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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducts Green Day and punk rock design.

Paul Federico

June 9, 2015
Paul Federico

As I was watching Green Day’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on May 30th on HBO, I was reminded of how much energy and excitement that band produces. As most graphic designers, like myself, who were watching, I am sure they were mesmerized by the video graphics display of show flyers from the 80’s and 90’s as the band played “Basket Case.” As the crude drawings and hand lettered designs flashed behind the band, I got goosebumps!

Since the bands formation in 1986, a stream of graphic icons and posters were produced to announce each tour and album. A quick Green Day search on Google images shows a staggering display of punk rock art.

During the bands acceptance speech, drummer Tré Cool talked about starting out playing at punk clubs and backyard parties, as well as screen-printing T-shirts on Billie Joe’s guitar case.  Like most bands that are just starting out, he talked about the importance of churning out cheap last minute flyers and posters.

I can remember back to when I was in college getting phone calls that went something like this: “Dude, you go to art school right? We need flyers for my brother’s friend’s show tonight. Need enough to cover the campus and downtown. You can draw and shi* right?”

No problem. Today, you can bang something like this out on your laptop, create an invite, post it to the social media channels, and send to Staples to print 100 copies. In 1985, we got these calls on our answering machines (Google it, millennials). Needless to say, we didn’t have texting or computers.

So, you break out your markers, scissors, and rubber cement, and grab a nice fresh square of Letramax 4000 mechanical board, slap something cool together, and then head off to the corner copy shop. In my case, my favorite spot was the Village Copier on 13th St., one of the first printing centers in NYC where fellow designers would go to hang out, wait for prints, and sometimes use the sidewalk as your desk (fun times).

Punk rock art was all about unpolished energy and originality. In today’s design world, we can easily copy and paste content to take the easiest route. By doing so, however; we lose the opportunity to stand out.  When you have the freedom to do stand out from the rest, it’s better to go with your instincts and break the mold.

Punk rock art influences came from the Pop art movement of the 1960s, like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, and Claes Oldenburg. Punk Rocks do-it-yourself art was meant to shock, amaze, and stand out from the polished design of the 1970s. This groundbreaking style continues to impact design, music, and fashion today.

To learn more about the history of Punk Rock Design, I recommend you check out The Art of Punk: The Illustrated History of Punk Rock. This is the first book to chronicle the art of punk style, from concert posters and flyers to fanzines and record sleeves, T-shirts, buttons, comic books, and much more. The story begins with the godfathers of punk—the Velvet Undergound, MC5, the Ramones, New York Dolls, and Patti Smith and so on.”

Use what’s around you. Be original and have a point of view. That’s what was most inspiring about Billie Joe. He wrapped up his acceptance speech with this takeaway: “I’ve always loved rock & roll music. I always have. As soon as I opened my eyes and took my first breath, I’m a fan. And that’s the one thing that I’m going to close with is that I love rock & roll.”