Patent Pending: Poster Boys

Celebrating a Decade of Cool Band Art by the Seattle-Based Design Duo

It’s said that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but there’s no such cliché governing album art. Since the late 30s, when Columbia Records’ Alex Steinweiss invented the concept, record sleeves, gig posters and branded merch have become as much a part of the rock’n’roll experience as the music itself. What would have become of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band without its eye-grabbing Peter Blake-designed cover? Who would have gone to Black Flag’s early, scuzztastic shows without Raymond Pettibon’s unforgettable illustrated posters? Though we’re constantly reminded now that the golden age of musical artwork came in the late 60s and early 70s (when prog rock and psychedelic drugs provided the inspiration for some terrific visual flights of fancy), designers have always jumped at the opportunity to flex their creative muscles on band paraphernalia. Seattle-based duo Jeff Kleinsmith and Jesse LeDoux of Patent Pending Industries are part of the new guard. In the past decade they’ve produced a slew of unmistakably contemporary posters for bands including The Big Pink, Yeasayer and The Flaming Lips, mixing a very Adobe-era sense of clean typography with the more hands-on technique of screen printing. The pair met in the art department of Sub Pop records (the original home of seminal grungers Nirvana and Soundgarden, as well as current indie stars Fleet Foxes, No Age and The Shins), where Kleinsmith still serves as art director. They founded Patent Pending Industries 11 years ago “as a way to work through ideas within music, but to have a little more control over what we created,” says LeDoux (who notes that these days bands often dictate their own designs). They’ve come a long way since they offered their unsolicited services to clubs and up-and-coming acts passing through Seattle—their current list of clients include stalwarts such as Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth and Nine Inch Nails. They also make a tidy penny selling their bright, screen-printed designs from their retro-tinged website. The Design Commission Gallery in Seattle is now hosting a retrospective of Patent Pending's innovative oeuvre, while the duo mixed a playlist for NOWNESS—have a listen here.

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