We’re in the final week of our Figment Concert Poster Contest, and with the deadline looming we thought it might be a good idea to introduce you to the guy who’s going to be picking the eventual winner and designing a poster for one of their Figment bands.

Lonny Unitus is a professional poster artist from Minneapolis, MN who has been creating posters for musical artists as diverse as AC Newman, The Melvins, Guttermouth and Mastodon since 1997.   He also designs merchandise for bands like Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss, Slipknot, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Rob Zombie.

We were interested in finding out more about Lonny’s creative process and how he actually works with bands to create such original concert posters, so here’s what he had to say…

Figment News:  How did you get started in the poster business?

Lonny Unitus:  I’ve been drawing/Xeroxing posters since high-school. I was in a band in college, so was very active in the music scene and created a lot of flyers for my band and friend’s bands. I got serious about posters after working a corporate job for a few years. I was looking for a creative outlet and saw what my friends from college were doing (Michael Byzewski from Aesthetic Apparatus and Miss Amy Jo) with screenprinting and rock posters. I was living in Mississippi at the time (for my job) but hooked up with two friends in Fargo (a promoter, and my old band-mate who is a screenprinter – Justin Seng). When I moved back to Minnesota, I joined a studio with Miss Amy Jo and Wes Winship from Burlesque of North America, and learned how to screenprint myself.

FN:  Did you study graphic design in school or did you just start creating posters for friend’s bands?

LU:  I majored in Art with a concentration in Illustration.

FN:  Is the concert poster business very DIY or do you think it’s becoming more professional?

LU:  Both. For every studio that grows and takes on big jobs for big clients, there are several artists just starting out and screenprinting in their apartments or dorm rooms.

FN:  How do you start working with a band?  Does the band approach you directly or are you hired by the promoter of a show?

LU:  While I used to chase after bands I wanted to work for, now the majority of my work comes directly from promoters and bands who find me.

FN:  Do you try to create posters that mirror the music of the band you are designing for or do you get inspiration from other sources?

LU:  It’s important for me to design a poster that is appropriate for the band, and that the fans connect with.

FN:  What’s involved (the steps) in producing a poster for a band?

LU:  It differs from job to job. Sometimes the band may have an idea, or would reference one of my other posters and say “something like this,” or the ball’s in my court to come up with something. I’ll usually send out a rough pencil sketch of the idea, and maybe block in some color. Once that is approved I’ll move right to the finished design.

FN:  You’ve worked with indie and well known major label artists.  Which do you prefer to work with?  Which allows you more creative freedom?

LU:  Oddly enough, I’ve had more freedom with bigger bands. I think smaller/indie  bands want to be more a part of the whole process, and I’m cool with that. Up and coming bands are often just establishing their visual identity, so they’re a bit more guarded. Not to say I haven’t worked with some big bands that were picky, but I often get more input/critiques with indie bands.

FN:  How did you start working with bands like Kiss and Slpknot to produce their merch?

LU:  I work with two major merchandising companies that are pretty much responsible for all the shirts you see at stores like Hot Topic and the like.  So, through those two companies I’ve done work for Kiss, Slipknot, HIM, Ozzy Osbourne, and Red Hot Chili Peppers to name a few.

FN:  I noticed you’re a member of the Minnesota chapter of the International Cartoon Conspiracy.  What’s that all about and how are you involved?

LU:  It’s a group of Minneapolis cartoonists that meet monthly and “jam,” produce mini-comics (usually Xeroxed DIY kind of things), and produce box-sets of comics called Lutefisk Sushi.  A poster maker friend of mine hooked me up with that group when I moved to town.

FN:  There seems to be a lot of very talented and well known poster artists in Minneapolis.  Aesthetic Apparatus, FLORAFAUNA, etc.  Why do you think that is?

LU:  Minneapolis has a great music scene, so that helps. The art/design/music scene in general here is awesome.

FN:  Who are your favorite poster artists?

LU:  Guy Burwell, Ivan Minsloff, Tooth , Little Friends of Printmaking, Drew Millward, Tyler Stout, Willem Kolvoort, Mark Pedini, Print Mafia, Budai, Methane Studios, Aesthetic Apparatus, and Miss Amy Jo to name a few.

FN:  Any advice for our budding poster designers on Figment?

LU:  Look at Gigposters.com, figure out what you like and why you like it. Then put your own spin on it. Steer clear of cheesy PhotoShop filters and lame fonts. Hand-drawn text almost always looks cool. Don’t steal other people’s work.

FN:  Where can people find out more about you and purchase your work?

LU:  My website is LonnyUnitus.com, or you can look me up at Gipgosters.com.

FN:  Have you ever created concert posters for fake bands before?

LU:  Not yet.

When I started putting together our Figment Concert Poster Contest I went on the web to do some research on who were some of the top new poster designers, and in doing so I stumbled across GigPosters.com.  The site is a virtual treasure trove of concert posters and is great way to bring yourself up-to-speed on designers across the country.

Clay Hayes is the mastermind behind the site, and since 2001 has built it into the world’s largest historical archive of posters with over 100,000 works from more than 1,000 designers.  With the release of his new book “Gig Posters Volume 1:  Rock Show Art of the 21st Century” he’s helping to bring more attention to this deserving group of artists.

Figment News: How did you first get interested in concert posters, and what led you to create GigPosters.com?

Clay Hayes: I used to play in a band, and collected the flyers from our shows. I was a computer programmer, and wanted to create a website, so it naturally came to me to create a site about gig posters.

FN: In this age of digital downloads and disposable culture many may see concert posters as a relic of the past. Why do you think they endure, and are they enjoying a renaissance of sorts?

