It seems “how to” blog posts are all the rage, and I thought therefore it would be popular to dish out some tips on how to design a club night flyer.
Pretty much every single Pin Ups party from 2003 to 2012 had its own dedicated flyer. It was a lot of work but I felt it helped make each event unique. I started out by using scissors, glue and the work photocopier, but by 2005 I had graduated to Corel Draw, and engaging proper printers. Various failed dalliances with Photoshop (and its infuriating layers) followed, but I mostly kept faith with the increasingly antiquated Corel Draw, which probably helped the flyers maintain a sense of “identity” or “brand”.
A lot of club nights use the same template, just updating details such as date, acts and price, but personally I think doing so can rob your party of a proper buzz.
At some point I may write a full flyers “retrospective”, but for this post let’s just focus on one. I’ll pick a fairly recent example – Pin Up Nights: Intergalactic!, from January.
If it’s about [insert subject] then it had better look [insert subject]
On producing David Bowie’s China Girl, Nile Rodgers famously declared (I am paraphrasing) “if it’s going to be called China Girl then it had damn better sound oriental.”
I have always admired Mr Rodgers’ clarity of vision (!), and therefore I knew that a flyer about a space-themed party called Intergalactic! had better look pretty spacey. I made my initial sketches for the flyer at a very boring conference about exporting civil aircraft to India. (Doing your initial sketches in very boring conferences about exporting civil aircraft to India is not mandatory, but can really pass the time.)
Finding a font
You can see from the sketch that I had in mind a Bajoran font with a hoop around the text. Quite Star Trek/Red Dwarf. At this stage we thought the Mystery Spaceman for the party was going to be Craig Charles (it ended up being Andy Monaghan of Frightened Rabbit), which is why at this initial stage I was probably thinking of playing up the Red Dwarf connection. (You can also see that I think The Plimptons are playing – they would eventually play the month after at our Ladies Night.)
In the end I decided such an overt Star Trek sort of font just wasn’t very cool. I find that having too many font styles on the one flyer is a rather classic sign of an amateur, and I therefore kept the font type quite pedestrian – Intergalactic! got its own slightly different font, but that was as far as I went. (Something a bit jazzier for Intergalactic! itself might have been OK.)
A new Episode
While I always balked at seeing Pin Ups described as a “franchise” – it was frankly too weird and just too good to ever be franchised (unlike a very boring night currently endorsed in a creatively bankrupt fashion by one of Glasgow’s biggest club venues) – I did like the idea of the theme nights being “episodes”. I therefore thought it would be fun to arrange “PINUP”, “NIGHTS” and “INTERGALACTIC” in a sci-referencing Star Wars “slanty” style.
Spacemen and solar eclipses
From my initial sketch above you can see my original idea was to have band and DJ names on the side of various space-themed props. For example, I considered drawing caricatures of the band members of Nevada Base atop a star shape, while “The Plimptons” would be on the side of a 50s style rocket. Basically I hoped to rip off Tomer Hanuka’s incredible MGMT art.
I backed out of this plan when I realised that drawing something so brilliant was probably beyond me, and I would waste weeks working out it was beyond me!
In the spirit of “a flyer about a space-themed party called Intergalactic! had better look pretty spacey” I decided to look to my favourite science fiction films about space. In terms of aesthetic appeal my two favourite sci-fi flicks are 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien. Both look fantastic and both feature amazing orange-tinted spacesuits. Ridley Scott and comic artist Moebius collaborated on the Alien spacesuits (and I imagine both men drew inspiration from 2001).
Therefore I knew I wanted an astronaut in an orange spacesuit. In the end I erred on the side of the 2001 spacesuit (pictured below) because the Alien ones were a bit too abstract.
I considered using this movie still, but I find that flyers which just have a movie image plonked onto them tend to look pretty rubbish. I therefore messed about with a 2001 movie still with various effects until I had something that looked satisfyingly “graphic”.
I also wanted to somehow include the “solar eclipse” or “solar horizon” of 2001.
At first I tried to place spaceman just above the “horizon”,but it just looked odd. Re-examining the 2001 theatrical posters, I realised I really liked the “letterbox” white trims heading and footing the artwork. So I used the spaceman at the top and an earth “horizon” at the bottom as headers and footers. Job done!
Shot by both sides
If you are paying to have thousands of flyers printed, then I firmly believe you should use both sides differently – not just double up on the same design. For the bigger Pin Ups parties with busier bills, a common tactic was to have one side of the flyer in a “portrait” vertical style and the reverse in a “landscape” horizontal style. The “portrait” side would be the “front”, with the bare minimum of important details, and used for the A3 posters which we put up around town. The “landscape” side woud be the “back”, and used to set out more information.
As it happens, with Pin Up Nights: Intergalactic! I was so happy with the composition that I kept both sides “vertical”, but put more information on the “back” about what the fantastic Edinburgh crew “It’s Funtime” had in store with their “sci-fi” quiz.
Easter eggs and little logos
Decorating flyers with logos tends to give them a professional edge. I don’t know why this is, but I think it’s part of the reason why dance club night flyers traditionally – and subconciously – are visually more appealing than “indie” sort of ones. Dance club night flyers usually carry logos of not just the promoters, but also sponsors or even the venue.
I imitated that with Pin Ups flyers, not just because kind sponsors such as Agwa or Jagermeister (thank you!) expected it, but also because I think it looked good. We also included the Flying Duck logo. I think I started using this “little logo” tactic a mere 6 or so years after starting the night (never too late to pick up new tricks)…
We also sneaked in the revelation on the Intergalactic! flyer – as a further little Easter Egg for anybody paying close enough attention – that it was Game Over for Pin Ups on 30th March! This was the first time that the sad news had been made public. And if you were really paying attention you would have seen that the Flying Duck logo was replaced with a Planet Saturn.
I hope these tips have been helpful. Get designing and by all means send me your results!