The show has been selected. You’ve been given a title or theme, but nothing else is set. What do you do? You work with what you got.
And while that might seem like a rather simple solution, it’s actually a bit more complex. Let’s take a deeper dive into the world of designing a show when all you’ve got is a title and a theme.
Start with typography… if you can
Typography is a major part of branding your show. Think of popular musicals on Broadway, like “The Lion King”, “Wicked”, or “Frozen.” The typography is specific to each show, building off its theme.
A few of our designers have experience selecting custom typography for shows like Houston Grand Opera’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the Alley Theatre’s production of “Clue.” When all you have to run on are themes and a title, typography can begin to shape the design.
“With ‘Clue’, we had a strong existing brand to jump from that was already recognizable. When I’m working on typography for a show that hasn’t been produced yet, it’s more about getting across a feeling than it is about getting into specifics. All the great title treatments you can think of are trying to communicate a very simple message, and the surrounding artwork is what helps the audience get a little deeper. Good typography does a lot of heavy lifting for the rest of the artwork.”
– Cori Redus, Graphic Designer
As our designers know all too well, you’re not always given a well-defined concept. Sometimes they’re given more abstract ideas, like when our team was asked to create posters that capture the passion of tango (real request and we delivered).
Other times, we have to reimagine things. For example, we’ve done two versions of Hansel and Gretel art for operas before, both a dark and spooky version, and a sweet, more innocent version.
In the early stages of branding a show, sets aren’t usually built. More likely than not, they’re just sketches or ideas too.
Going back to our “work with what you got” mantra, designers use all their skills to develop show art that delivers on the production’s plot while standing apart from past performances.
Take the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston’s production of “Ruddigore.” We had a tagline and a plot but we needed to make it stand out from past performances. When set references are up in the air, designers have to get conceptual.
Choose a color scheme
Color choice matters. It can set the tone, define a season, or tie in with a show’s specific theme. Colors play a huge role in branding, so choose a color scheme that fits the overall mood and vision for your production.
Making a case for digital art
When actors and actresses haven’t been selected and the set isn’t drawn up, sometimes it’s easiest (and more adaptable) to opt for digital art and designs. Just take a look at Broadway (again).
Most playbills use digital art. Why? Well, actors can change from night to night. Shows travel. So, often it is easiest to design digital art for show posters, social media graphics and merchandise. That way, even if the actors or actresses change, you’re covered.
Take a look at the artwork we designed for the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston’s 2023 production of “The Pirates of Penzance.” All of their shows sold out, in part because we began promoting in advance. Digital art enabled us to do that.
Leave room to evolve
As more of the puzzle pieces fall into place and ideas become more defined, your show will start to come together.
But make sure you leave some breathing room for all the final details to be added, once the set design is complete, the cast has been selected, and the merch is ordered.
We get it. Branding a show that hasn’t existed isn’t easy. There is a lot to consider and to do. We’ve designed and branded many events and shows over the years, and we know what it takes to develop show art from concept to print.
We’ve shared just a few examples of our previous work in this post, but do take a look at our case studies to explore more. Our team of experienced designers is here to help you every step of the way when you are ready to begin branding your show.
Reach out today for your FREE custom quote.