Printing Civic Pride

Brett Forsyth's designs showcase Birmingham's spirit
Story by Jennie LaRussa • Photos by Andrea Mabry • Video by Ryan Meyer
Photo of layered printed posters from Yellowhammer Creative; headline: Printing Civic Pride
Brett Forsyth's designs showcase Birmingham's spirit
Story by Jennie LaRussa • Photos by Andrea Mabry • Video by Ryan Meyer
Pressed down, pushed back and forth, the ink moves through the screen, forming words on fabric. Brett Forsyth picks up the finished T-shirt and examines it. “‘It’s nice to have you in Birmingham,’” he reads.
That design—printed on T-shirts and posters—is one of the most popular in Yellowhammer Creative’s inventory. It has become an emblem of Birmingham’s revitalization, which makes Forsyth proud. The 2007 UAB graduate cofounded and co-owns Yellowhammer Creative with his friend Brandon Watkins. Together they have produced eye-catching posters and stylish apparel seen across the city and far beyond it—art “that brings a sense of civic pride,” Watkins says. “We like being part of the resurgence of Birmingham and getting people to wear their pride on their chest.”
Forsyth grew up in the city and graduated from UAB with a bachelor’s degree in art. He met Watkins, another Birmingham native, in 2008, and they quickly bonded over their love of music and show posters. The two artists began designing their own posters for bands and local shows in a screenprinting studio they built in Forsyth’s basement.

Photo of Brett Forsyth in front of wall of printed layered Yellowhammer Creative postersBrett Forsyth (above) displays some of Yellowhammer Creative's eye-catching posters. He offers a peek at the screenprinting process (in video and below) in the company's Glen Iris studio.

A few pop-up shops later, the duo’s posters and shirts were in high demand, and the side gig on nights and weekends became a full-time job. Since starting their company in 2009, Forsyth and Watkins have designed more than 500 concert and event posters for well-known artists like the Alabama Shakes, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and Jason Isbell, plus shirts and posters highlighting local landmarks and neighborhoods. They rely on tried-and-true methods to come up with the artwork. “It’s the same process I learned at UAB,” Forsyth explains. “There’s a lot of throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks,” followed by rounds of critique.
Yellowhammer Creative also has played a role in transformation of Birmingham neighborhoods. After moving their print shop to Avondale and opening a retail store there, “the neighborhood basically exploded around us with new life and growth,” Forsyth recalls. “It was cool to see so much excitement and change happen in a short period of time.” The storefront then became a cornerstone of the Pizitz Food Hall when it opened downtown. Recently Forsyth and Watkins relocated their print studio to Glen Iris, and they opened a new retail shop in Pepper Place.

Last year, Yellowhammer Creative paid homage to UAB with the debut of Blazer Market, a line of merchandise built around vintage and throwback looks. Forsyth enjoyed the deep dives into the UAB Archives to find inspiration. “Brandon and I are into exploring history through printed materials like programs, ads, brochures, and magazines,” he says. “We hope to go back and look for more cool stuff.” A few of their finds, such as the retro arrow design for the UAB Blazers, found new life on their T-shirts. “Most of the designs currently in the line are original, however,” Forsyth says. 
With new merchandise, a new print studio, and a new storefront, Yellowhammer Creative has become one of Birmingham’s biggest cheerleaders—and they don’t plan to slow down soon. “Success is not an overnight thing, even if it seems like it is,” Forsyth says. “It’s one thing to succeed and get seen, but it’s another thing to keep going.”

Closeup photo of Brett Forsyth mixing yellow ink
Closeup photo of vintage UAB images for screens

Get a classic cool look

Show your ever faithful, ever loyal pride with Blazer Market, Yellowhammer Creative's line of officially licensed UAB T-shirts and gear inspired by retro logos and vintage images. Purchase online.

Photo of Brett Forsyth working with Blazer screen in studio
Closeup photo of Brett Forsyth using a 'Quality' stamp ont the back of a finished poster
Published April 2020