Vintage concert poster design

I’ve designed a few concert posters recently based on a vintage “tour blank” style of poster. But what is this style?

In the US from the 1920s to the 1960s, touring musicians commissioned eye-catching poster designs to promote their upcoming tours in a style shown in the examples below.

Determined to grab your attention, the designs were bold. Usually 2 or 3 bright colours were used along with arrows, circles, stars and stripes to direct the eye. As was the process of the day, the type was generally hand-lettered. Most of these designs used publicity photos of the artists, often using just their heads cut out from the background (alternatively, a caricature would be used).

It would have been expensive to produce a separate poster design for each of the destinations on their tour, so they would print a generic poster and leave a blank space (usually at the top) to add specific venue information at a later date. This venue information was printed (usually by letterpress) locally by the promoter. Sometimes the information was simply drawn on to each poster by hand. As a consequence the part with the venue information has a more amateurish appearance than the rest of the poster, which I tried to replicate with my modern interpretations.

I tried out some letterpress printing using wood type recently at the Melbourne Museum of Printing. I’ll go into more detail in a later post, but if you are a student of graphic design it is a visit I definitely recommend!

It’s worth noting that nowdays these “tour blank” concert posters are sometimes identified as “boxing style”.

Check out these posters advertising touring multi-act “revue” style shows! Now that’s a busy poster design! (but they sure look like fun concerts!)

Special thanks to Dr. Dennis Hickey for permission to use images from his fantastic poster collection. If you’d like to learn more check out his vintage concert poster collecting website. I also recommend Pete’s Poster Central site for more information on vintage tour blanks.