Design

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The London Design Festival ROCKS

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Even though the recorded music industry has been falling into a perpetual tailspin since the advent of the “Free” download (it's not free it's stealing), live music is more popular than ever before. In fact, many acts (even the big ones) have stated implicitly that they rely on live gigs to turn a profit, and the REALLY big acts (your Springsteen's, your Jay-Z's, your U2's and what have you) can pull in literal millions per performance, thanks in part to the frankly ludicrous ticket prices such gigs demand. People are willing to pay through the teeth for these tickets though because there is something truly magical (and I'm being deadly serious here) about the live rock and roll experience. I'm not talking about watching a DJ press a few buttons and punch the air for 2 hours here either, I'm talking about real, live rock and roll  music, and a major part of the live rock and roll experience always has, and always will be the gig posters.

Gig Poster Power has been curated by Ken Ansell and Dave Dragon, and will showcase around 40 gig poster designs from the past to the present day

Whilst the generic, fly by night pop star or ageing crooner might be content with a glossy band photo and a list of your dates, rock bands have always used the platform to explore the visual language of their music. From The Rolling Stones to Mastodon and everywhere in between, the psychedelic rock gig poster has always been a mainstay. Indeed, my own bedroom wall growing up was plastered with such posters, and the Clinic consultancy have tapped into every rock fans latent  nostalgia with an exhibition schedules to take place during this year's London Design Festival.

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Gig Poster Power has been curated by Clinic co-founders Ken Ansell and Dave Dragon, and will showcase around 40 gig poster designs from the past to the present day. According to Ansell, the exhibition will focus mainly on print posters, and aims to make viewers question the future of design in music, and whether there is still room for such tangible objects in a digital world. He says: “We want to exhibit posters in their printed form, so people see the value of something printed. Nowadays, we’re always looking at things on a phone, so it’ll be nice to see the designs in A2-size.”

The exhibition design is decidedly informal, as the idea is to emulate the cavalier spirit of rock and roll

Clinic is also completing the exhibition design, which will be decidedly informal, as the idea is to emulate the cavalier spirit of rock and roll. In fact, the posters might not even be framed, which will really lend the show a retro vibe! Posters will date back as far as the 1960s, which the majority will be from the last 15 years, as the vast majority of posters from before that period were printed in such small numbers that there simply are not any left to display. There will be a few posters displayed as digital downloads and designs included in the exhibition will be from both British and American artists.

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Ansell wants to highlight the gig poster’s function as a piece of art or souvenir, rather than a piece of advertising. He said: “There was a time when a poster would be designed to promote a gig. But the posters we’re displaying are pure merchandise. We’re hoping designers will come in and be inspired.” He adds that he hopes the future of design in music will see poster and record sleeves become collectible again:  “As a record sleeve designer who worked with the 12 inch x 12 inch format, it was disappointing when the format changed to the more restrictive CDs. Now, it’s got a little better again, with digipacks, and the resurgence of vinyl. Young people currently buy vinyl and enjoy the tactile element of owning an album, but also the convenience of having it on download. I think special packaging will start to become a badge of armour for the music.”

The London Design Festival returns to the capital between the 19th and the 27th of September, marking the 12th anniversary of the event

He’s not wrong. As a musician operating on the fringes of the mainstream myself, it’s easy to see the appeal of something more solid, collectable and long-lasting, as all it takes to get rid of an MP3 is to accidently send the wrong file to the recycle bin. Ansell adds: “As a record sleeve designer who worked with the 12 inch x 12 inch format, it was disappointing when the format changed to the more restrictive CDs. Now, it’s got a little better again, with the resurgence of vinyl. Young people currently buy vinyl records and enjoy the tactile element of owning an album, but also the convenience of having it on download. I think special packaging will start to become a badge of armour for the music.” A badge I’d wear with pride.

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The London Design Festival returns to the capital between the 19th and the 27th of September, marking the 12th anniversary of the event, which is considered to be one of the biggest occasions in the design calendar. Gig Poster Power will be at Clinic between the 21st and the 25th from 10am-4pm. To find out more about the exhibition visit the London Design Festival event page. I for one will definitely be checking it out!

Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and lifelong rock and/or roll fan from Kidderminster in the UK.

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