Magazine / People

Art grad designs concert posters for Pearl Jam and other bands

Brad Klausen's one-man company, Artillery Design, still produces Pearl Jam posters, but he’s also done work for bands such as Built to Spill, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, the Black Keys and Widespread Panic.

Looking for tips on effective resumé design? Talk to Brad Klausen.

The DU art grad was working for a design firm in Los Angeles when a newsletter from the Pearl Jam fan club caught his eye. Inspired by what he saw, Klausen (BFA graphic communication design ’98) designed a Pearl Jam poster of his own and put his name and phone number in one corner. He mailed it off to Seattle, along with an inquiry about creating artwork for the band. The answer, he says, was “thanks, but no thanks.”

Eight months later, he got the phone call that changed his life.

“[The band] put [the poster] up on their wall where they put other things fans send in, and they just kept it up there,” Klausen says. “Then they decided they wanted to get an in-house graphic designer, and my poster was on the wall and my phone number was on it, so they called.”

Klausen ended up working for Pearl Jam for nine years, creating T-shirts, newsletters, album art, posters and more. He worked directly with members of the band on albums such as Lost Dogs and Riot Act, but when it came to posters, he says, the band was remarkably hands-off, letting him draw whatever came into his mind. Poster ideas can come from anywhere, he says: song lyrics, current events, the history of the city in which the concert is taking place.

“A lot of times ideas just sort of appear,” he says. “It’s very strange. I would walk my dog all the time and she would play Frisbee, and I’d go out at night with a set of headphones on and play Frisbee with her and I’d come back full of ideas. I often don’t feel like these ideas are necessarily mine; some of it’s picking up on what’s out in the ether.”

In 2009 Klausen took another leap, leaving the Pearl Jam family to go solo. His one-man company, Artillery Design, still produces Pearl Jam posters, but he’s also done work for bands such as Built to Spill, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, the Black Keys and Widespread Panic. In December 2010, Akashic Books put out a book of his work titled From a Basement in Seattle: The Poster Art of Brad Klausen. It shows the development of 70 of his concert posters, from initial sketch to finished product.

“The way the music industry’s going, people aren’t buying CDs anymore,” Klausen says. “They’re buying stuff on iTunes. I think the poster gives you something tangible, something you can actually keep. And it’s art; it’s something you can hang on your wall and decorate your house with.”

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