You Look Like the Right Type

In a daily ritual since 2008, exact-dialogue fragments of overheard conversations are made into illustrated quotes

Mark Addison Smith
Associate Professor
DePaul University

On November 23, 2008, in the Chicago downtown loop, while hurrying to catch the subway, a young woman approached Mark Addison Smith and asked for a cigarette. “I don’t smoke,” he said. She snapped her fingers and replied: “Ahhh, you look like the right type.” Suddenly and strangely inspired by the exchange, he raced home and illustrated their brief conversation with expressive hand lettering, and a daily artistic practice was born.

In a daily ritual since 2008, Smith redraws exact-dialogue fragments of overheard conversations as 7×11-inch India ink works-on-paper, combining verbatim, hand-drawn text with visual and tonal embellishment; he often draws more than one quote per day. For gallery installations and artist’s books, Smith edits the single drawings into larger, theme-based conversations between people who have never met or exchanged words. When amassed together as modular narratives, the black and white drawings—voiced by strangers and collectively titled You Look Like The Right Type—share grayscale conversations across time, place, age, and gender (the who, what, when, where, why, and how of documentary storytelling). And the audience, as interlocutor, triangulates the conversation by reading that which was once spoken (a tenet of grammatology) and making their own non-linear, grayscale associations between text, image, and completion of what’s left unsaid.

November 2023 marked the fifteenth anniversary of Mark Addison Smith’s You Look Like The Right Type archive, now containing over 6,000 works-on-paper; he has never missed a day of eavesdropping and drawing other people’s words since he first began this series.

Select exhibitions:

In 2023, McMaster Gallery, within the School of Visual Art and Design at the University of South Carolina, celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of You Look Like The Right Type with an exhibition of Smith’s drawings, artist’s books, and sketchbooks. The exhibition spotlighted drawings Smith generated during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, in which he held remote conversations with strangers across the world and translated their words into drawn, visual essays of how they were grappling with the pandemic.

In 2019, The Bakery Atlanta, co-presented by Atlanta’s Eyedrum Gallery, celebrated the tenth anniversary of You Look Like The Right Type with an exhibition of 365 drawings.

Other solo exhibitions include Chicago’s Center on Halsted Gallery, where Smith showcased the original 24 drawings from his Years Yet Yesterday drawing series, sourced in language spoken by gay rights activist Larry Kramer, to commemorate World AIDS Day.

Group exhibitions include the Center for Book Arts in New York, Co-Prosperity in Chicago, Hegyvidék Gallery in Budapest, the Kinsey Institute in Bloomington, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art in New York, and Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA).

Mark Addison Smith’s type specimens and broadsides are included in the permanent collections at Emory University, the Kinsey Institute, Leslie-Lohman, Ringling College of Art and Design, and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Select interviews with Mark Addison Smith about this work:

Steven Heller, “The Daily Heller: Drawing to Manage Stress,” PRINT, July 1, 2022.

Debbie Millman, “Illustrating Sound,” The Mic, produced by NYCxDesign, episode one, October 30, 2020. 

Mark S. King, “This gay artist draws what he (secretly) hears you say on the streets,” Queerty, September 5, 2020.

Steven Heller, “The Daily Heller: Typographic Eavesdropping,” PRINT, May 5, 2020.

Kathryn Weinstein, “Sharing Loudly,” Designer, University & College Designers Association, Volume 24, Number 2, Summer 2017.

This project was the 2023 Design Incubation Educators Awards winner recipient in the category of Scholarship: Creative Works.

Mark Addison Smith is a queer artist whose design specialization is typographic storytelling: allowing illustrative text to convey a visual narrative through printed matter, artist books, and site installations. With his on-going, text-based archive, You Look Like The Right Type, he has been drawing snippets of overheard conversations every single day since 2008 and exhibiting the works as larger-scale conversations between strangers exchanging words on topics never spoken. You Look Like the Right Type has been featured in All Things Letters, Deadline, Design Sponge, Goodtype, Hyperallergic, I Love Typography, PRINT Magazine’s The Daily Heller, Queerty, MAGMA Brand Design’s Slanted Magazine, and in conversation with Debbie Millman for the very first episode of NYCxDesign’s podcast, The Mic. His artist’s books are housed in over 80 permanent collections and library archives, including Brooklyn Museum Artists’ Books Collection, Center for Book Arts, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, Getty Research Institute, Guggenheim Museum Library and Archives, Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection, Library of Congress, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Thomas J. Watson Library, MoMA Franklin Furnace, Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California, Smithsonian American Art and National Portrait Gallery Library Artists’ Book Collection, Walker Art Center Archives and Library, and the Whitney Museum of American Art Frances Mulhall Achilles Library. Smith holds a Master of Fine Arts in Visual Communication Design from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).

Making History: Teaching Design History Methods in Studio

Learning outcomes emphasized gathering information, examining sources, interpreting evidence, connecting design to social contexts, and crafting historical narratives in text and image

Aggie Toppins
Associate Professor
Washington University in St. Louis

In Spring 2023, Toppins introduced a new course called “Making History” in which students had the opportunity to learn historical research methods and use them in their studio work. At the time, WashU had only one design history course, an elective survey of graphic design, which one student in my class had taken. An ungraded quiz on the first day of class showed that most students had no sense of what was (or was not) considered canonical. None were familiar with prevailing themes in graphic design history. Unlike a survey course, which tasks students with absorbing a broad scope of historical content, this course focused on making inquiries into the past. Learning outcomes emphasized gathering information, examining sources, interpreting evidence, connecting design to social contexts, and crafting historical narratives in text and image. 

Toppins’ teaching methods were hands-on and high-impact. Having secured a $2500 Sam Fox School teaching grant, she was able to bring in a number of guest speakers and take students on field trips. Students visited local archives, museums, and historical sites. They listened to scholars and designers with diverse backgrounds discuss their research methods and outcomes. They got to physically handle historical objects from cuneiform tablets to mid-century paste-ups. Students also read historical texts, critical essays, and watched documentaries to prepare for in-class discussions and debates. After each of these activities, students responded to prompts in a provided sketchbook. The sketchbook served as the “field notes” component of the course, in which students recorded their ongoing reflections and took notes on research. In most cases, the sketchbook helped students locate the topic for their final, self-guided project. Throughout the semester, leading up to this project, students engaged in four workshops that instilled specific methods. Each workshop resulted in a short outcome, like a zine or broadside, that kept students connecting the dots between making historical inquiries and making graphic design. The final project asked students to pursue a topic of their own interest. Students became primary investigators, forming their own questions and mapping out their own research approaches.

Student work from this class was strong in terms of formal design and critical positioning. Students could articulate their goals, match appropriate research methods to their questions, and translate their findings into criteria for design projects. They also became familiar with graphic design history’s prevailing themes by thinking critically about historiography and methodology.  Another important outcome of this course is that it gave Toppins the chance to test exercises and content for her forthcoming book, Thinking Through Graphic Design History. Some student work from this class will be published in the book, which will reach market in 2025.

This project was the 2023 Design Incubation Educators Awards winner recipient in the category of Teaching.

Aggie Toppins is an Associate Professor of Communication Design and Chair of Design at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. She combines studio practice and critical writing to explore the social life of graphics. Aggie’s creative work has been internationally exhibited and garnered national design awards including the Type Director’s Club ‘Certificate of Typographic Excellence,’ and the SECAC Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design award. Her recent writing has been published by Design and Culture, Design Issues, Diseña, Slanted, Eye, and AIGA Eye on Design. She has written essays for Briar Levit’s book Baseline Shift: Untold Stories of Women in Graphic Design History and Ali Place’s recent volume, Feminist Designer. Her first book Thinking Through Graphic Design History will be published by Bloomsbury in 2025.

