March 8, 2024

2024 Hinterland Art Direction: Brooke Summers

Creative Process
Artist Evolution
Music Festival Visuals
No items found.

Give us a snippet of your story, how did you get to where you are now? What’s your general background?

Through a series of impulsive decisions and a lot of excess energy, I stumbled into graphic design after my initial dream of being an editorial photographer didn’t work out. Somehow that opportunity didn’t materialize for me in the middle of Iowa - ha. I was taking a drawing class at Iowa State and was always in love with magazines. I heard about graphic design and decided to switch my major. 

After graduating I worked at some design agencies in Des Moines, but didn’t really feel like my aesthetic matched the work I was making. I would just try to guess what my creative director or client wanted me to make and do that. 

My husband decided to start Hinterland as a one-off event and I did the design work. When it got to the point where I was designing for Hinterland all evening and the agency during the day, I decided to quit and try to freelance in the extra time I had apart from Hinterland work. Over the years that has gotten less and less as the work for the event gets more complicated and involved.

One area that I’ve really enjoyed building out has been merch design. I love clothes and fashion, so making lots of merch options has been a lot of fun. I would say that’s what keeps me designing. I’ve been working on my own for about 10 years now. 

What is “Precious” to you?

FUN. Free time. Humor. I value having time to explore the world,  find things I like, have fun, and spend time with people I enjoy. I don’t really feel like making anything if I’m not having fun and laughing.

What did the process/concept for Hinterland art look like this year?

This year I was somewhat feeling around in the dark. Throughout 2024 I was pretty dedicated to owning my creative process and trying to find a balance of having a plan and letting things flow. Throughout making this, I was trying to make something that just “felt” right. Something that matched the aesthetics of the music on the lineup and felt more organic than years past. 

I will admit this aesthetic was a lot of trial and error. I think I made nearly 50 different versions. I tried to work quickly and make a lot of rough mockups before I invested time in making any concept perfect. I was aiming for something that referenced art nouveau style, but didn’t feel entirely derivative. There was a lot of collaging, live tracing, stretching graphics, and drawing elements. I did a lot of on-screen collaging for flexibility and quickness and then spent time perfecting things by hand-drawing a lot of the art. 

I think what I learned from this process was that it can be fun to surprise yourself and experiment, but it takes time. I don’t think making 50 versions of something is really all that profitable if you’re working with a client, but since I use this as more of a creative outlet, I was able to obsess over it. There is a part of me that would like to try being more intentional with what I want to achieve before I start putting pen to paper. That being said, every project is different and I am committed to having a curious attitude about challenges and unknown outcomes rather than rigid in my rules or expectations about how the work should be made. 

Expectations/dreams for Hinterland/Hinterland art for future years.

I don’t know if I have any expectations other than to keep evolving. I am starting to wonder now 10 years in if certain things should stay year to year. We’ll see, ha.

What has Hinterland meant to you and how has it been a creative outlet?

What I love about working on this project is it really is just a mashup of my interests. I like music, I like community events, and I like making art. I get to do a little bit of a lot of things and can kind of “throw it all away” and start new every year. I hate doing the same thing over and over again. 

"I think taking something inherently non-visual like music and expressing it through visuals is a really fun creative exercise and the genre provides endless inspiration."

How do you think the role of visual arts contributes to the broader cultural impact of music festivals like Hinterland?

From the start of Hinterland, having a unique visual aesthetic has been important to us because we are a boutique event. I think with bigger events that have more resources, we don't necessarily need to use design in the same way as us to prove legitimacy. I like that we can communicate in non-verbal ways what it may feel like to attend Hinterland. I think taking something inherently non-visual like music and expressing it through visuals is a really fun creative exercise and the genre provides endless inspiration. 

Are there any specific challenges or unique considerations you face when designing for a music festival compared to other projects?

The only real challenge comes from keeping the balance between making the poster easy to read, making it visually exciting, and being equitable to sizing and placement of band names. I don’t think that issue is probably unique to music festivals but is something I think about when I’m making lineup graphics every time. 

Can you share some of the key inspirations behind your artistic style, and how do they manifest in your work for Hinterland?

I am very inspired by fashion and general culture. In general, I think my “style” is hard to acknowledge as the person making it. Maybe other people feel this way? I don’t really feel like I have a style but hear from others that they can see the stylistic similarities from one work to the other. I definitely have preferences and obsessions that carry over from one project to the other. 

When I first started doing this 10 years ago it was really important to me to look and feel legitimate. I would google “festival lineup graphic” to make sure my graphics had the “right” things in them. Which is totally necessary. Now that I’ve done this same project over and over again I just mostly know what info to include and then let myself do what I want for graphic aesthetic. I am constantly on Pinterest pinning a combo of visual art, clothing, photos, and interior design. Living a visually pleasing life and surrounding myself with inspiring visuals naturally feeds into the things I am making. 

For this year specifically I was obsessed with the custom organic-yet-stylistic details in art nouveau artwork. I also was looking at a lot of hand cut paper valentines for ideas on how to illustrate the imagery. I love a balance of simple and detail in art, and I think the artists at hinterland have that same sensibility in their music. Folk music is so natural, personal, and flawed. I wanted the art to reflect that same vision.

Looking back at your journey as the artist for Hinterland, what advice would you give to aspiring graphic designers or artists who aim to make their mark in the world of music festivals and events?

Being in this industry is really hard money-wise and there’s probably people who have a better idea of what it takes to be employed by bands or a merch company than I do. I can just speak to the experience of building something I wished existed. If you can, put your efforts into the projects you have the most control over the outcome. I also just recommend meeting as many people as you can. Go to shows, meet promoters, etc. I think a lot of times getting opportunities is a mix of showing what you can do (even if it’s spec work) and knowing people who want to work with you. I’ve definitely gotten hired because someone saw something I did that they liked, but I would say most of the time your network is the most important resource to getting the opportunities you want. Get out there and make as much as you can! Have fun with it.