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Fresh Fall Faces

As an organization, we are deeply committed to continuous learning, and growing inside and outside our walls. Interns who work with us are invaluable to us and our growth. Superhero DS interns for this fall semester are Courtney Gibson, Joey Hathaway and Brayan Zavala. Courtney and Brayan work with our designers, while Joey works with our strategist and public relations staffers.

Courtney Gibson

Courtney is a Knoxville native and a senior at the University of Tennessee. She plans to graduate in May with a BFA in graphic design and a minor in journalism and electronic media.

“I love the ability to make clever moments happen with what I can create visually in meaningful ways,” she muses. “I also love the ability to be a storyteller with design.”

Courtney’s stint at Designsensory this fall marks her first time working with an agency. She has relished refining her skills for both print and web layouts, and learning about branding. “I went through the branding process for my own project so it has definitely been neat to see it come to fruition with logo design and web applications.” While she assists with other projects, her main focus has been creating a new site design for Knoxville’s First Friday.

In her spare time, Courtney likes to read, do yoga, knit, and be outdoors.

Joey Hathaway

Joey, from Glasgow, Missouri, is a senior majoring in advertising at the University of Tennessee. He works mainly with Strategist Josh Loebner and Public Relations and Media Specialist Casey Self.

“Designsensory is a one-of-a-kind agency with a culture and ethic that is unmatched in Knoxville,” Joey observes. While at Designsensory, he's learned how to turn secondary research into a strategic direction that benefits clients and makes their advertising and public relations efforts more effective. Joey’s favorite project thus far has been a pro bono website for Knoxville’s First Friday. It has allowed to him to fully develop a project with his fellow interns, seeing it through from start to finish, with a little help from DS staffers.

During downtime, Joey likes to hang out with friends and annoy his puppy as much as humanly possible.

Brayan Zavala

Brayan was born in Moroleon Guanajuato, Mexico, but moved to Chicago when he was just a year old. When Brayan was five, his family moved to Knoxville where he is currently a senior at the University of Tennessee. Brayan will graduate with a BFA in graphic design.

“I love that graphic design is about easing communication through visual solutions,” says Brayan. “It’s so open-ended and connects all kinds of people. Essentially it’s creative problem-solving.” He considers our designers at Designsensory very progressive in their visual choices, adding, “Designsensory is really in tune with their clients and strives to create great moments and touch points with each project and client.”

Brayan has learned that collaboration is key. He takes note of how his colleagues utilize each creative’s specific talent, while encouraging collaboration to create the best piece possible. By working with other DS staff members, aside from the designers, he has observed that creatives here have specific skill sets. “However, if you allow others to collaborate and work with each other, magic tends to happen,” he says.

So far, his favorite project has been working on a website for Retire Tennessee. Initially coming into DS, he wasn’t really interested in web design, but has a new appreciation for it since he’s been able to see the creation of this website from start to finish. He found out he really enjoys the process of making websites because it allows him to come up with great moments throughout the site that make it memorable.

Brayan is a portrait photographer and loves to get to know people through his work. He’s done a few projects with local firemen, paramedics and veterans.

We offer a number of competitive internships each year in the fields of graphic design, web development and computer programming. Check into our internships, for more information.

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 23 November 2014 at 6:08pm

Have Drone, Will Travel

At Designsensory, we believe in the power of richly crafted stories. We’ve been hard at work (and having lots of fun) with our production partner, PopFizz, creating rich media that helps clients promote their brands. We’ve collaborated with PopFizz on photo and video shoots from Anderson County, Tennessee, to Cook Inlet, Alaska. On the ground and in the air, on four-wheelers and oil rigs, we’ve captured amazing images that tell great stories.


PopFizz’s talented photographers and production staff are a perfect accompaniment to our creative crew here at Designsensory. Our philosophy is to create moments of truth—experiences that inspire people to act. As our name implies, we’re about connecting all the senses and integrating across print, digital, video and beyond. Our relationship with PopFizz adds that extra layer of value that helps us offer fully integrated solutions for our clients. Below are some examples of how our partnership with PopFizz has enhanced some of our work.


When one of our clients, PetSafe, wanted an online video and national commercial, along with photography for print ads used in a national campaign, we called in the PopFizz crew. Our team wrote the scripts, found the talent, scouted the locations, and designed the look of the videos and photographs to satisfy the goals of the advertisements. After all the prep work, we partnered with our PopFizz friends to carry out the task of producing images that would fit perfectly with the campaign’s overall look and feel.


For STEM Scouts, a new educational program from the Boy Scouts of America, our collaborative work with PopFizz ran the gamut from scriptwriting to postproduction. Together, we captured still photos of students as they did experiments. We built a Rube Goldberg machine for a television commercial. In keeping with the purpose of the program—to educate youth about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) through hands-on learning—we used footage of the cast and crew shot during production for a fun and educational, behind-the-scenes video.


