In 1935, six years after becoming an RR Donnelley employee, C. Prentiss Smith joined the department of design and typography. Smith soon proved himself such an adept designer that he became essential to projects of all types. Not only did Smith design the company's signs, in-house magazine covers, anniversary pins, retirement booklets, graduation certificates, and awards, he was also the lead designer on several of RR Donnelley's religious publishing accounts, including work for the Presbyterian Board, Pilgrim Press, and Westminster Press.
Smith had an eye for type, a mind for detail, and an in-depth knowledge of technology. The C. Prentiss Smith papers in the RR Donnelley Archive document his correspondence with type foundries, paper mills, ink companies, and even Eastman Kodak, always searching for something new and better and soliciting technical advice that might improve the quality of RR Donnelley's work. Smith's letters include exchanges with notable designers such as Thomas Parkhurst (with whom William A. Kittredge, Smith's boss, had trained), Bruce Rogers, Hermann Zapf, and others.
For many years Smith taught the principles of design and typography in the RR Donnelley apprentice training school. When he retired and moved to Carbondale, Illinois, he set himself up with a small press and continued to design and print stationary, business cards, invitations, and other ephemera until the end of this life.
Fortunately, Smith was an inveterate saver. His papers include samples of hundreds of his designs (including, in many cases, the entire design sequence from original sketch to final product), as well as a great many items designed by his colleagues. The Smith collection provides an unusually detailed view of the inner workings of the department of design and typography and the painstaking work involved in graphic design before the advent of the computer.
|5. C. Prentiss Smith, working sketch for 25-Year employment anniversary pin, 1943. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company Archive.|
|6a. C. Prentiss Smith, design sequence and printer's proof for Caxton Club mailing label, with memo to Harry J. Owens and Igor de Lissovoy, . R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company Archive.
With characteristic attention to detail and harmony of design, Smith remarked, "I've had the cut corrected to make the 'x' more 'x-y,'"
|6b. C. Prentiss Smith, design sequence and printer's proof for Caxton Club mailing label, with memo to Harry J. Owens and Igor de Lissovoy, . R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company Archive.|