Poster Art: Garrett Karol’s tactile style

Texture and muted color schemes create the gritty but expensive feel of Garrett Karol’s work. “I really like to print on cream paper and off-white paper too,” the Missouri-based designer says. “It looks nice.”

Beginning his artistic career as the creative director for the Design Center at the University of Missouri, Karol graduated with a degree in graphic design in 2006. During this time, he developed a relationship with Columbia music venue The Blue Note, where he was able to print gig posters for touring musicians such as Andrew Bird, Ratatat, and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. By getting his name out there, he was then able to design tour posters for others such as Brother Ali, José Gonzalez, and Jackie Greene.

Using a strictly DIY setup, each project begins with a rough sketch or idea, which is either created on the computer or scanned in later. The posters are then screen printed by hand using a combination of screen-printing ink and the occasional house paint.

Designing with the intention to “have the image match the music,” Karol constructs illustrations from an obscure lyric or attempts to capture the essence of the band and its music. Whether that means a disco-ball hot-air balloon or a mustached woman with a top hat, the end result is a grimy, vintage-esque poster with dimension, typography, and simple yet eye-catching graphics.

“Texture plays a large role in a lot of my design work,” Karol says. “I really enjoy the added depth it can add to a design.”

Whether intentional or not, Karol’s use of subdued color palettes paired with dark overlays of texture has become his brand and can largely be attributed to the young designer’s success.

But other than creating your own style, what advice does the established designer have for newcomers? Ask for projects.

“Whenever a band that I’m interested in comes to town, I’ll ask to see if they’re in need of a poster to hang up around town,” Karol says. By the looks of it, he isn’t turned down too often

Poster Art is a biweekly column about today’s independent poster art and the artists who create it.

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