Digital Collage: an interview with Nico Tone

By Pau Waelder & Roxanne Vardi

With a history that spans more than a century, collage has evolved as an artistic technique from the pieces of newspaper glued to a canvas to a wide array of forms of appropriating content using digital tools. We sat down with Tal Keren, who established the Nico Tone collective and acts as the senior artist, on their use of found images to create digital collages in their latest series of artworks.

This interview is part of a series of three editorial articles that dive deeper into the different software, technicalities, and processes that go into creating digital artworks, in order to offer our readers a deeper understanding of digital art as a medium.

We speak to Nico Tone as part of a collaboration with Render Studio, a collective creative experimentation for a digital reality. Render Studio is inspired by art, design, nature and technology and aims to explore dimensions of virtuality, interactivity and motion. Nico Tone’s series Cornucopia,  Vintage Matchbox Series and Cosmoscapes are all featured on Niio this summer, and were all created for Render Studio. 

Towards these series, Nico Tone looked at archives of vintage matchbox illustrations from around the world. Can you please explain the complexity of turning older images into novel digital artworks, and the different technicalities that go into this process?

We were very lucky to find many archives of designs and illustrations of matchboxes that were scanned in a good quality. So it wasn’t a problem to take these images from the server, and to put them into different folders. Each of the folders we create is categorized under a different topic such as animals, flowers and space. We took images of each subject and with the use of Photoshop, we cut the illustrations and then used the program After Effects in which we placed all the cut images. To make these series we needed to create many small animations. I equate this process to Lego: animating each image separately so with each artwork we can use the same animations but in different colors, sizes and placements. We also created many animated GIFs towards the creation of the final artworks. We use between 50-70 illustrations collected by the group from vintage matchboxes to create one coherent artwork. From some matchboxes we just take one element or illustration, and for others we can take all of them. We also looked at the reference of stamps and of vintage bills for the Vintage Matchbox series. The artworks are conceived to be symmetrical at first glance so that the compositions are like mirrors, but then the illustrations break that symmetry.

Nico Tone, Vintage Tales I, 2022

In your search for these images, do you have a specific website that you explore or do you start every exploration from scratch using search engines such as Google search?

We tend to use specific links that we are familiar with, and we were very careful about the copyrighting of the images, so even when we found an image that we liked we needed to do a lot of research on the image’s legal copyright conditions.

Do you take these images and try to think about what the different illustrations meant historically, and play with these existing narratives or do you really use these images just as a starting point to create something completely new?

The history of the different illustrations is usually taken into account. It is very important and interesting to know the history of the images. But when we create the artworks, the main focus is on how it looks,  and how something new can be created from these materials. It may reference and remind us of the history, but the outcome is not the history itself, it’s something else, a new world that combines everything together. Each design comes from a different culture and country, and we take everything and mix it up into a new narrative. This type of work is similar to the process of globalization, which is experienced everywhere. Keep in mind  that the vintage illustrations are very small, so we have to work with a lot of small details. This was also a challenge, to try to think what can be done, and how something new can be created from these small historical illustrations.

“Each design comes from a different culture and country, and we take everything and mix it up into a new narrative. This type of work is similar to the process of globalization, which is experienced everywhere.”

Can you elaborate on the different softwares used in creating this series of works?

As I mentioned, for the creation of these works we use Photoshop and After Effects. I make use of a digital tablet and a pen. For the space series, Wandering Stars, we needed to create the backgrounds, so we used the Ipad with a program called Procreate to create them in high quality.

Nico Tone, Wandering Stars I, 2022

In your works you combine subject matters taken from different cultures and different time periods into one coherent whole. How do advanced technical softwares help in creating these new collated narratives?

