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!)