Jim Donoahue, one of Canada’s best known trademark designers, says, “I’ve known Neville for more than twenty years. In the early days he was one of the few designers outside the city whose work Toronto designers knew and respected. I still have two framed posters of his: the wonderful one he did for the Black Cat Café and another for the National Aviation Museum. If you put them side by side they are very different types of posters—which shows his versatility—and I would have been happy to have done either one.” Theo Dimson, who like Smith and Donoahue is a Fellow of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada, adds “I’ve always been impressed by Smith’s work, especially the posters. They are very innovative and elegant, with an interesting use of colour. Although Neville is a terrific guy, he is one of the few designers I know who is completely uncompromising in the quality of his work. He never gives in to trends. In fact, I feel safe to say that he is one of the most important graphic designers in Canada.” — Applied Arts Magazine
Born in Shawville, Quebec in 1939, Neville grew up in Ottawa; the son of a career soldier with a rich heritage of Irish, French and Métis culture. He pursued an early love of art after high school, working with designer and painter Gerald Trottier creating exhibits for the Federal Department of Agriculture. Trottier not only inspired Smith with his design knowledge, he helped the young man put his priorities in order. Recalls Smith, “after nine months he said he would fire me if I didn’t go to art school.” Thus motivated, he moved to Toronto to attend the Ontario College of Art, taking two years off half way through to work as an animator for Crawley Films in Ottawa.
Inspired by the preparations underway for Canada’s Centennial celebration and Expo ’6’, Neville Smith joined the Canadian Government Exhibition Commission after graduating in 1964. His first assignment was to refine the maple leaf design for the new Canadian flag. Within three months Smith was promoted to the International Design section. From 1965 to 1969 his show designs included the Frankfurt Fur Fair in Germany, the International Metal Show in Chicago and the International Water Fair in Poland. He was also involved in the numerous graphic assignments including work for the Canadian embassies in London and Oslo.
In 1968 Neville Smith was asked by the Chief Designer Frank Mayrs to work on the visual identity package for the Canadian Participation Expo ’70, in Osaka, Japan. This was a great honour; he considered Frank Mayrs to be the best design director he had ever had the privilege to work with. A national competition followed for the pavilion’s exhibit design. Smith was selected to the team and worked in Ottawa and Japan. Soon after he returned to Canada Neville focused on the private sector and formed Some Group Studio in 1971. The Group included four associates all interested in going back to their roots in print design. They received national recognition for their work in advertising, corporate identity and graphics in the 1970’s. Neville Smith Graphic Design was established in 1975 allowing Neville to work as the principal designer, providing professional services in all areas of visual communication.
A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts, Neville Smith was nominated as a Fellow of the GDC in 1983. He was one of the founding members of the GDC Ottawa Chapter and served as Chairman of the Selection Committee between 1975 and 1985.
He has served as a judge for numerous award shows including the Advertising and Design Club of Canada and the Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communications (CAPIC). At present Neville is a member of the Advisory Committee on Design at Algonquin College in Ottawa.
Neville Smith has received over two hundred national and international awards for design and art direction including, gold awards from the Toronto Art Director’s Club, the Advertising and Design Club of Canada, the Award of Distinction for Corporate and Visual Identity from Design Canada, awards of Distinctive Merit from the Art Director’s Club of New York, awards of Excellence from the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada, Best of 80’s Show, gold awards from the Advertising and Sales Association of Ottawa, gold and silver awards from both Studio and Applied Arts magazines. Recognized worldwide his work has appeared in various books on design including publications in Canada, USA, England, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Japan and Australia.
Studio Magazine, Canada, published a seven page article about Neville and his work in 1988 and included one of his illustrations on the cover.
In 1989 Graphis Press Corp., Switzerland published Graphis Corporate Identity 1. The book included Neville Smith’s work for the National Aviation Museum. Forty-five corporate identity programs from around the world were selected for their merit, with commentaries by Saul Bass and Eugene J. Grossman.
The Supon Design Group, Washington, D.C., in 1992 published successful logos worldwide featuring 23 acclaimed logo designers, including eight pages on Neville Smith and his work.
A special article entitled ‘Beautiful Simplicity’ appeared in the September 1995 issue of Applied Arts magazine. The five page story also displayed some of his more recent work.
In 1999 the Royal Ontario Museum selected work produced in Canada between 1949 and 1999 from the Advertising and Design Club of Canada’s 50th Anniversary show, for their permanent collection. Three of Neville’s works were included in the Museum’s Contemporary Culture Collection.
For forty years Neville Smith has provided professional experience in all areas of graphic design and communication. In recent years his focus has been on book design, stamp design and illustration.