The size of the illustrations make the available opportunities very limited, but on the other hand this is also a good thing because this also creates abstract boundaries where we need to be very creative. We try to create everything that is supposed to be alive in real life as breathing. Most of the animations are not fast, but instead are very slow and calm. It is like looking into an aquarium, or like when you’re diving and looking at the fish as a spectator. So the focus is on creating something that will be nice to be with. Even when portraying wild animals, we don’t want to represent them as scary but instead as calm and pleasing. Most of the animations portray movement, where the GIFs are created in a loop of movement. For this process, we take the image, for example the head of the bear, and break it apart into different pieces, and then move these different pieces one by one.

Present in your collage works, there also seems to be little stories or narratives, so that upon closer inspection over time, one can see some particular things happening or maybe even expect some things to happen which were not necessarily visible at first glance.

Yes, the artworks are all created in loops. But within those loops of 1.5-2 minutes there exist even smaller loops. These are created purposefully so that the narrative of the work is constantly changing. We like to create small surprises in the artworks, so that every time you see the work you can see something different. Like the half moon in Shell City that jumps out and back into the coffee cup, or the butterfly in Vintage Tales II that flies and lands on top of the boat. Also, as you mentioned, there are little stories that we create firstly for ourselves, where the viewer needs to see the work a couple of times to notice these. For example, in Shell Flower, there is a turtle that is biting into a plant on top of the car. In general, we think about the movement that you see the first time that you see the work, whereas there are other elements that one would only see after a couple of times that one has seen the work.

Nico Tone, Shell Animals, 2022

You mentioned that you would like viewers to take the time to see the artworks, or to live with them. What do you think of how we usually consume images which is really the opposite, fast-paced and ephemeral?

I think that because we are confronted daily with many images and videos that nothing really infiltrates us or touches us anymore. I believe that if you take the time and look at one artwork you will start feeling and sensing its power. This is what we try to achieve. We would like viewers to look at our works for a while, and not just a couple of seconds. I am in favor of technology, but I think that the subject matter that we choose to portray is usually more natural. We try to combine technology and nature for a long term relationship as opposed to a short one.

“We like to create small surprises in the artworks, so that every time you see the work you can see something different.”

You don’t use much text in your compositions, is this done purposefully?

We feel that when you incorporate text in the works, it gives it a more radical feeling or meaning which we want to leave more open. We don’t want our viewers to relate an artwork to one culture or to one language, but instead wish for every viewer to have their own take and perception of the artwork.

Your artworks show many references to Art Historical collage practices such as those initiated by Cubist and Dadaist artists from the early Twentieth century. What do you see as the role of the digital artist in this lineage?

When we are presented with a new technology, we have a new opportunity to do new things. So that we are aware of the history, and what the artists did in the past, but now we can do those same things with different techniques and challenges. I don’t like to create political artworks. The use of technological advancements for me comes out in the small nuances, when we say that we can use technology but in a positive way. The collage method and the digital tools give us the opportunity to portray what we are trying to say. Taking elements from history and from different cultures and with that to advance towards something more positive and more colorful, and to show the similarities between these different cultures. I like the idea that when you put different and seemingly opposite things together in a collage, such as a polar bear next to a tiger, suddenly it can make sense to see these two elements presented side by side.

Nico Tone, Wandering Stars III, 2022. The Mondrian Hotel, Seoul.

You present your artworks on very large screens, which are sometimes a couple of stories high. What do you need to consider, digitally, when your art is presented on such large scale?

On very large screens every detail is seen and scrutinized. Everything needs to be meticulous and have meaning. It is like putting all your imperfections out there, enlarged for the world to see. We have to simultaneously consider both the viewer looking at the collosal screen from very close, and one looking from far away. This does not happen on a normal size screen where a viewer must come relatively close to it. The short distance viewer will be very focused in a limited space inside the artwork and must gain value from that spot alone. He or she will see every detail in that limited scope. The viewer looking from afar will see the big picture. We aspire to convey the message or story of the artwork for both these types of viewers. From a technical standpoint, these colossal screens have very irregular formats and colors that we need to consider. We commonly need to make adjustments in the artworks to fit these unique screens. It is both scary and extremely satisfying to present our works on these huge screens.  

