The Tragically Hip celebrated with poster series from KPU design instructor

Thu, Feb 29, 2024

A Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) design instructor is marking the 40th anniversary of the Tragically Hip with a series of posters and an anniversary logo paying tribute to the legendary Canadian band.

John Belisle, with partner Adam Rogers, designed eight travel posters featuring communities mentioned in the band’s songs. The pair came up with the idea after Mitchell Press tasked them to create something to spotlight the capabilities of its state-of-the-art Landa Printing Press.

“When you’re asked to design something with very few limitations, it’s both exciting and challenging. I really wanted to do something Canadiana. As soon as me and my partner started to talk about classic travel posters, we thought merging that with the music from the Tragically Hip was a really nice fit,” says Belisle, an instructor in the Graphic Design for Marketing program at the Wilson School of Design at KPU.

John Belisle with his poster designs.
John Belisle shows his Tragically Hip poster designs at the Wilson School of Design at KPU.

The posters include visual and written elements from Hip songs. One celebrates the band’s 40th anniversary, while the others are themed around communities found in the music: 

•    Isle Aux Morts, Nfld. (“The Dire Wolf”)

•    Brandon, Man. (“100th Meridian”)

•    Algonquin Park, Ont. (“Three Pistols”)

•    Bobcaygeon, Ont. (“Bobcaygeon”)

•    Golden, B.C. (“The Luxury”)

•    Saskatoon, Sask. (“Wheat Kings”)

•    Churchill, Man. (“Thompson Girl”).

Belisle says this type of project — where a client asks for something they can get behind — is a rare opportunity to really ignite your creativity.

“I have always loved projects that push your imagination, and I tell my students you’ll constantly need to learn new software as a designer. But what’s most important is your imagination.”

Belisle and Rogers previously created another Hip poster to commemorate the band’s last performance at Rogers Arena in Vancouver during its 2016 farewell tour. The poster features a float plane with the word “HIP” under the wing flying by the Lions Gate Bridge.

Tragically Hip poster series.
The limited-edition Tragically Hip poster series features nine unique posters celebrating the band's music and 40th anniversary.

The band’s final show was Aug. 20, 2016 in front of thousands of fans in Kingston, Ont. Another 11.7 million Canadians watched the TV broadcast. Belisle remembers it.

“I went to a pub for lunch, and the concert started playing on TV. There was a table of 15 people next to me, singing along to every song. Tears were flowing, and I realized how this band touched so many Canadians.”

Lead singer Gord Downie died the following year at age 53 from an incurable form of brain cancer.

The posters are available through the Tragically Hip’s website.