CH: I think it is always interesting to look back historically and see where a band played, and who they played with. These days, with MP3s etc, posters are a great way to have a piece of art that relates to the bands you like, to hang on your wall.

FN: Are concert posters more than just ads?

CH: They can be more than just ads to those who collect posters, and fans who want memorabilia to hang on their walls.

FN: Many concert poster designers seem to be musicians themselves. Do you think that’s a prerequisite or just a function of them being artistic, creative people?

CH: I think it is just part of being involved in the scene. I’m sure being musicians, like I was, sparked their interest in posters.

FN: So how does the site work? Does it cost the designers to submit and display their work? Can anyone submit their poster designs?

CH: The site is free for everyone. Anyone can submit posters and interact.

(Editor’s Note: Only posters for real gigs can be submitted. Please do not submit any fake band concert posters to GigPosters.com)

FN: I noticed that a lot of designers use your site as their online portfolio. That clearly speaks to your relationship with the designers who use it. Are you friends with a lot of the designers on the site?

CH: I have become friends with many of the designers over the years. 4 times a year, many of us meet in person at the Flatstock poster conventions.

FN: You’ve published a book, “Gig Posters: Rock Show Art of the 21st Century”, that catalogs a number of the designers whose work appears on GigPosters.com. How did you select the designers who are featured in the book?

CH: I narrowed it down to approx 500 of the best designers from the site, then worked with the publisher to find the top 101 that we wanted to showcase in the book.

FN:  Was it hard narrowing down the list of designers to create Volume 1?

CH:  It was very difficult, and tons of amazing poster designers were left out.  Hopefully, I can showcase many more with other volumes of the book.

FN:  Who would you put in your Top 5 designers or is that simply too hard to do?

CH:  I would prefer not to say, as that would just be my personal opinion. Everyone has their own tastes, and discovering favorites is part of the fun of exploring the site, and book.

FN:  I love how you not only provide information about the designers themselves, but also their influences and preferred mediums/methods as well as some background on them. Are you hoping to elevate the design, typography and printing aspects of this art form as well as the profile of the designers themselves?

CH:  I think it just helps people understand where the designers are coming from, and what influences their designs.

FN:  I noticed the book has 101 perforated posters that you can actually take out of the book. Was that a conscious decision to allow people the opportunity to present the art in its original poster form?

CH:   It gives people the opportunity to hang some of the “book versions” of the posters on their wall, and hopefully spark some interest in collecting the real posters.

FN: Where can people pick up Gig Posters Vol. 1?

CH:  http://www.gigposters.com/book

FN: Is Volume 2 already in the works?

CH: Not yet .. but hopefully soon. That is all up to the publisher… and I’m just waiting to find out when it will happen.

Well, all of us at Figment hope it’s soon, because we love Volume 1!  To find out more and stay on top of the newest poster designs, etc. you can follow Clay and GigPosters.com on Twitter and Facebook.

With our Figment Concert Poster Contest in full swing I thought I’d clean out the ole bookmark list and give you some relevant links to check out.  So here it goes –

1.  Having trouble figuring out how to create an authentic rock poster?  Here’s a tutorial.

2.  Minneapolis truly is a rock poster design mecca with Lonny Unitus, Aesthetic Apparatus, FLORAFAUNA and Chuck Ungemach among others calling it home.

3.  It’s also great to read about a band like Os Tornados, a six-piece 50’s & 60’s inspired rock band out of Porto, Portugal, whose keyboardist prefers to draw or paint the band’s posters as a way of translating the band’s analog esthetic. While you’re at it check out their music, it’s great.

4.  And speaking of other great rock poster design mecca’s Portland, OR is no slouch either!

Well that’s it for now.  We have some great interviews coming up, so stay tuned.  In the meantime, if you have an article, site or other piece of interweb flotsam jetsam that you’d like to share let us know about it by posting it as a comment.  Until next time!

We’re pleased to announce that as of today RevSpike will be taking over the reins of User Heavyweight for the month of January from thehoseman.

RevSpike’s irreverent, twisted and hilarious sense of humor can be seen in the bands he’s created including Fustercluck, The Frozen Cement Explosion, Dick, CreepyThe Flammables, Wonderschlub, Smug Fungus, Slobber Molecule and Byron Udderfly among others.  His new label OEdible Media is not only a delicious play on words, but fast becoming a home to an ecclectic array of artists whose quirks are not only front and center, but celebrated.

Check out his band descriptions, in addition to being well written and funny, they also sport incredible detail, like publicity stills that are priceless.

His album cover design skills are also terrific.  He clearly takes time to create images that are engaging and speak to his artist’s musical style.  Not content to just troll the interwebs for found images, RevSpike often enlists his friends, and in some cases himself (the image above is the picture he used to create Creepy’s “The Devil Made Me Duet” cover), to populate his bands, creating fake artists that seem downright real.

Check out his recent covers for Smug Fungus, Slobber Molecule and Horst Oeuvre and The Hors D’Oeuvres (clearly he’s listening to our podcast – big points Rev).  We can only hope he enters a poster in our Figment Concert Poster Contest!

He’s no slouch when it comes to new ideas either.   Whether it’s producing the first video interview with our Figment News blog, or creating the first soundtracks for a breakfast cereal (Hey Lady!  Ya Dropped Yer Kid!) and an underwear catalog (Under Here…), RevSpike is on the cutting edge of all things fake!

So congratulations RevSpike!  Your work on Figment has earned you Heavyweight status and a big AMEN from all of us!

We’d also like to thank thehoseman for serving as our User Heavyweight last month.  He did a great job reviewing albums and lavishing lucre on those bands he thought deserved it.  My guess is we’ll see him earn the honor again soon, but in the meantime AMEN to you too brother!