I kind of operate with the idea that if it's attractive, interesting, and looks different from what else is out there, then it's going to draw you in.
JEFF KLEINSMITH, whose recent work includes the awesome Hot Hot Heat album art and a Sigur Ros poster, has been designing posters for 12 years. He started at the Rocket, moved on to Sub Pop, and uses strong, conceptual images that consistently please and surprise. He renders his posters initially by hand, and lays it all out on the computer.
Do you create "fine art" in addition to poster art?
I love the idea of doing it. But I rarely sit around and do "art"; I'd love to, but I don't have the confidence or time.
How much does the music affect the images you use?
It affects it a lot. It's funny; sometimes I'm doing a poster for bands I've heard a lot about, but haven't heard their music, so I end up doing a poster based on what I imagine they're like. It's kind of fun. It's like never meeting that famous person you love, and there's a certain fantasy that you create about that person that's actually way cooler, but they'd never live up to what they imagine you to be. I'd much rather approach something on an obtuse, obscure level than going, "well, they're really into cats, so I'm gonna use a cat." I've gone down that road with bands I know a lot about and I usually end up hating those posters. I don't like anything too literal, ever.
Do you think of your posters as artifacts?
Yeah. I think it's possible that someone's going to hear this and kill me, but I'm concerned about selling tickets to the show with the posters, but it's kind of weird because I don't really care about it; in that sense, I'm doing fine art. A lot of people would say that it's not successful, or it's not good design, because the outcome may be aesthetically pleasing, but it's not good design because it's not advertising the show. I kind of operate with the idea that if it's attractive, interesting, and looks different from what else is out there, then it's going to draw you in. I give a lot more credit to the viewer and the general public--that they're going to find it interesting and attractive enough to search out the information. This is where I'm arrogant and snobby. But most design out there is shit, and dictated by a lowest-common-denominator, marketing approach. You know, some sleazy image that grabs your attention, and puts the store name really big. It's weird 'cause it kind of works, but I hate that and I don't want to play into that. I refuse to play by the rules.
It removes the artfulness from the outcome, maybe.
I totally agree with that. I wish that more attention was paid and more credit was given to the viewer. We treat them as idiots with a lot of the stuff we put out there as graphic designers. JS