The Office Renaissance: The Art of Designing Inspiring Workspaces [Webinar]

By Amira Hashish

The hotel bar at NeueHouse Bradbury utilizes space and art to create a pleasing setting to work or relax.
NeueHouse Bradbury

The definition of the office will never be the same as the world emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic. This time has made us appreciate the significance of our surroundings and the importance of good interior design in our work environments.

After more than a decade of working in a newsroom, I decided it was time to set up my own business and ‘work from anywhere’ with a client base that spans Europe and America. Mine is just one of millions of similar stories.

Whether the pandemic has resulted in a career change or simply an introduction to flexible working, employers are recognising that their staff do not want to return to office life as they once knew it. A survey conducted by research and advisory company Gartner revealed thatmore than two-thirds (74%) of CFOs plan to permanently shift employees to remote work after the Covid-19 crisis ends. Offices are undergoing major redesigns to adhere to the new hybrid way of working that companies, including tech giants Google, Spotify and Twitter, are adopting.

But do we want to continue spending the majority of our ‘work from anywhere’ time at home? It can be isolating and lacks a sense of community. Hence why design-conscious coworking spaces that blend the different facets of our lifestyles are set to thrive.

I recently moderated a webinar with industry leaders from Niio, NeueHouse, Birch, Yon, and Design Stories where they discussed the new definition and purpose of the office, the impact of design as we go to work from home to work from anywhere, and the role of art in shaping these multipurpose spaces. Watch the full webinar here.

Why It’s Beneficial to Add Digital Art for Workspaces

Josh Wyatt, CEO of NeueHouse which has private work and social spaces in New York, Los Angeles and Miami, says: “People, now more than ever, are acutely aware of the value of time, choice and the various forks in the road of their personal and professional lives. The pandemic has awoken all of us with a sense of the finite. As such, people should expect special moments when working – spaces and communities that empower their creativity and most importantly allow them to flourish. 

“At NeueHouse, even pre pandemic, this sense of providing spaces and moments to flourish has always driven us. As we emerge into this new way to work, we have doubled down on ensuring our services, design, programming and community all provide moments where people creatively excel and find happiness. This rebirth of expecting more, opening one’s eyes to surroundings and seeking a supportive community is how the working environment will look in the future.”

He believes every workspace should approach their mission with a dedication to design and the delicate details that impact our ability to concentrate, create and ideate.

“High performance moments, that feeling of being in the flow or flourishing, is often driven by design that both inspires but also provides ease of work.” he adds. “Elevated, calm, warm and inviting moments wrapped within a diverse set of spaces where a worker can plug in and out of communal and private moments should be the north star design brief. At NeueHouse, we call ourselves a ‘cultural speakeasy’ which we feel captures our design and programming ethos where culture and commerce collide.”

Craig Knight, who heads up a research group called Identity Realisation (IDR) as part of the University of Exeter, is a firm believer in art being connected to workplace productivity. He summed up his thoughts for The Guardian: “There is a real tendency to opt for lean workspaces, designed to encourage staff to just get on with their work and avoid distraction. But there isn’t a branch of science in the world which believes this approach boosts productivity or makes for happier workers…If you enrich a space people feel much happier and work better; a very good way of doing this is by using art.”

Design studio Morgan Lovell, whose mission is to “transform offices into captivating workplaces” has released a thought-provoking essay on art and its effect on productivity in offices. “When we discuss the use of art in a client’s office design, we talk about its ability to stimulate creativity or inspire thought processes. We talk about its ability to reduce stress and improve wellbeing through its relaxing, contemplative nature. And of course, art can take so many different forms – from wall graphics and photographs through to sculptures and living walls – you can find a decorative effect to meet whatever mood you are trying to create,” it explains.

How Do You Add Digital Art for Workspaces?

A good starting point for incorporating art into our working day would be via the blank screens that are prominent throughout so many physical spaces. How many times have you walked into office lobby areas, meeting rooms or open plan work zones to see empty, switched-off screens hanging from the walls? u>Niio Art sees these screens as digital canvases with the potential to bring meaningful art into their environments and inspire an audience that spans way beyond the traditional ‘art scene’.

