How To Make a Killer Gig Poster

 As much as we want to think otherwise, most musicians probably spend less than half their music-related time actually making music. The majority is spent humping gear, networking, attending wild parties, signing autographs, landing hot babes, and...making gig posters.

Creating a good gig poster is not as easy as it may seem. There is more to it than simply slapping your band name and date on a piece of paper. Below are my tips for making your posters more interesting and effective.

Instant Gratification
Advertisers and graphic designers will tell you that the number one goal of any design is to get the point across quickly. A poster, billboard, or magazine ad has literally seconds to grab a viewer's attention and convey its message. Every decision you make while designing your band's posters should revolve around that goal. Viewers should be able to consume the information on your poster at a glance.

We Want Information
Make the important points stand out: who, what, where, when. Use bold fonts to highlight that info, and put it in obvious places.

Remember: when two or more objects in a design are close together viewers perceive them as a single "element". This is true of objects in a picture, big words or letters, and blocks of text. This is important to remember for several reason. First, it reminds us to group related things like date and time together for easy consumption. More importantly, it gives us the power to lead a reader's eye through our designs by arranging elements in a way that create a "flow". This "flow" can lead a reader from eye-catching image to band name, to date and time, to venue name, and finally to "small print".

Have you ever seen band posters so jumbled you almost couldn't read them? I have. Heck...during the '80's I saw band logos I couldn't even read. Being creative with letters is good, but never at the expense of readability. Remember: you have only seconds to convey your message.

Make sure that your fonts or hand-lettered words are easy to read. Make sure they stand out from the background, in terms of both color and texture. Make sure the important information looks more important that than the non-important information. It's OK to have "fine print" on your poster, but - make sure it only contains non-vital information.

The devices people use to consume information are getting smaller every day. Desktop computers are quickly become the SUV's of the computing world, replaced by laptops, notepads, and phones. Your posters should be be able to be scalable to different sizes without sacrificing readability or visual appeal.

Gone too are the days when "getting the word out" meant stapling your posters to telephone poles. Social media sites are how people learn about things now. Make sure you know how to optimize your poster to look it's best at places like Facebook or ReverbNation.

Visual Appeal
The goal with an image is to catch, perhaps hold, a viewer's attention without hindering their ability to gather information. The lowest functional bar you should shoot with for is to do no harm. Create an image that grabs eyeballs and then quickly gets out of the way. At best, your image will merge with your text to create a compelling design that motivates people to come to your show or seek more information about the band.

Use images that amplify the tone and feel of your band's music. Don't use copyrighted images without permission.

Let's Critique
Using the guidelines I've laid out, let's evaluate the Chrome Molly poster pictured above, which I just created for my band. I wouldn't call it my best effort ever, but it gets the job done. I would rate it:

Instant Gratification: 9. You get the point pretty quickly.
Information: 10. It's answers the who, what, where, and when pretty succinctly.
The Big Picture: 5. Flames aren't exactly innovative, but they do give it some visual interest.
Readability: 6. The flames mingling with the words at the bottom make it a little too busy.
Size-Ability: 8. Even at the small size above everything is still pretty clear.

The Best Ones
There are some kick-ass gig posters out there. A Google search will reveal countless examples. They are the ones that have both massive visual appeal and convey information quickly. As I've shown with my example, not every poster you make will rise to that level. That's OK....they don't all need to. Just make sure they get the information!


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