Discover Artists That Joined The 13th IMAs: Tony Halchak
Name: Tony Halchak
Home Base: Pennsylvania, USA
Category/Categories Entered: Album Art, Poster, Swag
Titles of Work Submitted: The Badlees – “Epiphones and Empty Rooms” album; The Badlees – Promo Poster; The Badlees – T-Shirt
How did you become a designer?: I liked to draw a lot as a kid and then as I was growing up I took as many art classes as I could in school. In my late teens I was part of a band so I just started doing all of the design work that needed to be done. Other musicians liked my work and would have me design the albums they released which has allowed me to build my portfolio over the last 10 years working on all kinds of interesting projects.
What inspires you?: If I’m working on an album, I usually like to hear it and sit with it before digging in to the design phase. It does not have to be the finished product. I just like to get an idea of what that particular project is about. What kinds of feelings are being conjured up while I’m listening? An idea forms then that tends to inspire the rest of the design process. When I’m designing posters or merch I just tend to like strong images that demand attention.
What makes a good design stand out from the average?: I think a good design can give an artist one more tool to help fans and the general public understand the overall idea or essence of who the artist is. At least what the album is. I know that idea borders on the abstract but a pretty simple analogy of it is the Dark Side of the Moon record by Pink Floyd. From what I’ve read that iconic cover was just one of many of the options the designer presented to the band. But the band immediately knew the spectrum was the one when seeing it and chose it. And the design makes perfect sense when you listen to the record. The design transcends and becomes almost married with the artist’s vision for the album.
How would you describe your style or approach to design?: The first thing I ask an artist when I work with them is to show me some examples of album designs they like. This usually gives me a feel of the artistic styles the person I’m working with appreciates and can significantly cut down the percentage of rejected ideas. I’m a big fan of negative space so a lot of my designs usually go there when I’m free to do what I want on the project. I also keep up to date on the work of a few photographer friends I have and will make mental notes of images that would look great on an album cover. I usually have ideas form early of what might work well so I’ll mock a bunch of covers up and send them over to the artist. When one is settled on, the rest of the work begins.
What are a few of your favorite album covers by others and why?: Recent covers I love are The National – Trouble Will Find Me, The Hawk in Paris – Freaks, Covenhoven (Self-titled), Bon Iver – Bon Iver, and Daft Punk – Random Access Memories. I own some of them on vinyl and love displaying them as much as listening to them.
What is the influence of digital technology on your work?: I have grown up on computers so I can’t really say how it has influenced me one way or another. Honestly, digital technology has always been there as just another tool for me to use as an artist.
When coming up with an original design, do you typically go through several rounds of revisions or is it more of a straightforward process from start to finish?: Sometimes the first thing I think of and mock up is the keeper. It just makes sense. Other times the process is a bit longer. For The Badlees album cover that I submitted for the IMAs there were probably about 10 to 12 cover designs I mocked up. Various members of the band liked various submits but there just wasn’t one that was the “Eureka!” moment. Finally, the band settled on a name for the record “Epiphones and Empty Rooms.” In a story that I’ve only shared with a few people before, the word Epiphones must have been spell-checked and corrected when it was sent over to me because it read “Epiphanies and Empty Rooms.” The album itself is a double record so I had been tossing the idea of duality around and the image of Balloons and Bombs formed in my mind based on that title. When I later learned the actual name of the record I laughed and considered it a happy accident and it was. All of the band members loved it from first sight and knew that design was the one.
What’s the most important aspect when designing a poster and why?: Posters should be very strong images. When I design a poster I think “Would I hang this on my wall?” Sometimes, as an independent designer for independent musicians, you just have to settle on creating a poster that gives the appropriate info and a photo of the artist. The venue itself is not appropriate for too much creativity with poster design. But when I am designing for the right venue, I try to make that piece of paper stick out from all of the rest of the things hanging on the walls. The Badlees wanted a promo poster to give away with the release of the record so instead of just recreating the album cover as it is I expanded on the balloons and bombs concept. I was very happy with the finished poster as I feel it is sort of an artistic companion piece to the album design.
How crucial is it for musicians to be able to offer merchandise for their fans?: If there is an artist I like, I usually want to buy a T-Shirt to wear or a poster to hang on my wall. When done right, they are art, but they can also be a conversation piece. They can even make great things happen. One band I’ve followed my whole life, Jars of Clay, met because one of their members was wearing a Toad the Wet Sprocket T-Shirt that just happened to be the other member’s favorite band at the time. They’ve since released 10 albums and won 3 Grammy Awards. That happened because of merch.
Describe your swag entry from conception to completion and any struggles along the way: The Badlees T-Shirt I designed was a marriage of the album design’s double record concept. It came together rather quickly and felt like a natural continuation of the overall design of the record launch without copying the actual art of the album design for the T-shirt.
Where can fans follow your work?: Anyone can follow me online at www.tonyhalchak.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonyhalchakmusic.