Synesthesia is most often described as a neurological condition where a person confuses sensory responses, often with poetic results: the music emitting from a Monet, the sweet taste of the distant trumpet, etc.

Robbie Kanner, with great energy and attitude, twists these sensory mixes to drive his own prolific output. Through photos, graphics and multiple new media, Kanner steers the visual identity for some of the best bands in town, most recently the album art for the buzzworthy new release from The Lucid.

So when others might be confused about which sense is which, Kanner has the good sense to just go with it.

To check out Kanner’s portfolio, go to

What exactly is it that you do around town?

I’m a photographer, graphic designer, manager, new media artist, and also do some marketing for everything related to Portland. Basically, I really get ready to take on a large project when I get a phone call about working with a band, organization, corporation, etc., whether it be a logo, website, album, photographs, animation, video, promotion and so on.

What are your earliest Maine memories, and how did they inform your current experience?

Well, I was born in Columbus, Ohio, and moved to Maine when I was like 2, because my dad really loved the area. Between growing up in Fairfield and going to college at UMF (University of Maine at Farmington), I ended up driving to Portland at least three times a week. My first memory when it came to music in Maine was the band 6gig. The album “Mind Over Mind” got me into local rock when I was in high school and really just started to shape my interest in everything. The front man for 6gig, Walter Craven, designed that record, and it was really the first time that I thought about design, without even really understanding what design was.

How do you devise a visual identity for a band?

Doing a visual identity for a band is a process for me. I’m a very synesthetic person, so when I initially get the call to do an album I ask for the rough mixes or even to sit in on the recording sessions. I want to really get into the artist’s head so I can start forming specific colors, shapes and textures so the album c an look like what it sounds like. After listening to an album roughly 200 to 300 times (literally), I have a core foundation of what I’m going to do, and then it’s just applying details to things like the album design, the photo shoot for the album, website, T-shirts, stickers and the CD release show flier. the time I finish an identity, I’ve probably listened to whatever record that is over 500 times.

What are your favorite projects you’ve worked on in town so far?

The Cambiata was one of the first bands I did (a CD for) and feel in love with. I did “To Heal,” and everything just always felt right about that band. Working with Lost on Liftoff was great too. I spent a decent amount of time on the road with those dudes, and it really helped shape my views. They’re a bit older than me and were able to sort of point me in the right direction on a ton of life’s hardships. Holy Boys Danger Club’s “The Boo Box” was also a personal favorite of mine. It was a quick album for me to do, but for so many complicated reasons, the front cover ended up being one of my favorite images I’ve done so far.

What upcoming work of yours can we see (or hear) around town?

Sea Level’s “Anjuli” is my main bag right now. It’s Dan Capaldi’s first solo project, and we’ve been working on it for about two years. The Lucid’s self-titled record that I did is available at Bull Moose, as well as Headstart’s new album that I did. I also designed the website for Spose’s label PDANK ( with Adam Murray, who handled all the coding. The Vanityites (Chris Moulton and Stan Dzengelewski, ex-The Cambiata) are heading into the studio with Jon Wyman in March, and that’ll be a big project to stay tuned for. Finally, if you find yourself downtown, I have a show up at Sylvia Kania Gallery titled “Who Are We.” It’s a new media installation that deals with identity within society, and will be up for February’s First Friday.

How does this Lucid record compare to previous efforts?

They’re all different. No album is the same, but I absolutely loved working on The Lucid’s new album. They gave it to me to listen to and just let me do my thing. I’ve been a fan of The Lucid for a long time and have always wanted to do an album for them, so I couldn’t have been more stoked when I got the call from them. It’s a very moody-sounding album, which is something I incorporated a lot in the design. You’d really have to tear it apart and stare at it with a magnifying glass to pick up all the small and subliminal things I added in. I’m not even sure if The Lucid knows about some of the things in there.

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland and Boston.



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