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.

Leave a Reply