Hamish Smyth

The designer and publisher on rediscovering urban history, the beauty of emoji, and being down and out in New York.


I grew up in rural South Australia, in a town called Murray Bridge, near Adelaide. A small town—12,000 people when I was growing up—but it seemed big to me. A classic country town. Played footy; cricket in the summer.

I wanted to be an astronaut and a fighter pilot. There was an astronaut from Adelaide, Andy Thomas, who had moved to Houston, become an American citizen, and was one of the space shuttle crew. I saw that as a kid and thought, “I wanna do that.” But I realized that I was terrible at physics and math. I just hated it.

Luckily, at the same time, I realized I loved photography. My dad was a big amateur photographer and we had a dark room growing up and all that. That side of me was sort of hidden.

I also had an amazing graphic design class, with an amazing teacher. At the end of high school he told me, “You should go and study in Melbourne, at RMIT, it’s the best school.” So I did that—I just applied to one place and got in.


I remember feeling sick because I was like shit, all this pressure is on us now.