Mark Addison Smith


  • You Look Like The Right Type: selections from 2010


I’m primarily interested in how a narrative can un­fold (or linger in the imagination) with just a few words and a loaded illustration. I have been collecting fragments of overheard conversations and turning them into a daily illustration archive since 2008. By themselves, each illustration tells a story—I get most inspired when one line of dialogue contains a who, a what, and a where. When grouped together, the black and white illustrations start having grayscale conversations of pure happenstance between individuals, ex­changed words, (sometimes) awkward moments, and passing days—much like a metaphor for life and all its specific universalities. These composi­tions, to me, become as much a daily record of my life as a measure of the lives of others.

Each day, with a pen and a tiny note­­book tucked in my back pocket, I overhear and write down direct quotes of dialogue spoken around me. At the end of the day, I turn my collected words into a stack of text-based illustrations using the quotes as an entry-point for concept.

The illustrations are always 7″ x 11″ in size, drawn on bristol board, and generated with black India ink pens. I’ve illustrated as many as 10 a day, but I always generate at least one (I have well over 2,000 illustrations in my on-going library); I haven’t missed a day since November 2008. I post one a day on my blog: YouLookLikeTheRightType.blogspot.com. Twenty-four hours later, the cycle begins again.

The idea for this ongoing series came about in 2008 during an evening walk to the train. A girl approached me in the Chicago Loop and asked me for a cigarette. I don’t smoke. She replied, “Ahh, you look like the right type,” and ran off. I ran home and illustrated her words, and have been drawing dialogue ever since.


Mark Addison Smith is an artist, graphic designer, and educator currently living and working in Chicago. His design specialization is typographic storytelling, allowing illustrative text to convey a visual narrative through printed matter, artist’s books, and site installations. He works as a freelance designer with various Chi­cago design firms, including ideo Chicago, and also illustrates a weekly column rooted in (you guessed it) overheard conversations for the Chicago-centric web publication, Gapers Block. He received his mfa in Visual Communication at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in the department of Art, Media, and Design at DePaul University. He loves Saul Bass and kittens.


India ink pen on bristol board