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June 27, 2024

DM with a designer: Angus Smith

CityMag gets to know Adelaide's creatives by infiltrating their Instagram inbox. This time, our graphic designer swaps inspo and talks the power of stickers and more with Angus Smith.

  • Questions & graphic: Jayde Vandborg
  • Answers & illustrations: Angus Smith

CM: Well hello there @angvs. Here we meet, digital face to face; creative to fellow creative.

CM: You’ve remained quite a mystery to me if I’m honest, allowing us (your audience) to only know you by your work and your style. Until now! So may I ask, what is your real name?

AS: Hey! Thanks so much for reaching out, I Iove to think I’ve created some kind of mystery in anyone’s mind. My real name is Angus Smith – mind-blowing stuff, I know.

CM: Earth-shattering.

CM: Why have you chosen to remain anonymous until today?

AS: Initially when I started creating art professionally, I really admired street artists who didn’t show their identity and had a reputation that rested solely on their artwork. I wanted my work to speak for itself and possibly create some mystery around my art – which I guess worked!

AS: Times change though. It seems like people engage with artists’ work through personality more and more these days, so I figured it’s time to put a face to the name.

CM: We’re glad to be able to help usher in the IRL you. Welcome!


For other DM convos with designers, view the backcatalogue here.

CM: Are you a big social media user, for work and/or personally?

AS: Honestly not really, I’ve used Instagram for my art for about 8 years now, but between the algorithms, content trends and hustle culture, it can be pretty draining. I really just use it to post projects that strike a unique chord with me, and to send the occasional public freak out video to friends. We need to have some fun with it, right?

CM: I can’t help but agree. As soon as you start trying to deduce what’s going to perform well vs. what won’t, it can suck the fun out of it. I’d love for social media to magically grant you the engagement you’re after for whatever you feel like posting; zero thoughts required.

CM: Although, I’ve recently become a big user of TikTok as a source of creative industry inspo. I started engaging with that kind of content, and now I’ve unintentionally trained it to deliver me amazing designers and work that I’d otherwise never have discovered – it’s pretty incredible.

CM: Are there any accounts that you love on here, or that inspire you? Let’s do a trade. You first.

AS: I really dig @fuckyoubaker and his tongue in cheek/lowbrow illustrations. He’s a great example of how an independent artist can thrive doing your own thing.

CM: Oh this is fantastic. Hello TEXTURE. I’ll have to follow!

CM: Kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum, I love @hewll. AKA the mastermind artist behind Gorillaz and Tank Girl.

CM: He also plays a lot with texture and grit. I find his work instantly recognisable.

CM: What do you think?

AS: Oh I’m a huge Gorillaz fan! His work really inspired me when I was growing up; developing my own style. That goofy/gritty character artwork is exactly the stuff that excited me about illustration to begin with.

AS: The highest praise an artist can get is that their style is instantly recognisable, that’s what I strive for anyway.

CM: You’ve achieved that for sure in my eyes.


Follow @angvs on Instagram, or visit his website.

CM: I’ve noticed that you often take to Instagram to get feedback directly from your followers, posting a carousel of options and asking them “which colourway do you prefer?”. It’s the equivalent of me swivelling around in my chair and asking our journos to take a look at my work over my shoulder.

CM: Are you just curious to get opinions from strangers, or do their responses greatly weigh in on your final decisions?

AS: Yeah, I do like to see what people prefer. Sometimes I wrack my brain trying to decide which colour palette to run with; other times it’s just to confirm my own bias though!

CM: Do you ever find them to be strongly opinionated?

AS: Not as strong as some clients’ feedback, but that’s all part of the job. I prefer someone to have a strong opinion than disinterest. Art requires passion to improve, grow and evolve – I welcome all of it!

CM: That’s very true, and very wise.

CM: Speaking of, what client projects have you most recently finished up?

AS: A pretty wide variety of things actually, from a handful of t-shirt graphics and some artwork for a pizza joint, to a bit of package design. I’m currently working on a couple of skateboards for @nikfahey’s ‘Board to Death’ exhibition coming up, and a series of 8 new character driven artworks for a few venues across Australia.

AS: Busy time of year!

CM: Skateboards as an output, that’s pretty darn cool. If you had the opportunity, who would be your dream client?

CM: An I-would-drop-everything-for-this-client type deal.

AS: Oh tough question…

AS: I’d have to say the Tolkien Estate, I’m a big ol’ Lord of the Rings fan. I could create tarot decks, custom art keyboards, tapestries, a stylised cookbook – maybe curate some kind of retro 8-bit LoTR videogame.

AS: I’ll design damn LotR bin bags if they let me…

CM: And you know what? People would buy them.

CM: What’s the wildest client brief you’ve ever received?

AS: One time, someone asked for some raunchy Friends fanfiction artwork. It was a shame they stopped replying.

CM: You’re joking.

CM: I guess someone’s gotta do it (!?)

AS: If anyone reading this wants to make it happen, DM me.

CM: Let the record show that we do not endorse this.

CM: Your visual style is very specific; do you have particular references that sparked it?

AS: Growing up watching The Simpsons, playing videogames like Pokémon and skating with friends, for sure. You know, back in that pre-internet era. Before I devolved into the hyper-online creature I am today. I was really drawn to bold characters, anything that made me laugh, and skateboards with super vibrant graphics.

CM: Ah yes, the good ol’ days.

CM: I particularly love the designs you’ve done for Little Bang Brewing Company. This one to be specific:

CM: Can you give me a little bit of insight into your creative choices here?

AS: Cheers! For sure one of my favourite gigs in the past year, when the Little Bang guys hit me up, I pounced on it. I love drawing goofy animal characters and trippy hand drawn type – and I love beer, so it was really a perfect fit.

CM: All the best things rolled into one, I love it. I used to go to the occasional quiz night at Little Bang, and I recalled seeing these cans there.

CM: In fact, we’re actually here chatting right now because of other work of yours seen in the wild; a sticker. I saw one years ago, pasted above me in the stairwell of UniSA’s Kaurna building. Then last year, I saw another in the Exeter’s beer garden, which made me want reach out and pick your creative brain.

CM: What made you sticker the streets of Adelaide?

AS: Oh that’s so awesome, the stickers work!

AS: Early on I was inspired by street artists like @nychos, @banksy and @peterdrewarts. They all have awesome work and made me focus on how I could develop my unique style. Plus, stickers are WAY more fun than business cards.

CM: AGREED. It’s a very novel way of advertising yourself.

CM: It feels pretty special when you see a sticker on a pub wall with an Instagram handle, you give them a search, and find some work you really dig. It feels like you’ve been reached, and the artist has been seen as they intended. You’ve ticked their box.

AS: I totally agree, they’re like hidden easter eggs wherever you go. I’ve collabed with dozens of artists across Australia and internationally. I really love creating stickers with – he’s a real one!

CM: Your visual style feels like it was made to be in sticker form. It suits it so well!

AS: I appreciate that, I guess I’m lucky to have found my niche!

CM: While you’re in the process of illustrating, do you ever think, “this one will make a sick sticker”?

AS: Actually, not at all. Before I start any illustration – I’m identifying why I’m creating it. A lot of the purpose dictates how the piece takes shape. I’m not a doodler, I need a clear goal in mind or that dreaded creative block shows up.

CM: If that’s step one of your creative process, what’s step two?

AS: Well I really love thinking creatively, I’ll usually get stuck into ideating by creating lists of themes and directions. I like to focus on unexpected and unconventional ways of visualising a concept. The world of illustration is saturated with a lot of similar things. So being unique and trying to sprinkle some humour into a project is always super rewarding.

CM: What tool would you consider the most useful for your work?

CM: For me, it’s good ol’ pen and paper. Nothing else can quite translate the ideas in my head as quick and as clear.

AS: I joke with friends that I’m a fake artist, I haven’t used pen and paper for years – I converted to all digital a long time ago.

AS: It’s a bit wanky but the design principles are so core to how I illustrate. From building compositions to choosing colour palettes – I lean on them heavily to make art that’s fun and effective!

CM: That’s really interesting! Admittedly I don’t know many creatives who work purely digitally. Feeling behind the times…

AS: Yeah I’m definitely an outlier being fully digital, I just love technical shortcuts!

CM: What does your optimal work environment look like? E.g. do you listen to music?

CM: For me, it’s headphones on and a hot cup of tea within reach. Which is exactly how I’m situated right now.

AS: Strong coffee, my tablet, my Mac and a stack of comedy/political podcasts. Working solo can be pretty isolating, so shows like The Majority Report and people like Tim Dillon and Theo Von keep me sane. Occasionally I’ll chuck on some Outkast or MF DOOM if I’m in the mood.

CM: Alright we’re gonna do a rapid fire round, a “this or that” type deal. Are you ready?

AS: Shoot!

CM: Cool or warm tones?

AS: Warm 100%

CM: Print or digital?

AS: I like digital work that’s been printed!

CM: Solid or textured?

AS: That’s tough, I’m going with solid.

CM: Fire or ice?

AS: Ice, I get sweaty.

CM: Zombies or aliens!?

AS: There’s so much more potential with drawing aliens, but zombie themed tv/video games are too good. I’m going zombies.

CM: The Simpsons or Pokémon?

AS: The Simpsons, cmon they have Lionel Hutz…

CM: Alright and lastly…

CM: CityMag has an unofficial mascot, Pirlta the possum. He makes the occasional appearance on the grid:

CM: If you were to illustrate Pirlta in your style, can you describe how he’d look?

AS: I could describe him, but I’m an illustrator – so I thought I’d just show you instead.

CM: ANGUS!!!!!!!

AS: He needed some round frames, round frames suit Possums. Everyone knows that.

CM: He looks bloody epic. Thank you for DMing with us, we’re obsessed!

CM: We’ll keep our eyes peeled for more stickers around the CBD!

Follow @angvs on Instagram, or visit his website.

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