The Tweedy Poster That Wouldn't Be

When I heard that Jeff Tweedy was coming to Portland in March, I immediately called my friend Lauren, who is responsible for booking the State Theater. I begged her, "Please! Let me design and screenprint a poster for the Tweedy show..."

My thought was that I would design something simple and memorable, screenprint it, and hang it around town, saving some to either give away or sell as a limited edition. I wasn't thinking much about what to do with the final product, just how badly I wanted to get back into making show posters. 

Lauren put me in touch with Jeff Tweedy's management, and they told me to send a sketch. They said that they worked on spec, and as long as the idea was on the right track, we could go from there. By 'on spec,' I assumed that meant that they intended to pay me for the poster, which wasn't my intention, but I would have been happy to accept payment, and I didn't want to establish myself as a high maintenance artist before I sent them anything, so I got to work. 

I did some research on Jeff's guitars, and found that he's been playing Breedlove guitars since 2006. In fact, they've created a custom Jeff Tweedy model. The distinctive shape of the pick guard was reminiscent of a teardrop, and I thought that would make a great subtle reference to the often heartbreaking nature of some of his songs. I know he's also got a great sense of humor, and is just as comfortable in the upbeat pop side of music as well, so I kept the palette less somber and more modern. I layered the guitar silhouette and teardrop pick guard with a halftoned wood grain pattern (reference to Wilco song/lyric) to show off the translucent nature of screenprinting. 


I sent this sketch off and waited about three weeks to hear back. Unfortunately, they decided not to engage my services for this poster. I thought about replying with a reminder that I don't actually want payment as much as I want an approval/endorsement to print these on my own, but I decided not to belabor the point. 

Being passed over is an element of the design world that we're introduced to in art school. Critiques are a hard part of your education, as you bare all to a jury of your peers and invite them to tear apart the results of your efforts. In our studios, design solutions can be very personal and resonate with our selves, but when they're in the real world, it becomes everyone's work. Ownership is a great feeling, but it can't come at the expense of accessibility. Designing in a bubble and ignoring feedback only serves the selfish designer who will never communicate as successfully as those who can hear, process, and understand constructive feedback.

And let's be honest, none of that is to say that I'm not disappointed.