Monday, August 30, 2010

Making a Concert Poster 2

I was asked again to make a poster for an upcoming concert, this time for a concert featuring winter solstice, Hanukkah, and Christmas music. Unlike the previous poster made for the same organization, this time out I reverted to my photo-illustration style. The photo-illustration style, as opposed to drawing or painting, is my trademark in illustration and design; it's not the only style I use, but it's one I'm known for.

I chose one of my favorite portrait-oriented (vertically oriented) photographs of the winter snowscape of my small Wisconsin town, and built a poster around it. Here's the image in its B&W version, although for the poster I chose to use the color version, so I could use the blue of the sky as a poster element:

This image is from a series of winter photos made in March 2008 after a heavy snowfall. I often take walks during and after snowstorms, or go out driving in a blizzard, in order to get some of my best winter photos. Thus I once made an illustrated version of Robert Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."

One reason I chose this snowscape photo is because of the large snow-covered bushes in the right foreground: I knew I would need a large open area for type, for the concert information, and the snowy bushes would provide space for that. Note that in the finished poster I screened out the detail in the bushes in order to increase the contrast between the type and the background. Legibility requires contrast, so this was necessary.

For this poster, since one of the concert's themes is Hanukkah, which is a festival of Light, I wanted to use candle imagery, as in a menorah, to symbolize the miracle of the temple lamps in Jerusalem. I searched through my photo archives and chose an image I'd made a few years ago, of taper candles on the dining room table, reflecting on the glass of the window at night:

For me this image symbolizes the light in the darkness. I chose it for its suggestion of the menorah candles, but also because it is not literally a photo of a menorah.

I usually like to evoke poetic associations in my illustration work, when possible, and not be too literal. Sometimes the oblique or slightly off-center representation of an idea is far more poetic, and thus far more poetically evocative.

It took a very long time for the client organization to come up with an overall name for the theme of the concert. They finally settled on "Winter Glow," which I am satisfied with because again it's poetically descriptive without being too literal. The struggle about naming the concert was because it had gotten stranded on the deserted island of literalness.

Part of a graphic designer's job is to choose the most appropriate typeface. This is actually a critically important task. All too often designers make choices wherein the typeface overpowers the text, and such choices are often made so that the designer can show off their prowess. It's an ego-choice, rather than in being in service to the text. I believe that graphic designers need to balance humility with their desire to express themselves creatively; not necessarily humility towards the client, but humility in the face of the project itself. It's about making the designed object do its work as well as it can; self-expression comes second.

In the case of this poster, since I was trying to illustrate the idea of "Winter Glow" via a type design that could almost stand as a separate logo, I allowed myself to err on the side of directly illustrating the concept via the type. In effect, I wanted a typeface or typefaces that would showcase the text while also evoking its setting.

There's a well-known typeface called SnowCaps, which consists of block sans-serif type with snow draped on it. This is one of those familiar seasonal typefaces you see pulled out every winter season to be used on posters, TV programs, and so forth. It's become fairly recognizable even to non-designers.

As whimsical as SnowCaps is, though, it didn't entirely satisfy my logo/illustration needs. I ended up using it only for the initial caps for the "Winter Glow" logo/illustration.

For the body text of the logo/illustration, I discovered a marvelous illustrative font called Kingthings Christmas, available via download from Kingthings, the Internet home of UK artist and illustrator Kevin King. I recommend several of his display fonts to your attention, many of which have fascinating elements and details. The aspect of Kingthings Christmas as a typeface that I particularly enjoy is that the lowercase letters appear to be half-buried in snowbanks, with snowflakes falling all around them. Because it contains such rich detail, this is a display typeface best used at large sizes.

So the "Winter Glow" type logo was ultimately made up of a combination of two typefaces. I like the result enormously.

To put the finishing touches on the logo, I used Photoshop's Chrome filter to make reflective outlines that highlight and punch out the edges of the characters. This is layered together with two other colored versions of the logo type.

Throw in the PHMC logo, and the text giving concert dates, times, and ticket info, et voila, a finished poster:

(Click on image to see larger version.)

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I like How-tos like this. My Photoshop skills are very basic. Carrie can de-age people and everything but I basically do little more than resizing and trimming. Quite impressed with this, Art.

4:36 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...


I'm so used to doing this sort of Photoshop work, as I did it for years professionally, that it doesn't seem like that big a deal to me anymore. It didn't even use my more complicated techniques! LOL

I'm glad the how-to is interesting. I may do them more often in future, if and as interesting design projects come up. I have a feeling I'm going to be doing more design work again in the future. Life may be steering me back in that direction, again.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

UPDATE, post-concerts:

I have received numerous compliments on this poster, from Chorus members, from people at the concerts, from perfect strangers about town when I was out distributing them. It pleases me that everyone really seems to like this poster, as I felt it was one of own better photo-illustration-style posters. When you do a project like this, you often get no feedback at all; so this gave me some warm fuzzy feelings, which is always nice.

11:59 PM  

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