Co-Creating Compassion: Engaging the Alzheimer’s Community in Social Robotics for Caregiving

A robot for individuals grappling with Alzheimer’s disease that offers companionship, support, and aid in various caregiving tasks

Kimberly Mitchell
Assistant Professor
University of Tennessee-Knoxville

By 2025, the number of people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s + dementia is projected to reach 7.2 million — an 11% increase from those affected right now. By 2060, this number is projected to reach 13.8 million. This deeply affects our caregivers – In 2021, family members and friends provided more than 271 billion dollars of unpaid care to people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. While technology will never replace human touch and person-centered care–technology can enhance caregiving–especially with routine tasks like organizing appointments, and medication reminders. 

Mitchell Mitchell is a graphic designer with a background in gerontology who is co-leading a multi-year, multidisciplinary project aimed at developing a social robot for Alzheimer’s caregiving by harnessing the collective expertise of undergraduate and graduate students spanning diverse fields such as engineering, computer science, architecture, and graphic design. Together, they are collaborating with the local Alzheimer’s community to conceptualize and co-design a friendly robot. This innovative project aims to develop a socially interactive robot tailored to assist in easing the challenges of dementia caregiving.

Mitchell’s design expertise bridges the gap between technical functionalities and user experience. She ensures that the technology developed aligns with the needs and expectations of the Alzheimer’s community. Mitchell’s additional expertise in gerontology enables a deeper understanding of the needs, behaviors, and limitations of Alzheimer’s patients. This insight informs the design process, ensuring that the robot’s interface, visuals, and interactions are tailored to the specific needs of the end-users. 

Originating from a collaborative endeavor between faculty members in biomedical engineering and design, Mitchell assumed the role of project oversight. Her responsibilities encompassed the development and leadership of two Institutional Review Board (IRB) studies. These studies incorporate user testing methodologies and participatory focus groups to glean invaluable insights directly from the Alzheimer’s community.

By leveraging this diverse pool of talent and engaging directly with the end-users, Mitchell and her team aspire to create a socially adept robot. This robot aims to offer companionship, support, and aid in various caregiving tasks for individuals grappling with Alzheimer’s disease. The inclusive and collaborative nature of this project underscores its commitment to addressing the real needs of those affected by dementia, empowering them through innovative technological solutions.

By involving the local Alzheimer’s community in all aspects of the project, the team ensures that the robot’s development is grounded in real-world scenarios and feedback. This participatory approach fosters empathy-driven design, making the technology more relevant and impactful for end-users.

The project’s outcomes, such as award-winning publications, peer-reviewed funding, undergraduate research awards, and acceptance in the local Alzheimer community showcase the effectiveness of integrating a gerontology-informed graphic design approach within a multidisciplinary context. 

The unique perspective Mitchell brings as a graphic designer with a gerontology background enriches the project by emphasizing user-centered design, ensuring that the social robot developed for Alzheimer’s caregiving is not just technically proficient but also deeply empathetic and effective in meeting the complex needs of the patients and caregivers.

Direct Outcomes

Mitchell, her students, and her research partner, Dr. Xiaopeng Zhao, have co-authored three peer-reviewed international publications – two of which she was the lead author on, and both received awards for “best paper” and “honorary mention.” Additionally, the project has had exposure nationally and internationally, where she has presented different facets of the project at 4 national and 2 international conferences. Finally, one of her undergraduate graphic design student researchers received first place at the University of Tennessee’s “Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement” (EuRECA) competition.

