The Unusable Poster

I made this flyer for an August 2011 rock show for The Demographic.

This is the design I came up with first (but decided to not use).

Here’s the thing: I like the Jesus Reagan poster. I think it looks neato. Real swell. But the flyer I didn’t use — Punk Reagan — I think that fucker is hilarious. Possibly one of the funniest things I’ve ever made, and I had a lot of fun making it. I giggled the entire time I was cutting and scotch taping and white-outing it. I was still giggling down in my cellar as I warmed up my 1980s-era photocopy machine, already anticipating its soft-edged, contrast-less, smeary output. It’s a terrible looking flyer. It is childish and messy and completely artless. I think this is one of the most well-crafted parodies of a visual style I have ever tried to pull off. It 100% succeeds on every level except for one: It is absolutely unusable.

Parody/mimicry/irony as advertisement can be a powerful form of communication. But I think parody requires context or it will fail with the general public. I made an image that clearly communicates a certain strain of ’80s adolescent crappy punk rock sloppiness. I see it as a hilarious joke made at the expense of my band. It’s self-effacing and non-serious, and for that I like it. But to the outside world, this would just look like a shit flyer for some shit punk thing. That certainly doesn’t represent my band, and I think it’s probably a bit unfair to drag the other bands along for my little joke since I don’t know much about them. So in the end, it’s a successful design exercise but a pretty crappy piece of promotion for a real-life show. It would repel people who weren’t interested in that type of music, and it might attract people who were interested in that type of music. Every party involved would lose, except the seven friends who know me well enough to know that I’m fucking around.

So I made copies of Jesus Reagan, and that’s what I’m hanging up around town. I’m afraid the riot police suicide anarchy Punk Reagan flyer is not quite right for general consumption. It shall be reserved for the band’s Facebook page and this blog post. Context.


2019 UPDATE: The inherent problem with the internet is that it lacks context. In the eight years since I wrote this blog post, the image has been disseminated, misidentified, copied, and shared by people who think Punk Reagan is a legitimate 1980s-era image. A Google Image Search reveals a few examples:
* Punk Reagan included in an ’80s punk flyer’ blog post. It’s included in this one, too.
* Punk Reagan included in a student post about typography and Dadaism.
* Punk Reagan in an article called Evolution of Music Posters
* …and Jesus Reagan is included in an anti-Reagan Pinterest gallery, which is weird since it has the appearance of a very pro-Reagan image?