Based in Brooklyn, Chantal is currently a group creative director at Civic, a marketing and communications company that partners with businesses to drive growth through the power of community.

Chantal Smith | Photo illustration by Ashley Epping


We spent two minutes with Chantal to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations and recent work she’s admired.

Chantal, tell us …


Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I’m originally from Sydney, Australia, but I’ve made New York my home for the past 12 years. My dream of moving to New York had been brewing for quite some time, until one day I realized I needed to take proactive steps to turn that dream into reality. I quit my job and purchased plane tickets, determined to find employment and secure a visa to stay.


How you first realized you were creative?

When I started making dresses for my dolls using tissue. I found that I loved drawing, too. Also, one of my most memorable creative moments was when I entered a competition for the local Saturday morning music video show. They asked viewers to design the Australian tour jackets for Salt ‘n Pepa. I sketched my design and sent in the original drawing. I wish I still had a copy.


A person you idolized creatively early on.

Growing up in Australia, I was enchanted by the glamor and style of the late ’80s and ’90s. George Michael’s “Too Funky” video made a profound impression on me. In the video, supermodels were voguing in Thierry Mugler’sr dramatic designs, undergoing stunning transformations into cyborgs and motorcycles. It was a mesmerizing fusion of music, fashion and art that fueled my imagination.


A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

I attended a creative high school that encouraged self-expression, particularly through fashion, art and music. I embraced this opportunity by experimenting with styles, ranging from goth to medieval wench, cyberpunk and even taking cues from Courtney Love. I delved into thrifting and sewing, crafting my own clothes. Looking back, I believe these experiences were the genesis of my desire to create and transport myself into different eras and realms.


A book, movie, TV show, or podcast you recently found inspiring.

The book Killers of the Flower Moon and Scorsese’s film adaptation. In particular, the remarkable craftsmanship and collaboration with the Osage Nation that contributed to the film’s creation. This story and its generational impact have stayed with me, motivating me to further explore through reading and engaging with podcasts like In Trust. Along the way, I’ve also had the privilege of discovering incredible contemporary Native American designers, expanding my appreciation for this rich and complex cultural heritage.


One of your favorite projects you’ve ever worked on.

The opportunity to orchestrate an immersive event at the Tribeca Festival for a scripted audio series delving into the Hollywood blacklist, titled The Big Lie. As a devoted fan of Mad Men, seeing my name alongside Jon Hamm in The New Yorker was a highlight.


A recent project you’re proud of.

I take great pride in my recent projects with Audible. The challenge of working with limited visual assets has granted us the freedom to construct immersive environments that enhance the overall experience. Audible was named an “Industry Innovator” last year by BizBash.


Someone else’s work that inspired you years ago.

Es Devlin has been a source of inspiration for me. I’ve admired her work for years, Her exhibition at Cooper Hewitt provided a deeper insight into her creative process.


Your main strength as a creative person.

My ability to think on both macro and micro levels. I enjoy adding layers of detail, incorporating hidden Easter eggs or messages that delight those who are deeply engaged with the intellectual property, or infusing a touch of humor. My goal is to create art, not just marketing.


Your biggest weakness.

Striving for perfection. Creating a high-quality experience within the constraints of time and budget is always a challenge. Like any creative person, I put a lot of pressure on myself.


A mentor who helped you navigate the industry.

One individual who stands out is my first creative director. She was a remarkable leader with a strong personality. She treated me as an equal and provided invaluable insights into the artistic aspects and business side of being a creative professional.


How you’re paying it forward with the next generation of creatives.

Here in New York, I have the chance to interact with many young individuals across diverse industries. I emphasize the importance of valuing their work and never working for free. I make myself available to engage in conversations about their pursuits and offer guidance when possible. Additionally, if I have connections within the industry who could be of assistance to them, I’m proactive in facilitating those connections to help them on their creative journey.


What you’d be doing if you weren’t in advertising.

I would still pursue a path as an immersive artist or exhibition designer.


— Kait Shea

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