  1. Mitchell Mitchell, Robert Bray, Ella Hosse, Matt Rightsell, Luke Macdougall, Xiaopeng Zhao, “Co-designing a friendly robot to ease dementia,” a peer-reviewed paper accepted in Advances in the Human Side of Service Engineering book, July 2023, Best Paper Award (Honorary Mention), 2023
  2. Mitchell Mitchell, Luke Macdougall, John Hooten,  Robert Bray, Xiaopeng Zhao, “Designing a multi-disciplinary class to create a social robot for Alzheimer’s,” a peer-reviewed paper accepted in Advances in the Human Side of Service Engineering book, pp 33-40, July 2022, *Best Paper Award (2nd place)
  3. Robert Bray., Luke MacDougall, Cody Blankenship, Mitchell Mitchell, Fei Yuan., Silvia Cerel-Suhl, & Xiaopeng Zhao, (2023, February). “Development and assessment of a friendly robot to ease dementia,” a peer-reviewed paper in Computer Science vol 13818. Springer, Cham (pp. 381-391).
  1. “Using design to empower students to be a force of change: designing interdisciplinary experiences to address the needs of ad and dementia patients,” Gerontological Society of America, Indianapolis, Indiana, November 2022, A presentation showing how an interdisciplinary class was created to solve problems related to Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias.
  2. Designing a multi-disciplinary class to create a social robot for Alzheimer’s,” 13th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics, virtual, July 2022, Presented the collaborative role and responsibilities of undergraduate and graduate students in the design of a social robot.
  3. “Using design to empower students to be a force of change,” Emerging Technologies in Aging & Dementia Conference, Knoxville, TN, June 2022, A presentation showing how to use human-centered design to solve real-world problems related to dementia care.
  4. “Design and validation of a social robot for Alzheimer’s disease,” American Society on Aging, April 2022, Presented initial data on the design and user testing of our prototype robot.
  5. “Designing socially assistive robots for people with Alzheimer’s and related dementia,” Gerontological Society of America 2021 Scientific Meeting, virtual, November 2021, Presented a research paper explaining the demand for additional help in caring for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
  6. “Addressing dementia disparities using socially assistive robots,” 2nd Latinos & Alzheimer’s Symposium, virtual, May 2021, Presented collaborative research with the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering and the School of Design in the creation of a low-cost social robot.
  • Human Side of Service Engineering paper, Honorary mention, 2023 
  • Eureca, 1st place undergraduate researcher in division, 2023 
  • Human Side of Service Engineering paper, 2nd place paper, 2022 
  • Undergraduate Research Funding award, $3,000 (2023), $1,500 (2022)
  • 2023 Alma and Hal Research Award, $10,000

This project was the 2023 Design Incubation Educators Awards runner-up recipient in the category of Scholarship: Publication.

Kimberly Mitchell is an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. She holds her BFA and MFA in Graphic Design and a certificate in Gerontology. She is an award-winning designer and researcher who focuses on understanding and improving experiences that support the health and well-being of underserved populations, particularly among older adults. Her multidisciplinary research focuses on the social impact of design, and how by creating awareness, a designer can improve a community’s quality of life. Her work bridges design and gerontology. Her most recent project involves co-designing with the community an AI robot interface as a conversational partner and monitor for individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias.

Feminist Designer

A book that explores emerging feminist practices in design

Alison Place
Assistant Professor
University of Arkansas

Additional contributors: Jennifer Armbrust, Dina Benbrahim, Madeline Avram Blount, Elizabeth Byrd, Benedetta Crippa, Alexandra Crosby, Laura Devendorf, Rachael Dietkus, Ashley K. Eberhart, Griselda Flesler, Aimi Hamraie, Gaby Hernández, Alexis Hope, Jeff Kasper, Ellen Kellogg, Aasawari Kulkarni, Eden Laurin, Una Lee, Andrew Mallinson, Claudia Marina, Victor G. Martinez, Lauren Lee McCarthy, Margaret Middleton, Maryam Mustafa, Becky Nasadowski, Maya Ober, Nina Paim, Elizabeth Pérez, Heather Snyder Quinn, Cami Rincón, Jenn Roberts, Velvet A. Johnson Ross, In-ah Shin, Marie Louise Juul Søndergaard, Ayako Takase, Attia Taylor, Rebecca Tegtmeyer, Aggie Toppins, Ilaria Vanni, Joana Varon, Manon Vergerio, Mandy Harris Williams, Sarah Williams.

Published in September of 2023 by MIT Press, Feminist Designer: On the Personal and the Political in Design is a book that explores emerging feminist practices in design. Place wrote this book, primarily, for her students, in whom she observed strong passion for addressing feminist issues through design with little understanding of the histories and power structures that undergird them. The writing and concepts in the book are intended to be accessible for a wide audience, not just an academic one. Her own writing makes up about one-third of the book, while the rest is comprised of contributions from other designers. Contributors were solicited through an open call for proposals or by direct invitation, with a significant effort made to assemble a diverse array of identities, background, disciplines and perspectives. Each contributor was paid an honorarium, funded by an advance from the publisher.

Book Blurb

Feminist Designer brings together a constellation of voices and perspectives to examine the intersection of design and feminist theory. For decades, the feminist refrain within design has hinged on the representation and inclusion of women in the field. This collection, however, is a call to move beyond this narrow application. Feminist design is not just about who does design—it is about how we do design and why. Feminist frameworks for design activism are now more relevant than ever, as they emphasize collaborative processes that aim to disrupt and dismantle power hierarchies while centering feminist ways of knowing and doing.

The first book in nearly three decades to address such practices in design, Feminist Designer contains essays, case studies, and dialogues by 43 contributors from 16 different countries. Place engages a wide variety of design disciplines, from graphic design to disability design to algorithmic design, and explores key feminist themes, such as power, knowledge, care, plurality, liberation, and community. Through diverse, sometimes conflicting, intersectional perspectives, this book contributes new design methods informed by a multiplicity of feminisms that confront design’s patriarchal origins while ushering in new pathways for making critical and meaningful change.

Book Design

In addition to writing the book, she also designed it, which was a feminist project in itself. The three typefaces used are Bastardo Grotesk (Giulia Boggio), Cofo Sans (Contrast Type Foundry), and Fraunces (Phaedra Charles)—all created by designers who identify as women, non-binary or trans. The typography on the cover makes a loud statement with the title and subtitle in large, bold type with a spot varnish, echoing an unwavering chant of feminist protest. The addition of emoji-style glyphs on each line speak to the snarky ambivalence felt by an emerging generation of feminists. The purple hues merge the historical purple of the 20th century suffragettes, with the effervescence of so-called Gen Z lavender. In the feminist spirit of citation, the name of every contributor in the book is featured on the cover in alphabetical order, giving credit where credit is due. The interior of the book is designed for accessible reading, plus ease of skimming; sections are short, with headlines, decks, and pull quotes like a magazine.


The book has received much positive recognition from the media, with excerpts published in Design Observer and Fast Company; several reviews in major outlets including the Boston Globe, Metropolis Magazine, and Madame Architect; and was named one of the best design books of 2023 by both Fast Company and the Architect’s Newspaper. Currently, there are seven journal reviews in progress expected to be published next year in top journals, including Design and Culture, Design Issues, and the Journal of Feminist Pedagogy. Place has been interviewed about the book on two podcasts, Scratching the Surface and The Deep Dive, and invited to speak at DePaul University in Chicago in 2024. Though it has only been four months since the book was published, she is excited to see the conversations about feminist design that have been initiated, and she look forward to expanding and amplifying those in the months to come.

This project was the 2023 Design Incubation Educators Awards winner recipient in the category of Scholarship: Publication.

Alison Place is a designer, educator and researcher who works at the intersection of feminism and design to create spaces for critical making and radical speculation. She is the author of Feminist Designer: On the Personal and the Political in Design published by MIT Press in 2023. She is an assistant professor of graphic design at the University of Arkansas School of Art, where she also serves as the director of the graphic design program. She has held several leadership roles in the design community, including two terms on the AIGA Design Educators Community National Steering Committee, and has earned multiple national awards for her scholarship and creative work. Previously, she worked for more than ten years as a creative director and designer for nonprofit and higher education institutions. She earned an M.F.A. in experience design from Miami University of Ohio, as well as degrees in graphic design and journalism from the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning.