Modern rave art: meet the illustrators pushing flyer design forward
From the birth of acid house and the free party scene, through the era of super clubs and into the digital age, flyer design has always been an integral part of rave culture. Below are 12 illustrators keeping the art form vital in 2020
Floating Bstrd is the illustration guise of Marko Vuleta-Djukanov, the Serbian artist who rose to prominence with work for the likes of Vladimir Ivkovic, Lena Willikens and Manfredas. Vuleta-Djukanov's Instagram is a stream of rave flyers in his distinctive style, which often utilises elements of modernism, as well as surrealist image manipulations. He's recently designed the artwork for Black Deer's upcoming release on Huntleys + Palmers, as well as seeing his t-shirt collaboration with UK fashion brand, Obey Clothing, sell out. Check out more of his work here. Rob McCallum
Alex Solman has one of the most distinctive styles in modern dance art. Starting out doing flyer design for the MFOC parties at Germany's Golden Pudel Club, the Heidelberg-born, Hamburg-based artist saw his coffee table book, titled Die Welt Ist Eine Pudel, released through Modeselektor’s Monkeytown Records in 2017. Made up of his bold line drawings, he has also illustrated artists including Four Tet, Autechre and Holly Herndon, while also regularly stepping outside of the electronic music world. A recent example includes an illustration paying respect to the late Neil Peart, drummer in legendary Canadian band, Rush. Check out more of Alex Solman's work here. Rob McCallum
Having done design work for Edinburgh party TEESH and Glasgow's Missing Persons Club, Scotland-based rave art illustrator Ryandesign_ — known to his friends as Ryan Marinello — says he fell into the role by accident more than design. "I acquired Photoshop years ago and would play around with images and typefaces for fun, for my band, then eventually my club night," he tells DJ Mag. "I improved over time and landed a job where I got to do lots of the art for Sneaky Pete's nightclub. I learned a lot there and as my work improved, promoters approached me to do the same for them." He describes his style as, "retrofuturist”, “postmodern”, and “all over the shop", and says two of his favourite parties for rave art are Outer Body in Sydney and Glasgow's Sunny Side Up. So, what’s coming up for Marinello in 2020? "I'm just hoping to maintain the same volume and consistency with my work that I have up to this point!" he says. Check out more of Ryandesign_'s work here. Rob McCallum
Working from a studio in Bethnal Green in a small team of three, Caterina Bianchini describes the artwork from CB as “Charismatic, empathetic, and brave”. The designer grew up in an Italian household studying the arts – art history, music and music theory – and her interests soon progressed from classical piano and opera, to electronic music. “I began working for Boiler Room in 2016,” she tells DJ Mag. “It was me and Joe (Mason, London) – we were the full design department for Boiler Room globally. I think this was my real first insight into rave art. It was amazing, we would just churn out flyers - sometimes four a day. It trained me to work with instinct, rather than create art that abided by any sort of rules or inspired by any sort of style.”
When it comes to her flyers and rave art, the majority of Bianchini’s work is “type lead”, and font comes to the forefront. “I create the typefaces used across all my poster art, and call them art faces,” she says. “I like to use them in a visual way, making them part of the composition, rather than them just being used to communicate the event information.” Her designs range from more informative flyers, where the text is the focus, for clubs like Glasgow’s Sub Club, to more illustrative pieces like her 2018 flyer for Apophis Club, and London’s Five Miles. “I do use illustration in my work,” Bianchini explains, although it’s not something that sees much development. “It’s usually me just drawing something super fast because I want it to be a part of the composition, and usually the extent it goes to is flowers, cartoons, eyeballs — then back to flowers. If I was to class it as anything I'd say it is basic and pretty shit.”
Bianchini cites artwork by Alex McCullough for Nic Tasker’s Whities label, and London party Left Alone's, flyers, created by Our Place design studio, as work she finds inspiring. “Some of my favourite designers are Ben Arfur and Jacob.J.Wise, also CMDP.FK” she says – the former having designed outside the realms of electronic music, for bands like Bring Me The Horizon, as well as for parties like Master Mix. Bianchini also mentions Obby & Jappari, who are responsible for outlandish designs for album artwork, as well as for bigger brands like Nike, and Hassan Rahim and Connor Campbell.