As the leading platform enabling digital art, Niio is utilising a growing network of 5,000 artists from 82 countries to help interior designers transform existing screens in the office, and any space for that matter, from a black void into an endless rotating digital canvas. 

Co-founder and CEO Rob Anders is passionate about the role digital art plays in design. He believes it should be easily accessible and affordable: “We need art now more than ever. And by art I’m talking about the opportunity for people to stop and have a moment, to ponder and think, perhaps start a conversation,” he says. “Our platform is replacing the screen void with vitality by giving people access to the largest community of media artists and a seamless way to display premium art to any screen in any location.”

Artwork: Camouflage by Quayola

Utilising a recurring series of digital art can also provide a way of connecting offices that exist in various parts of the world. It reinforces the notion of a common style between those spaces and makes employees feel a sense of familiarity. “We have built an extremely robust platform which enables us to deliver this content to any screen in any place according to different types of business models,” adds Rob. “It can move and adapt to different times of the day as well.”

Create Fluid Workspaces With Art

Creating fluidity between spaces using art and design is a core part of the concept behind Birch, which opened its first hotel and coworking members club around 30-minutes north of London during the pandemic. London based interiors studio Red Deer has styled the estate, which includes a 15th century mansion, a lido and sprawling grounds, to coexist with its flexible nature. There isn’t an obvious transition between the coworking area, the restaurants or the hotel rooms. That is very deliberate. 

“I guess it’s like wearing a suit,” Birch co-founder Chris Penn ponders. “It used to be the norm to wear formal attire to work. But the uniform was taking personality and individuality out of people in a work environment and I think offices did the same, right? They created these structured grey, neutralised environments. For the modern day personality, individuality and creativity is what differentiates the best businesses, brands and companies from those that are just existing within that marketplace. 


“You can’t expect those people to be able to perform as individuals in an environment which is teaching them to be robots, confined by their uniform or the uniformity of the place in which they perform their task. People realise that if you dress someone in a suit, they are going to act like they are in a suit. If you allow people to dress how they like, suddenly their personality will come out, they will think differently and they will probably remove barriers to their thought process. It’s the same for the workspace design.”

He is passionate about creating spaces where you can rest, explore, connect, work, taste, move, or dance – all in one place. He says: “Our lives have become blended. If you don’t provide facilities for people to enjoy themselves then you’re creating a barrier to them being able to engage. The kind of people that we are trying to attract love their work. They are not defined by it but they absolutely love it. It’s a big part of their lives. They also love going to festivals, listening to music and learning new things. So why would you prevent them from doing any of those things? We want Birch to be a place where people can escape. But we’re accepting that in order to escape you need to do the things that you want to do. One of which is work.” 

CoworkingResources, which publishes guides for the sector, estimates that almost 5 million people will be working from coworking spaces by 2024, an increase of 158% compared to 2020.

These projections reflect not only the growth that the industry has experienced over the past few years but also the dramatic increase in flexible and remote work practices adopted by businesses worldwide.

Experience-led hotel and hospitality collective Yon was born during the pandemic with the realisation by founders Tom Brooks and Ant Steele that working, travelling or generally making the most of your time shouldn’t exist as standalone concepts. 

Yon Essaouira

What started as a series of pop-up spaces around the world where guests could work and sleep in beautiful surroundings has turned into a permanent hotel, opening this summer in the coastal city of Essaouira, Morocco. 

The concept is a direct response to the needs and desires of the ‘work from anywhere’ generation that is keen to discover new destinations. “So many people no longer need to go into an office every day and companies know their employees are just as productive, or more productive, when working from places they love. But they yearn for social interaction and to be a part of a community,” says Brooks. 


