Gig posters are an arena in which graphic designers can really indulge their passion for both art and music. Here's our pick of the best - plus some classics from the past.
Music is constantly progressing, this can also be said of the design work that supports artists and bands as new genres are developed. From the flower power days in the late '60s to the anarchist punk era, each style of music creates new styles in design.
On top of this, over the past few years, design studios, illustrators, and graphic designers have been creating stunning, limited edition gig posters for shows in their area. Endorsed by the band, these posters usually go on an extremely limited print and sell out instantly. It's easy to see why; not only are they perfect collectables for music fans but the design is often flawless, making them a must-have for any art lover.
Below are some of the most inspiring gig posters from recent years with a few all-time classics thrown into the mix too.
01. Heart of Darkness by Hammerpress
Missouri design shop Hammerpress makes all sorts interesting designs for greeting cards, posters, art prints and other paper goods. They've collaborated with various bands including New Pornographers, Elvis Costello, Beck and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and are known for getting experimental with letterpress typography. This design uses different size letterforms with the centred illustration creating a balanced and well structured poster.
02. The Decemberists by The Heads of State
An award-winning studio based in Philadelphia, The Heads of State have created gig posters for bands such as REM, The Decemberists and Wilco that stand out and grab your attention. This colour screen-printed poster was designed to announce The Decemberists' 2011 performance at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. The typography was hand-painted by Brandt Imhoff.
03. Pulp by Kii Arens
LA artist Kii Arens wasn't formally trained in graphic design, but became fascinated with album covers and band logos from an early age. He credits Saturday mornings in the '70s spent watching Sid and Marty Krofft as his main inspirations for colour. This gig poster for Pulp captures Jarvis Cocker's flamboyant stage presence and is complemented with a fantastic colour palette.
Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, a theatre in Frankfurt, Germany hosts independent artists and collectives from the fields of dance, drama and performance, as well as selected positions from the visual arts and music. The gig poster above instantly grabs your attention, simply just using red stripes with a sans-serif typeface; it doesn't rely on imagery to make an impact.
05. National by Jon Contino
Brookyln based designer and illustrator Jon Contino is one of the leading designers working with hand rendered typography in a digital setting. Other than designing great work such as this gig poster for The National, Contino is the owner of the New York clothing brand CXXVI.
06. Black Flag by Raymond Pettibon
Black Flag is an American hardcore band formed in 1976 that was massively influential but had one of most evocative band logos in music/design history, which was designed by Raymond Pettibon. Pettibon became a cult figure among underground music devotees for his early work associated with the Los Angeles punk rock scene, and this poster is typically stark and uncompromising.
07. She and Him by Jason Munn
Jason Munn is originally from Wisconsin, but now calls Oakland, CA home. He began making posters almost 10 years ago for local venues and independent musicians, designing under the pseudonym The Small Stakes. Now, working under his name, Jason continues to focus on posters, as well as design and illustration commissions. This two-colour screen print for She and Him is a clever play on the vinyl record that's beautiful in its simplicity.
08. Coup D'état
A combination of oversized typography and illustration constructs a perfect balance in this gig poster for a Brooklyn punk night. Unfortunately we cannot dig up the great designer who created this piece - if anyone knows, please tell us in the comments box!
09. Ramones and Talking Heads
Like many of the zines in the punk era, gig posters were based around the hand-crafted DIY style and relied on self-circulation. They were often printed in black and white then photocopied to save costs - but as this Ramones gig poster shows, you don't need the highest quality tools to create impactful messages.
10. Jimi Hendrix by Bob Masee
Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Bob Masee began designing psychedelic posters for bands in the sixties, including Jefferson Airplane, The Doors and Fleetwood Mac. This gig poster promotes Jimi Hendrix live in the Saville Theatre, London. The Bob Masse signature style, with his creative colour palette, unique lettering style, and bold compositions, shines through.
11. Dave Matthews Band by DKNG
A design studio founded in 2005, DKNG are Dan Kuhlken and Nathan Goldman. A combined love of design and music brought the pair together, with dynamically different skill sets ranging from fine art to film production. The four-colour screen print had a limited print run of 730.
Watch this! Gig Posters process video:
12. Phish by James Flames
James Flames is an illustrator currently based in Asheville, NC. He has already created stunning screen printed gig posters for the likes of The Black Keys, Mogwai, and Dr Dog. This work for the band Phish was a four colour screen print and featured three metallic inks. The print run of 700 sold out almost immediately and we can see why!
13. Why? by Eric Nyffeler
Eric Nyffler is Doe Eyed - a design studio based in Lincoln, Nebraska. His illustration style mixes gritty geometrics with hand-drawn elements to create a sometimes whimsical, sometimes abject style that is helping to redefine the visual aesthetic of the Midwest. This print of his Why? gig posters is currently on sale for $30 at the Doe Eyed website.
14. First Aid Kit by Adrian Dutt
This poster was created by Bristol-based illustrator Adrian Dutt. He creates every one of his gig posters for independent record store Rise, mostly for exclusive in-stores. Doubling up the lion illustration gives the image an almost 3D effect that when teamed with the simple colour scheme, really makes it stand out.
15. Mogwai by Kevin Tong
Kevin Tong is a freelance illustrator currently living and working in Los Angeles. He has created a number of gig posters and this is his third creation for rock outfit Mogwai. He designed this colour variant specifically for the band and the edition is extremely limited. Now sold out, the poster had two colour versions.
Watch this! Gig posters process video:
16. Orgy by Danny Excess
Danny Excess is a graphic designer and musician, originally from San Fransico but currently based in Los Angeles to pursue music and poster art. Now the drummer of rock band Love and a .38, he is also the exclusive designer of gig posters art for The World Famous Roxy Theatre. We loved the icon design of this poster for Orgy.
17. St. Vincent by HERO
HERO is Buffalo-based husband and wife duo, Beth Manos and Mark Brickey. Set up in 2003, they sought to create hand-crafted illustrations for the music and culture industries but have also worked with a variety of clients. Their screen prints have been featured in magazines such as HOW, Print, and SPIN, and design publications including Gigposters Volume 1.
18. My Morning Jacket by Ben Wilson
Ben Wilson is a graphic designer currently based in Idaho and has worked on gig posters with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie and St. Vincent. For this project for My Morning Jacket, he drew on his experiences in the southern swamps and My Morning Jacket's most recent album 'Circuital'. It is currently available in Ben's online store.
19. The Black Keys by Kevin Tong
We know this is Kevin's second inclusion in our gig posters list but we just couldn't resist showcasing his diverse style. The Black Keys have turned up a lot in of independent poster designs and we love that the band are so supportive of independent graphic designers and illustrators. This poster takes influence from Chicago's Wayne's World.
20. Andrew Bird by Frida Clements
Frida Clements is an independent Seattle-based graphic designer and illustrator specialising in screen-printed poster art. She has also designed for Sasquatch! Music Festival, KEXP, and Flatstocker and her stunning gig posters have been exhibited around the USA. We fell in love with the attention to detail on this one - a mast for a violin!
Words: Sammy Maine and Aaron Kitney
Aaron Kitney is a freelance graphic designer and art director based in London and Vancouver. He specialises in branding, identity, web design, publication design, packaging and book design.
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Have you seen any cool gig posters this year? Share them with us in the comments section!