Smashing Magazine 2nd Anniversary poster

Smashing Magazine by James White

I was approached by Vitaly and Sven, the guys behind the mighty Smashing Magazine, to design the poster celebrating the design blog’s second anniversary. I was thrilled to be presented with the opportunity to give something back to the guys who offer constant inspiration to countless designers all over the world.

They are holding a contest to give away 8 hand-signed posters, all you have to do is comment on the 2nd anniversary post.

When I started to jam out some ideas for the Smashing Magazine anniversary poster, I already knew I wanted to do something with a stylized ‘2’ in an effort to keep the concept simple. Before stepping to the computer I always rough things out in sketch form to get a general idea of where I want the elements to land. So, I’ll spend hours on my couch surrounded by art books, video games and CDs as I doodle.

Smashing Magazine by James White

I’ve been researching a lot of retro toy designs recently, and while doodling this little guy popped into my head:

Smashing Magazine by James White

I came across this Fisher Price Little People toy when I was around 8 years old and remember thinking “Hey, his eyebrow and nose looks like a 2.” Not only was the concept personally nostalgic but it also represented part of a face, specifically an eye. Given that Smashing Magazine prides itself on offering visual stimulae to artists worldwide, the concept seemed appropriate. I couldn’t find the actual toy on the web so I recreated it here as closely as I could.

After settling on a basic sketch I moved to Illustrator where I made many color and composition studies as I tried to find an appropriate palette and layout for the poster. I make many of these for every work I do and always keep them on file for future use or reference. Here are a few examples of working with the 2 concept:

Smashing Magazine by James White

Once I have a good idea of the direction the poster is heading in terms of color and composition, I will them move to Photoshop where I bring all of my vector pieces, effects and textures together and build the poster. I opted for a more close-up version of the ‘2’ in an attempt to make the eye and nose more prominent, but not overkill. After things snap into place I’ll add any lighting, color hotspots, flares, highlights, shadows, patterns, etc until I feel things reach a suitable balance.

So with that, happy anniversary Smashing Magazine!


  1. Great poster, congrats! I love the retro feeling, the patterns, the light effect… all! Hope to get lucky in that contest :)

  2. Joanne

    Very Nice! I love the texture in the lower left-hand corner and how it contrasts the polished top half. Great Job!

  3. James, it’s a fantastic graphic, seriously well done on this one.

    Automatically springing to mind are the designs of both BB2 and our very own TV2 here in New Zealand. Many people have played with the 2 form and there are some interesting, silly and great resolutions to these efforts.

    Cheers, and what a lucky bugger to whoever wins one of those.

    Old New Zealand idents

  4. That’s really awesome! Great work!

  5. Eli

    It came out absolutely beautiful :) Keep up the great work.

  6. Great job! Looks great!

  7. Awesome work as always. I hope to one day be as good a designer as you. your work is very inspirational.

    This post contains some nice insight into your workflow, and helps me see how you approach a design. I find that very useful and hope to see more of it in the future.

    I also entered the contest. Good luck to everyone, but especially me. ;)

  8. Really nice job you did there.

  9. I’m first time here and I really like your blog. And this poster. I’ll be back ;)

  10. Love the poster. It’s awesome to see your train of thought. Good job man…
    BTW – what font is that in the lower right?

  11. Hi there :)

    Awesome poster design, nothign better than some good old school retro!

    Just wanted to know from a technical point of view, how you would go about creating those small lines inside the 2, its always bugged me how people do it and ive never been able to figure it out!

    Your help would be much appreciated :)

    Nice work


  12. james (Author)

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. I very much appreciate the kind words, and good luck to everyone who entered the draw.

    Paul, thanks a lot for the links. Those BB2 logos are awesome.

    Steve, the typeface is called Bookman Swash. It was used quite a lot in 1970s advertising. The version on my poster is slightly altered from the original.

    Gareth, the lines on the 2 were created in Illustrator using the Offset Path option, and then pasted into Photoshop to add the 3D effect.

  13. trocks

    in the four sketches of the “2”s

    what graph paper and markers are you using?

  14. nice lines over the “2” !
    love the light beams too ^^
    great work

  15. Great work! Very nice design, composition, and Photoshopping.

  16. james (Author)

    Trocks, the sketches here were dressed up in Photoshop for presentation, plus my scanner is currently down. But if you would like to know about my tools, I’m a very standard 0.5mm blueline pencil guy with a Pentel Pocket Brush pen.

  17. Great poster, Cool concept, nice to see the process you go through before getting to the computer, sometimes a struggle for designers but the outcome pays off, keep up the good work :o)

  18. Hey again James.

    Actually I gotta repeat what loswl says. It’s really nice seeing a designer not too precious to show the work in progress. I love to see how people resolve design issues and cheers for the typeface name.

  19. wow! amazing poster. love the retro look.

  20. Bart

    Where did you print the poster?

  21. Awe inpiring stuff. The poster looks great. Don’t be affraid to get a liitle deeper into your process. ;)

  22. NIce job man! SOLID!!!

  23. Brady

    Great work; I’ve been following your web posted work accidentally for quite sometime… As in, I see something that catches my eye, I click on it, and somehow, often enough, it’s your work.
    Again, great job… Really.

  24. james (Author)

    Thanks so much, everyone.

    Bart, I had the posters printed at a local company here in Halifax called Precision Digital. Their work is spot-on every time.

  25. blackshaolinkungfu

    Magnificent work! I love it!
    Give us tutorial about this work sometime …

  26. Really nice! im jealous :P

  27. Can you tell us please what fonts did you used for “Two Smashing Years” !

  28. I just found out a few minutes ago that I am one of the eight winners of your fantastic Smashing Anniversary poster. I can’t wait to get it framed and hung up.

  29. james (Author)

    Kategra, the font is Bookman Swash. I only have the standard version so I added all of the flourishes by hand.

    Kyle, wicked! Congratulations on the win.

  30. did you created the typefonts as well?

  31. Nice one :)
    The poster looks awesome. thanks for sharing

  32. Ashton

    Great work James!It’s a mix of grungy, retro motown feel. It’s an excellent inspiration for your fellow designers.

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