See You At The Rock Show!

There is a unique challenge in designing a concert poster.
You’re not trying to capture a specific product, like the latest soft drink or a car. At the same time, you’re not promoting a play or a movie. These tend to have interesting characters, or iconic scenes to grab the attention.

Music tends to be about “the feeling.”


An illustrated poster for a gig gives it a special quality. The easy way would be to take one of the promo pictures, slap a date and a venue on it and call it a day. And for some artists, that works perfectly. Artists like Katy Perry, Slipnot or Lady Gaga are almost as famous for their look as they are for their music, and as such a picture would make sense.
But other artists might not be as easy to recognize.


Minus The Bear

But these posters are a fairly recent development. Up until the 1960’s venues would often use a similar template for all their events.
Every now and then a photo or illustration of the artist would be used, but the most common poster was the so-called “boxing poster.”


During the mid-60’s, San Francisco based promoter Bill Graham teamed up with a team of graphic designers known as Family Dog to promote concerts in the San Francisco area
Artists like Stanley Mouse, Wes Wilson and Victor Moscoso created some of the most iconic posters in music history, and managed to capture the essence of the psychedelic 60’s and hippie culture in their artwork.

Family Dog - Grateful Dead 1966

Family Dog - Santana

 The late 70s saw the advent of the Hardcore Punk scene. It was in some ways a response to the hippie culture from San Francisco, while drawing influence from the New York punk scene. The hardcore scene built itself around a strong DIY culture, that still persists today.
Bands like Black Flag and Dead Kennedys formed on the West Coast, while  the East Coast was home to bands like Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Beastie Boys and Misfits. These bands built their own community on minimal means, and created their own aesthetic. Cheap photocopied posters and zines were common to promote the bands and their shows.

Bad Brains

Black Flag - PettibonModern Life Is War

With the advent of computer-based graphic design, illustrated posters became less common. Photography is less time consuming, and custom lettering made way for pre-made fonts.
However, this change also exposed more people to the value of an illustrated poster. More than ever, prints usually seen as a common advertising medium are now often popular merchandise, and find their way into the homes of  fans across the world.

MudhoneyThe Black KeysDesertfest 2017