Poster for Alex Steinweiss
Choose a designer who’s work you want to learn from in your own practice. Make a 19.75" x 31.25" poster showcasing your design hero to an audience who is unfamiliar with them.
It took a while to choose my hero.
qualities I was looking for:
- delicate designs and use of color
- reasons for designing coincide with the changes happening during their time period
Design hero candidates and my impressions of them:
- El Lizzitsky — Russian Bauhaus, delicate compositions — delicate but bare
2. A.M. Cassandre — period between WWI and WWII, influence from cubism and surrealism, tragic loss to depression — beautiful abstractions but lacking more purpose in his design methods
3. Josef Müller-Brockmann — worshipped grids, timeless posters, maximum effort + minimal presentation — love his work but not as interested in his life story
4. Alex Steinweiss (final pick!) — designed first record covers, colorful play with shapes and typography — I love how lively his work is and he has a great smile :D
Who is Alex Steinweiss?
When writing his biography, I concluded with this sentence: “Alex’s career was a celebration of his own heroes, both in design and music.”
Although Alex Steinweiss is known for inventing the album cover and the LP jacket, his intentions shone brighter than his feats. Even during his retiring years, Alex continued his creative passions through ceramics and paid homage to his favorite classical composers through paintings.
“Brahms was my all-time favorite composer.
Frankly, I don’t think Brahms could have put a note to paper, and I don’t think I could have made an image without a cigar.”
With these photos that span ages 15–44, we can also acknowledge Alex’s playful spirit.
Selection of his work with a focus on his album covers:
The library was my best resource.
Alex’s typefaces + colors really reflected the 1940s.
The Steinweiss Scrawl — a hand lettering technique he used to cut down on typesetting cost but ended up being an easily recognizable style
Alex uses a lot of bold colors, often choosing a saturated complementary pair such as blue + yellow or red + green. Columbia records, where Alex worked at during his most prolific period, also used a good amount of diverse typefaces such as playbill and onyx to represent the Columbia brand. Finally, Alex also used some unique fonts like stencil or circus fonts to hint at the music he’s describing.
Alex had some re-occurring motifs.
Although I wasn’t able to incorporate many of these onto a single poster, these motifs started to spark ideas for spreads that can highlight some of his design process and style.
I wanted to brainstorm as many ideas as possible.
This was a good opportunity to put all of my bad ideas onto paper and filter them out. Alex’s grid structure really help determine where to place elements, and sometimes they would expand from 4x4 to 4x6 or 8x8 because of the size of the poster compared to a record cover.
Final 10 iterations and fleshing them out:
Thumbnail Critique (on final 10 thumbnails)
- Brett and peers gravitate more towards the first column because the prominent circles grab people’s attention.
- I personally wanted to explore the last column more because they capture more of Alex’s surrealism that I really enjoyed when looking at his work. They also seem to give me the most freedom in where to place text + image. The bottom left corner one seemed too grid-like and compact.
Moving forward, I want to move to photoshop to see if my thumbnails are actually executable. I also want to see if I can expand upon the last column because I see potential in the surrealist concept.
I then moved into the digital workspace.
making clean grids in Photoshop:
Bringing sketches onto Photoshop:
Large record thumbnail
I also started to work with a clear system:
- I did all the painted background and cropping on Photoshop
- did the typesetting and image placement following a specific grid on InDesign
- transferred what I did on InDesign into Photoshop.
Thursday Poster Critique
- Most people preferred the composition on the left because there’s a clear flow and the portrait is well-incorporated.
- The red and green combo reminds people of Christmas.
- Like the onyx “Alex Steinweiss”. Feels sophisticated.
- Text treatment for the right two seems too random. Quote seems too long.
- Body text of left poster is illegible because black on blue is hard to read.
I was unsatisfied with my lack of explorations.
I understood that people enjoy the left composition the most from the previous critique, so I felt that was my safest option. However, I still thought there were ideas I haven’t explored yet, so I wanted to try them out over the weekend before refining my safe composition.
Although these explorations weren’t successful, I was able to bring in a lot of elements from these explorations into my final poster, mainly the color palette, textures, and the treatment of the illustrations.
After Brett looked over these alternative iterations, he suggested I go back to my left composition because these explorations seemed too disorganized, like I was randomly placing elements on a blank canvas, and the text treatment wasn’t good. I decided to evaluate my old composition more carefully to understand why everyone liked it.
I first started with taking elements of my alternative iterations and bringing them into the old composition. I incorporating text into a piano, having colored sections correspond with specific illustrations, and using the new color palette.
However, I quickly realized my sloppy execution and decided to make my lines cleaner using a clipping mask, having more readable text, and even incorporating a time line that I have neglected up until this point.
I also chose to use pure white for all of my text because Alex used pure white or black to differentiate foreground elements from background.
Time for refining.
Because of the work I did the previous night, I didn’t have to make large adjustments. However, I did have a list of 20 things to tweak before printing.
Some more time-consuming changes:
- I realized that the illustrations I cropped from online photos were pixelated too, so I scanned the books I had instead to get clearer photos.
- I had trouble placing the quote and the body text where it didn’t look slapped on but it also was readable. I tried some different ways before going back to what I originally had.
3. I also changed the treatment of Alex’s name. Jaclyn suggested I make the Alex part more playful, increase the stroke weight of the hand lettering, and I also added shadows.