Ads for Ahwahnee Resort

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"These Ahwahnee ads were probably among Smith’s first projects once he established his own design office in San Francisco. His previous employer, McCann Erickson, had likely passed the job on, finding it too small. Educated at Pratt Institute, in New York, and Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena, Smith was known for employing a classic Swiss style of bold compositions with sans serif typography and photographic, as opposed to illustrated, imagery. He was among a handful of designers who introduced an uncompromising modern aesthetic to a city slow to embrace it. In less than a decade, however, San Francisco’s influence on American graphic design would be profound, for both its acceptance and rejection of the modern idiom. Recognized for his experimentation with photography, according to his obituary in the Los Angeles Times, Smith probably produced the images in these ads. The high contrast aesthetic stunningly forecasts a dominant motif in San Francisco graphics of the 1960s, what design historian Lorraine Wild calls “hippie modernism”—the stylistic “baby” born when the societal idealism of postwar European modernism, which aimed to develop a universal visual language, met the societal idealism of the West Coast counterculture and its desire to quickly publicize events with at-hand production methods that called for imagery without gray tones, only black and white. Smith later moved to Los Angeles to work for Saul Bass."—Louise Sandhaus, Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots: California and Graphic Design, 1936-1986, pp. 86