A new decade sees more huge movements in store for the small, East London design space. “2020 sees us welcoming our fourth member to the studio,” Bianchini shares, “we set up the studio at the beginning of last year, so it’s a really exciting time for us. CB are set to launch a project with Apple Music at the end of January, and recently won the pitch for the creative at the next Somerset House Summer series – we are looking forward to sharing everything we’ve created.” Check out more of Caterina Bianchini's work here. Amy Fielding
“As a painting student, I’ve always been driven by creating images,” Lion Sauterleute tells DJ Mag. Finding his feet designing flyers for hardcore and punk shows, the German designer moved to Leipzig, and quickly got into rave culture, electronic music and the city’s underground scene. “The first two years at Leipzig’s Art Aacademy were super focused on aquiring technical skills - which quickly became quite boring to me,” he says. “I wanted to work more freely, and rave posters gave me the opportunity to create images on a playful basis.”
Sauterleute got in touch with Job Jobse, a regular face at Nachtdigital festival. “Job had seen some flyers I’d done for the Sleep In event," he remembers. "He’d just started off with his Strangelove party series, and gave me the opportunity to do a couple of posters for him.” Coming from what Sauterleute describes as “painting and the sometimes lonely studio-work,” his passion for music-related projects developed. “I focused more on the details, and always trying to improve. I fell in love with the freeness and the possibilities of those kinds of projects. Reacting, collaborating and adding another layer to music through images felt - and still feels - really good.”
Although most of the artwork he creates is digital, Sauterleute still refers to it as “painting”. “The visual space is mostly dominated by free compositions,” he says. “Abstract shapes layered over each other, woven self-made typography, and some 3D renderings.” His flyers often look like other-wordly, metallic landscapes, where smooth and abrasive textures come together, and he quotes artists such as Anja Kaiser and Kristýna Kulíková as influencial in his work.
“My whole workflow is similiar to when I paint,” he continues. “Even though I prefer working digitally more – you can go back from visually bad decisions more easily.” Sauterleute also creates his designs with “moods”, aligning his work into the unique qualities and the identity of each event – especially font. “Typography has become really important,” he says, with the text in his posters becoming a solid element among the surreal, interwoven imagery. “I draw lots of inspiration from graffiti, and old black letter fonts.”
2020 will see Sauterleute finally graduate from the aforementioned art academy. “Besides my fine arts graduation, I’ve got some projects and plans with various crews forthcoming. I’ve also had requests for a couple of new projects, which I’ll now have space to work on without the daily pressure. I want to collaborate more with artists I like, and I finally want to set up an online clothing store.” Check out more of Lion Sauterleute's work here. Amy Fielding
With playfully manipulated typography and dusty primary colours, Alex Sullivan’s artwork for raves and record sleeves is distinct, enticing and psychedelic. A poster for a Housework party headlined by Eris Drew in Bristol’s Black Swan club makes use of bright, warped text, perfectly capturing her radiant sound. A swirling pink chute weaves across the poster for a Tessellate party at Corsica Studios with DJ Sprinkles, Tasker and anu, subtly evoking the elegant and energetic sound of each DJ on the bill.
“I try to create a feeling through the type to capture the energy of the night or booking,” he says. “Overall I try to have fun, not take it too seriously and use the time to experiment and try out new ideas. I’m always inspired by different eras of design and try to play with colours and composition, but I always like to keep it on the right side of surreal.”
Sullivan started making posters for parties in 2011, when some friends launched CITYBASS in his hometown of Cardiff. The monthly event ran until 2016, mostly out of basement club Undertone, and developed somthing of a legendary status in the city. The regular work allowed Sullivan to play with a variety of styles over the years, for parties featuring the likes of Theo Parrish, Funkineven, Fatima, Galcher Lustwerk, DJ Sotofett, and many more. His flyers, at times transmogrifying and cartoonish, at others minimal and sophisticated, went on to catch the eye of promoters across the UK and beyond, earning him repeat commissions from the likes of Wolf, Housework and Tessellate. The distinctive orbs that have defined the visual identity of Midland’s Graded label have also been Sullivan’s handiwork, capturing the deep, colourful and wonky club sounds that have made up its output to date.
