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Bringing the Tropics to Rockford

August 5, 2014

Nate McDonald


The Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens is a popular and fairly new attraction in my hometown. For this t-shirt design, I was given free reign to do something out-of-the-box from their typical branding style. And I did.

I knew I wanted to illustrate a tree frog, and I thought it would be fun to incorporate their tagline “Bringing the Tropics to the Midwest.” I researched different signage in tropic areas, and when I found a sign I liked, I based my hand-drawn text off it (changing “Midwest” to “Rockford”).

Working on the vector-build of the analog drawing

Working on the vector-build of the analog drawing

After illustrating the tree frog, I browsed through a collection of plant photos from the conservatory. When I saw a plant I liked, I drew it. I did this over and over until all the gaps were filled in the design. When the analog drawing was complete, I scanned it and did the vector-build in Adobe Illustrator.

The staff loved the design so much, they decided to have t-shirts printed to sell in their gift shop, as well as for their staff uniforms. I was very satisfied with the outcome.


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