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Mixing Art With Commerce

Poster art is expanding beyond concert promotion into small-business arenas as companies break away from conventional marketing.

This story appears in the January 2010 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Forget Starbucks, Caribou and Seattle's Best. Chicagoans in the know frequent Metropolis Coffee Co., an independently owned cafe and coffee wholesaler located blocks from the Lake Michigan coastline in the city's Edgewater district. With its hip, scruffy clientele, amiably funky décor and fervent dedication to organic, small-batch artisan roasting,

Metropolis doesn't operate like rival coffeehouses--which means it doesn't market its products and services like other coffeehouses either. Metropolis instead turns to Jay Ryan, the Chicago-area poster maker behind hundreds of screen-printed concert posters for renowned musicians, including the Decemberists, My Morning Jacket and Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy. Ryan--a longtime Metropolis customer whose own band, Dianogah, regularly practices in the company's roastery space--has created two different and equally attention-grabbing promotional posters for Metropolis, both printed by hand at his Skokie, Ill., print shop, The Bird Machine. Pasted up in the windows of Metropolis' wholesale clients throughout Chicago, the posters are not just a sign of an exemplary cup of coffee, they also communicate the company's commitment to old-school virtues like authenticity and handicraftsmanship in a world where homogenization and mass production are the status quo.

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