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Meet Designsensory's New Interns - Spring 2014

Designsensory is excited to welcome three interns this winter. With a variety of skills and interests, Ariana Duncan, Chris Cable and Scott Bubis are a fun and capable addition to the DS mix. Ariana and Chris are part of the business development team, while Scott is working in our marketing strategy group.

Ariana Duncan

After spending a lifetime correcting the spelling and pronunciation of her name, Ariana has given up and will now respond to any random combination of vowels. Originally from Alabama, she moved to Knoxville nine years ago and plans to graduate in December from the University of Tennessee with dual English majors in Rhetoric and Writing and Technical Communications. Ariana joined the team in February, working with our business development team to write new business proposals.

“I'm surprised and pleased by how welcoming everyone has been,” Ariana says. “Interning at a new place can be intimidating, especially when you're just starting out in your field and everyone is so good at what they do. But the DS team has made the transition easy, and I'm lucky because I enjoy what I'm doing. You grow up being warned about the monotonous workplace, so it's great to have an internship with a company that values creativity.”

Ariana volunteered last year with the Blount County Humane Society, where she gained administrative experience and bottle-raised a litter of kittens, an amazing and exhausting experience. If her current career trajectory doesn’t work out, Ariana says she’s willing to become a professional cat herder or go to grad school.

Chris Cable

Chris, from Louisville, TN, recently graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in English-Technical Communication. He’s happily helping write and put together proposals for the business development team.

“I want to gain as many skills as possible at Designsensory because I have a deep pool of interests, and the company is extremely diverse,” Chris says. “Writing is my passion but I love computer technology and design initiative. I'm surprised by the amount of teamwork that actually goes on. Everyone seems to be in sync at most times.”

Future plans include earning a career that is intellectually stimulating and self-fulfilling. “Though I’m a technical writer, I don’t tie myself to career labels,” he says. “I just want to be happy with what I do; I know I’ll do my best at whatever that is.”

Outside of work, Chris spends time with his girlfriend, friends and family. “I love to run, play the guitar, paint, hike and be spontaneous as much as possible,” he says.

Scott Bubis

Scott is a native Nashvillian in his final semester at the University of Tennessee, where he is pursuing a degree in advertising. While finishing school, Scott joined the Designsensory team in late February to assist in the strategy department.

Scott previously interned for Young & Rubicam in New York as an assistant account executive for the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters account team. During that summer internship, Scott was able to observe how account teams work to keep a happy client. Scott’s first taste of advertising was a summer internship with media giant Mindshare. As an assistant planning intern, Scott learned the basics of how and why traditional and digital media are bought and sold.

“Before, like most people, I viewed advertising as annoying interruptions,” Scott says. “After my internships, I have a completely different outlook. Advertising is essential not just for media but also for our society. It provides revenue for our media outlets, creates competition among markets and generates massive amounts of awareness on the consumer level.”

If not at school or work, one can usually find Scott at the university’s rec center, cooking, enjoying sports, or fantasizing about being a Game of Thrones character.

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 25 March 2014 at 3:15pm

Bring Stone Brewery to Blount County

Stone Brewing Co. is looking eastward for expansion. When the California-based craft brewer announced plans to open an East Coast brewery, the Blount Partnership began work on a proposal to convince Stone Brewing Co. to locate the new brewery in Pellissippi Place Business Park.

Blount Partnership joined forces with Mary Beth West Communications and Designsensory to spark a communications idea that would brand the Great Smokies foothills community a standout among hundreds of proposals. Bryan Daniels, president/CEO of Blount Partnership gave carte blanche to Tim Wirtz, director of strategic development for Mary Beth West, and Matt Honkonen, business development for Designsensory.

The dynamic duo discerned that the Stone Brewing founders were no shrinking violets when it comes to music. Greg Koch, cofounder with Steve Wagner, is a former heavy metal/hard rock music producer. As it happens, both Matt and Tim are musicians. Matt wrote two songs for the pitch: a bluegrass number, to reflect the region, and a hard rock piece, to appeal to the verve of Stone Brewing. You’ll get a sense of “People of Stone” from the opening lyrics: “This is a public service announcement to all you beer makers on the west coast. Bring us your tired barley, your weary grains, your huddled masses yearning for good brew. We’ve got a home for you. . . .”

Adding graphics, done by DS graphic artist Matt Montgomery, to a soft launch, the branding took on a life of its own, reaching out through social media and gaining traction via numerous articles and television. Ever the Blount champion, Bryan Daniels put together a gathering at the Maryville Barley’s to celebrate the proposal’s release. Matt Honkonen and Matt Montgomery entertained the supportive crew with one of the songs written to accompany the proposal.

Enjoy a free download of both songs for There's a Stone in East Tennessee initiative and join the conversation.


Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 25 March 2014 at 3:12pm

When Keeping Up Gets You Ahead

The words "social strategy" may leave some of us cold but the connections that fire between client and brand as a result of social engagement will warm and inspire even the coldest keyboard. The benefits of engaging in conversations with your clients are multifold, and those conversations were never more relevant than in 2014. We're using Nordstrom as an example since its social strategy is netting the merchant significant customer traffic. However, the basics and the practice of employing a social strategy are readily applicable to most businesses.

Nordstrom has attracted 2.4 million Facebook “Likes.” The Nordstrom FB page has an simple yet enticing header image. By posting several updates daily, it shamelessly directs traffic to its e-commerce store. Most posts are product-focused, with a line of text and a hyperlink to the category page on the website, and the typical post attracts several thousand “Likes” and more than 100 comments. Nordstrom is faithful in responding to queries and comments, with product advice or simply making conversation.

Nordstrom posts several marketing tweets a day, the vast majority linking back to its e-commerce store. Its Twitter feed efficiently repurposes Facebook content, as well, and makes effective use of the Twitter image preview window so images appear in followers’ feeds—a great way to snag more screen space. Nordstorm responds to Twitter @mentions and converses with users, ranging from product questions to complaints to casual brand mentions. Another brand that is getting considerable Twitter thumbs up is American Airlines, with customer service reps answering questions and taking care of problems via tweets. The company’s Social Media Specialist Stephanie Scott says, “We’re able to take probably about 50 percent of customer issues and turn them around. We can resolve issues and make people happy. The company believes it’s an important new tool for helping people.”

With almost five million Pinterest followers, Nordstrom uses the social network to highlight products displayed in-store. Going one further, the retailer utilizes Pinterest as a decision maker in which products it merchandises in its brick-and-mortar stores. Store products that receive the most pins get a red "P" tag, drawing a link between the offline and online worlds.

If the words "social strategy" still give you a chill, substitute the word "community." It's all about building a conversation and a community with clients.

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 25 March 2014 at 3:01pm

2014 Trends, Part 2

As we shared in our January newsletter blog post, at Designsensory we strive to stay ahead of trends in marketing, communication, strategy and technology. Our goal is to use changing information about all channels in order to better help our clients achieve their goals.

Here are a few more trends that DSers are tracking:

Reaching Varied Age Groups 

Contrary to the belief of many corporations, the fastest growing demographic on Twitter is the 55-64 age group (up 79% since 2012). It's important that clients see Twitter as an beneficial tool for reaching that age group and tailor content to the group's interests.

In the meantime, "more information faster" seems to be the trend among younger audiences. Tweens, teens and twenty-somethings are trending toward faster visual media, spending less time on Facebook and similar social media sites, and more time on Instagram, Snapchat and Vine. Instagram’s recent video integration gives users 15 seconds of video clips, similar to Vine, while Snapchat's unique format lets users send a photo that can be viewed for only 10 seconds, before it disappears.


With so many channels of 24/7 information, the possibility of being misled by errors and misinformation has grown exponentially. Mistakes often take on the patina of respectability and truth simply through repetition. Go back to the credo journalism teachers have lived by for decades: If your mother says she loves you, look it up! 

If you haven't already, read the first part of Trends 2014 for more information. 

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 27 February 2014 at 9:33am

Judging Advertising in Roanoke

For the past several years, the turn from December to January has brought cold temps, shorter days and the threat of snow. Fortunately, it also brings the opportunity to view creative work from around the southeast.

Several weeks ago, I had the honor of judging the local ADDY (American Advertising Federation Awards) competition for the AAF Roanoke and AAF Southwest Virginia chapters. What ensued was a grand old time of meeting new professionals, eating fantastic food, sampling great drinks and being inspired by some wonderfully creative work.

Standout pieces included illustrations for a book, The Working Dead, the chapter video promo for the ADDY Awards channeling AMC's The Walking Dead, and corporate branding work for Advanced Auto Parts (based in Roanoke).

There was some superlative corrugated packaging work as well as particular pieces that reflected railroad culture and history of the area. They also had some really strong student work, helped by the fact that they have several feeder schools with good programs in the surrounding parts. In fact, the SWVA and Roanoke ADDYs boast one of the highest numbers of student entries in the U.S. It's great to see up-and-coming talent find their way.

I would like to express many thanks for the warm hospitality to the Roanoke chapter leadership and the fine folks who chaired and organized the awards.

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 26 February 2014 at 9:28pm

2014 American Advertising Awards

What could be more inspiring to a creative soul than an evening away from the office admiring the work of other creative types! The American Advertising Awards (formerly the ADDYs) recognize the best in all types of advertising from agencies, professionals and students. These awards also represent risk-taking clients who trust and collaborate with our design, content and tech teams to create the best possible advertising for their company and, in the cases below, gain award-winning recognition. We certainly wouldn’t have had the opportunity to win these awards without our wonderful clients’ inspiration.

Local chapters honor advertisers from their area, and Gold Award winners go on to be entered into regional and national competitions. Fingers crossed!

Designsensory's 6 GOLD American Advertising Award Winners

Designsensory Holiday Card

The Sassy Pig

TN Department of Tourism: Summer and Fall websites

Secret Safe Place of Knoxville

UT Campaign for Comprehensive Excellence



Designsensory's 19 SILVER American Advertising Award Winners

UT College of Architecture & Design

TN Department of Tourism (4 awards)

Tennessee Fund - UT Knoxville

Online Development, Inc

Knoxville Chamber of Commerce (2 awards)

Lamar Outdoor Advertising

George Cross & Sons, Inc

Maryville College

UT Safety, Environment & Education Center (2 awards)

Tennessee Higher Education Commission

Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Wesley House Community Center

Goodwill Industries - Knoxville, Inc

Designsensory's 2 BRONZE American Advertising Award Winners

Altar’d State

Antique Piano Shop

Congratulations to all the 2014 American Advertising Award Winners!


Comments (0)|Posted by: Lindsay Miller, 19 February 2014 at 11:20am

2014 Trends

Being proactive is something we strive for every day: creating forward-thinking design aesthetics, leading development on bleeding edge technology, defining content across brandscapes and sharing impactful strategic planning. All of these defining aspects of Designsensory’s team and our craft take refined intelligence, insight and a little bit of intuition, some of which can be gleaned from these trends shared by several DSers.

The Decline of PERFECT
While we can all strive for perfection, it’s okay to be imperfect. Some customers seek this out over what could be perceived as mass-produced and processed perfection. With the rise of Etsy, organic and one-off artisanal products, imperfection is now something regarded as a must-have in elements of transmedia storytelling and branded content. J. Walter Thompson advertising agency conducted a study in which three-quarters of U.S. and U.K. consumers surveyed said they increasingly value things that aren’t machine made, and almost six in ten said they like goods that are a little imperfect (with the two younger generations more likely to agree). When it comes to people, 71 percent said they find beauty in people’s flaws, and 86 percent agreed that people’s flaws make them authentic. Interested? Find out more about the "survey":….

Transmedia Engagement
Multi-screen, multi-modal engagement continues to be explored, especially with tactics that stitch UGC (user-generated content) and social activation in with an overall brand narrative. Beyond activation and conversion, this is seen simply as a way for brands to invest in continuous experiences that entertain and fortify relationships with brand loyalists, influencers and advocates (ex. Pepsi Halftime, Jag British Villains).

Multiracial Mirrors
The face of the world is changing. The content we produce, that is a reflection of society, is also changing to match.

Expanding Social Roles
Working dads. Telecommuting. Active older persons. Advertising will mirror the reality of culture and amplify this reality within advertising contexts.

Emphasis on organic and authentic
Selfies. Instagram-like photos. Hand-lettered type. Go-Pro videos. Hand-drawn doodles and typography. These elements continue to suggest casual, candid production that captures the essence of "real" and authentic. Similarly, criticism over fantastical, over-touched images has spawned a hunger for advertisers and brands to celebrate and showcase real people (ex. Dove, Vanity Fair covers, Aerie).

Emphasis on a modern, digital look in screen design
With the pendulum swinging away from skeuomorphic design, modern, simple digital-centric looking design will continue to trend in favor.

Experimental UIs
Now that people are more familiar with digital-only contexts of consumption (responsive, transmedia, scrolling) designers and content creators will feel the freedom to enhance and augment UIs (user interfaces).

Crisp, beautiful photos combined with simple, modern screen design and experimental UX (user experience) have pulled background image blurring back with a vengeance (ex. iOS7, Windows 8, Yahoo app).

Meaningful Big Data
Data continues to be collected and reported but an emphasis will be placed on meaningful, empathetic insights that recall a more anthropological, psychological view of users vs. anonymous numbers. These insights will help refine brand engagement, technology, functions and content.

This is applicable not just for brands but for people; the quantified-self will now have to make sense of the data and look at ways to impact behavior and thoughts.

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 28 January 2014 at 5:06pm

PetSafe National TV Commercial Shoot - Behind the Scences

"Magic" was the word repeated over and over during the three-day commercial shoot for PetSafe’s stoneware fountains, one of the brand’s newest additions to the hydration systems.

Cats and dogs can create unknown variables during photo and video shoots but, with great pet handlers on the set, this became one of many magic components. The animals readily drank from fountains, created best moments with the on-screen talent, and were loving and friendly to DSers and staff during downtime between shots.


More magic occurred behind the scenes when branded content meshed with interviews of PetSafe staff, DSers and, newcomer to the set, veterinarian Tracy Dewhirst.  The collaborative message shared the medical benefits for dogs and cats of free-flowing water and the importance of proper health hydration.

Even the location was magic, since the shoot took place at the amazingly curated and modernist-styled home of interior designer Paula Clancy, owner of "Nouveau Classics": From her perspective, Paula was able to share her take on the colors and style of PetSafe’s new stoneware fountains.

Designsensory, PopFizz and PetSafe’s team worked long hours and multiple days to collaborate and capture some amazing stills and videos--and the wrap party kept the magic flowing.






Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 28 January 2014 at 8:32am

Gathering by Design

DSers have been out and about with colleagues, comrades and classes. Here’s a recap of some of the wonderful moments.
Creative Director Joseph Nother shared inspiration and thinking in a presentation at a Creative Caffeine gathering of Knoxville chapter AIGA members. His topic, The Course of Creativity, addressed focusing on the dynamic, nuanced and fluid movement that creativity can take in achieving the best human-centered design.

Highlights include these twelve ideas to ponder:
    •    Start with the end in mind but be ready to course-correct.
    •    Connect objects to ecosystems.
    •    Design moments of truth.
    •    Get intimate with your client and understand their customers.
    •    Form follows function but both take a back seat to emotion.
    •    The creative continuum moves from What Is to What If to What Wows to What Works.
    •    Square the circle.
    •    Ideas get you noticed. Craft gets you recognized.
    •    Mind your mannerism.
    •    How much pain are you willing to sustain?
    •    Surround yourself with awesome.
    •    The end is the beginning.

Strategist Josh Loebner as well recently spoke with Knoxville chapter AIGA members and shared that good people skills better facilitate human-centered design and overall longer, more productive relationships. The presentation focused on five points of Differentiating, Openness, Vision, Enlighten and Selflessness, forming the hopefully memorable acronym D.O.V.E.S., the birds that mate for life.

: Go above and beyond in client service.
Being proactive; not answering client’s questions but asking them.

Great work entails risk. Most clients do not take risks. If they are going to take that risk, they are much more likely to do so with people they trust.
Openness is about no surprises, and transparency when mistakes happen.

: Look beyond the project.

Whenever possible, educate clients, your team and the people around you.

: Understand limitations; give advice and help with services even if you don’t provide them.
Make yourself available, not just as a skilled worker but as a person.

Designer Joyanna Hirst informed and enlightened as guest lecturer at the University of Tennessee in a higher level English course centered on writing, layout and production of technical documents. Lecturing on design theory and practice, Joyanna shared her thinking on best practices and trends, giving the students ideas and tools to take action. As a recent graduate, Joyanna also gave some orientation to careers and internships in graphic design, mentioning how organizations such as the AIGA help foster connections among design professionals and daily work life at problem-solving at Designsensory.

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 20 December 2013 at 10:22am

Utilize: Inspiring Moments

During the holidays we often get caught up in a rush of gift giving and social events. But, at a deeper level, in many ways, this season is about finding inspiring moments for oneself and others that can extend well beyond the parties and presents.

Inspiration truly is at the core of our business. Internally, we strive to craft elevated concepts, designs, strategies and technologies. And, we hope those translate externally to inspire action among the people who engage with the work we create.

In an article from MIT Sloan School of Management, Tim Brown, Ideo’s president and CEO, shared three important phases of design: inspiration, ideation and implementation. Brown notes that if you skip inspiration, ideation is of little value. You can’t have ideas in the abstract. He defined inspiration as the collection of insights, and stated that being inspired begins with empathy. It is important to understand how people experience the world physically, cognitively and emotionally, and how groups work and cultures behave.

Cognitive scientist Scott Kaufman shared his thinking in a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Why Inspiration Matters”: “In a culture obsessed with measuring talent and ability, we often overlook the important role of inspiration. Inspiration awakens us to new possibilities by allowing us to transcend our ordinary experiences and limitations. Inspiration propels a person from apathy to possibility, and transforms the way we perceive our own capabilities."

Inspiration enables progress toward goals. In a recent study on inspiration and goal achievement, researchers noted that goal progress and inspiration build on each other to form a cycle of greater goal inspiration and pursuit. In the study, inspired individuals reported experiencing more purpose in life and more gratitude.

Kaufman goes on to share that “another incredibly important, and often overlooked trigger of inspiration is exposure to inspiring managers, role models and heroes." As Gregory Dess and Joseph Picken note in “Changing Roles: Leadership in the 21st Century,” our competitive global economy requires leaders to shift their focus from efficient management to effective utilization of a company’s diversity of resources. They argue for five key roles of leadership:

    •    Using strategic vision to motivate and inspire
    •    Empowering employees at all levels
    •    Accumulating and sharing internal knowledge
    •    Gathering and integrating external information
    •    Challenging the status quo and enabling creativity

What inspires you, your team and your company? Ultimately, are those inspirations conveyed in the communication that connects customers to your brand?

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 19 December 2013 at 8:29pm


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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