Jason Munn’s initiation into poster design is a familiar one—an early interest in music, and friends in local bands. “I had so many Jeff Kleinsmith–designed Sub Pop records growing up,” he says. “I am sure they had an influence without me realizing it.” Less common is Munn’s ability to control and manipulate letterforms stylistically so that they evolve into visual metaphors. Band names such as Animal Collective and Rogue Wave transform into forests or seascapes, sometimes pushing the typography into the background.
Munn began his career designing material for a now defunct venue in Berkeley, California, called the Ramp, a church basement that held rock shows. He worked for free, selling the leftover prints just to recoup his production costs. As the small local bands that played there garnered more attention from record labels, so did Munn’s posters. Now he works for performers like the Shins, Bright Eyes, and Neko Case—and he was named an Art Directors Club Young Gun last year.
Munn’s design methodology varies with the subject. “Some bands are hard to personify with an image,” he explains. “Animal Collective’s sound is very abstract with lots of textures to it, so I wanted to make their name obscure and hidden.” A poster for Sufjan Stevens, however, is much more formal and ornate. “He had a forty-piece band and a choir backing him up,” Munn says. “He wanted the design of the poster to reflect the orchestration of the show. It was a poster made to match the experience.”