Party flyers

Party flyers have come back to life in Toronto in a most unexpected way

If you were around in the 90s, or 80s, or really anytime where the internet wasn't a constant presence, you'll remember Toronto being covered in party flyers. 

From promoting raves in the Club District to secret location dance parties where you'd have to call a number to get the location, flyers dominated nightlife including underground raves, concerts and festivals.

Some flyers didn't disclose locations and instead included a "meeting point" or "pick up at" message at the bottom.

Wild postings (posters) were prominent too. Parties such as Exodus, Sky High and Sykosis stapled or wheatpasted their posters all around the city. On wooden posts, street poles and construction hoarding, you'd find stacks of posters layered up. 

toronto party flyers

For a period of time, flyers litered the city and finding a spot to hit up on the weekend was stappled on a post. Flyers courtesy of Scot Turner.

Outside nightclubs, the grounds were commonly littered with flyers tossed away by indifferent crowds exiting the venue. If you weren’t sure where to go, you would be able to find a flyer or poster as soon as you stepped onto the main street. 

So where did all the flyers and posters go?

With the advent of the internet and, later, social media and messaging apps, the evolution of party promotion from physical to digital came quickly. To say flyers and posters died wouldn't be accurate, they more so transformed into other forms of communication. 

Instead of physical, printed communication we saw Facebook event pages, emailed listings and text chains as the preferred means of party promotion for a long period of time. For a period of time, Facebook was at the forefront of nightlife planning. 

These days, Facebook plays a much smaller role mainly due to the demographic planning the raves and parties. With a low active user base among Gen Z and younger millennial, Facebook's impact on nightlife communication slowly began to fizzle out. 

toronto party flyer

The flyer movement has been re-birthed through a digital lens, holding a major spot on Instagram currently. Flyers courtesy of Scot Turner.

Instead, it's the other Meta brand, Instagram, is where party promotion endures. In Instagram's case, it re-birthed the former movement of flyer in both a new and traditional way.

In general, party collectives, DJs and artists all now lean on their Instagram followings, rather than venues or event or ticketing sites, to promote parties they're involved in.

In the more ‘modern aspect of flyers, the creativity of the 'digital flyers' keeps getting more 'futuristic' with designers having greater access to sophisticated editing platforms. 3D rendering has become a huge part of flyer culture, with animated flyers, spinning signs and holographic-esque designs.

Living Room, a local party collective, is well known for flyers like these.

Their designer, Drew Boyle, known as Oyle who is also a DJ, creates intricate flyers that bring in futuristic chromatic elements. Floating images, 3D logos and interactive elements are all over their digital flyers.

"The purpose of 3D is always to elevate the message,  Because of 3D designs usual perception as something that is reserved for film or high-end marketing," said Oyle. "It comes with somewhat of a shock value when used to promote an underground event."

Oyle also said that inspiration is constantly drawn from the feeling of being at the event itself. When the emotions are high, all your senses are stimulated, he said that he tries to channel that energy into his promotional work.

"[Living Room] doesn't abide by any particular formula," said Oyle. "We want to curate experiences that are memorable and utilizing these skills it allows for Living Room events to stand out among the more traditionally promoted ones."

toronto party flyers

Presently, Toronto rave and dance party flyers still hold elements of the past, from screen printing to the Y2k aesthetic. Flyers courtesy of Scot Turner

While Oyle's work brings in new concepts to flyers, older elements of rave and party posters are still present. The shock value Oyle presents in his flyers is reminiscent of highly detail rave flyers of the past. From metallic designs to neon looks, Oyle pulls in those elements in their work as well.

These flyers will incorporate snapshots of past events and other nightlife elements. 

In terms of sticking with the traditional aesthetic of rave and party flyers, DIY has become key when designing them. Aside from futurist 3D designs, many collectives and DJs implement older techniques that posters have held for time. 

DJs in Toronto much like Club Soda use over-saturated, screen printing styled posters similar to those seen in the 90s. Much like Sykosis did, old images from the 50s and 60s are scanned, screen printed and overlaid to create the 'vintage' look.

Local collectives have used these ideas too, with Lotion Magazine's parties using the exaggerated designs, hyperactive colour schemes and inverted images. 

One thing has always stuck over time, the music influences the art. If you’re going to a deep house rave, the flyer will remain dark with red undertones, but if you find yourself at a mixed genre party from afro-beats to hyper pop, the flyer will always be exaggerated and bold.

Digital posters aren't new, but it's future will continue to remain on Instagram as it holds its place as the epicentre for finding what's going on in the city.

Lead photo by

Flyers courtesy of Scot Turner

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