Here’s Some Creative Design Inspiration To Recharge Your Week

In a sea of stock photos and artist headshots, it’s always a treat to see a performing arts organization approach graphic design with an eye toward narrative. Case in point, the Adrian Symphony’s 2018/19 season artwork is a real standout.

I reached out to the project’s creative director, Larry Williams from, for some insight on how the project unfolded.

A majority of my career was working at a content agency as creative director. My first love was magazines but evolved to oversee video, web and animation for many Fortune 500 clients like Walmart, Wells Fargo, Verizon, Bluetooth and others.

For more than 18 years, I have worked with the orchestras and other performing arts organizations to help them with their posters, playbills and brochures. My goal has always been to help regional orchestras have high caliber creative you would find at the top tier orchestras that have a full in-house creative staff. In addition to the handful of orchestra clients, I have recently been appointed as creative director at the San Francisco Symphony in July 2018.

The creative work for the Adrian Symphony is successful because of the trust the executive director Libby Watson placed in me and of the guidance from Bruce Kiesling, the music director. Bruce is so good at providing context for the repertoire. If you have been lucky enough to hear him speak from the podium at concerts, you know how good he is at synthesizing the music in a way that makes it accessible to the general public. I believe once people start to learn about the fascinating stories that are hidden within the music, they get hooked on the art form.

After he walked me through the highlights of the season, I chose to work with Shout, one of the most prolific illustrators working right now. He has an imaginative, dreamy quality. I wanted a look that felt unique and something you wouldn’t see everywhere. And the end product is unforgettable.

I would love to conduct an analysis at some point to see what sort of impact a coordinated creative design project like this has on ticket sales across a variety of budget size orchestra and operas (if anyone is aware of a study, please let me know).

Here is the end result, which ones are your favs and why?

Are there any other groups with 2018/19 designs that caught your eye?

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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