By focusing primarily on poster designs and album artwork for bands, Aaron Denton has made a creative dent in the music scene and isn’t going anywhere soon. From monthly calendars for the residency Call & Response in Bloomington, to designing T-shirts, merchandise and various retro-infused flyers, Aaron has been intertwining his infatuation with music to create powerful and perspective-changing identities. The fast turnaround of the industry excites this designer, as well as a particular interest in the ways an eye-catching poster can alter an event entirely. We spoke to Aaron to find out more about his creative process and why he specifically chose to go down the path of poster design.
To sum up, how exactly did you get into design?
I’ve been making things for as long as I can remember and I’ve also been playing in bands from an early age. When I was a teenager and into my early 20’s, I was booking shows for bands all the time and would make flyers to post around town. I was studying at Indiana University and as a student they give you the Adobe suite for free — that’s when I started getting into Illustrator and Photoshop. Things just evolved from there.
Tell us about your creative process and main source for inspiration.
Usually I go at projects with a blank slate, and then I’ll start drawing shapes and manipulating things on the computer until something strikes me. It’s really just trial and error until there’s no other way I can think to make it look good. Lately, people have been asking me about my technique, but there’s no one way I go about it. I have a cache of old books and papers I scan in and use for texture, although a lot of my design comes from just messing around and experimenting with shapes, colour and texts.
As for inspiration, I studied Art History at University. My thing back then was writing and I was so into the art history classes I took up a second major in it. I’m thankful for that time now, because I essentially spent four years just looking at art and not trying to make it. I think I might have a better eye for knowing what’s working based on that period. My favourites are Kandinsky, Helen Frankenthaler, Donald Judd, Miro, Barnett Newman, Bridget Riley — I go to them a lot when I need a spark.
Run us through a couple of your recent music poster projects. Were you given a brief? If so, how did you approach it?
In my experience with music posters there’s never much of a brief. It’s just “here’s the info”, or occasionally “we want our name a little bigger than the other bands”. I did a poster for my friends in a band called Carriers, who are from Cincinnati, Ohio. They were playing with two other bands but they emphasised that no one was necessarily headlining, which is actually harder for me in terms of creating a poster where one band isn’t emphasised. I remember that one took me forever, figuring out how to balance the names with the shapes. In the end it’s one of the simplest designs I’ve done, but I like to think the hours spent getting it right come through. I enjoy looking at it.
What is it about poster design that drew you towards this medium? Have you dabbled in any other forms?
I was drawn to designing posters out of necessity. I was putting on events that needed a face and I didn’t know anyone else in town who was doing it. I’m also attracted to the play between shows and their posters. Going to shows and playing music myself, I know that by having a thoughtful and nice looking poster it can change perspectives on what the event is going to be. I like to think of it as an extension of an already highly creative thing; a collaboration with the bands, the venue and the audience. It’s nice to have the pressure too, because bands are always needing something with, at times, an insane turnaround time. I like saying yes and just going for it. Things get created and used quickly and I think that kind of utility draws me to the medium. It’s an immediate gratification. From initial concept to seeing a design hanging around town, there can be a four or five day timeline. That’s exciting.
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