“The freedom to log in from wherever you like suddenly means you don’t need to distinguish between travel and work. You could work from home or our vibrant coastal haven in Morocco. This has opened up the potential for a massive shift in the way we can live and want to live. At Yon, we want to help facilitate this and to introduce our guests to amazing destinations, collaborating with local insiders to deliver a special experience.”

Design Hotel Spaces with Form and Function

The hotel’s spaces are designed for productivity as well as fun. An option for privacy when needed is offered alongside communal areas. There is an events and wellness programme too. Whether you are closing deals poolside or in a dedicated work zone, every corner is being carefully styled to create a warm and welcoming ambience where you would be just as happy tapping away on your laptop or socialising over a long supper. 

Murude Katipoglu, founder of design studio Design Stories, has created workspaces around the world; some with their own restaurants, gyms, and coffee bars. Her team approaches the design process just as they would for a family home: “People want the comfort of a home but also the social aspect of coworking spaces. Workspaces can be stressful for many people so a calm, welcoming environment with multiple-purpose areas and well-thought lighting is key”

She emphasises that creating different zones in one space is important to allow people to transition and find what best works for them and thinks food or drink offerings alongside comfortable breakout areas help open up new conversations: “Good design improves the way people feel and live. A well-designed and considered space would make people want to spend more time in that environment.”

Interior designer Rod Moreno Masey has chosen to embrace the coworking culture for the return to office life of his own practice MorenoMasey and is moving into the Hoxton Hotel’s coworking space WorkingFrom in London’s Southwark. He says: “Adopting a more hybrid and creative approach to designing offices and spaces for work is more relevant than ever, as well as creating a sense of identity in an office and making it more personal with some of the comforts we get from home.”

He is a firm advocate that the familiarity we experience while working at home is strongly linked to our productivity. He thinks investing in objects for the office with which people connect physically and more intimately such as handles, floor finishes and chairs are essential to helping maintain this home feel. 

Morgan Lovell also believes that art is increasingly being seen as a way of incorporating an organisation’s own branding into their office design: “It can help tell the story of who they are, what they do and what they value.”

NeueHouse Hollywood

Let’s take Deutsche Bank, for example. Art is an integral part of its brand offering. In its own words: “Art spawns new ideas for shaping our future. It questions, inspires people, opens up new perspectives, and thus enables them to embrace unusual and innovative solutions.” Hence why its US and UK offices alone have more than 11,000 artworks on display. 

Whether your post pandemic office is a multipurpose space, a coastal escape or living room there is a renewed sense of how our environments make us feel. Considered design, with art in its varying guises at the heart of it, will be the foundation for helping us stay productive and passionate about our vocations. Book a free consultation with Niio’s expert curators today.

About the author: Amira Hashish is the director of Rapport (, a creative, content and events consultancy & storytelling platform for the new dawn of travel, design and lifestyle. You can follow her @thedesigneditor

The Office: Revisited” – The Webinar
In 2021 a webinar discussion was held following the article, with the participation of industry leaders from Niio, NeueHouse, Birch, Yon and Design Stories, moderated by Amira Hashish.

Webinar highlights:

Click here to get access to the full webinar.




What We’re Reading Now: Art (x) Design (x) Technology

At Niio, we are passionate about the intersection of Art, Design & Technology. From code-based and algorithmic artwork, to AR & VR installations, blockchain, and the new .ART domain, digital art was everywhere in ’17.  Check out some of the great stories that we’re reading now and look out for lots more in ’18.


The Year in Screens, in Museums, Galleries, and So On

“It’s estimated that the average American spends about ten hours looking at screens—on phones, laptops, desktops, tablets, televisions, and so on—every day. Screens are more than a little ubiquitous at this point, and I realized, perhaps not so surprisingly, that many of my favorite exhibitions from this year involved the use of screens.”  Read more.

