Oberlin Blogs

Want a Recital Poster Made?

December 7, 2023

Ben Smith ’24

I’ve always resonated with the idea of having a hobby that’s just for yourself, a sort of private pursuit. An activity just for the sake of activity: no incentive for monetary gain, no expectation of mastery. An activity that gives an escape.

For some time, drawing was this sort of fun activity for me. The kid who's drawing during every class in middle school, always found sketchbook-in-hand, that was me. I stopped keeping yearly sketchbooks when I got to Oberlin (too busy for that), but little doodles have continued to permeate every class handout or piece of music I’ve received here. 

Making cards for friends, collaborative musicians, and professors–that’s brought a lot of joy. I’ve even had some friends at Oberlin commission me for these, although I’d typically do them for free. It wasn’t until my junior recital that my ventures in visual art really crossed over into my musical life. The posters I made for that recital were quite fun and got me thinking about what goes into making a quality recital poster.

You don’t have to look far to see that the hallways at Oberlin are filled with posters. There’s a wide range of looks and feels to them, and an even wider range of time and effort put into them. Don’t be deceived, though, sometimes the most low-budget, low-effort posters get the most people talking. Since I began making posters for the Oberlin Flute Association, it’s been enjoyable finding the balance of a poster that’s attention-grabbing yet also beautiful. A perfectionist at heart, I’ve never considered myself a “graphic designer” of any sort… but I guess that's what these posters end up testing me on. Being vulnerable yet brave here, I’m honestly winging it. 

Poster for the Oberlin Flute Association's Fall 2023 Guest Artist Beatriz Macías.
My last poster for the Oberlin Flute Association's fall 2023 guest artist, Beatriz Macías.
Photo credit: Victoria Fofanova

Doing these posters has been a great workout for my Photoshop skills. My knowledge wasn't extensive before and I'd be hesitant to say it's "extensive" now, but strides have been made and I can get around the program with relative ease. My Wacom drawing tablet from 6th grade (aka... from 2014) is still alive and well. Never thought I'd still be using that old thing at this point, nor that it'd even be alive to do so, but life works in mysterious ways. Perhaps I'll get around to finding an upgrade.

All this to say, if you find yourself wanting a recital poster but not making it yourself... well, consider this my pitch. All that stuff I said at the beginning of this "hobby just for yourself"–yeah that doesn't apply here. I'm gonna find something else for that. Besides, it'd be a rare occassion for me to mention this to people in real life, so it's your lucky day if I actually go on to publish the words I'm writing right now and you happen to find yourself reading them. Only time will tell.

Me pointing at a TV screen with my Oberlin Flute Association Spring 2022 poster displayed on it.
Could be you I'm pointing to...
Photo credit: Sean Jingxuan Chen

Don't just take it from me, a friend of mine was brave enough to ask me to make her recital posters for an upcoming recital (that you should totally attend because they sound amazing) and she wasn't horrified with the result.

So, what say you? 

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