I never wanted to spend more than half an hour a month generating that month’s promo art. This is how I did it:
Back in my design student days, I had a job working on the student magazine. The lynchpin member of our editorial team dropped out two issues into our eight-issue run – so suddenly I had an editorial role, in addition to being a designer. So I no longer had time to spend each month experimenting with layouts until they were “finished” (hah!). It was no longer practical to try to re-invent the wheel with each spread. Instead, I learned pretty quickly about the importance of a “style sheet”, long before I learned that that was what it was called. I simply called it a template: work out your typefaces, margins, and any little design quirks, and make them your conventions – that way, you could spend less time designing and instead simply slotting content into the framework, which was all you had time to do after addressing the quality of that content as an editor. It streamlined the whole magazine production process, and that kind of efficiency becomes crucial when you have regular editions to get out and deadlines to meet.
I’d already instituted a monthly promo schedule for The Ray Mann Three. Four months into it, I was already feeling too restricted by the limitations of the template I had been working with. So I designed a new template, which featured the conventions that would govern all Ray Mann promo art from here on out. This template had a combination of elements both constant (the band name text, the “Soul” badge, strict duotone colour scheme, the typefaces) and variable (the sketch, the block colour, and of course the gig details). This month’s artwork was the first designed within the conventions that would govern all Ray Mann promo art from here on out.
I decided I would more directly reference the old school jazz gig posters, in a way that some local rock bands I liked had done before. I ditched the Saul Bass-style paper-cutout frames or boxes, in favour of one block colour; this meant I only used black and one other colour, as opposed to a whole range of tints of whatever colour I was using that month; I shifted to a portrait orientation, instead of landscape, to better match the gig poster archetype I was referencing; and I removed the scan-my-face photo and replaced it with a line drawing.
A new sketch every month shouldn’t be too hard – the simpler the better, so long as it didn’t push me over my half-hour-per-month limit. It was a nice idea, but in reality, it ended up taking longer and longer per month – both coming up with new ideas, and as the simple line drawings eventually gave way to more detailed sketches and more-involved illustrations.
This month’s design set the bar: in my mind, with a few lines I’d said everything I wanted to say about The Ray Mann Three. That was the standard of simplicity and succinctness I wanted to maintain from here on out. I was actually tempted to just make this the permanent design, and to just change the text each month. But I liked drawing, and hadn’t done much drawing in a long while, so I wanted the obligation to produce a new one at least once a month.
This drawing stayed with me, and turned up again in Ray Mann artwork years later – it even made it to the inside of The Ray Mann Three CD cover three years later: