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These Tennessee Designers Will Be the Only Tens You See

Who are some of the best graphic designers from Tennessee?

  • Jeremy Cowart
  • Derrick Castle
  • Kyle Jones
  • Derik Hobbs
  • Jenean Morrison
  • Andrew Wierzba
  • Coco Lundy
  • Shane O’Brien
  • Kalyn Smith
  • Shane Helm
  • Justin Helton
  • Marcus Williamson
  • Amber Brannon

If you saw our post on KY designers, you know the south’s art scene is nothing to sneeze at—and Tennessee is no different. The Volunteer State is quickly gaining traction for more than its country music and Smoky Mountains. People everywhere are recognizing Tennessee’s colorful style, which could be why 100 people per day are moving to the Nashville region alone.

And it’s no wonder, considering the creative talent that continues to grow in Tennessee. In light of that talent—and back by popular demand—we’ve put together a list of state-based artists. So, sit back, grab some fruit tea, some Nashville hot chicken, and check out this click-worthy list of Tennessee designers.

Jeremy Cowart

Jeremy Cowart is a Nashville-based artist who began his creative journey as a painter. Now he is a full-fledged celebrity photographer and designer. Chances are you’ve seen Cowart’s images before; he has photographed Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Reba McEntire, and more. We love Cowart’s photos because each one is highly stylized, making his portfolio a curated collection of individualized portraits. You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Behance, or you can connect with him on LinkedIn.

Cowart takes chances with his photography, and that’s just one of the many reasons we enjoy his style. This image uses color in such a striking way; not only are the tones bright, but in using yellow, orange, blue, and purple, Cowart boldly utilizes complementary hues.

While his dancer-inspired image boasts bright tones, Cowart’s not afraid to embrace black in this photograph of Kelly Clarkson. With very little negative space, a variety of tones, and multiple textures, this photograph is perfect for youthful, disruptive spaces. We especially like the stripes and edgy use of lighting.

Derrick Castle

Located in Nashville, Derrick Castle runs Straw Castle, a business that specializes in block printing. A historic form of printing, block printing involves carving images into a surface, then applying the image to paper or material with ink. According to Castle, he’s noticed a growing interest in artisan work, and he attributes some of that same interest to his success. Castle has brought his unique style to brands such as Nike, Harley Davidson, and Under Armor. You can see him and his work on Twitter, Facebook, and Behance, or you can buy merch on his Etsy.

Above is an example of Castle’s incredible print work. After creating two stamps—one of an American-style eagle and another of the Tennessee tristar—the two images were layered over one another to create a patriotic, textured design unique to the state. We love Castle’s personal take on the Tennessee flag, especially with the distressed images and vintage flair.

Something else Castle has been working on are custom-illustrated helmets, which he creates using Sharpies and automotive clear coat. The above design has a wonderful style, with icons that bring to mind vintage tattoos, mythology, and of course, motorbiking.

Kyle Jones

Kyle Jones is part illustrator, part designer, and part animator. His designs are often whimsical, giving them the ability to resonate with people of any age. Jones is a native Nashvillian and the Creative Director at GoNoodle, an educational, interactive program for kids used nationally in schools. Jones has worked on projects for Verizon, Dropbox, Honda, and more. Be sure to explore his portfolio, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter. And don't miss him on Behance.

In this spread, done for Nashville’s Native Magazine, Jones designed and animated both the art and the program that allowed readers to interact with their favorite local rag. Not only are we just plain crazy about this idea, but Jones’ palette stood out to us in a big way. “Little green men” are nothing new when it comes to UFOs, but Jones took this idea to another level. By using neon green against a monochromatic color scheme, Jones gave the spread a striking, one-of-a-kind look.

Because Jones has created so many great animations, we couldn’t choose just one to feature. That gave us a great excuse to showcase his animation reel, which you can see above. Perhaps our favorite part of the reel is how Jones individualizes each project based on his client. We love the variety of colors and styles within each sample.

Derik Hobbs

Derik Hobbs is a Nashville-based up-and-comer. Hobbs' woodland style illustrations make him the go-to guy for indie music posters, storybook designs, and everything in-between. His portfolio and Behance feature a full range of his work. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Hobbs created the piece above, entitled “Marsh 1,” using digital tools, graphite, and a ballpoint pen. There is so much to admire in this piece—not least of all the water and marshy thicket, which feel similar to the nature paintings of Edo-era Japan. The piece also has a wonderful balance of negative space and detailed content, which is centered by the red ribbon. Like much of his art, this design has a style that is both aged and classic.

