Greg Christman has some choice words for Billy Joel.
“I grew up in that s—-y song ‘Allentown’ by Billy Joel. The worst song ever written. Ever.”
But Christman, 30, father of two, is quick to admit a few things – not only is Billy Joel’s song mostly about Bethlehem, anyway, but his hometown also had a positive impact on his career.
Christman, a graphic designer who created art for popular bands like The Wonder Years and Bayside, said he began his career on the flip side of the coin – as a musician, not a designer.
“Allentown has a really great music scene,” Christman said. “I started off being in some crappy punk and pop-punk bands.”
Though he is quick to laugh sarcastically at how his time was spent during his teen years, Christman holds music dear to his heart. When his high school offered design classes, teaching students the basics of software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Christman soon discovered he had a knack for design – one that could meld seamlessly with his love for music.
“I did my first logo for my awful band in like, 1998? I used the pen tool on Microsoft Paint,” Christman said. “It was pretty terrible.”
From there, Christman began to design show fliers for different punk-rock bands in the area, quickly finding he truly enjoyed the work. Those beginning phases of involvement with both the music and the design world proved as a jumping-off point for Christman.
In college, Christman continued his work, doing posters for Pissed Jeans, Paint It Black and Slingshot Dakota. He said that doing “good work for good people” can help get any artist noticed by new partners, collaborators and clients.
Most recently, Christman designed Tigers Jaw’s Summer 2014 tour poster, a vintage-esque piece in soft pinks with clean black font. Christman recalled the experience with a grin, noting how Tigers Jaw is one of the first bands in a very long time that he has been excited about.
“I did a poster for their show in Bethlehem, probably about four or five years ago,” Christman said. “I met Tigers Jaw after the show and they were super stoked about a poster I did.”
Christman said the real serendipity came a few years later at a Target in South Philly. Christman was late for work and received a distressed call from his wife about their young son in need of diapers.
“So I’m rushing to Target,” Christman said. “And sure as s—, who’s in front of me? Ben [Walsh] and Brianna [Collins] from Tigers Jaw. Of course I had to be really awkward and introduce myself.”
Much to Christman’s surprise, Walsh immediately recognized Christman and asked if he was the designer who did the flier for their show in Bethlehem a few years back. Collins mentioned how he had that poster still hanging in his house. From there, the band got in touch with Christman to do the design work for their next tour poster.
“Most of it is really word of mouth and meeting people,” Christman said. “I think the whole music scene is collaborative, so it’s really cool when you get to do that stuff.”
Currently, Christman is taking a new path. Up until now, he has been working a full-time job outside of his design. Christman said he is transitioning into doing design for a living.
“I’m excited about leaving my current position to take a job working full-time at home and hanging out with my kids,” Christman said.
Christman hopes that making design his “full-time gig” will open even more possibilities. He hopes to work with different up-and-coming artists in the area.
“It’s a shame, I still want to play music, but I just don’t have time,” Christman said. “I have five guitars sitting underneath my couch and I’m begging to touch them. So when someone asks me to do a punk flier or a music poster, I’m like, ‘Hell yeah! I don’t care what you pay me, I just want you to get them screen-printed and made.’”
Victoria Mier can be reached at email@example.com