Mike Joyce, creator of “Swissted: Vintage Rock Posters Remixed and Reimagined,” takes posters from actual rock concerts of the past and redesigns them in the Swiss modernist tradition. When I got the big, “Swissted” coffee-table book in the mail (perfect as a gift for any music junkie in your life, by the way), I could not stop flipping through, imagining what it would have been like to be at these legendary shows from the 70s, 80s, and 90s — and similarly what it would be like if these bands were playing today.
The book, which contains 200 awesomely redone rock posters, is the perfect merger of font and graphic design-nerdery and music lust and snobbery. The art is clean and clever and the bands will make you salivate for shows you wish you’d seen. (Nirvana opening for Dinosaur Jr. in 1991, the Minutemen supporting Black Flag in 1981, the Ramones opening for Television in 1974, etc etc.)
In this interview with Thought Catalog, Joyce talks about the mix of punk rock and graphic design and which show he’d go back in time to see.
TC: How did you get the idea to redo classic rock posters?
Joyce: Basically punk rock and typography are my two favorite things. I grew up completely inspired by punk, new wave, and indie-rock and would later find that same inspiration in Swiss graphic design — more specifically the International Typographic Style. I always liked that these two art forms seemed at odds with one another in that punk has an anti-establishment ethos and Swiss modernism is very structured. And at the same time there’s a common thread between the two — the Swiss modernists purged extraneous decoration to create clear communication, while punk rock took on self-indulgent rock and roll and stripped it to its core. So I thought it would be an interesting study to combine the two and see what happens. I really like how both art forms contrast and compliment each other.
TC: How did you go about turning this into a book idea? Did you propose it? Did someone come to you?
Joyce: That’s a good question. After I designed 200 posters I thought it would make for a great website. I wanted to do something super simple and minimal that would showcase the posters and nothing else, no social media links or anything like that. So I was completely surprised when so many people visited the site and passed it on to friends — 50,000 visitors in the first week and now over half a million in just a year. I received so many letters from people who would say that they wanted every single one. That really got me to thinking that a book would be a perfect way to showcase them all in one bound collection. I was already aware of Quirk Books from their beautiful Gig Posters volumes.
I loved that those books are oversized and that each page is micro-perforated so you can tear out every poster for framing. It just made perfect sense for my designs so I wrote them and the publisher and creative director called me right away. They were actually looking to do another poster book to fit within that format but weren’t exactly sure what the focus would be. So it was a perfect fit right from the get-go and I think it’s awesome that you can own 200 posters for about 20 cents each.
TC: What’s your favorite you’ve done so far?
Joyce: It’s always tough for me to single out just one because there are a lot of elements throughout each poster that I like, but if I had to choose, I guess I’d pick the design I did for the great British punk band 999. I really like the illusion of movement that the multiple overlays create and how it forges one unfocused nine out of three. And the three hulking numbers give the poster a lot of presence. I also think it’s a good example of what you can do with the limitations of black and white.
TC: If you could go back in time to any of the shows, which one would you see?
Joyce: I’ve been fortunate enough to catch many of the bands live that I’ve featured in Swissted. Back in 1990 I saw a then-unknown band named Jawbreaker open up for Bad Religion at a tiny, crammed old man bar in Upstate NY — and that poster is in the book. But I also made a special point to find amazing lineups from long ago that I would have killed to have witnessed. The Runaways and Suicide opening up for the Ramones at the Palladium in 1978 is one that always stands out to me.
But if I could get in a souped-up Delorean right now I’d travel back to 1981 to see the Minutemen and Descendents open up for Black Flag at the Cuckoo’s Nest, three of my all-time favorite bands under the same roof of a legendary punk rock venue.
Buy the “Swissted” book on Amazon here.