This editorial illustration, done for The New Atlantis Journal, was created to represent the connections between DNA, matter, and life. The butterfly is separated, with one wing that meets our visual expectation, and another wing representing the DNA code we never see. Hobbs’ use of shadow and texture provide the piece with many aspects to view and consider—a perfect complement to the essay.

Jenean Morrison

Jenean Morrison is a Memphis-based artist who specializes in animation, home decor, and adult coloring books. Her beautiful patterns and layered styles make her an easy choice for our list. Check out the full range of her art on her website or Behance, or follow her on Twitter.

As with many of her pieces, Morrison used an iPad along with a combination of apps to create this piece. She uses existing brushes and also modifies her own to make unique works of art. We see recognizable shapes, such as bricks and windows, overlaid with colors, textures, and stylized stamping. This piece, not unlike her others, has a combination of images to study and enjoy; however, her pieces never feel busy or thrown together. Instead, they are a beautiful source of inspiration.

The above design is from Morrison’s Flower Designs Coloring Book. The colors, movement, and intricacy of this piece give it a hypnotizing dynamic. And while this is colorful and complex like Morrison’s other works, the style is very different. Morrison clearly has various styles she chooses to explore, and that’s just fine with us.

Andrew Wierzba

Andrew Wierzba is a freelance artist and designer living in Nashville. He has studied at O’More College and Ringling College, both of which are universities focused on design. Wierzba’s art appeals to the imagination of those who view it, and his media includes illustration and sculpture. You can follow Wierzba on Behance and Instagram, and you can connect with him via LinkedIn.

This illustration, “Cardboard Astronaut,” is a perfect example of Wierzba’s imaginative style. In particular, we like the watercolor aesthetic and the lack of harsh lines or hues. These details lend themselves to the upbeat nature of the piece.

When Wierzba is not illustrating, he is sculpting. Above you can see “Pandora the Robot,” from his Pandora’s Box series. The small details are what give this little robot its charm. For instance, the rust, bolt eyes, and asymmetrical limbs are just a few of the unique and interesting features that both give Pandora personality and still maintain its realistic feel.

Coco Lundy

Coco Lundy is a Knoxville-based artist and master of watercolor. Her paintings take everyday images, such as food, nature, and items, and bring them to life. Lundy’s work feels both traditional and modern, giving it a wonderfully unique charm. Be sure to check out her full portfolio, Etsy, and Behance.

We can’t get enough of this Warhol-esque painting. Lundy’s use of color is gorgeous and gives dimension to each aspect of the piece. You may have also noticed that instead of a Starbucks logo on each cup, there are the words, “Wakalapi Time,” with a B&W Native American logo. “Wakalapi” is Lakota for “coffee” and has gained traction among coffee-lovers, including Lundy.

This design is unapologetically feminine and bright, with plenty of negative space to make the content pop. Lundy has a great way of utilizing lighting in her work, and that is evident in the way she designed these shoes.

Shane O'Brien

Shane O’Brien is an illustrator and self-proclaimed “kidult.” His designs exemplify this through their whimsical simplicity and vintage feel. You can see a full range of O’Brien’s work on his portfolioDribbble, and Twitter.

Above is taken from O’Brien’s series for Leankit’s 2016 Lean Business Report. This design, like the other images in the series, takes one color and uses many varying shades to create a unique image. The textures and old-school content in this image give it a classic, magazine feel.

This was designed for an office hours email signature. We love this image because O’Brien has used a flat illustration style to explore the inner-workings of a clock. With a clean design, O’Brien has made a thoughtful image of how we consider time.

Kalyn Smith

Kalyn Smith is a Knoxville-based designer at Pyxl, and she can do everything from animation to UI design. Smith’s work is wonderfully complex and clean, making her an ideal candidate for conceptual projects. Be sure check out Smith’s portfolio, and stay up-to-date on her work through Twitter and Behance.

The above image is taken from a larger, work-inspired project. According to Smith, the design shows “historically significant inventions” as a way of encouraging viewers to keep learning. The individual icons in this illustration are relatively simple; yet together, they form a complex illustration with so much to see. We also appreciated Smith’s minimal color scheme and symmetrical layout.

This piece is an excerpt from Smith’s infographic for the United Nations Development Program of China. Because infographics break down and provide visuals for dense information, Smith had a difficult project on her hands. However, through the use of simple icons and a pleasant color scheme, she created an easy-to-digest piece that is both practical and visually pleasing.

Shane Helm

Shane Helm is an artist who specializes in web design, branding, and more. Not only has Helm been working in web design for over 20 years, but he is also a lover of Tennessee. Helm has passed on opportunities in bigger cities, because he enjoys his home in the countryside of Leiper’s Fork, a community just outside Nashville. This has worked well for him, as he now works remotely as Chief Creative Officer at Engage. Helm is someone who does work his way, and we love that. You can check out Helm’s work on his site, Dribbble, or Twitter.

Above is Helm’s work for Seen That, an online community for film lovers. Not only do we dig the design, but the simplicity of the page makes it more user-accessible than something like IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes. We also appreciate the brightly colored visual keys, such as the logo, subscription button, and social icons.

This project is not only fun, but it’s especially exciting for Star Wars fans. This is Helm’s version of what a Star Wars app would look like—a way to keep in touch with the Stormtroopers near you. Not only does this design look amazing, but the concept behind it is fun, relevant, and interesting.

Justin Helton

Similar to some of the above-mentioned artists, Justin Helton’s stylized work makes him a perfect choice for niche markets, like progressive rock, craft beer, and more. Helton’s work has been used in branding and art for Bonaroo, Forecastle, and HGTV. Helton is a Knoxvillian and proud entrepreneur. You can follow his projects on Twitter or Dribbble.

Above is a poster set Helton designed for The Avett Brothers. This design speaks to us for a number of reasons. First, we really admire the illustration style, which is wonderfully similar to classic literature and educational texts. Secondly, we love how the bright colors contrast with the illustrations, causing the images to stand out.

This poster, designed for My Morning Jacket, offers the same vintage style, but with a psychedelic background and a kaleidoscopic style. Again, Helton chooses his colors very carefully, giving his art a unique aesthetic and feel.

Marcus Williamson

Marcus Williamson is a designer for the University of Tennessee, which is located in the heart of Knoxville. We love the cheery, clean visuals throughout his work. From illustration to complex design work, Williamson puts a little personality in each project. Check out his designs on Dribbble and Behance, or follow him on Twitter.

Above are onboards and logo work Williamson did for a crowdfunding app. Not only are the colors great in these designs, but Williamson’s use of gradients, simplicity, and minimalism give the app a clean and modern look. Additionally, we can see these onboards were created with UX in mind, as the images and text are appealing and easy to navigate.

All over the internet, people love icons, especially since they are in high demand for mobile, web, and print design. The above icons were created for graduation invitations for two clients, with one client pursuing the medical field, and the other social media. Williamson puts his own style on everyday images, such as the “Like” Thumbs Up, Band-Aids, and more. This makes each icon feel personal, which is no easy feat.

Amber Brannon

After growing up in Germany and later Ohio, Amber Brannon is now a Nashville-dweller who does branding and advertising for companies, nonprofits, and businesses. Brannon specializes in all things creative, from brainstorming to graphics to web design. Check out Brannon’s work on her website, or follow her on Dribbble and Twitter.

We loved Brannon’s design work for CMAfest, the Country Music Association’s largest fundraiser. While many aspects are involved in the above web design, the page boasts a clean, easy-to-navigate set-up. The orange has a way of really popping amidst the dark tones, and the specific use of complementary colors does a lot for the page. If you've been to Nashville, you know country music is a big deal, so this site is a perfect fit.

Brannon and her team worked to create a brand and website for Tailspin Brewing Co., a small craft brewery in Ohio. Not only are the logo and brand design beautiful, but the website is award-winning. Brannon assisted in creating a brand with a clean navigational site and visual presence. As with all her work, Brannon takes a concept and makes it a reality for the businesses who work with her.

There is so much to love about Tennessee, and these are just a few of the talented designers this great state offers. We hope you enjoyed reading about them. Did we miss any? Tell us in the comments below!

Kaitlin Westbrook is a content writer who covers business, creative content, professional writing, and more. When she's not writing, she enjoys movies, baking, and her Pomeranian.

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