Poster Artist: Shawn Knight

Shawn Knight
Senior graphic designer at an agency called Big Communications in Ferndale. In the band Child Bite.

Can you remember the first flier you made?

Aw, man, I can't remember my first flier design. I bet it was awesome though! Five bucks says it had a skull on it. I drew lots of skulls in middle school. Skulls and naked women. That's how I kept from being beaten up by jocks, no joke. I made friends with the kids at school by illustrating scenes like the Grim Reaper going down on a girl. They were total Pushead-style skulls too, just like the ones on the "Sad But True" T-shirt.

Why did you start making fliers or posters?

I started making fliers back when I started playing in bands, which was eighth or ninth grade. My first band was called The Insane. Our hit song was "Potholes." We even had "Potholes 2" on side two of our first cassette. That was the heavy version, with serious lyrics. But, yeah, I was always making fliers for our shows. I felt like I really had a breakthrough a couple years later when I discovered that you could print onto transparency at Kinko's. That meant I could layout the type, print it on transparency, and then place it on top of a photo as a master to make copies from. I remember the first time I did that; the flier had a picture of a rat with a human ear grafted to its back.

Do you consider this an art form?

Yeah, but it's different than fine art. It's art for a commercial purpose, just like any advertisement. But for sure you can get away with crazier stuff on a rock poster. You're actually encouraged to do crazy stuff because your main goal is to get people's attention. I turn on a different part of my brain when designing rock posters as opposed to, let's say, the interface for a corporate CD-ROM. Or maybe it's the same part, just let loose? In that way, it can be a lot closer to fine art.

What's your signature?

I kinda try not to have a signature look to my pieces to avoid feeling cheap, like I'm just applying the same solution from one project to another one. Sometimes I take that too far though, and really exhaust myself trying to reinvent how I design with each project. I have issues with this, but I think I'm getting closer to a resolution. I'll either figure it out or I'll just quit; we'll see!

Name an artist, contemporary or not, you identify with:

One guy that comes to mind is Raymond Pettibon. He's the younger brother of Greg Ginn from Black Flag, and they used his art for most of their fliers and record covers. His drawing style was kinda crude, but you could tell he knew what he was doing. I guess the same could be said about the music his drawings were representing. The fact that his stuff wasn't perfect said a lot to me, it got me thinking in a different way. Also his subject matter was usually pretty bizarre. Some stuff was your usual punk, anti-establishment imagery (cops beating up kids, etc.), but a lot of it was very different than what other bands were using at the time. He rarely made the art to fit the lyrical content, and I really like that factor of randomness. Check out the covers to "My War" and "Slip It In" — those are good examples.

What's your style like?

Most of my current work is just a couple colors, either hand done or simple typography, and some sort of ridiculous and/or inappropriate imagery. Lots of times I haphazardly just use whatever I have around me without regard to what makes sense, and other times I spend hours pulling out my hair over the tiniest details. In the end it usually turns out the same. That's why I usually avoid fonts that have personality, 'cause those are the ones you'll see a month later in a magazine and you'll go, "Oh, that's the same font from that record cover." It cheapens the piece, making it less original. I like to design type, but I never "double-dip" it. It's sort of like destroying the masters; if it's only used once, it's worth more to me.

Who's your hero, in real life or fiction?

Real Life Hero: My three dogs because they have life figured out. Fictional Hero: Conan the Barbarian

If you could create the flier for any band or gig in history, what would you choose?

Mr. Bungle at Clutch Cargo's on Oct. 31, 1999 or Black Flag at Graystone Hall in Detroit, June 27, 1986.

What trait do you hate in others?

A lack of humility in anybody drives me up a fucking wall.

Where do you feel most at home?

In bed curled up with my wife and three heroes, watching Conan the Barbarian.

What's Detroit's most amazing spot for inspiration?

Hmm … not sure. I do like Ferndale a lot. I live here, I work here, and I know a lot of other talented and friendly people that live here too.

What do you waste money on?

Music equipment and travel.

Gotten any good news lately?

I got an unexpected bonus at work. That was nice.

Who do you think you are?

Not sure, we'll have to wait and see.

What do you think you're doing?

Trying to leave a mark worth remembering. Not really sure why, it must be some sort of subconscious caveman stuff.

See more art by Shawn Knight at

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