No place is too far to go for great shots, not even Alaska. Earlier this year, Bryan Allen and his PopFizz crew got a bird’s-eye view of beautiful Cook Inlet, shooting breathtaking images of the oil drilling operations of Designsensory client Miller Energy. By working closely with PopFizz, we were able to capture the images we needed, in the way we needed them, to use across several of Miller Energy’s print and electronic pieces.


In Anderson County, PopFizz and Designsensory covered four-wheelers, museums, water sports and wildlife. Web-based video and still photography for Big South Fork Air Park promoted the community’s airstrip and equestrian facilities. Footage shot with our drone helps promote industrial sites across the state for the Tennessee Economic Development Commission. That’s right, we have a drone, and we're not afraid to use it.

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 23 November 2014 at 5:49pm

Utilize: Entertainment as Advertising


No matter the moment, people want to be entertained. And, no matter the business, your product or service can utilize entertainment to elevate moments and inspire action. Advertising’s past relationship with consumers was, what many considered, inconvenient at best, and could be described as an interruption or a barrier, often boring. While some people’s idea of entertainment in marketing may be a gimmicky President’s Day sale, many more industry leaders are forging paths to uniquely combine advertising and entertainment.


Chet Gulland, head of digital strategy at Droga5, told Mashable in a recent article, "The upside of creating things people actually want to watch is huge.” Gulland goes on to share that “more and more brands are now devising content strategies beyond traditional advertising to draw bigger and more engaged audiences."


Chief marketing officers, creative directors, business leaders and their brands’ passionate consumers are embracing bold, new stories told and shared in ways that entertain and delight. Rich media, long-form video, microsites, user-generated content, immersive branded events and social sharing combine within integrated campaigns to bring branded content and messaging to a higher level of connectivity, caring and engagement among enthusiasts. Here are a few great examples of advertainment mash-ups:

     BMW was one of the first brands to drive beyond typical car advertising with BMW films by creating short-form art-house cinema.

     Felix Baumgartner’s space jump from 24 miles up in the stratosphere, sponsored by Red Bull, took advertising and entertainment worlds away from gimmicky sales and much closer to a documentary about innovation, risk-taking and rewards.

     Oreo cookies advertainment transforms daily trends into often witty, bite-sized social stories shared by millions, and the brand also collaborates with renowned chefs to create innovative Oreo-based food hacks.

We believe every moment in a brand story and each consumer touchpoint present an amazing opportunity where connections offer the chance to, among other things, delight, inspire, praise and even love. These moments can truly entertain and create new avenues of momentum and action.


Is boring your brand's enemy? Have you considered ways a combination of entertainment and advertising can elevate your integrated campaigns?


Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 23 November 2014 at 5:30pm

Aviation Community Takes Flight

Big South Fork Airpark is a premier aviation and equestrian community in a spectacular expanse of Tennessee. Since the natural beauty of the region and the prestigious lifestyle of the airpark are main selling points for the community, a visually appealing website was of utmost importance.

The airpark is perched at the edge of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, a panorama spanning 125,000 acres of outdoor beauty. Naturally, the new photography created by the PopFizz crew steals the show. The site design is modern, clean, with streamlined navigation, so the original photography could shine.

DSXpress, Designsensory’s content management system, combines ease of use with the unlimited ability to create and edit on the fly, enabling quick population of the site with copy and photos. A custom photo gallery further showcases the development section and the amenities section of the site.

With the brand-new Big South Fork Airpark website, aviation enthusiasts can learn about the development and its community, and become familiar with the airpark surroundings before they fly there. For more information on Big South Fork Airpark, visit the new website.

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 28 October 2014 at 9:43am

Your Future with Vuture

One of Designsensory’s recent entrepreneurial partnerships was with Michael Crain, whose innovative thinking for a video messaging platform was developed into the Vuture app.

As a life insurance salesman, Michael had many conversations with his clients about loss and bereavement, and he recognized an opportunity to bring positive affirmations into the mix. His initial idea was that life insurance policy owners could record themselves with this new video messaging platform, allowing the video to be viewed in the future at a specifically designated time, such as after the death of the policyholder.

Michael saw even greater potential beyond this first user iteration as he developed the business plan. Apple’s app store description shares one fun example for use: Simply prerecord individual birthday messages for your closest family and friends and upload them to Vuture’s cloud. Then, schedule when and to whom you’d like to text or email your personalized video messages; in this case, each person will receive the personalized video on his or her birthday. Vuture will automatically send a message at the scheduled date, inviting your recipients to view their personalized videos.

We want to see Michael succeed in every way possible, so beyond developing the app, the Designsensory team gave visual design recommendations and encouraged Michael to connect with area entrepreneurial groups and events. The Vuture business plan was among finalists at the Knoxville Chamber’s Big Idea business plan competition as well as The Legacy Centre’s first EntreVision learning initiative and awards event.

Find out more about Vuture and download the app.

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 28 October 2014 at 9:42am

Utilize: Entrepreneur Thinking

We embrace all of our client partnerships, from the well-established brands that have been around for decades to fresh-faced start-ups. Even though Designsensory is approaching 15 years, we believe an entrepreneurial culture is valuable at all stages of business.

The Lean Startup author Eric Ries defines "entrepreneurship" as “the management discipline that deals in a scientific way with situations of high uncertainty.” In a Huffington Post blog, "Lean Startup and Design Thinking," author Cosmin Gheorghe shares “what Lean Startup and Design Thinking have in common is the focus on the customers and their actual needs.”

According to a Gallup study and associated article “highly successful entrepreneurs can creatively look beyond the present and imagine possible futures for their company. If you are a Creative Thinker, you are driven to steer your business in new directions.”  

The "Great Entrepreneurs Are Creative Thinkers" piece goes on to share seven ways to maximize your creative thinker talent:

1. Balance current and future customer needs. It is easy to be tied down with day-to-day business management and focused on delivering what your customers expect from you. Set aside time to disconnect from the present, and feed your creativity to imagine your customers' future needs. This will help you dream and plan for the future and maintain your competitive advantage.

2. Use measurement to evaluate your ideas. When weighing which idea to implement, ask yourself, "How can we measure this?" Pick ideas apart to identify issues that could crop up during implementation. If the results show that a project isn't viable, then modify or abandon the idea and move on to the next one.

3. Minimize potential pitfalls by releasing your new product or service incrementally. Implementing new ideas is risky. Iteration is key. Launch the prototype, gather feedback from customers, make necessary changes, and test again. Using this low-cost approach, you can turn your novel and creative ideas into products or services without much potential downside.

4. Maintain a simple organizational structure. Fewer layers of hierarchy will enable easier information flow between you and your team. A simple organizational structure will also increase employee involvement in implementing ideas, encourage employees' creativity, and lead to quicker execution and understanding of new ideas.

5. Balance efficiency with creativity. Process management techniques, such as total quality management or Six Sigma, which can increase your growing company's efficiency and productivity, are also likely to decrease your ability to innovate. Don't let efficiency-enhancing practices act as barriers to exploring new ideas. Nurture your natural creativity. Continue to invest in new ideas as you increase operational efficiency.

6. Mobilize resources to fuel your innovation process. You need two things for successful innovation: diverse experiences that spark your creativity and resources to drive the innovation process. Tap in to your existing network or build new alliances internally and externally to stimulate your creativity and access shared resources.

7. Learn from your failures. When carefully planned new initiatives fail, the potential to learn from them is immense. Don't let this learning opportunity go to waste. Conduct a post-mortem, make sense of what happened, and add what you have learned to your knowledge base. Fostering intelligent failures will help you learn what not to do as you dream about the future.

Innovation and entrepreneurship often go hand in hand. James Dyson, founder of Dyson, has shared, "We are all looking for the magic formula. Well, here you go: Creativity + Iterative Development = Innovation."

How are you celebrating an entrepreneurial culture and creative thinking in your business?


Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 28 October 2014 at 9:27am

Bringing Sugarlands to New Markets


When Sugarlands Distilling Company approached liquor stores to sell its products, it recognized the need for marketing materials that would distinguish the distilling company from the competition. And, when Sugarlands made the move to a national distributor, that distributor made the same observation. A conversation followed, centered around a brochure created specifically for liquor store owners.

We were thrilled when the good folks at Sugarlands asked us to develop and design the print piece, going beyond the original scope of work of an integrated branding and marketing campaign

The brochure had a simple, solitary goal: To convince liquor store owners that they needed to carry Sugarlands Distilling Company moonshine because customers were going to be asking for it. The company was receiving inquiries from people across the country who had visited the distillery in Gatlinburg as to where they could buy the moonshine locally. National media outlets were featuring stories about the products. The Sugarlands moonshines were winning international awards. Clearly, there was a lot of buzz about Sugarlands Distilling Company we needed to highlight in the brochure.

The final brochure boasts 20 pages of beautiful photography, personal stories and practical information. Some of the special features include product descriptions with clever recipes, a map of the Eastern U.S., showing where Sugarlands’ fans are, pictures of point of sale displays, awards, packaging and shipping information, and more. It’s everything a liquor store owner could want.

Our work with Sugarlands is a good example of needing to be flexible and responsive to clients’ needs as they arise. Sometimes plans change. We’re always ready to go with the flow. Especially if it’s moonshine.

