Gig Posters

February 19th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Gig posters is a genre of graphic design incorporating illustration, typography, and screen printing. The posters are generally created for bands and musicians to promote upcoming performances. They are usually screen printed and highly creative. What I love the most about this type of work is that it encompasses “play” and “experimentation” in design. The designers have a ton of creative freedom and are hired because the band or record label really likes their “style” of work.

Poster art can be considered a throw-away art form though because when the event is over, the posters are taken down and discarded. But the beauty of these designs is that they can be so much more—they become keepsakes for fans of the music and creative inspiration for young designers. They are usually printed in limited editions of 100 or more.

Modest Mouse Poster

The printing style of this genre is also something of note. Most of the posters are also printed by the same people who are designing them—helping to influence the final design as choices like number of colors and complexity can be dictated by the screen printing process, not to mention “happy accidents” that occur during the screen printing process.

A while ago I purchased a really amazing book that is a sort of compendium of Gig Posters. The book is titled appropriately enough “Gig Posters: Rock Show Art of the 21st Century” and is by Clay Hayes. The book stemmed from a website dedicated to the art form— The website is part archive, part community, and part shop and is quite a feast for the eyes.

Even though all of these posters are available to look at free of charge on the website, there is still something special about seeing these posters in bound book format. They are closer to the way they were intended to be seen—in print form. One of the cool things about this book is that it is oversized—18″ x 23″ and includes several full-size perforated posters that you can (carefully) tear out and frame. I originally picked up this book just to ogle over the hundreds of posters, but was able to overcome my fear of “destroying” a book and did tear out 6 to frame and hang in my home design studio.

Modest Mouse Poster Closeup

The poster I chose to talk about for this post was designed by The Decoder Ring Design Concern—a small design group from Austin, Texas. They describe themselves as a group of music and design geeks who also really love screen printing. They all use different mediums when designing—photography, illustration, found objects, and hand-rendered typography. The final outcome is always the same in that all of the posters are silkscreened by them in their studio. In addition to designing rock posters, they design logos, collateral, and packaging. They have a special relationship with their clients—to the point where their clients are considered more “friends” than clients.

Poster type closeup

The poster itself is a high-contrast and attention-getting piece. The “kiss” of a red lipstick on the stark white background is instantly recognizable, but it’s when you look closer that you notice the skull tucked neatly in the center. The hand-rendered type below reinforces the hidden skull and pairs well with the lips—almost as if a pretty young girl applied her lipstick, kissed the mirror in a night-club bathroom and then used her lipstick to write a line about her life below it. The texture of the lips is mimicked in the hand-rendered type. The combination of the hand-rendered cursive with the all caps sans-serif below is a nice partnership. I’m a big fan of hand-rendered type, but like a minimal use of it and the pairing of a more traditional typeface. I think if the entire poster was set with this cursive type that it would lose that sophisticated and clean look. The whole poster is a study in contrast—the color palette, the juxtaposition of hand-rendered with a traditional san-serif, and the skull with the red lips. According to the design group’s website, the poster was part of a series with each design using different lyrics from the band Modest Mouse commemorating their 2005 live shows. This one is perfect for a Valentine’s Day show. Definitely a standout in this collection of posters.

Poster type closeup II

This book is quite amazing and you can spend hours flipping through and analyzing the different styles. The website is a great resource as well and I highly recommend anyone spend some time clicking through and learning more about these poster artists and the incredible work they are doing.


Gig Posters

GigPosters: Rock Show Art of the 21st Century

The Decoder Ring Design Concern