A Whole Foods Market fifteen minutes from our house? What!? There had been whispers of this since we moved to the area in 2011 so we weren't absolutely sure it was real until a whopper of a mural project came across our desks this spring. The new Whole Foods was, in fact, REAL and they wanted a mural in the store - hand painted by US! We were asked to design something inspired by the sights and tastes of the city of Portsmouth. We jumped at the opportunity to do something fun, hyper local, and huge. This is how it turned out -
A perfect project for us! We had a blast creating this colorful, expressive wall that lives right by the bathrooms and the staff offices. We're grateful we got to be a part of something new and fresh in our area. Made a little mark in a place that has fed us healthy food when we used to criss cross the country for craft shows. Yis!
If you’re interested in taking a deep dive on how this all comes together and you want to learn more about our process of designing and executing something like this, read on!
The cadence of a mural project usually goes something like this:
- Initial request
- Availability and budget discussions
- Contracts signed
- Deposit made
- Sketches and creative development
- Build presentation
- Round 1 presentation to client
- Discussion about direction
- Round 2 delivered
- Final design delivered
- Last words and thoughts
- Sketch and transfer to wall
- Draw and paint the mural
- Sleep for a few days
- Share all photos and post to the world!
The team at WF emailed us in March to say they liked our style and asked for our availability. We said yes and it took a few weeks for the project to clear on their end. On May 10 it was good to go and we could start negotiations, contract signing, then on to actual designing. We entered into rush fee territory, but we were still able to get the project done by the time the store was to open. We compressed what is usually four to six weeks of actual design time into two weeks. Not to mention the time it takes to actually install a mural one it's designed. Crunch time!
As we began putting contracts in place and after negotiating estimates, we got to work on our sketches for the initial presentation. This is where we synthesize the first requests and thoughts from the client into the sketches that will help determine the direction of the project. This is part of our creative development phase. For Whole Foods, we knew they liked our stylized icons and characters from other murals we’ve done, so they asked us to create a look along those lines. This was a huge help and we love requests that work with our style. (If you are not hiring us for our design style we won’t have fun and neither will you.) So we typically don’t take on mural jobs or design work that falls far outside of our established “look”.
First sketches consisted of icons pulled from other designs we have in our collection. Our maps, some old wrapping paper designs, illustrations never used. This is the part of the project that gets us hemming and hawing at each other because starting is the hardest part sometimes. I "sketch" digitally because it’s easier for me (Briana) to pull things from other files than it is to draw Jasons icons in this phase. Just moving pixels around gets the creativity going for me.
Jay’s illustrative style is usually what is the black outline/overlay on all of our work. So in order for me to get the layout right using the correct line weight and vibe, I have to put together these digital sketches first. Then it goes to Jason who sits with his iPad and draws everything fresh right on top of what I’ve laid out. He makes fresh and crisp icons in a more refined style and then sends the files back to me so I can organize them again onto a document that’s the correct and final size.
This is when I start to play with color and balance. While Jason keeps drawing more and more icons to send to me, I’m building left to right creating a pattern. In this particular creative development we laid out two directions for the project, not skewing too far from the initial thoughts of the client. We like to give two design options, with small variations in each to create some talking points when we present them. I put together a keynote with all the sketches that are at about 30% completion because the direction isn’t fully decided yet. This is what it starts to look like.
I begin putting together the presentation once I feel like things are coming together. Here’s a few snaps of the inspiration/presentation for the project. We like to keep it simple and direct, made with a few slides in keynote. I remembered old Disney movie opening credits I loved, and found some files in one of the thousands or archive folders we have for inspiration.
Once we formulate and congeal our inspiration into something cohesive, we're able to put together the first looks mixed with the actual icons we'd been drawing. This is how we present them. It's usually done in person but we've been obviously doing more things via email and zoom. It's a challenge, but a fun one.
After we give them the round 1 presentation, we wait for feedback. The crew at Whole Foods was all drawn to the intemix/simple ombre pattern vibe we put together, so the next round was just about refining the balance of that, adding more icons and then choosing colors. Then round 2 is about nailing down the actual icons they really wanted to see up there. They wanted no characters, just foods, buildings, and broad Portsmouth iconography.
In the meantime while this is going on, it is still weeks and weeks of paperwork to "onboard" as a vendor in their system. Quite tedious but necessary! Lots of contracts and signing of documents.
We had been designing all this on the road, traveling right before it was time to install the mural. We were out in Vermont visiting with our print and puzzle fulfillment warehouse team. They always give us room to set up a mobile office and we get to bring Maple. Though it is difficult not to have all our usual tools around us, we still make do. I chose Pantone colors and cross referenced Benjamin Moore paint swatches with the WF team and BAM! We got it done with the magic of the internet.
Then it was off to the paint store on the way home from Vermont so we could start the mural the following day.
Arrive at Whole Foods. Time to sketch on the wall and get to painting! We had no way of using a projector to sketch onto the wall the way we usually do, because it was in a small hallway. So the whole mural was drawing out using a grid method and blue pencil.
We installed the mural June 18,19,21, and 22. The actual mural installation time was about 40 hours. From their initial request email to confirmed project on their end was 7 weeks. Sometimes it can become a logistical dance before it’s time to even rock and roll with paint on the wall!
The paint went on thinner than expected, but with 9000 coats on each icon we were able to get that perfect flat tone with clean lines that we love.
Take a peek at our Instagram for some process videos! Once all the colors were on the wall, Jason goes back in with a paint marker to do the outlines. He crushes it every time and I'm always in awe of his abilities and fearlessness, even fourteen years in.
Please go visit! It's way better in person. Use the entrance on the right side, by the veggies! The Whole Foods Market is 1600 Woodbury Ave, Portsmouth, NH 03801