Looking to the year ahead, Sullivan has a lot to come as he settles into his new London studio. While working on the branding design for a perfume company and embarking on a few collaborative projects, his work with raves and record labels will continue. We can’t wait to see what psychedelic designs he cooks up next. Check out more of Alex Sullivan's work here. Eoin Murray
“For me, design and music have always gone hand in hand,” says Yasseen Faik, whose minimal and abstract style has been seen on event posters for the likes of Boiler Room and Oval Space. While studying graphic design at UWE in Bristol, he developed a fascination with the ‘90s golden age of rave flyers, when UK parties like Fantazia, Dreamscape and Perception thrived with distinct visual identities. Before long he was designing flyers for parties organised by friends, gradually developing his personal brand with fusions of classic and modern styles.
“My design style is a mixture of structured, Swiss-inspired typographic design, and more experimental and abstract art,” Faik explains. “I love the idea of both order and disorder. I try and find a balance between type and image, texture and negative space. I love designing for music for multiple reasons; because I'm just as passionate about music as I am art and design, and because a lot of underground music design tends to be more experimental and creatively free than the conventional graphic design approach. It’s always fun to work on!”
After taking a job with Crack Magazine upon graduating, Faik’s work in music-related design picked up, and now, five year later, he’s looking into a big 2020 with collaborative exhibitions, rave posters, record covers and book designs in the works. “I’ve just become a member of Sonsoles screen-print studio in Peckham too,” he says. “So expect lots of prints, editions and one offs.” Check out more of Yasseen Faik's work here. Eoin Murray
James Lacey is the Cardiff-born, London-based artist behind Pointless Illustrations, whose gritty style draws from Technicolour graffitti and ’90s VHS aesthetics to create humorous designs with quasi-surrealist leanings. “I really enjoy old cartoons and the way they can animate a certain animal or person to the extreme,” he says, recalling how he and his sister would devour cartoons when they were children. Lacey was the kind of teenager who would rip cool gig posters off pub walls, as mementos, so once he got into graphic design and illustration, it felt right to start drawing designs for music events: local bars came first, then as his Instagram filled up with original work, dance music parties, clubs, and record labels came calling. Now, it’s his full time job.
As well as designing the September 2019 cover for DJ’s Mental Health issue, he’s recently designed artwork for artists like London jazz saxophonist Nubya Garcia, UK parties and festivals like La Mamies, Troublemaker, and Field Maneuvers, and labels like Lobster Theremin and Shall Not Fade. In 2020, he’ll be continuing this rave art work as well as working closely with some clothing companies, but the latter’s under wraps for now. Until then, you can check out more of his vibrant and original work here. Lauren Martin
Marijn Degenaar is a Dutch artist based long-term in Berlin who describes his style as “shapeshifting, gathering material from a lot of different sources and synthesising them into new forms.” It seems apt, since he works across media: from graphic and web design and development, to film and photography; drawing on this variety of media to create original projects within the music industry.
While working full-time as a graphic designer and visual artist, he became involved in the Berlin dance music scene - making music, throwing parties, and running his own label, Portals Editions - and gradually, his professional and artistic lives merged, with many of his designs over the past few years focusing on music artworks.
Most recently, though, he’s completed a Masters degree in experimental film at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, and will be moving into more film work in 2020. He’s also started a new music project, called Property, which will be putting out a record this year. Until then, you can see more of his visual work here. Lauren Martin
Dublin-based artist Gavin Connell’s passion for rave art comes from his “love of the music that comes from the parties the artwork promotes.” Before he moved into graphic design and illustration, the thirst for underground music and events was already a key part of Connell’s design process.
“When I did start to design flyers, it was only a natural progression from my prior passion for this scene,” he says. “I would feel extremely inspired to make a great poster if I already had an interest in the DJs that might be headlining, or friends who were billed for that night. My love for the music has helped me immensely in terms of the quality, care and love that I attempt to put into my flyers.”