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 23 October 2014 at 10:04am

Utilize: The Power of Public Relations

Unless your business strives to be mundane and introverted, we’d like to think that your brand has something newsworthy to share. It’s safe to say that every day may not bring a front page article, evening news story or online coverage reaching millions. However, utilizing the power of public relations can help connect moments of truth to momentum for your brand.

Simply defined, PR is about creating and growing relationships with people who will help share your messages.

In a recent Fast Company article, “How To Spice Up Your PR When Your Business Isn’t Sexy," Leron Kornreich answers four questions to help guide PR strategy:

1. What TRULY interesting story can you tell?

Your product may be of interest to a narrow audience, but your PR need not be limited to product announcements.

Consider the story you can tell. Sometimes the focus should be on customers: Is your product or service enabling a small business, nonprofit, or large enterprise to succeed in ways that were not possible before?

2. Who are the top influencers in your space?

If your company produces products that are of interest to only a limited niche, seek out that audience.

3. Who cares?

Ask yourself:  Who cares about our product or services? Don’t give the cop-out answer of “everybody” because that’s disingenuous. Getting covered in numerous irrelevant publications will not get your business the traction that a smaller number of media hits in highly relevant publications will garner.

4. Are there ways to reach your audience beyond traditional media?

We launched a series of original eBooks that were sent to customers and potential customers alike, and were well received because we made sure they answered questions our audience was curious about.

Public relations—when applied creatively and strategically—can be a low-cost but highly effective aspect of a successful marketing program.

Is your business newsworthy? How are you sharing that news? Talk to our PR team about your ideas and needs.

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 25 September 2014 at 10:20am

A September of Community Building

Goodwill Vintage Fashion Show

At Goodwill's 30th annual Vintage Fashion Show & Sale, a September night of stunning style began with dinner, drinks and delicious anticipation of the ultra-cool-to-kooky ensembles and models that would soon be vogueing the runway. All items featured in the show were available for sale immediately following the program, as the urban chic of the runway models motivated onlookers to make note of which treasures they'd snag in the well-put-together, one-night-only Vintage Store. The sale featured exclusive vintage merchandise, including clothing, hats, shoes, coats, furs, formals and accessories, as well as many top name brands like Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Coach, and more. 

Those who came early to the event were able to shop the presale. Proceeds from the event help support Goodwill Industries-Knoxville's mission to provide vocational services and employment opportunities for people with barriers to employment. Of course, you can shop an array of fashions every day at your local Goodwill store.

Designsensory developed the show's visual identity, as well as posters and programs, and was a sponsor for the event.


Rock the Cradle

The noteworthy mission of A Secret Safe Place for Newborns of East Tennessee—to protect the most defenseless among us, newborn infants, by educating and informing women and communities of safe, secret options under the Safe Haven Law—brings out the best in people interested in helping make a difference for babies in Tennessee. So does its annual Rock the Cradle event, a concert and silent auction to help raise community awareness and dollars for the local nonprofit. 

The Maryville College Alumni Gym was the venue for the September 13 celebration. The event included the music of Laurel Wright and Smooth Groove, Sonny's BBQ and kids' activities. 

Designsensory developed posters, tickets, programs and a website, and was a sponsor for the area nonprofit occasion.

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 25 September 2014 at 10:10am

Getting Great Gear

When asked to create—a site that features everything a musician might need to buy or sell guitars and guitar equipment—we were thrilled to take on the job. Not only are several DSers musicians, also the site is one of the few of its kind.

Additionally, while in the process of creating the website, the site’s owner received $10,000 in startup cost reimbursement, office space and complimentary business service by winning the grand prize for Knoxville Chamber’s business plan competition, What’s the Big Idea? Because he was awarded the prize well into the website’s creation, taking home the grand prize made his investment to create the website all the more worthwhile.

AmpTrader is an online guitar-enthusiast community, offering the opportunity for guitar hobbyists and professional musicians alike to buy, sell and trade their guitar equipment. Users can create a profile, list their gear and connect with other musicians. The simple, streamlined profile creator allows prospective sellers to seamlessly upload photos, videos and all the details about their piece of equipment. Potential buyers can sort by equipment type, price, listing date and location of their potential buy.

The website also creates a community for guitar enthusiasts. It allows users to connect with one another and barter an item. It also incorporates social media components to further bolster a connection among users. And, as a nationwide site, guitarists from all over the world can connect with one another

With the brand-new, musicians can more easily part with their favorite guitar knowing that it’s going to a good home, and they’ve gained an even better guitar in the process. For more information on AmpTrader, visit

Comments (0)|Posted by: Joseph Nother, 25 September 2014 at 10:09am


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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