Talking with Nicole Smith, Art Director at Do LaB

Art is the heart and foundation of Lightning in a Bottle and Do LaB.  Our team is blessed to be immersed and continuously co-creating in a community overflowing with talented artists and boundary-pushing creativity. Because of this we are existing in a fluid and ever-growing state in which each year Do LaB strives to think outside the box, challenge ourselves creatively to unveil something new.

Throughout the entire festival process our Marketing and Design Team work to produce intentionally art-focused creations from the emails, wristbands and lineup art, to the festival itself. At it’s core, Lightning in a Bottle is art – it is a celebration and gathering of art, innovators, visionaries, and artistic thinkers.

In years past, the lineup and official art has been created by artists outside of the Do LaB team. The high caliber roster of talent behind these iconic pieces includes names such as Tycho/ISO 50 in 2015, preceded by Lightning in a Paintcan all-stars Hans Walor, Locust and Max Neutra.

To celebrate 2016 and LIB’s 10th year, we felt inspired to switch things up and look internally for a creation straight from the source. We’re proud to say the artists behind this year’s majestic and captivating art are Do LaB’s own in-house graphic design team, led by Do LaB Art Director, Nicole Smith.

So what’s it like to be Art Director for one of the most artistically creative production companies in the world? In this brief interview, Nicole discusses this year’s art inspiration to shed some light on the process that goes along with creating it.  


What was the inspiration behind this year’s official art and lineup art?

The inspiration for this year’s art came from brainstorming together with the Creative Directors (and founding family) of the Do LaB – Josh, Jesse, and Dede. Everything we do here is the result of a team effort, and we tend to build off each other’s excitement and ideas as part of our creative process. Working with them daily to come up with design ideas is what I do, so I guess they’re my inspiration – haha!

When I sat with them, we talked about how we could best visually convey a sense of all the incredible and wild things LIB is made up of, there’s literally SO MUCH going on that it’s hard to pick just one side to show. Eventually, during our brainstorming meeting, we happened across the idea of literally building the design out of pieces of the festival; composing some type of digital collage using our stellar photo archive.

I researched various collage composition techniques that stood out to me, and drew inspiration from other working artists I admire like Harrison Roberts and Andrew Knives. Here are some of the concepts I pulled for inspiration for the collage art:

Collage Inspiration

How did you choose the elements and what was the process of creating this year’s art?

I started by combing through our amazing LIB photo archive and pulling shots that were either: a) weird, b) cool, or c) weird and cool. We’re lucky to have some of the most amazing photographers in the business at our event: Daniel Zetterstrom, Aaron Glassman, Aaron Gautchi, Teddy Saunders, Juliana Bernstein, Watchara, etc. So I had a great array of things to choose from! Once I had my selects, I spent a whole heck of time digitally clipping out the most stand-out pieces of the photos and dropping them all into one file. After I had a slew of photos (that’s very specific design terminology), I started messing around with them (again, designer-speak) until I found a composition I liked. After some typical back-and-forth with the Creative Directors about which photos were working and which photos best represented the true festival experience, we landed on this final design:


We followed a similar process for the lineup art collage, but realized quickly that ALL those images and ALL those names were making the composition a little overwhelming. Here is the collage version of the lineup, followed by the simplified version we chose for our official release:


How was it this year creating the art in-house versus years past outsourcing and then interpreting the art?

In years past (well, since I started working for the Do LaB in 2012), I’ve had the pleasure of building the festival design around a key piece of art created by one of the incredible artists in our community (Tycho/ISO 50, Max Neutra, Hans Valor, Locust, etc.). We’re so lucky to have such a talented bunch of folks who find inspiration in what we do and who want to contribute! I’ve loved having the opportunity to build my designs off of what they create; there are always so many interesting ways to interpret what they’ve given us, and it’s been really fun to find jumping off points for the design based on their art.

Creating the art in-house this year has been an honor and a challenge, but it’s something I’m excited to have had the opportunity to do. I think the choice the Creative Directors made to produce the art in-house was born simply from their desire to try something new and different, which, let’s face it, is what they’re known for doing. In turn, I hope that the fact that I have an intimate knowledge of the way the festival is built and what we are attempting to create has put a unique spin on the aesthetic. I’d like to think that it has, and if nothing else, I’ve certainly enjoyed the journey! 🙂

Check out more of Nicole’s art in her online portfolio: