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The Tennessee Theatre: Knoxville's Grand Entertainment Palace

The Historic Tennessee Theatre provides unique, high-quality performances and experiences to hundreds of visitors each year. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and named the Official State Theatre of Tennessee, the classic Tennessee Theatre offers something for everyone. From dance to vintage movies, classical music to extraordinary performances by today’s leading artists, “Knoxville’s Grand Entertainment Palace” is one of Tennessee’s most iconic destinations.

The Tennessee Theatre boasts a rich 80-year history, filled with the highs of the glory days of cinema and lows of an uncertain future in the 70s. Designed by Chicago architects Graven & Mayger, the Theatre was hailed as “the South’s most beautiful theatre” when it opened in 1928. After being purchased in 1981 by James A. Dick, the Theatre began a gradual shift from a single-screen movie theater to the multiuse performing arts venue it is today. In 1996, the Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation was formed to preserve, maintain and operate the Theatre. 

The Foundation first came to Designsensory in 2008 in need of a website that could reflect the beauty of the Theatre and serve as a ticketing gateway for its patrons. In 2011, we had another opportunity to work with the Theatre, following a new logo and style guide rollout. Given our history with the Theatre and its iconic presence within the community, we could not have been more excited when they recently came to us in need of a complete responsive redesign that would better serve their users and the Theatre. 

First and foremost, we wanted to focus on an updated event calendar. The old calendar was cumbersome and limited in the details and media it could provide about the performance and artist. We created a calendar grid that highlights each show graphically. Date and interest filters make narrowing results easy and seamless. We also created an event detail page that clearly defines the dates and prices of the show. To increase user engagement, we added a large image and video area and pulled in the related artist social feed. Now, users can learn about the show, purchase tickets and connect with the artist in one location. 

Given that the Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation is a nonprofit, we also wanted to make it easier for users to support the Theatre. We created a landing page that clearly outlines the multiple ways a donor can support the Theatre. We integrated the Theatre’s current donation platform into the site so users may donate without leaving the web page. 

Because this redesign marked the 10-year anniversary of the building’s renovation, we wanted a unique way to tell the full story of the Tennessee. In the Discover section of the site, we created a robust timeline that highlights the important milestones in the Theatre’s history. The Foundation provided excellent photography to help tell this story in a visual, easy-to-read manner. Within this section, we also highlighted the recently released book, “The Tennessee Theatre: A Grand Entertainment Palace,” written by Knoxville’s celebrated author Jack Neely. 

Lastly, to accommodate greater user interaction with the Theatre, we created a social dashboard that pulls in the latest feeds from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Not only can users find recent Theatre news, but they can also interact with artists the day of the performance. 

It was an honor to work with the Historic Tennessee, and we look forward to another 80 years of musical and artistic excellence from this one-of-a-kind venue. To learn more about the Tennessee Theatre, please visit

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 29 June 2015 at 9:28am

Wilson Derby Day

What do seersucker suits, colorful hats and mint juleps bring to mind? 

The Kentucky Derby, of course. What a year to watch! With the excitement around American Pharoah, not many would miss a chance to see the thoroughbreds in action at this year’s Kentucky Derby. 

Since the inaugural running in 1875, the Derby has become quite the social event, not only in Kentucky but across the country.

Our friends in Wilson, Arkansas, completely agree and asked Designsensory to design a logo to help brand their second annual Wilson Derby Day at Grange event. Designsensory worked with the client to conceptualize, design and produce a mark that would garner excitement not only for this year but for years to come.

Through our collaborative design process, we discovered some elements we knew we wanted to incorporate. The client wanted to include a horse in motion. We wanted to use the same color scheme as the official Kentucky Derby logo. Add in the corresponding “141” that appears on the official logo, paired with a stylized serif for the event name, and the look was easily brought together.


Design is our specialty at Designsensory. After all, it’s in the name. Whether we are creating a single logo or a full visual identity system, we know consumers are more conscious of design than ever before. We work hard to create thoughtful, better and impactful designs. To learn more about our perspective on design, click here.

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 18 June 2015 at 2:42pm

Meet our Summer 2015 Interns

Hunter Foster

From Murfreesboro, TN, Hunter Foster graduated last month with a degree in public relations from UT. Before pursuing his master's degree, he desires to gain experience in his field. After meeting two DS staff members at a PRSSA roundtable discussion and then reviewing the company’s case studies, Hunter became adamant about working with us.  Now serving as the public relations intern at Designsensory, he has found a favorite: the culture around the office.

“This is a wonderful environment to learn and grow in,” says Hunter. “I work under Casey Self and Josh Loebner, and they are truly exceptional mentors.”

During his time as an intern, Hunter has set the goal of building a client’s social media profile from the ground up by planning and launching a successful campaign. Next, Hunter plans to work for a creative marketing agency, such as Designsensory, and eventually have his own public relations agency.

In his free time, you’ll often find Hunter with either his Nikon or a book in his hands as he hangs out in Knoxville’s parks. 

Eleanor Veazie

Eleanor, known as Ellie by her friends, is a design intern who is also from Murfreesboro. She is a rising senior, pursuing her BFA in graphic design. Painting, reading and bingeing on Netflix are a few of Eleanor’s interests. She fought for a position at Designsensory to see what was behind the curtain.

“When researching Designsensory, I loved the diversity of clientele,” said Eleanor. “I also appreciated the innovative way the agency handles its projects, and I wanted to learn the process behind the work.”

She finds that Designsensory’s staff is creative, flexible and has a positive attitude around the office. Eleanor's primary goal during her internship is to learn how to merge her background in fine art with her professional design work. While she hasn’t entirely made up her mind, Eleanor thinks she will likely go for a position at an advertising firm, or maybe even a magazine company.

Paul Wakefield

Paul is our strategies intern. A hometown guy from Knoxville and attending the University of Tennessee, he is in the full-time MBA program with a marketing concentration. He was interested in earning an internship at a marketing agency, and Designsensory was the perfect fit. "I really enjoy the pace at Designsensory," Paul explains. "There are always new, interesting opportunities to work on."

While at Designsensory, Paul aims to work with a client to craft a comprehensive marketing plan that includes everything from the early stages of research, to implementation, and measuring its success. The next step for Paul is earning his master's and attaining a full-time position at a design and strategy-oriented marketing firm, such as Designsensory.

When not at DS,  you might bump into Paul at a disc golf course or soccer field. He also sings and plays guitar in Johnny Astro and The Big Bang, a local band. 

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 18 June 2015 at 11:56am

Honors 2015 Takes Off: An Evening in the Hangar

What better venue than a private hangar at McGhee Tyson Airport for a gala honoring Eddie Mannis, who serves as a commissioner on the Metropolitan Airport Authority Board? Eddie, president of Prestige Cleaners and Prestige Tuxedo, was selected by the Knoxville chapter of the American Marketing Association (KAMA) as its 2015 Outstanding Marketing Professional. 

"Eddie Mannis" may also bring to mind veterans gathering at McGhee Tyson for an HonorAir Knoxville journey to visit the memorials built in their honor. You’ve seen the weathered faces full of emotion and anticipation, belonging to those who gave so much, on WBIR’s Service and Sacrifice series. For many veterans, it’s the trip of their lifetime, heightened by the homage paid them from grateful crowds and patriotic ensembles as they fly to D.C. and back. A visionary who acts upon inspiration, Eddie Mannis founded HonorAir Knoxville in 2007 out of the deep respect he felt for his father, a veteran of the Korean War, and his uncle, a WWII veteran.

With Dino Cartwright as Honors 2015 master of ceremonies, and with TechRide and Ullrich Printing scheming the themed decor, the private hangar and the event were transformed into something out of a Wright Brothers' dream. 

Inside the hangar, planes representative of early aviation history hung from the ceiling while other models served as table centerpieces, all courtesy of TechRide, a Designsensory client. TechRide is a corporate leadership training company that provides executive coaching, classroom, and off-site experiential leadership and innovation courses, such as the Wright Brothers Leadership Lab. Reflecting on the significance of the occasion, Susannah Enkema, founder and president of TechRide, said, "We are pleased to participate in honoring Eddie Mannis' contribution to our business community in East Tennessee at KAMA Honors. In particular, we applaud his leadership to bring businesses and organizations together through HonorAir Knoxville to honor the unselfish service of WWII, Korean War and Vietnam veterans in our community."


All Occasions Party Rentals, also a Designsensory client, provided furnishings and punches of color for the hangar, including serving stations, chairs, tables and vibrant table settings for the celebration. 

The Outstanding Marketing Professional award is bestowed upon a marketer whose career reflects remarkable ethical and professional actions, who supports education and promotes excellence. 

Other awards handed out at the gala: 

Volunteer of the Year: Susan Napier-Sewell, one of our very own here at Designsensory. Susan will also serve as KAMA's president-elect for 2015-16. 

Locander Award: Marti McKeon Townsend, Knoxville News Sentinel

Marketing Honoree: Lori Fuller, Knoxville Chamber

Marketing Honoree: Adrian Pearce, Knoxville News Sentinel

Scholarships for Outstanding Marketing Students: Amelea Faith Everett and James Agan

Sponsors for Honors 2015 were The Trust Company, Knoxville News Sentinel, Ullrich Printing, FletcHer PR, Knoxville Chamber, 21st Mortgage Corporation, TechRide and Designsensory. Colby McLemore of Colby's Photography was on hand and behind the lens to capture highlights of the evening. 

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 18 June 2015 at 11:49am

Utilize: Ethnographic Studies

How well do you know your audience? Do you really know them? Or, do you just think you know them? Perhaps the better question is, what is the best way to really know your audience? 

This was a question Desginsensory was faced with recently. While working on an integrated project with UT Extension to enhance both communities and the lives of its members in four rural west Tennessee counties, we needed a better understanding of our audience and their lifestyles when it came to healthy living. 

We partnered with Lancaster Market Intelligence to facilitate an ethnographic study to better understand the consumers in each of the four counties. An ethnographic study is an approach to qualitative research, which puts emphasis on an entire culture.

According to a survey by Columbia University decision researcher, Sheena Iyengar, the average American makes approximately 70 conscious decisions every day. In addition, a study conducted by MDI showed the number of ads that adults are now exposed to across all five media (TV, radio, Internet, newspapers and magazines) is about 360 per day; of these, only 150-155 are even noted, and far fewer make a strong enough impact to be recalled, make an impression and, ultimately, make a sale.

So, how do we reach and resonate with consumers when they are faced with so many choices? Based on social behavior, it’s easy to make assumptions. However, we knew in order to create messaging, we really needed to dig deep with the use of an ethnography study to understand how the communities live and consume on a daily basis.

“As marketers, we are engaged in a relentless effort to best understand human behavior, opinions and paradigms so effective products, services and communication devices can be developed and employed,” comments Chris Wise, chief research strategist. “We find it advantageous to not only conduct traditional research but to actually study WHAT they do along with what they SAY they do and understand.”

The study conducted by Lancaster allowed them to be fully immersed in the lives of the participants by observing and recording their action for a period of time.

Sixty people within the select counties were recruited to participate in the qualitative study—agreeing to record their sleeping, eating and leisure activities in a written journal and photographically.

 “It is one of the most intimate research tools marketers can use to truly understand and empathize with the population they desire to serve. Additionally, it helps manage any preconceived opinions so as to be ‘spot on’ with marketing activities geared toward the audience,” notes Wise.

The results of the study have given us an in-depth, up-close and personal look at day-to-day activities and key motivators of each community that we otherwise would not have known.

We, at Designsensory, firmly believe in collaborating with our clients to determine the best type of research needed in order to be as strategic and targeted with our brand and messaging as possible.

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 18 June 2015 at 11:37am

DS Loves to Grow

Here, at Designsensory, we love growth. We always want to be on top of ways to improve our processes, to learn and to grow to meet the needs of our clients. 

Our latest growth is with the DS team. There are some new faces around Designsensory these days, and we couldn't be more thrilled. 

Last month, we introduced you to Kevin Jones (left). In addition to adding to the graphic design team, we’ve expanded our tech development and content services teams.

TJ Buckner – Tech Developer

A Knoxville native, TJ Buckner (middle) is a graduate of Pellissippi State's CSIT program. Interested in technology at an early age, TJ decided on tech development—choosing that over graphic design—when a friend began programming.

After completing his capstone project with Designsensory in his final semester, TJ is now a DS technical developer and hopes to make his mark here. His proficiencies include HTML/CSS, Javascript and PHP.

TJ enjoys camping with Diana, his girlfriend of eight years. Among their favorite spots for communing in the great outdoors are Big Ridge State Park and House Mountain. He enjoys playing video games (think: Splatoon and Super Smash Bros.), drawing and painting, playing the guitar and reading older sci-fi novels.

Kristen Halverson – Content Services

Kristen Halverson (right), while not totally new to DS, is around a bit more. She originally joined our team December 2014 as a part-time content developer. She is now with us full-time and brings great energy to the team. 

Kristen wants to live in a world where ideas write themselves, devices are truly streamlined, and the weather is consistently a clear 78 degrees.

From Space Coast, Florida, she received a B.A. in technical communication and a B.A. in psychology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in technical communication with synchronous online courses at Minnesota State University.

When she’s not managing content, you will find Kristen refereeing on the soccer fields, volunteering at the American Youth Soccer Organization, and playing video games, although she is terrible at them.

If you see them, say hi. We hope you get a chance to work with these three. We think you'll enjoy them as much as we do.

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 18 June 2015 at 11:27am

Utilize: Let's Meet Up

In a world that is becoming increasingly digital, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the importance of face-to-face communication. It's increasingly commonplace to get so wrapped up in pushing out messages that resonate across popular channels that we forget about the benefits of having a conversation. Isn’t rhetoric, defined as “the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing,” the best way to exchange ideas and foster a mutually beneficial relationship? We believe in fostering open communication, and we endorse the gathering of ideas to arrive at a brilliant solve for the challenges that bring clients in our door. 

At Designsensory, collaboration is how we do business. We look for and seize opportunities to collaborate with our clients and each other. When we’re tasked with creating your website or brand identity, we want to make sure it fits into your overall business plan, helps you achieve your organizational goals, and functions at the highest level. We also look to solve problems that may not have yet appeared on your radar. As a result, we do a lot of research to get to know you, so we may come in with lots of questions. Our work doesn’t function in a vacuum, so we need to see where it fits into the bigger picture. Throughout the process, we find one of the best ways to be the most effective is face-to-face communication.

Internally, we live by calendars that keep our projects moving forward, including time to check in with teammates and solicit feedback along the way. Our open office environment translates to pop-up, impromptu collaboration as the norm. While we have different teams (tech, content, design, strategy, business development), each of us will be collectively working with a dozen different colleagues on a variety of projects at any given time. We think this keeps our work fresh, relevant and well-rounded, covering a compendium of communication needs and best ways to achieve your goals. 

Torri Leeds from DeVries Global recently wrote about her experience disconnecting from technology and bringing the DeVries Global culture to her clients’ backyards: “The environment that we created was inspired by retail pop-up experiences, collective workspaces and ‘salon’ gatherings of thought leaders—creative, intimate, collegial and imaginative. With minimal distraction from the myriad of tech tools at our disposal for business, something interesting happened: the creative juices started to flow.”

The power packed into a collaboration of Designsensory thought leaders—different voices with different viewpoints—has a profound effect on our creative process. We think of it as an essential best practice, and it's how we like to work for you. 


Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 27 May 2015 at 9:10am

STEM Pilot Program Expands and Gains National Media Coverage

An after-school STEM education program, piloted in East Tennessee by the Great Smoky Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America, will soon be offered in other parts of the country. STEM Scouts, which encourages interest in science, technology, engineering and math through fun, hands-on learning and interaction with STEM professionals, will be expanding to 12 other Boy Scouts of America councils beginning this fall.

Designsensory has been working with STEM Scouts for over a year, developing branding and print and digital materials, and creating the website. Locally, we facilitated the advertising and public relations campaigns for the pilot program in East Tennessee. STEM Scouts began in the region in spring 2014 and currently serves nearly 400 local youth in 19 schools and after-school programs.

Along with the recent announcement of the program's expansion came national exposure, such as the following: 

To help the other councils chosen to participate in the program, Joseph, Paula, Kelly and Casey traveled to the Boy Scouts of America national annual meeting in Atlanta last week. They walked the councils' staffs through the website, presented the toolkit of marketing and recruitment materials, and provided direction and best practices for spreading the word in their local areas. We are thrilled to continue our work with Boy Scouts of America and STEM Scouts!


Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 27 May 2015 at 8:38am

Supporting UT Athletics - Tennessee Fund Membership Guide 2015


Designsensory has worked with the Tennessee Fund for the past three years to develop and update its membership guide brochure.

The 44-page printed piece showcases how the Tennessee Fund, with the generosity of donors, makes a difference and provides resources needed for student-athletes at the University of Tennessee to achieve excellence in both the classroom and competition.

The brochure captures the combined energy of the entire University of Tennessee sports community by highlighting individual student-athletes, as well as providing additional information on annual giving, membership tickets, premium seating and parking.

Overall, the brochure blends the message of rich history and heritage of the University of Tennessee’s athletics with today’s teams to showcase how Tennessee Fund members play a key role in the athletic department’s pursuit of comprehensive excellence.

For the 2015 guide, we worked with the Tennessee Fund development assistant to update the content and design of the fundraising brochure, giving it a new cover with a fresh feel but also keeping it consistent with the Tennessee Fund brand, such as overall colors, content and identity.

We look forward to continuing our work with the Tennessee Fund.

For more information on the Tennessee Fund, visit

Go Vols!


Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 22 May 2015 at 10:57am

Project Management Primed for Success

No matter how many people are involved in a project, client happiness often rests in the hands of the project manager (PM). A great PM juggles client needs, time constraints, staff schedules and unforeseen obstacles, and keeps a calm demeanor through it all.

While we think we have some great project managers at Designsensory, we always look for ways to improve the client experience through better processes and skills.

With that in mind, two of the DS team enrolled in a four-day project management course. Principal and technical director Brandon Rochelle and project manager Kelly Raines took the class at Roane State Community College. 

They studied management of all phases of a project, from establishing the scope of work and developing a comprehensive plan to the final handoff of the work.

The course emphasizes the importance of thinking beyond the initial plan. The planning process identifies the risks—the places things are most likely to go awry—so PMs can create an advance plan for handling problems when they happen.

“Over our company history, I've found the key to a project's success is how well changes in project scope are managed," says Brandon. “The PMP course helped me better define a foundation for adaptive project management to plan for ongoing change effectively.”

Kelly echoes that sentiment. “Every plan, no matter how good it is, will change.”

While the course confirmed the validity of many of our existing processes, Kelly says it opened her eyes to all the things that happen before the project even comes into the building. Knowledge of the planning that takes place during the initiation phase helps PMs better prepare for project kickoffs.

The course also included ideas for more efficient internal processes, such as a work breakdown structure to divide big jobs into smaller segments and a work matrix to clarify team members’ responsibilities on a large project.

Ultimately, the new knowledge helps our clients by adding a layer of efficiency and creating a smoother process. It’s the goal of our PMs to put clients’ minds at ease, knowing that processes are in place to ensure all details of the project are covered.


Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 22 May 2015 at 10:47am


Alison Ashe

Alison Ashe

Alison solves visual communication problems through a process of research, concept exploration, and original thinking.

Matt Honkonen

Matt Honkonen

Matt came to Knoxville from Chattanooga, where he worked as the senior strategist with the marketing and public relations department of a large digital agency. He has worked with a wide variety of brands, helping to solidify digital presence and develop a

Sarah Loebner

Sarah Loebner

Sarah worked for agencies in Ohio and Boston before coming to Knoxville seven years ago and burnishing her reputation as an innovative designer and fresh thinker. While inspiring design is her form of communication her passion lies in client partnerships,

Josh Loebner

Josh Loebner

Josh combines research and strategic thinking as the foundation for powerful, goal-oriented marketing experiences.

Lindsay Miller

Lindsay Miller

Lindsay is dedicated to the unrelenting pursuit of delivering unique, effective media solutions that bring a company's message to life.

Joseph Nother

Joseph Nother

As co-founder and creative director for Designsensory, Joseph oversees teams that deliver award-winning and compelling design.

Brandon Rochelle

Brandon Rochelle

Brandon, co-founder and technical director, oversees technology development spanning interactive work through online marketing.

Susan Sewell

Susan Sewell

Susan brings a background as a writer, senior editor, promotion specialist and project manager.

Ben Smith

Ben Smith

Ben is a designer, illustrator, cook, banjo player, guitarist, cyclist, rock climber and backpacker, who also happens to be exceptionally humble.  As a former intern (Bentern), who joined the team full-time (Benployee) in June 2013 after earning a B.F.A

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