Art Rock: Dan Kuhlken Of DKNG Studios

Art Rock is our weekly look at the creation and design of tour posters, merchandise and other music artwork. Because why should your ears have all the fun?

Though Dan Kuhlken and Nathan were both attracted to music and design at an early age, it wasn’t until 2005 that they formed DKNG Studios. The dynamic duo – who met in a high school band – combine their skills ranging from fine arts to film production for every project they take on. Their clients include: ABC Family, Dangerbird Records, The Disney Channel, Flight of the Conchords, HBO, Hotel Café, Monsters of Folk, Overcoat Management, Polyvinyl Records, Troubadour Warner Bros. Television – just to name a few. In addition to their long list of independent and corporate clientele, DKNG have been the resident poster artists for famed L.A. venue, the Troubadour since 2007.

LiveBuzz: How did you go about designing the poster for Iron & Wine? Did they ask you to or did you bring it to their attention?

Dan Kuhlken (DKNG): Actually, this poster was commissioned by the venue, Troubadour. A majority of our early work was commissioned this way and the posters were used as gifts to the band as a thank you for playing.

Later on, we were commissioned to do posters for The Swell Season, who share’s Iron & Wine’s management. From there, we grabbed the attention of the manager and have been in touch ever since.

LB: What was the inspiration behind the artwork? How did you come up with the concept?

DK: We were already big fans of the music, which definitely fueled our inspiration. When listening to Iron & Wine the words that came to mind were: powerful, calm, organic, warm, melancholy, etc.

We noticed that many existing posters used Samuel Beam’s beard as inspiration. We liked the idea of using hair in the design but didn’t want to be too literal. So what came to mind was the image of a lion (powerful, mane) made out of foliage (organic, calm). All in all the imagery seemed to work well with his sound so we went with it.

The addition of making the hair/foliage create an ampersand was discovered during the process of making the poster, which was a nice surprise to stumble upon.

LB: Did you ever get the chance to meet the band?

DK: Unfortunately no, but we look forward the possibility in the future.

LB: What other bands have you designed for?

DK: There have been quite a few over our 5-year career. To name a couple that we’ve had the honor to work with: Flight of the Conchords, The National, Phish, The Swell Season, and Monsters of Folk.

LB: What’s your design process?

DK: Nathan and I collaborate on almost every project. He primarily focuses on graphic design while I create the illustrations. Together we will piece together our creations and art direct the project to completion.

LB: Who are your influences?

DK: We gather influences from almost everywhere (I know cliché), but if I had to pick some artists that we admire I would say, Scott Hansen, Shepard Fairey, Saul Bass and Jason Munn.

LB: Do you work in other art mediums?

DK: Nathan went to school at USC for film. I have worked in various fine art mediums (charcoal, paint, etc.). We both are musicians. In fact, we met playing in a band together in high school.

DKNG just finished a poster for a triple bill for filmmaker Edgar Wright. They’re also doing a marketing campaign for Benefit Cosmetics and a poster for Cake.

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