Illustration | Print Design

ZZ-Top is one of of the longest standing bands. When I was given them as an assignment to make a poster for I knew I would be in for a challange. I had 1 week to make an original poster and then went through 2 weeks of revisions. We had to have the band name, and the location / date of the show. The poster needed to not only get people to the show but also be something they would want to put on their wall afterwords. This project goes through my creation process from the research to the revisions that lead to my final poster.

Timeframe 3 Weeks
Roles Print Layout Market Research Typography Illustration
Skills Illustrator Photoshop InDesign

Zz-top is a band that has a huge range of both styles and music. If they come back to Seattle they will need a gig poster that will represent the band.


Create a gig poster that represents the band and their message. It should not only represent the show but also be something that fans of the band want to keep around for a long time and hang on their wall.


A gig poster that brings together the legs and cars that they love. As well as the colors and logo that they are used to. Doing research​ on not only the songs that they sing but also the fans they have and the posters they have already commissioned allows for a poster that they would be proud of and that fans would love to hand on their walls for years for to come.


After being assigned to make a poster for ZZ-Top the first thing to do was research on the band. I needed to learn who they were and what kind of music they made, as well as who their audience was and what they liked to have. This poster needed to both advertise the event as well as be something that people would want to take home with them when they were done. The research that I did was done in several parts. I did it in this specific order to make sure that I didn't have any biases or assumptions before going into creating this poster.

Free Association

I first listened to about 5 different ZZ-Top songs selected by just typing their name into Google Music and playing the first 5 of their songs. I made sure not to look at any of the visuals associated with the songs as they would change my judgement of the songs. I got out a blank piece of paper and just started writing everything that came to mind as I listened to the different songs. If I ever got stuck I just thought about random associations. For example, what kind of animal am I listening too? What kind of weather is this? What does it smell like? etc. This list got a lot of interesting ideas on the paper that I most likely never would have come up with if I had just started looking at their imagery right away. For example, paint splotches was one of my associations that I came up with. And that ended up making it into my final poster.

Picture Association

I kept the ZZ-Top music playing and spent the next half an hour or so gathering up images that fit into my free association ideas and beyond. I collected a bunch of images and then selected the best ones for my picture association mood board. This forced me to turn some of my initial assumptions into more than just words on a piece of paper. I needed to think about what these ideas actually looked like.

With this image board I started to see my connection to the grunge side of their music with my rough textured walls that I selected. As well as the basic themes of cars and girls legs that are in so many of ZZ-Tops songs. The color theme here also that I was feeling was the darker feeling with some red in it.

Lyric Research

Now that I had the start of an idea going, I needed to learn more about ZZ-Top and what they were all about. So I did a deep dive into some of their songs. I printed out the lyrics to 5 different songs from their different time periods and put the songs on repeat. I listened to the songs and pulled out key phrases and ideas that I found in their songs and that I could understand. I found it interesting that while their songs seem to focus on girls and cars and other classic ideals, they do have lines in their songs like, "It doesn't matter how rich you are." Which helped me realize while on the surface they may seem pretty petty and just out for the fame, they don't care so much about the cost of everything. Just that they have the things that make them happy. Which for them happens to be girls and cool cars.

Band Research

From here I started to let myself learn about the band itself. Where it is from, who the members are, and what their background is. All of this information was fairly standard, and once I got an idea of who they were I started to look at who their audience was. I learned that their audience is an older group that is primarily white and the "fast car" life. They enjoy drinking beer and hanging out in a backyard. They are definitely the type of person to take a poster like this and hang it up in the place that they want to hangout. The band has been around since 1969 and as such as a wide array of music and places that they have played. Almost everyone will know their name. So I did a lot of research figuring out what separates a fan that would want my poster with one that just knew some of their music.

Visual Research Board

From here I gathered up all the collateral of theirs that I could. Whether that be band posters, album art, or even still from their music videos. I did all of this in an attempt to figure out what type of style their creative direction was and how I could use that.

My Idea

Now that I had done all of my research, it was time to figure out the correct solution to this poster. I started by coming up with a moodboard of the feeling that I wanted to convey with my poster.

With this moodboard I was really accepting the grunge side of my earlier picture boards. I wanted to do something that I hadn't seen before done for them, while still keeping images that their audience would recognize. So i went with a mostly red color and a grungy paint splatter texture. This works really well for their music as it fits into their major themes.


After I came up with a basic idea of what I wanted to do, I did a number of sketches to try and come up with the content of my poster.

With these sketches I very much stayed within the visual direction that fit their main songs. This would really appeal to the audience that I wanted to like the poster. From here it was all about the execution.

The Poster

On my first iteration of the poster I found the images that I wanted to illustrate and found and made paint splotches that would work well together. I combined them all together pretty much like a collage. This ended up making the poster feel fairly cool but not all the way put together.

Version 2

After some feedback I decided that the poster just wasn't quite where I wanted it to be. And while I was pretty sure that my direction and idea was where I wanted to go I decided to verify this by trying a slightly different direction. I went ahead and drew the car and the women's legs to give the poster more of that hand-touched feeling.

While this version definitely had it's perks, it didn't quite get the feeling that I wanted to get across anymore. It felt more personal but less grungy and true to ZZ-Top's brand. So after I received feedback I decided to combine the two ideas and create one final poster that brought it all together.

Final Version

This poster used the red from before along with cleaned up versions of the illustrations. It also features the subtle mountains in the background and the updated ZZ-Top logo that I thought was so nice in my second version.