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SHT Show: Say It Five Times. Fast. Faster.

Written by in Color & Texture, Create, Inspire

Graphic eye candy. Expressive illustration.
Bold type. Delicate script. Challenging “Us vs. Them.”

A name that implies the opposite of conventional thinking.

This is SHT Show. 

When Daniel Smith embarked on curating an international poster show—specifically Seattle, Havana, Tehran—some may have questioned his sanity. These three cities are worlds apart, not just in miles, but culture, politics, and more. Simply consider shipping artwork across borders where politics are diametrically opposed. It’s no small feat. This begs the question: Why?

The 2006 AIGA design exchange between the U.S. and Cuba inspired Smith. Because of travel restrictions and embargos, traveling to Cuba seemed insurmountable. “Once I got there and met so many incredible designers, curators, screenprinters, etc., I wanted to keep working with them. I also discovered it wasn’t hard to return as long as I had a legitimate project.”

I began this exhibit series nearly 10 years ago by reaching out to designers who seemed beyond knowing; who inhabited a world apart from mine. Today I present them as friends.”

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During that first trip that Smith met Pepe Mendendez, a Cuban designer who joined forces with Smith and is a co-curator of SHT Show. Iman Raad, the show’s third curator is a Tehran-based designer.

SHT Show differs from other poster shows in that there are no calls to participate or requested submissions. Instead, it is simply a survey of what is happening in these three cities. Ten years ago, there were no Cubans online, so Smith got to know designers by visiting Havana—repeatedly.

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In organizing the exhibition, he found the biggest challenge was the lack of direct shipping. “I went to Havana again to pick up the exhibit posters myself, which was expensive, but also my idea of fun. In the end, there were no barriers to a cultural exchange with Cuba I couldn’t overcome, given people with matching goals and enthusiasm on the other side. There were things I wanted to do at the time, which weren’t politically possible, like bringing a designer from Cuba, but the show itself wasn’t an issue. In fact it went so well I started on a sequel, one with a destination I wasn’t sure I could even visit—Tehran. It was a bigger challenge, but as before the show came together when I found my counterparts in Tehran, willing partners who also wanted more exchange between us. Together we created The Seattle-Tehran Poster Show, the first exhibition of contemporary (post-Revolution) Iranian posters in the U.S. Those first two exhibits proved we could work together and were the foundation of the SHT Show.”

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Is Smith, design director at Tether in Seattle, a poster designer? “Yes and no. In the 1990s I worked with a few local bands on posters and CDs. In 2000 I started working at EMP (Experience Music Project) where I designed many posters for exhibits and performances. I’ve designed very few posters in this decade however. It’s more work, but I have more fun organizing exhibits. Aside from the international shows, I also put together an historical show on women designers in Northwest rock call Thunderbitch.”

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SHT Show exhibited in Seattle last September during Bumbershoot. It travels to Havana next April, and later to Tehran. All three cities are home to vibrant design communities.

“We’ve gotten beyond the formal introductions,” says Smith of SHT Show. “Now we can just play. A very useful alternative model to demonstrate to anyone who swallows whole what’s generally played in U.S. media about Cubans or Iranians.”

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