A truly great music poster is like an earworm of a song – it will stick in your head and have you returning to an artist’s back catalogue or a nightclub’s listings long after the first glimpse. Often holding the power to make or break an event’s attendance, music poster designers not only have to entice audiences and listeners alike, but make the audible visual. It’s a hefty challenge, but for those whose disciplines sit at the intersection between design and music, the latter can also provide ample sources of inspiration.
Below, we’ve gathered the best of the medium, taking a tour of soft 3D designs for queer-focused events, Play Doh-inspired practices and the eclectic posters for Beirut-based nights.
It’s hard to imagine an illustrator encapsulating a whole music scene in quite the same electric way as Tracy Chahwan. While the Lebanese cartoonist and storyteller has actually been based in the US since the pandemic hit in 2019, her practice is rooted firmly in the buzzing music scene of Beirut.
Beginning her career illustrating artwork for night club Yukunkun and Beirut Groove Collective, while she was still only a student, Tracy’s posters could often be found plastered across the city’s streets, primarily advertising the latter’s “strictly-vinyl parties”. Visualising a rich range of musical genres, Tracy’s style encapsulates the “complex cultural mix” of the Lebanon illustration tradition and pulls from the likes of Persian miniatures, Egyptian hieroglyphics and American indie comics.
One look through Emma Bers dynamic, juicy portfolio and it’s easy to see how the designer’s overarching design principle is centred on joy – in her own words: “If I’m not having fun with my personal work, I scrap it!”
In her spare time, the Chicago-based illustrator takes it upon herself to create unofficial work for the likes of MF Doom to George Harrison. Though we love seeing the bouncing work unfiltered by brief, her signature messiness recently saw her pick up a commission for none other than Broken Social Scene. Pour through her colour-laden posters to discover inspirations ranging from funky furniture and children’s book illustrations. Plus, a healthy dose of the use of pastels and Play Doh.
When it comes to encapsulating darker musical themes, Kushagra Gupta is the artist to whom night’s turn. Full of metallic, enticingly moody visuals, Kushagra’s work is often ethereal – and strictly digital.
So, it makes sense that the Kolkata-based artist finds his match in 3D. Armed with the textures possible in the medium, he has created cold cyborg-like posters for the likes of Sksksks – a queer club night in New York – and eerie designs for Body Work, a techno/house gig by Lucid Dreaming Records. Uniting every commission is Kushagra’s outlook as a “sucker for art that has a certain drama,” and all the aesthetic potential this approach offers.
A lover of electronic music and the dancefloor, one-person studio Studio Haramat says the experience always “feels even more special when I’m the one designing the flyer.” Mohamed Moustafa Farid sits behind the wheel of Studio Haramat, running the design practice from his home in Denver, where he has forged close relationships with the capital’s DJs.
If we had to surmise his eclectic portfolio, the words experimental and typographically-led spring to mind. Whether delivering dreamy abstract visuals or more mathematical works, Mohamed forever thinks of “all letters as shapes”. “I try my best to make them look cool either by distorting them, manipulating them, duplicating them or flipping them.”
Retro designs are on the rise in the music industry for gig posters. One designer who not only does it pleasingly well, but uniquely too, is Gabriel Picard. Though while richly 80s-influenced work remains the designer’s bread and butter, he also knows the importance of taking into account genre: “retro can’t stick with everything,” as he puts it. Such a flexible style has meant Gabriel has built up sharp demand for his work; from designing for house events in Glasgow, DJ tours around Mexico, to music weeks in Melbourne. Whether you happen across his work on a vinyl cover or festival poster, you can comfortably bet on science fiction stylings, geometric shapes and airbrushing – and we guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Emma Bers: Sabba poster concept (Copyright © Emma Bers, 2022)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.