deadline, a small print run and the approaching Chinese New Year we wanted to keep production of the bags in the UK. So, armed with detailed visuals we set about approaching a variety of producers. All the bag manufacturers we found advised us that the designs were too detailed to be foiled and that we should consider a metallic pantone for the bag printing instead. 

Undeterred, we continued our search, finally finding the brilliant A14 who agreed to help with the foiling and manufacturing of the bags.

Discussing the project further we agreed to use a magnesium foil block which holds more detail than regular foil blocks and decided, given the complexity of the design, we would do a foil proof to confirm we could achieve the desired level of detail. 

The proofs were a success and showed the level of detail was possible, however, this was only at the larger bag size. We also needed to produce the Kraken at a much smaller scale to be used on the lining of silks in jewellery boxes and also business cards. For this we asked the illustrator to create a version of the Kraken with considerably less detail. This eliminated many of the finer lines which would have disappeared at the smaller scale.

Working closely with the client, illustrator and printers we perfected the second illustration so that all parties were happy. Resulting in a set of carrier bags with fully foiled illustrations which captured all the detail envisaged at the start of the project.

“Thank you so much for the incredible print/foil sample you did for us. I’ve produced a lot of things over the years and never to this quality; it really is stunning. It’s so rare that something is even better than hoped for, which this certainly was.” Client quote on receipt of the foiled proof.

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We’ve moved!


We’re currently unpacking boxes, sorting book shelves and settling into our new studio.

You can now find Charlie Smith Design at:
Studio 22, Royal Victoria Patriotic Building
John Archer Way, London SW18 3SX


Filler Podcast


This weeks Filler podcast features Charlie talking about the studio, recent projects and how she got into design. You can listen to the podcast here.


Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas from all of us at Charlie Smith Design. Thank you for your support this year, have a great break and see you in 2016!


YCN Membership


We are delighted to announce that we are now part of YCN and one of the 24 agencies who they showcase on their website. Our profile on the site includes a range of case studies which explore our work in more depth as well as client testimonials and information on us. You can find our profile here


Breakfast Briefing


Charlie recently gave a talk along side Cristina Fedi on our love for illustration and how we work with illustrators on our projects for Byron. It was a brilliant morning hosted by YCN, including an inspiring talk by Alice Bowsher about her work as an illustrator and Doris Tydeman introduced us to work by some great new illustrators.

Read YCN’s write up on the talk here


Modern Heraldry


Our work for John Lewis’s partnership with Herbert Parkinson and our identity for The Bread Factory have been featured in this lovely book on modern heraldry by Counter Print. Read more about the book here.


Sign of the Times


Recently we participated in the ‘Sign of the Times’ exhibition. An exhibition organised by NB Studio in conjunction with Spring Chicken, challenging the current ‘Elderly’ road sign.

The brief was simply to reinvent the sign, addressing the negative way that elderly people are depicted on the current sign. There were some brilliant submissions, some took a humorous way and some a more serious way. For ours we looked at what the sign actually needed to communicate to drivers. That they need to be aware of people less able to cross the road. This needn’t be directly linked to elderly people and so we removed them from our sign. Then, concentrating on the reasons why people might be slower at crossing the road (impared sight and mobility) we devised two simple and recognisable icons to represent this.

The opening of the exhibition was a great success and you can read articles from the Telegraph and YCN and see the full list of entries here


YCN Feature


YCN have writen a fantastic article on our collaboration with Alec Doherty on some new illustrations for Byron High Street Kensignton.

Read it here


We Won!


For our work with Byron and a host of amazing illustrators we were Bar winners at the YCN Professional Awards for Illustration.

You can read an article about the awards here


The Heart Index


The Heart Index, a not for profit design compendium, showcasing a collection of ‘hearts’ interpreted by various designers, including us!

For our submission we looked at the average heart rates  of different animals from the great blue whale whose heart the size of a car beats only 8 times a minute, to a rabbit whose heart races at 200 beats per minute. Each of the lines represents 60 seconds, being 60mm long.

All proceeds went to Heart Research UK.

To read more about the book, and see some of the other submissions visit the website here


Colour Book


For a book celebrating print and the art of colour matching we were asked to pick our favourite colour combinations. After much deliberation here is our favourite, or one of them at least.

For a copy of the book contact Opal.


64 GB


Very pleased to have our work featured in 64GB a book profiling 64 Great British designers considered to be at the forefront of their field.

What a compliment! We were featured because of our work for Simone Handbag Museum, which you can take a closer look at here

The book published by Victionary includes some great work giving an overview of the graphic design industry today. You can buy it here, and we thoroughly recommend you do!