Installation view of “Haroon Mirza: ‘ããã – Fear of the Unknown remix,” 2017, at Lisson Gallery, New York. COURTESY THE ARTIST AND LISSON GALLERY


Miami Art Basel: Where Art Reckons With Technology

“In the mass of confusion that is Miami Art Basel, there’s more discussion about the issues of our time, and much of that is framed around technology and the way it is making us think, react, and exist. In the midst of traditional paintings and sculpture on view, Miami Art Basel is demonstrative of how the art world is catching up to internet culture.”  Read more.

“Members Only” by Brian Bress, a high-definition single-channel video (color), high-definition monitor and player, wall mount, framed. Courtesy of the artist and Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles


Boston Arts Groups Team up for Sprawling Look at Art, Technology

“This February, 12 Boston-area arts organizations will band together to present a sprawling series of exhibitions exploring the symbiotic relationship between art and technology — a rare cross-institutional collaboration that includes painting, film, and Web-based art, among others.”  Read more.

Jon Rafman’s “View of Harbor, 2017” will be part of “Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today” at the Institute of Contemporary Art.


Julia Stoscheck Talks Her Inspiring Collection of Time-Based Media Art

“Art that exists only when installed? Whose every iteration can be considered a different representation of the work? Employing essential equipment and technology that can fail or become obsolete? None of it fazes Julia Stoschek, a leading collector of time-based media art, who gives these pieces the space they need to unfold their magic.”  Read more.

Imi Knoebel, Projektion X, 1972, and Klaus vom Bruch, Das Alliiertenband (Allies Tape), 1982, from the exhibition “Generation Loss” at the Julia Stoschek Collection, Dusseldorf.


The 25 People Who Defined Visual Culture This Year

“What, exactly, is visual culture? In a world where we communicate increasingly with images, it’s an ever-expanding field, comprising not just art, photography, and design, but also memes, advertising, histories of representation, and the very technologies through which all this flows.”  Read more.

Magic Leap One, Lightwear. Courtesy of Magic Leap.


UK’s First Permanent Virtual Reality Space in an Arts Institution to Open in London

“This year saw Virtual Reality (VR) reach new heights and capabilities in the art world and now London is getting its first free and permanent public VR space.”  Read more.

Rachel Rossin’s I Came and Went as a Ghost Hand (Cycle 2, 2015) Courtesy the artist, Zabludowicz Collection and ZieherSmith, New York


AR and VR Could be Educational — and Profitable — Tools For Museums

“When introduced to new technology, many people react with a mixture of fear and confusion, rather than excitement for the possibilities that the future may hold. Museums are in an even more difficult position: balancing the archiving and preservation of our history and remaining relevant to our society in the present and future, while being cognizant of major financial considerations.”  Read more.

The Kerry James Marshall exhibit at L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art.


This Artist Explores the Intersection of Art and Tech by Using Bitcoin 

“I make art that that tries to sort of shine a spotlight on the connection between humans and technology,” Bauch says.  Read more.




High-tech Art in Houston: Data-driven Installations Look at Issues Like Hurricane Harvey and Mass Incarceration:

“While musical acts like Nine Inch Nails, Solange and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke might have taken most of the spotlight at this year’s Day for Night, a music and art festival in Houston, Texas, the visual art on offer was just as attention-grabbing.”  Read more.

The Mill, Uproar (2017) at Day for Night Victoria Stapley-Brown

Women Artists Working with Technology

“This rigorous exhibition uses art to critique the stereotype that men and technology go hand in hand.” Read more.

Installation view of “Making/Breaking the Binary” (2017), Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, Philadelphia

Artist Daniel Canogar Visualizes Real-time Environmental Shifts With LED Sculptures

It sometimes seems like technology is at odds with the art world — a tension between brain and heart. But plenty of artists, from Da Vinci to Cory Arcangel, have proved that’s not true, and continue to prove it as technology evolves. In Technographica, we explore how contemporary artists are using technology in unusual and unexpected ways. Read more.


Basin by Daniel Canogar; Photography by Amelia Holowaty Krales for the Verge. Daniel is represented by bitforms.


What is the Future of Digital Art? 

“A new video from the Thoma Art Foundation brings together answers from ten experts.”  View video.