“The best part about this job is trying all the pastries,” jokes Erica Gibson with a grin. While the Art Director of Bottega Louie says this in jest, she does openly admit her delight in getting to sample the foods and pastries from time to time. This perk alone is enough to make any foodie envious, and as I sit in the restaurant consuming a heavenly stack of lemon ricotta pancakes at breakfast with Gibson and the rest of The Dieline team, I, too, can only imagine how wonderful it would be to work there. After exiting the restaurant portion of the space, I scan the gourmet market to find mouthwatering pastries that are too beautiful to be real: a princess cake in a dreamy lavender hue, cheesecake with perfectly placed raspberries, a dome-shaped torte with gold flakes on top, and countless other treats. It seems undeniable — working at Bottega Louie is certainly the sweet life.
The desserts here are edible pieces of art, flawlessly constructed to please the eyes and baked to satisfy the sweet tooth. But looking beyond the delicious food, Gibson’s job entails all facets of the brand and the products, from new pastry packaging to Bottega Louie’s overall image to new products like pasta and bottles of olive oil. “You’ve got to keep your eye on a lot of different things,” she states, showing us around her workspace, a small office situated across the street from the bustling restaurant and market. “The job entails much more than just packaging design. What may come as a surprise is that I am also responsible for our inventory management and purchasing of over 300 SKUs, all brand photography, social media, ecommerce, promotional materials, and I manage a team of three. We also have about 5-12 product or packaging developments in the works at all times. There are times when I wish I was designing more, but the variety of my job keeps things exciting.”
Gibson’s office bursts with creative, fun spaces, including a large inspiration board packed with images, a work table to fine-tune packaging details for upcoming projects, and backdrops and lighting for photo shoots. As we get the grand tour of her space, she leads us to a small nook with shelving on three sides that houses endless product inspiration and previous Bottega Louie packaging. Gibson grabs a cake box and assembles it, demonstrating not only the ease of use for the employee in the market but the event that is opening a Bottega Louie pastry — complete with ribbons, hidden magnets, and a delightful reveal. “It’s all the little surprises. We just want the experience to keep going and going until you get to the product.”
“I’m able to influence every part of the brand visually, which is really exciting,” she admits. When Bottega Louie expanded their brand to include appetizing foods like pasta and olive oils, Gibson and her team found the balance to allow for something new in the product line but also have these items fit perfectly with the brand. Looking at the shelves, everything from chocolate dipped pretzels to jams to marinara sauce, everything is definitively Bottega Louie but also entirely its own.
Although it may seem obvious, most restaurants don’t have their own in-house art director. Gibson shares with us what it’s like working in this unique position, what her design philosophy is, how to turn a vision into a tangible product — and her favorite Bottega Louie pastries, of course.
Tell us a little bit about what led up to your current position — what were your key interests, where did you study or go to school, what other work experience did you have?
Growing up I was drawing and painting all the time—it was what I known for. At some point in my teens I became absolutely obsessed with tattooing, which funny enough really trained me as a designer. I apprenticed from age 14-16 and then tattooed professionally until I changed paths and decided to go to college at 18. After a brief stint at CU Boulder, I transferred to Otis College of Art and Design where I graduated in 2009. Although I started out as an illustration major, I was becoming very drawn to graphic design through typography and book design courses. In my third year, my focus transitioned almost exclusively to graphic design. Kali Nikitas the Director of Communication Arts was very influential in my development as a designer as well as the staff at that time including Jessica Fleischmann and Davey Whitcraft to name a few.
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