Arts & Culture

Meet the Artist: Jason Malmberg

Brianna LeDoux

Self-taught graphic designer Jason Malmberg has created a formidable portfolio with a wide-range of work over the last decade made of gig posters for shows large and small, local and international. He has experience designing everything from short-run prints for intimate indie rock shows to international tour posters to full-branding, and even has a few major music festivals brands under his belt.

Malmberg, who has worked out of Sacramento for nearly 20 years, has collaborated with big names like Kings of Leon, Metallica, Chromeo and many more, all while showing local love to Sacramento with festivals and bands like TBD Fest and Sister Crayon.

His latest project was designing our Concerts in the Park (CIP) 2018 lineup poster. We wanted to get the inside scoop behind his process – what better way than a little Q&A session?


Downtown Sac: If you could point everyone’s attention to one detail on the poster, what would it be?
Jason Malmberg: While most of the illustrated performing squirrels on the poster are archetypal, there is one squirrel that’s based on a real local performer. See if you can figure it out.

Downtown Sac: What’s your process for creating something fresh and unique when working with an established brand?
JM: You kind of just figure out what the attitude of the project is and then branch off from that in a parallel fashion. So, in the case of this year’s poster it was taking their recent rebrand and finding ways to make it more dynamic. The flat icon look is fantastic and I hope what I’ve done is found a way to bring it to life and jump off the page a bit more.

CIP had a strong brand to begin with which helped my ideas almost drive themselves. Fortunately, the CIP team was very responsive to fresh spins on the existing brand and, to their credit, let me get away with a lot of flexing it out onto another track.

Downtown Sac: What was the most challenging part of this project?
JM: Oddly enough, this one was kind of a breeze, which again speaks to the strong brand already had in place. The poster’s first draft was ready within a week and, aside from a few edits, it’s pretty much remained intact since.

When I accepted the project, they had asked if I’d be willing to turn it into a motion poster, which I immediately agreed to as someone that’s an After Effects novice looking for projects to try things out on. But as I’m so new to motion graphics, I tried to manage expectations so they weren’t expecting anything I was unsure I could deliver.

So, at first the idea was that I’d simply take the static poster and animate a bit of the text or fly in the logo or something simple like that. But as I worked on the motion graphics, ideas just kept unfolding.

‘If this can do this, then maybe that could do that too?’ and next thing you know, the rap squirrel is bouncing and moving the mic and his ring and glasses are gleaming, the punk squirrel is working the guitar’s fretboard and leaping, the DJ is bouncing and the bass bins booming, the country squirrel is fiddling.

It’s hardly Pixar-level animation but it’s far beyond what I thought I’d be capable of doing at the project’s beginning. I think there’s a charm to how simple the animation is.

Downtown Sac: What’s your relationship to CIP (have you been a long-time fan or are you more recent to the scene)?
JM: Over the years I’ve been a number of times though I seem to have some kind of curse that puts me out of town whenever bands I really want to see are playing, a curse that continues this year as I’ll be down in Mexico getting married when Franz Ferdinand is playing.


Downtown Sac: Who are you most looking forward to seeing at CIP?
JM: If we’re missing Franz then here’s hoping I make it to Peanut Butter Wolf.


Downtown Sac: What’s your favorite thing about CIP?
JM: What I really love is that rather than just rest on its laurels as a fun free thing to do, it’s ramping itself up year-over-year to elevate the experience, from rollout to bookings to production. It’s organically growing into a bigger and bigger event and doing it at a scale and pace that keeps it well connected to its local roots without trying to become too big in a way that might cause it to lose sight of the basic things that make it great: the local talent, the beautiful setting, the central location creating a kind of downtown-wide happy hour for all every friday in the summer.

Even if an act playing that night isn’t your personal cuppa tea, you can still have a great time just being out in your city.


Downtown Sac: If you could humbly toot your own horn, what project or piece are you most proud of?
JM: Oy. This is a tricky one and kind of a funny question since as an artist it’s easy to forget what you’ve done and fall into the very common trap of feeling like you’ve never done anything worthwhile. The nature of the job is “on to the next one” and every project takes so much of your focus that things you worked on two months ago can feel like they happened a lifetime ago.

So, a question like this is a great reminder that “huh, I guess I did some stuff”. To that end, I’d say my crowning achievement thus far is the poster I did for Cal State Fair last year in honor of their 50th year at Cal Expo.

Not only did I get to work in a retro Disneyland attraction poster style, but the art ended up everywhere: posters, shirts, cups, magnets, pennants, even gold and silver coins.

2017 was an insanely productive year where I got to do work for Metallica and a crazy run of 5 posters for Kings of Leon, but it’s that State Fair poster that’s going to end up in my lifetime highlight reel.


One of the most unique elements of Malmberg’s #CIPSAC poster is the animated version we used to launch the lineup online. Check it out here!

We hope you enjoyed getting a peek inside the genius of the artist who brought us one of the coolest lineup posters we’ve seen. Remember, CIP returns Fridays, 5 to 9 p.m. from May 4 through July 27 (except July 7)!

Help spread the news and follow the event using #CIPSAC and #DowntownSac on social. See you there!