Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Casey Burns Gig Posters

The gig posters for Spoon were designed by award winning illustrator, Casey Burns from Portland, Oregon. Casey is not only an illustrator, but a fine artist, graphic designers, printmaker (which all seem to go hand in hand as I study up on artist bios each week), art director, branding strategist, and musician. Casey is very involved in the publicizing aspect of the music industry, and having a background in music, I think adds an extra punch to his work. He is also a creator in advertising, film, comic books, magazines, newspapers, greeting cards, apparel, and toy design. Some of his clients in music include Modest Mouse, Spoon, and Sonic Youth. Others outside this industry are Nike Snowboarding, The New York Times, Dr. Martens, and more.

Casey is involved in so many aspects of communication, and makes perfect sense after reading about his educational history. From 1993 to 1998, he went to school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. At school, he entered the indie rock music scene as both a musician, and poster artist, working as an in-house artist for the Cat’s Cradle music venue in Carrboro. Casey played bass with The Nein,The Rosebuds, Gold Chainz, and Soundtrack. A few years later, he moved to Portland Oregon and continued his poster art. In October 2006, The Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill added the Casey Burns Collection containing posters he designed and printed. This collection, paired with the Ron Liberti Collection, forms an important document of Chapel Hill/Carrboro’s vibrant independent music scene at the turn of the 21st century. Here’s a link to a collection that contains his poster art. Obviously most of these posters are for rock concerts in Chapel Hill, N. C., for venues including not only Cat’s Cradle, but also Local 506, and Go!, if you’re interested in researching more about these. Musician groups featured on the posters that I recognize include Breeders, Built to Spill, Super Furry Animals, and Dashboard Confessional. Others that i do not recognize (but you may) are Tift Merrit, Bettie Serveert, Richard Buckner, Southern Culture on the Skids, Mogwai, Gang of Four, Joan Baez, Crooked Fingers, and Lucinda Williams.

If you want to check out some books these posters are featured in, some include The Art of Modern Rock, Gig Posters: Rock Art of the 21st Century, Rock Paper Show, 1000 Indie Posters, and Simple Screenprinting. Also, if you would like to see some of his comic book style work, check out Pratt's Eisner’s series Wolverine: Netsuke, published by Marvel Comics in 2002, which he assisted on.

In addition, you can follow his blog on this site here.

Casey has a very consistent style in his illustrations for gig posters. Here’s a link to more of them he has created. I enjoy the way he places text of information for the shows on secondary objects in the images, sometimes background or foreground, including walls, tables, floors, blinds, beer bottles, etc. The typography is perfect, like it was just scribbled with ink or scratched out from the picture. It’s less sophisticated than official typefaces, and brings out the indie rock in the poster. Hate to go off on a typography tangent, but he does you a pretty effective hierarchy of type to communicate different pieces of information you would need to know about the show. Subjects he includes are not necessarily directly related to the musician/group, but are very catchy and interesting. Subjects are mainly men and women doing regular activities, like sitting at a bar or walking down the sidewalk. Sometimes he includes nature settings, like the Delorean poster with a snowcapped mountain. He uses a very minimal number of colors, but nevertheless, they are attention grabbing. No need to make the poster so busy with color when he emphasizes more on the detailing in the blacks and whites of the rest of the scene. Details are in the highlights of the hair, folds of the clothes, wood grain, etc. He uses dots, lines, and smudges. Shadows in the backgrounds are very flat, so there is definitely more focus on the detail of the subjects and others things in the settings.

Although the subjects in Casey's illustrations for these gig posters do no have direct relationships to the musicians or the shows, the information in the text communicate information. To me, the style of the posters communicate the type of music that is played. I think the style draws in the right crowd. What do you think?


  1. I think the subjects of the illustrations may be taken directly from the venues' target demographic of situations that come up for college kids.

    These are most likely silk screened posters, meaning each color used required a separate screen and layer of ink. These prints required 4 screens for the colored areas, with the white of the paper showing through for the 5th color. I really enjoy the way he uses his compositional elements to move the viewer's eye around the image but still directs it to the pertinent information about the shows.

  2. I agree with ^ in the movement of the two posters youve posted. He has great use of line be it in the text, a simple line, color block, an angle of an appendage, they all work together moving the eye in and around the piece. I feel as a designer creating informative work this is crucial. Not only for the information to be legible but interesting and easy relate to and follow. Great work. Thanks for the post.

  3. I really like his style. It's very raw and definitely appeals to the right crowd. I really like how he uses just the right amount of color in each of his posters too.