Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The boy Munn: good

Many people have been labelled as a poster boy for the indie rock set, but Jason Munn has a more legitimate and justifiable claim to the title than most. Munn isn't a musician but an actual poster boy, having designed the posters and flyers for pretty much everyone who's anyone: The National, Mogwai, Sonic Youth, Wilco, Explosions In The Sky, Grizzly Bear, Low, The Flaming Lips, No Age, Battles...

The Small Stakes, published by San Francisco imprint Chronicle and named after Munn's studio (and, originally, a Spoon song), is a superb showcase of his work, featuring more than 170 pieces spanning from 2002 to 2009. It opens with a short interview with Munn and a foreword by Nicholas Harmer of Death Cab For Cutie, the band with whom the young music-loving graphic designer began making his name.

Harmer is spot on in his characterisation of Munn's work as "not overstuffed, crowded or noisy". The posters are striking in their bold simplicity - though in interview Munn has confessed that he deliberately pares down his ideas to their essence: "Editing is often my favourite part of the design process. My designs typically start out with more on the page, but then I go through a process of getting rid of what I feel isn't needed".

Harmer also comments on Munn's "humble lack of showiness" - also true, but that shouldn't detract from his considerable skill in manipulating imagery to engaging effect. Unafraid of recycling, he admits to being "often drawn to shapes and objects that you can simplify into a few elements - elements that I can turn into other objects to change their meaning or create something new". Records and record players, in particular, evidently hold a special place in Munn's heart, and he's endlessly inventive in the ways he uses the circular patterns and grooves.

Munn's UK dealer is the Richard Goodall Gallery in Manchester - I might just have to pay a visit to peruse their collection when I'm next up there in May...

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