The world of poster design is part of our visual culture, albeit in a somewhat more regulated and commercialised/sterilised version than other cities.
The power of social media has impacted on the old fashioned charm of slapping up gig posters, watching them peel or suffocate as the next one takes its place for attention.
However, there’s thankfully still a value placed by a number of venues, club nights and spaces on the industrious work of graphic designers who ply their trade or a sideline in the visual communication behind that thing you have to see or hear.
Here’s a selection of poster peeps who create, translate and strive to arrest your attention.
Not just content with being a gent about town and former Totally Dublin cover star, Gianni Clifford does a mean trade in club and event posters for the likes of Hidden Agenda, Decce Series and Syrias Vibes.
He’s also had his work featured on It’s Nice That. Fancy.
I am super lucky to have worked for some of my favourite DJs and bands to date, across festivals and individual shows, I am even luckier to work with great promoters like Hidden Agenda who give me such a free reign when it comes to developing the visual style for their shows, they book great acts, so it’s just a joy. When I am working on music projects I always listen to the artist I am working on as I work. So a great client is anyone whom I enjoy their music, but dream client would be someone I love, who already has a strong identity but which I can reinterpret and build on – Kraftwerk, Grace Jones, LCD Soundsystem, Kendrick Lamar, Dr Dre (You did say dream )
Thoughts on the poster design here at the moment?
I always like to keep a close eye on what’s going on with music/gig posters in Dublin especially, and with every new group of promoters/DJs, there is a new young designer making stuff, which is great that they’ve the opportunity to design things lots of people will see. Some of it is great but there is lots of gack too. Props go to certain clubs and promoters who constantly have amazing artwork like Subject, District 8 and Choice Cuts.
Cardinal rule when it comes to a brief?
Ideally, for a gig poster, the brief should write itself. “The artist is X — create something in line with their style, our (the promoters) style and make sure it’s legible”. Simples. The designer should take it from here.
The poster you are most proud of?
I am not sure that I can pick just one singular poster, but my work for Hidden Agenda over the last 3 or 4 years has kept me super engaged due to their combination of solely black and white artwork and constant booking of great acts. It’s got me some great feedback and attention on a global scale. Also working with the Syrias Vibes guys is nothing short of humbling – Calvin James and his brother Andrew’s work is amazing, so to help them in any way possible is very positive.
I have a huge amount of design heroes across all areas, so it’s a toughie, but to keep it focused and local, props to Al ‘Billie Barry’ Kennington, Jonny ‘Blaze’ Costello, Jon Averill and Dave Darcy.
Gav Beattie is a stalwart of the design here.
Based out of his garden studio down in Delganey, County Wicklow, Beattie usually creates “directly for bands” these days and usually does about 6-8 screen printed posters a year.
Poster you wish you designed?
Primus at the Royal Albert Hall a few years back would have been pretty great! Or any Shellac gig, despite Albini’s aversion to posters.
The rules for poster design that you abide by?
Some poster artists have their own particular style they adhere to, and will design their posters within that style – sometimes regardless of the band. I don’t have a particular style and I think a lot of poster artists who are also graphic designers are the same, so there are a lot of different styles going on with my own posters. I think I approach each poster as if it were a design project, so I’ll take a band’s lyrical content, or album concept, or even something that plays on the band name itself and work with that. So each poster will normally have some sort of in-joke going on. Also some bands ask you to avoid certain elements for their posters.
What is the impact of creating digital assets on poster design?
My poster process always begins initially with pen and paper but becomes digital pretty quickly due to my inability to actually draw any more. I work a lot with collage, so once elements have been scanned in I can work a lot quicker in Photoshop and Illustrator. All artwork will be finalised in Photoshop where I’ll prepare separations for film, then it all goes back to basics once I get to screen burning stage. No vacuum table or micro registration.
How involved should a client be? At what stage do you pull up the drawbridge?
It can depend on the band or promoter on how much input you get, but ideally they don’t have any at all. The basic idea behind the gig poster itself, and this is what I’ve picked up from most US poster artists I know, is if a band or promoter likes your work, then they should trust you to come up with a poster that works. I think it’s fair enough because at the end of the day, if you make a shitty poster for a gig, people aren’t going to think “ terrible poster, terrible band” – they’re going to just think “terrible designer”.
Thoughts on offering multiple options vs standing over the one you feel works best?
A lot of the time it’s simpler to just present one design. But it can happen that you’ll come up with more than one concept, and you feel they all work equally well. That’s when it can be good to get the band’s opinion and just say “pick one”.
Poster you are proudest of and story behind it?
I did a poster for Om in 2012, in the Button Factory. I really like the band, got good feedback from them on the poster and it sold out pretty quickly. Om started out as a two-piece – bass and drums, and play loud, psychedelic drone/doom, but with very spiritual lyrics. So the poster basically consists of one massive speaker and an amp head on top. The dials on the head are all labelled to correspond with lyrics from a selection of tracks, so there’s a dial for ‘Serenity’, ‘Emancipation’ etc. and a ‘Healing’ input – I was trying to appeal to both the band as well as gear heads I guess!
Emma Conway creates posters for promoters in Dublin and Galway with Subject being one of her main clients.
She’s currently working on a poster for the GASH collective ahead of their appearance at then Galway Arts Festival. She’s basing herself in Rotterdam this summer.
Do you have a distinct approach to (poster) design?
I tend to do posters for events or DJs that I admire. With this familiarity my starting point would often come intuitively from a considering of the mood or vibe of the music. I’d usually make a number of sketches involving a combination of patterned and typographic elements, whilst listening to some tracks and see where these lead me.
Do you mood board or source inspiration – what is the process for this?
I am constantly picking up flyers in whatever city I am in and find these a great source of inspiration. I also take photos and collect images I come across online. Although often the saturation of material on the internet (esp instagram) can be too much. Sometimes I get excited unexpectedly by tactile combinations of materials and forms, like how a section of a polka dot skirt looks when somebody is wearing it, and enjoy considering how I can play with this on a flat surface.
Is there any poster you wish you’d created?
I’ve recently discovered Richard Niessen who creates stunning posters using shapes, type and colour in a really unique way. One of my favourites is the poster he created for the Le Havre from 2014. The way he uses pattern and shapes pushes how one might think about the potential depth of the poster.
Who excites you most in terms of design Irish and international at the moment?
Mel Keane is making amazing posters for Out to Lunch recently. He manages to break the rules while keeping it elegant at the same time, capturing a real sense of fun. Internationally the Portuguese designer Braulio Amado is killing the game in New York. His design is really exciting, and I love the way he uses colour and texture in a really organic and fluid way.
Richeal Fox works from her studio in Santry balancing demands with raising her two young kids.
She works on posters for venues such as the Grand Social and a variety of markets, venues and festivals.
On a good client: For me I like it when the client has a rough idea of what they like and don’t like. Like a genre of art or design or an illustrative versus a typographic solution. For efficiency, its much better when I have a good sense of direction.
On research / Inspiration: I use the usual online platforms; google images, pinterest and behance for researching. As well as what I see around me, design books, magazines…
On note taking: If I spot something I like I’ll take a quick snap or pin it in one of my pinterest boards for later. I love the way you can file things away into different boards on pinterest for future reference. However its best not to spend too long comparing yourself to the world wide web of amazing designers and just get your own pencil out. It’s good to have a notebook with you at all times. Nothing like a paper and pen for a bit of brainstorming. I’m also getting my head around a drawing tablet at the moment.. a work in progress.
On revisiting projects: I work with a lot of annual festivals and events so I definitely revisit projects but there’s always a different angle you can take. The diversity of this job is what I love about it. You’re constantly reinventing the wheel; that’s the challenge.
On noticeable changes: The application of artwork to social media. When you’re designing a poster these days, you’re almost creating a brand for an event that will go across print and web, twitter, instagram, work well on smartphones etc…Upgrades of technology of course, its hard to keep up with all Adobe’s new bells and whistles.
On having an appreciation for design: I do think there’s an appreciation for good design. It sets a standard for an event, product or organisation. Clever people are usually willing to invest as much as they can afford to ensure they are going to stand out, or at the very least appear professional. Plus freelancers can offer a more affordable service than larger design companies so there’s a designer out there for everyone’s budget.
Advice for aspiring designers: Work hard, play hard, be yourself, be kind to yourself (we are our own worst critics), travel the world, meet lots of interesting people, keep a diary, keep creative. The rest will follow.
Magda Ćwik bases herself between Dublin and Barcelona and currently works as an art director and head designer for Pygmalion club where she creates “arty, funky, often abstract and very colourful” posters for their nights.
She also designs for the Game Over crew who throw summer parties in Privilege in Ibiza.
What software programs do you use for designing?
On a daily basis, I use Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign and Acrobat. From time to time I use Cinema 4D.
Any websites you check in on for inspiration or to see the work of fellow designers?
I would recommend ‘This Works’ featured on ‘WeTransfer’, where you can find many cool artists, designers and illustrators. I also check ’Behance’, ‘Hi Fructose’, ‘Designspiration’ and of course ’Instagram’ 😉 I love flicking through magazines or books published by ‘Gestalten’, ‘Rockport’, ‘SendPoints’ or ‘Nobrow’. I take inspiration from album covers, flyers or posters collected through the years.
How does the split between Barcelona and Dublin affect your work (if at all).
There is no side effects in my case. I actually like this diversity between those two cities. It definitely boosted up my artistic side and developed my creative thinking.
What contrasts do you notice between the cities and the poster/design culture?
Barcelona is a vibrant city. As there is a lot of things happening here everyday, you can see plenty of quick designs and posters mainly based on typography. In some cases, text content or a message is more important then artistic aspect. If it comes to big festivals like Sonar or Primavera, you can notice more innovative approach and complex designs. Bold style illustrations and vibrant colours reflect the temper of this lively city and play an important role in Spanish design culture.
I would say, posters in Dublin focus more on graphic elements. You can see many designs containing architectural elements mixed with a vintage feel and unbeatable sense of humour.
There are definitely differences between those two cities. However, at the end of the day it is all about the design and the way I bring it to life by transforming ideas, shapes, patterns and colours into different dimension.
Movie or Fashion posters.
RUAN VAN VLIET
Ruan Van Vliet was born into the design game. His late father Nick was one of the leading lights in the design field in Ireland.
Ruan currently averages one or two posters a month and is working on the Future Proof series run by Nialler9 and Homebeat.
Can you tell me a bit more about how you got into design?
My Dad was a designer, he came over here in the Dutch design boom of the 50s and 60s and when he retired he taught himself to use photoshop and all the rest and then he passed that onto me. We worked together on and off for years. These days i’m more focussed on illustration and that’s reflected in my recent poster work.
What makes for a great poster in your opinion?
It’s hard to say what makes a great poster. Getting the message across in the clearest and simplest way could be argued as the goal of a poster but I’ve seen some really beautiful ones that go out of their way to obscure the most basic info. I guess a truly successful poster pin-points the mood of the show.
Any design heroes or posters which inspire you?
I’m terrible at this part, I never know anyone’s name or who designed what. I was given a big book of gig posters called The Art of Modern Rock years ago and that was definitely an influence. In Dublin U:Mack and Skinny Wolves always had the best posters for their shows, that’s who I felt I was trying to catch up with.
What’s your process when approaching a brief?
I don’t follow any strict process for the early stages of work, sometimes an idea comes while doodling, mostly they come in the shower or when my mind is elsewhere. Rough work is scribbled on scraps of paper or straight into the computer but by and large, the finished product will be drawn by hand enough times to get it right and then scanned, tidied and coloured in in photoshop.
I’ve been playing in bands for coming up on 20 years now and as long as I’ve been doing that I’ve been making gig posters. Still to this day a large chunk of the posters I make are for shows I’m directly involved in.
Great Places To Appreciate Poster Design In The City:
The walls of Anseo are teeming with posters. There’s no pecking order or hierarchy. You just find a space and be courteous enough to over cover up past events or maybe shite events. Or just sit back and let Eddie take your order and soak them up with your eyes.
SECRET BOOK AND RECORD STORE
The walls leading down the corridor to the wonderous Secret Book and Record Store have always been a magnet for poster junkies. The wall facing vegetarian cafe Cornucopia around the corner is always prized.
The sound of sellotape being unrolled and snipped is a constant background noise for customers in this Dublin institution.
Words: Michael McDermott
Photos: Killian Broderick (Emma Conway by Cait Fahey), Magda supplied by herself.