Cover and Interior Illustrations for the Nashville Scene

The Nashville Scene is a hip, weekly publication that Music City locals read for news and reviews. As a free news magazine, the Scene survives on advertising, eye-catching covers, and interesting content that will make people stop, pick up an issue, and read through the entire publication. Priority #1 is a cover design that will grab passers-by and make them take a magazine off of the rack. Content and flow must then hold the reader’s interest and compel them read the issue cover to cover. 

The biggest Nashville Scene issue each year is the Best Of Nashville edition. Every year, readers vote to nominate their favorite local businesses, arts, entertainment venues, etc. And each year, the Best Of Nashville issue is by far the most widely read. Hence, it is packed full of advertising, making it a big revenue generating issue for the Scene. With all of that advertising, the flow and the interior content must be extra special—because let’s face it— people don’t pick up a magazine for the ads!

In an effort to make the magazine stand out and be fun to look at, the editorial staff wanted to create a classic Art Deco vibe. They were familiar with our iconic poster designs from our Spirit of Nashville and Art & Soul of America Collections, so they asked us to create the cover and interior illustrations to look like classic, grand event poster art from the 1920s.

We did some research on Deco-era design and World’s Fair poster art. Aaron Johnson, one of our stellar interns from Watkins School of Art, Design & Film was assigned to start doing research and sketch up some rough concepts. (His great work on this project and others earned him a full-time position on our staff as soon as he graduates in December!)

Aaron sketched up some iconic images and then added dramatic Art Deco architectural shapes to frame them.

Once he finished black and white art for the cover and the 7 interior divider page illustrations, Joel Anderson went to work painting the illustrations. As a former airbrush artist (in the days before computers,) creating the effects in Photoshop was a lot of fun—especially since there were no brushes to unclog, over-spray to clean up, and band-aids to apply from frisket-cutting accidents! Joel added dramatic lighting to Aaron’s compositions to give them a classic Art Deco World’s Fair flair. 

The publication was divided into 6 sections. After creating the cover and intro page, our job was to create color and navigation that would lead readers through the 215-page magazine. Here are some samples of the full-page art we created...

It was challenging to take the Deco look and make it work for all the categories. For a section on kid’s stuff, we rendered a vintage robot in bright colors. 

At first, our color palette was true to the Art Deco era—more sophisticated, understated and muted. But the magazine editors thought the colors might not jump off of the news stand enough, so we jacked up the saturation and the overall color palette to make the illustrations more attention-getting.

The magazine was the biggest issue ever. We had a great time working with the awesome team from the Nashville Scene. If they would have offered a category for Best Editorial Staff, we would have voted them #1!


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