Small-but-mighty Smart & Wiley: Renewing the past with timeless design


Drawing inspiration from their collection of 19th and 20th century wood and metal type, borders, ornaments and printing presses, Smart & Wiley crafts fine contemporary print goods with a wink and a nod to the past.

[David Wolske & Lauren Huber] Smart & Wiley is us, David Wolske and Lauren Huber (in no particular order). We met at Indiana University in 2003 and discovered letterpress through the graphic design program there. Our name comes from a fortuitously named intersection of streets in the Indianapolis suburb where David established Subtext, his first studio. As his love of type, typography and letterpress grew into an all-consuming passion, so did David’s collection of vintage wood type, metal type and printing equipment. In the winter of 2008, upon accepting a position at the Book Arts Program, David packed up and moved the collection from the Midwest to Utah. It was no small feat, but setting up shop in Salt Lake City has been rewarding.

With its colorful past, majestic scenery and thriving arts community, Salt Lake City provides the perfect backdrop for our creative collaboration. We share space with our friend Ethan Ensign, proprietor of Scrub Oak Bindery, in the historic David Keith Building on Main Street, in the heart of downtown.

In our studio above Sam Weller’s Bookstore, we’re surrounded by antique printing presses and hundreds of fonts of wood and metal type. Nights and weekends we abandon our daytime desk jobs and actively subscribe to Paul Rand’s notion of design as play.

Printing from movable type, using techniques, equipment and materials that haven’t changed much since the days of Gutenberg, gives us a tangible connection to the origins of graphic design.

All Smart & Wiley products begin with a search through our library of type. The letters are set one at a time, upside down, left to right, and locked up on our trusty Vandercook SP-15, or the small but mighty Chandler & Price Pilot. Each color is a separate press run, with complex compositions requiring each print in the edition to pass through the press as many as 10 or more times.

We produce printed products that we would want to use, and the same care and high quality craftsmanship goes into everything we make. Every greeting card, sketchbook, journal and print we create reflects our love for letters, color, pattern and ornament … and reveals our quirky sense of humor.

In addition to bold, bright colors and compositions that often emphasize the textural qualities of wood type, we take pride in distinguishing our work through the incorporation of colored papers, an example being our popular ABC/XYZ sketchbook. A deceptively simple two-color design reinvents itself on each different shade and finish of Mohawk Via and Mohawk Superfine.

Our design philosophy — “make new with what you have” — is a variation of the aphorism “make due with what you have.” When working with a limited palette of typefaces and found imagery (in the form of vintage advertising cuts), most of which are clearly not contemporary, it can sometimes be difficult to avoid the rut of pastiche. Smart & Wiley revels in the challenge of creating fine print goods of our time, while always striving for timelessness.

David Wolske is an award-winning graphic designer, typographer and artist. He is the creative director for the Book Arts Program and Red Butte Press at the J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah. David has taught design, typography and letterpress printing at Indiana University, Herron School of Art and Design, Columbia College Chicago’s Center for Book and Paper Arts, Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum, and The University of Utah.

Lauren Huber has been designing since age 8, but didn’t go pro until her early 20s. Her passion for color, pattern and texture plays a lead role in her work. As a graduate student at Indiana University, she taught graphic design and typography while exploring the intersection of technology, communication and traditional craft. Most days, Lauren spends too much time on the computer when she would rather be playing with paper, browsing books or setting type.

Smart & Wiley is a new seller at Felt & Wire Shop.

Photos: First image, Mary Toscano.  All others, Smart & Wiley.

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Comments (7)

  1. Posted by Andrew on 09.1.10 at 12:03 pm

    Love me some Smart & Wiley! I’m happy to see everything become official this summer and can’t wait to see what keeps flowing.

  2. Posted by Paul Alessini on 09.1.10 at 1:33 pm

    S & W ( in no particular order)– with a shared love of type, typography, color and form I eagerly await more creative efforts. From the output so far, there will be much enjoyment in our future. How much fun can people have in their studio!? I think Lauren and David will let us know.

  3. Posted by Tamara on 09.1.10 at 2:46 pm

    Very, very cool and way too fun you guys! I am ever-amazed, impressed and enjoying the creative exchange and output from you two. Thanks for sharing your gifts with the rest of us!

  4. Posted by Diana on 09.2.10 at 8:31 pm

    Fabulous I must say!

  5. Posted by Celsea on 09.2.10 at 10:21 pm

    You two are just so COOL! And adorable. And smart and wiley . . . :)

  6. Posted by EMILIO on 09.3.10 at 10:57 am


  7. Posted by Marvin on 09.5.10 at 11:03 am

    Cool website! Smart & Wiley is made up of two VERY interesting people. Ambition and focus will take you guys wherever you want to go. Great name!

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