Friday Top 5: Gig Poster Artists

As the designer and occasional poster artist for Austin Town Hall, I’ve always had a love affair with well-done gig posters. Since I’m about to get ready to do my third (cant believe we’ve been doing it for 3 years now) ATH SXSW poster and it’s that time of year when every bulletin board and lamppost is plastered with them, I figured it would be a great opportunity to talk about my favorite poster artists. This list is totally subjective, so it’s all based on my personal taste. When your done reading, go support them. Buy their posters, frame them and put them up on your wall. Follow the jump for my Top 5 Gig Poster artists.


5. Invisible Creature

Invisible Creature is so hot right now. And they are brothers, just like the ATH founders! The team consists of Don and Ryan Clark and they’ve been going at it since 2000 in Seattle. I first noticed Invisible Creature with the work they did for the Sasquatch Music Festival in 2008. Their unique and whimsical style really caught my eye and it immediately reminded me of the work of gig poster legend Jay Ryan (more on him next). Like some of the other studios on my list, they’re not just poster artists. These guys have been nominated for Grammy awards for album artwork and recently hit the big time working on more commercial clients such as Target and Nike. I never thought a gift card could be so radical.


4. Jay Ryan

Jay Ryan is one of the most admired and well-known individuals in the poster industry. The thing I like so much about Jay’s work is that you can recognize his style from a mile away. He occasionally works under the moniker The Bird Machine and is actually a talented musician in his own right. He’s played bass for such bands as Braid, Hubcab and is a founding member of Dianogah. And yes, Dianogah is named after the garbage compactor monster in Star Wars. I’ve always admired the detail and care that goes into all of his poster designs, as well as his use of color and hand-drawn type. Oh, and squirrels. If you dig his work as much as I do, you should check out his 2005 book.


3. Aesthetic Apparatus

The duo of Dan Ibarra and Michael Byzewski make up the Minneapolis-based Aesthetic Apparatus and have been going strong since 1998. It would take you a week to go through all of their work … they might just be the hardest working studio in the business. In my humble opinion, AA handles type better than any studio around (thanks in part to expert usage of HF&J fonts). Their use of color will blow your retinas away. In addition to gig posters, they also have an unreal resume of album artwork (Cake, specifically). But ya, I’d list all the kick-ass bands they’ve done posters for, but it seems like they’ve done one for just about everybody. Head on over to their site and see for yourself.


2. The Decoder Ring

I’ve gotta throw a bunch of love at my favorite local studio. Actually, I’m not sure if it’s Decoder Ring anymore, as co-founder Christian Helms has started up his own gig called Helms Workshop. But let’s talk about the work anyways. I like to tell anyone who’ll listen that they are single-handily putting great design in Austin on the map. They’ve created some amazing branding work for Stubbs, Frank, Hoboken Pie and Black Sheep Lodge. They killed it with album artwork for Modest Mouse, The Hold Steady, Spoon and Ben Kweller (to name a few). Their poster collaboration with Todd Sanders (another local legend) for Willie Nelson at Stubb’s might be my all-time favorite gig poster.


1. The Heads Of State

Simply put, The Heads of State is my favorite poster studio. Formed by Jason Kernevich and Dustin Summers in Philadelphia, these guys have been pumping out gig posters for the better part of a decade. Their style is simple yet bold. I think they handle texture better than anyone on this list… it’s authentic yet not overbearing. They have done regular work for bands such as R.E.M, Built to Spill and Wilco. Oh, and they did a set of prints for Alamo Drafthouse’s Rolling Roadshow. I’ve been keeping up with these guys for about as long as they’ve been around, and it’s been fun to watch them grow. In the past few years, they’ve branched out from gig posters with a popular travel poster series and a beautiful Great Gatbsy letterpresses poster.


Honorable Mention: The Bungaloo, Patent Pending, El Jefe Design, The Small Stakes and Vahalla Studios.

So tell me readers, who did I miss? Anyone out there have a favorite poster artist or poster they’d like to share?



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