Connell’s designs are inspired by 1930s animations such as Fleischer studios, and early work from Walt Disney’s studios. He also references vintage comics, dating back as far as the 1940s, and right up to the modern-day. “I’m a big fan of bootleg characters and cheaper ways of printing in mass, such as risograph or silk screen painting. All of these elements help me to create my work. It’s fairly light-hearted and fun.” Using a palette of colours, or only singular colours, on a neon background help Connell achieve his larger-than-life, bubbly flyers – “it’s just an effective way to catch people’s eye,” he says, “and cost-effective too.”
Some of Connell’s favourite designs come locally, from Dublin’s Techno & Cans party. “Posters designed by James McGuirk. They’re inspired by old-school rave posters, but they have a contemporary twist,” he explains. “Axe On Wax is also a big favourite - especially the posters designed by Caterina Bianchini. It’s very vibrant, playful work that has inspired me and a lot of other flyer designers. I also like Joseph Lebus, very different from the other artists mentioned above. His style is so simple, and a lot of the time only features text.”
In terms of forthcoming design work, Connell is looking to undertake longer projects. “I’m branching out into other sectors, taking on larger and more long-term freelance design projects,” he shares. “But, no matter the work, I will still have my inspiration from the underground. I hope to create some of my own merchandise as well, t-shirt designs this year, when the time is right.” Check out more of Gavin Connell's work here. Amy Fielding
With a background in art direction, it’s unsurprising that Cecilia Martinez de Puig, aka cm-dp's approach to rave art has a curatorial edge. With fusions of analogue and digital techniques – “to get results that are more warm, and have more ‘spirit’” – cm-dp’s posters for parties featuring the likes of Palms Trax, Umfang, Nkisi and Afrodeutsche are curious collages of scans and styles, acquired through several years in the field.
“I love being able to develop concepts from scratch,” she says. “One big tool I keep getting back to is the archive of imagery and scans I’ve been collecting over the years. I love using them to create digital collages. A few years ago, I used to go to lots of car boot-sales, markets and charity shops, searching for inspiration in old books and magazines, or even objects and elements I could use in my designs.”
These elements have included pages from her great-grandmother's UFO book collection and ‘70s magazines, and other posters have featured scanned ancient Attic patterns next to futuristic digital designs. “I also find a lot of inspiration in random textures and patterns I find in the streets,” cm-dp says. “In a way, I keep trying to ‘leave’ the screen and come back to it.”
After moving to London from Barcelona in 2015, cm-dp became the in-house designer for Lobster Theremin and developed her career in the world of music. She’s gone on to work with artists, labels and promoters around the world, from Bouquet Records in San Diego to regular client, Berlin-based British DJ, Palms Trax.
“For Palms Trax I make all the textures and patterns by hand and scan them in to create digital collages,” she explains. “For Bouquet, since last year we’ve been working choosing a plant/flower for each artwork and I’ve then taken photos of them making little setups in my room or studio. It’s super cool because that then gets applied to their parties, in which they work a lot on the set design using different flowers and decorations, creating little themed worlds every time.”
Another party cm-dp has been working with regularly in the past year is London’s NAAF, an inclusive, predominantly female party run by her friend Rosy Morris. “Each poster is inspired in a female strong individual,” she explains. “As we aim to learn about goddesses, witches, queens and warriors over human history.” Check out more of cm-dp's work here. Eoin Murray
Back in 2013, Ben Arfur and a group of friends started a clothing brand and shop in Cardiff called Blue Honey - it soon branched out into a club night, which Arfur designed the posters for. A self-taught graphic designer, Arfur explores the boundaries between type, illustration, design and arrangement. He’s worked closely with record labels, musicians, and club nights - producing vinyl labels for producers on FINA Records, club posters for Gothenburg-based label Trunkfunk Records, and UK stalwarts Ninja Tune - and counts his designs for Sure Thing, Sneaker Social and the late Cosmogramma among his recent favourites. In 2017, he expanded Blue Honey and opened a night cafe in Cardiff, which has become a local favourite for younger people, with fusion cuisine and music woven into the ambience of it all.
Through his roots in Cardiff, he used his graphic design skills and understanding of youth culture to reach out to young people in the area, designing a series of rave art-inspired posters to encourage voter registration. Arfur moved to London in 2018, where he continues to work closely with labels, artists, club nights, and clothing brands, creating his striking, original designs. Check our more of Ben Arfur's work here. Lauren Martin