My Posters & The Posters that Influenced Them

My bedrooms were always plastered with the most badass posters in College & High School. Sure some of them glowed when the black lights were turned on, but many were beautifully crafted pieces of art. Like many folks going into the design field, I had lofty dreams of being a hip gig poster designer with a silkscreen or letterpress studio.Some of us have managed to make that dream a reality, while others  (like me) just lust over other designer’s poster work and do some for fun when the opportunity arises.posterdetail2

Posters are a unique beast to design because of how users interact with them. Unlike a website or a book, there is little physical interaction with a poster and generally a user will view it from a distance and only take a limited time to digest the information presented. Posters walk the fine line between art and design. While they still need to communicate a message clearly, they are afforded the luxury of luring the viewer in through nontraditional tactics.

Working for the US Army’s webteam I had a very rare opportunity to design a poster that celebrated the Army’s 230th Birthday and Flag day which were both on June 14th 2005. My concept was to create a large American flag which was typographically made up of all the army engagements up until the day the poster was released. While my final design was mangled by inter-department bureaucracy and printed as a logo choked,  franken-design-mess the project gave me the opportunity to research the history of poster design for the United States Military & government.

My original concept with a detail of the type in the flag:

Army Birthday / Flag Day PosterFlag Detail

In doing research for this project I took inspiration from posters during the era of WWI and WWII. At that time poster design was  an essential means of communication for recruiting soldiers and for motivating the American population. While doing my research I found the  WPA poster collection online at the Library of Congress which I wrote about in this previous blog post. I highly recommend you check it out, the design is phenomenal.

Elmhurst Flag Day 1939


After getting pretty stoked on the WPA era design I discovered the work of  Michael Schwab in a highly unlikely place.. the train station. A modern day designer Schwab puts a retro twist on many of his subjects. I love his work so much, I purchased his Amtrak series of posters… which are still in tubes under my bed (because i can’t decide how I want to frame them).


One of my favorite types of posters to both have and create are gig posters. A few years ago Jim Jones (my partner in crime and design) and I decided to join forces and create a couple for a friend’s band in Richmond Virginia. While its hard to not be influenced by other kinds of gig posters, the piece we did for Existor was mostly influenced by their trippy jazz influenced music.

Poster designed by me and Jim Jones:

While I love ALL kinds of gig posters I was first really turned on to the genre by the work of Bonnie MacLean. Yep, this is where my Janis Joplin infatuation really shows through. Bonnie’s organic lines, interesting typography and bold colors look to be the product of some crazy acid trips of the 60s,but according to Bonnie that is not the case. When I look at Bonnie’s work I see a  heavy influence from the work of Alphonse Mucha and Privat Livemont.


When it comes to modern day gig posters there are just so many amazing designers out there I can’t feature them all. I have recently snagged a couple in my little snapper gallery that I particularly like including:


For More Great Poster Design Check out:

For a great history of early poster design check out:

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  1. Jay

    — August 4, 2009

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  5. — August 10, 2009

  6. — September 25, 2009