Illustrating for the 2016 Macy's Flower Show

Illustrating for the 2016 Macy's Flower Show

In October of last year we transitioned out of full-service design (doing branding, packaging, book covers, etc.) to focus on our passion—illustration, poster design, and hand-lettering. Since then we have enjoyed working on lots of fun projects for great clients. One of those clients was Macy’s—the legendary department store based in New York City. 

When the Macy's design department came up with the theme for the 2016 Macy’s Flower Show—America the Beautiful, they looked around the country to find an illustration studio who was good at creating classic, American Travel poster art. They saw our National Parks poster series and our Art & Soul of America collection and knew they had found what they were looking for.

The Senior Creative Manager at Macy's, Gregory DiBisceglie, was our main contact. He commissioned us to create a poster series that would celebrate the beauty of America's various landscapes via six specific regions of the United States—the Southeast, Northeast, Northwest, Midwest, Rockies, and the Southwest. There would be a main poster image to promote the show that featured a flower-covered Statue of Liberty torch, and somehow, we would need to depict 6 different flower-growing climates—mountains, deserts, prairies, coastlines, swampland and forests.

Our assignment was to create an all-American flowerific master logo for the show, a main poster, and six regional posters. All of this had to be done by February, and we knew it would be a challenge with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays thrown into the production schedule. (The folks at Macy’s are pretty busy with the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the holiday retail season!) Joel Anderson played the role of Creative Director, working with the Macy’s team to come up with just the right vintage Americana flavor for the whole project. He assigned Aaron Johnson to be the lead illustrator. (Little did Aaron know that he would spend the next few months rendering American landscapes filled with hundreds of flowers!)

Aaron's initial sketches explored the various ways we could show off the geographic diversity of each region, while also highlighting the centerpiece of the show: a replica torch of the Statue of Liberty decked out with flowers. The Macy’s team chose a concept that featured the torch with rays of light emanating from the center to create wedges where the 6 different regions could be depicted.

Aaron put the petal to the metal and went to work. Here he is working on the main poster. He rendered all the parts in vector format, so that they could be enhanced and expanded into 6 regional posters.

Macy’s needed the master logo as soon as possible for promotional purposes, so while Aaron worked on the main poster, Joel worked on the hand-lettering for the master logo, integrating flowers and sans-serif type that Aaron created.

With the main poster and master logo complete, the mood was set for the rest of the series. Macy's wanted a very vibrant color palette, so we cranked up the flower power by applying brighter hues than we typically use in our vintage-looking travel posters.

We adapted the stand-alone master logo to be the masthead for all the posters by deleting the flowers and housing the type in a star-spangled red, white and blue shape.

With the main image set, the six regionals were sketched out and derived from the imagery on the first poster. Ideally we would have created these first and then used the art in the main poster, but the main poster needed to be finished sooner than the others.

For the six regional posters, Aaron created imagery and typography that was inspired by the climate and the character of each region. Floral experts from Macy's made recommendations about what flowers were native to each region. Aaron carefully rendered dozens of native flowers for each of the regional designs. The resulting six illustrated posters each had a distinct vibe, while maintaining a cohesive family look.

Below is a time-lapse showing how the Rocky Mountain poster design took shape from sketch to final art.

Check out the whole line!


The event is currently going on from March 20th-April 3rd at select Macy’s locations across the U.S.A. If you live in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, or San Francisco, then you are in luck! Here are some pictures from one of the show locations.

The whole process was a fun experience for everyone involved, and we look forward to future projects where we get to flex our illustration muscles.

“I believe that illustration can be a powerful tool for connecting emotionally with our customers by creating an experience that feels truly unique. I can personally say that our collaboration with Joel and Aaron on the Macy’s Flower Show poster series over the last few months has proven to be one of the highlights of my career as Creative Manager for Special Projects at Macy’s.” 

-Gregory Dibisceglie

You can find more info at the webpage for the event here.

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