Future Classic: Bringing Cities to Life on Paper

Posted inDesign Books
Thumbnail for Future Classic: Bringing Cities to Life on Paper

In a quest to celebrate the relationship between destination, design and paper, Neenah Paper teamed up with Design Army to locate seven upcoming artists who would create paper motifs of their hometowns.

Design Army sifted through 30 portfolios to find the seven burgeoning artists featured in the book, Future Classic. Tasked with representing his or her city, each artist utilized various Neenah CLASSIC Papers weights and colors to exemplify the urban culture. “The only parameters being that the finished piece had to either fit into the 8 x 10” book or be able to be photographed,” remarked Pum Lefebure, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Design Army.

The unique designs featured highly detailed illustrations, die-cuts, and paper cutting from a wide-range of paper stock from Neenah CLASSIC Papers. Explore a sampling from the book, as well as exclusive interviews with the artists below:


The New Future Classic promotion by Neenah celebrates the relationship between destination, design and paper. Seven emerging artists creatively interpret their cities they live in, through design. The result is the artistic treatments of six classic cities compiled into one book, printed on a variety of Neenah Classic Papers.

Classic Design for the Future: Meet the Artists


Kate Zaremba, Washington, D.C.

Kate Zaremba is an illustrator and textile designer residing in Washington, D.C. When people think of D.C, they often picture the White House, historical monuments and other government buildings. Zaremba wanted to showcase the other side of Washington, D.C. — the eclectic art scene.

What inspired you to use art spaces as a way to represent D.C.?

Since D.C. is the nation’s capital, people often think first of the White House and all of the historic government-related events that have happened here. But the truth is, this is a diverse community like any other, with amazing arts organizations and creative spaces worth knowing about and supporting.

Describe Your perfect “24 hours in D.C.” Itinerary.

This would probably be a Sunday with my husband. We would grab a coffee and croissant from The Wydown on 14th Street and then head to the early movie at E Street theater. After that, we’d have lunch at Oyamel before heading over to the Hirshhorn or National Gallery of Art for a stroll through the exhibitions. Heading back to our neighborhood, we might have a quick drink at Dodge City on U Street and then head up to Room 11 in Columbia Heights for dinner or do take-out at Pho 14 and head back home to chill out.

If you could transplant any local piece of art into your personal space, which would it be and why?

I might have to move to a bigger place, but I would love to have the Anish Kapoor sculpture titled “At the hub of things,” shown in the work at right. It is a simple concave form that is the most beautiful deep blue color I have ever seen. The color literally vibrates off of the surface and all I want to do is touch it or maybe sit inside it! It always makes me think of how we actually see color in the first place: that we are seeing the reflection of wavelengths that appear to us a deep blue. I love how art can take my mind to so many different and interesting places.

Describe the creative scene there. What do you love about it? What would you change, if you could?

The arts are an integral part to any great city. It builds bridges between cultures; it brings people together no matter their ethnicity, religion or age; and it ensures that young people are exposed to creative thinking. I chose to highlight the creative scene in D.C. because there are so many wonderful places putting on great performances, public art programs, and supporting artists, yet getting very little support themselves. I love that there are so many places to see and experience great art, but I wish that these organizations were working together to promote, share, and support the greater social initiative and responsibility that the arts has to a community.

Describe the process of creating this piece. How did you approach the concept phase?

First, I made a list of my favorite art spaces, then reached out to all of my friends for their lists to compare and create an arts consensus of sorts. This turned out to be a brilliant idea, because I had never heard of Art Enables, an incredible organization that supports artists with disabilities. I am so excited about what this group is doing, and I wouldn’t have known about it if it weren’t for this project.

Developing the icons was the next step. First, I sketched out my initial ideas for each place. I researched the collections, the programs offered, and histories of the organizations to help inspire a visual representation. I wanted the illustrations to be simple and fun, so I went through several iterations. Often I would cut the ideas out of paper, rather than just creating a line drawing of them. I really love creating images in this way, because there is something that happens when you change your tool for drawing. The final shape is very different and sometimes more interesting. Not all of the icons were developed with paper cutouts, but it is a process that can easily simplify shapes and ideas for me.


Russell Shaw, Atlanta, Ga.

Atlanta’s designer and illustrator, Russell Shaw, showcases delicious dining options in the Atlanta area. He designed a gorgeous brochure of where to eat, acting as a guide as it is divided up by the popular Atlanta neighborhoods.

What inspired you to use a food guide to represent Atlanta?

Food is a rallying point for a region —certain flavors and ways of cooking develop and become specific to certain areas. Over time,they become markers of people from a similar area. I think this is very true of the South; we’ve developed a rich culture around Southern foods — from shrimp and grits, collards and down-home barbecue to New American-style high-end burgers and bourbon-based craft cocktails. Plus, I believe there’s just something special that happens when you sit down around a table to a meal with others. Atlanta has developed its own unique twist on Southern cooking, and I’m always glad when I get to sit around a table with friends in this city.


Did you learn anything new along the way, about workin
g with paper or your chosen technique?

I really enjoyed being free and loose with the illustration style. The colors and line art were so messy, and I liked the energy created by being open with the illustration style like that. Normally, my illustrations are similar but a lot tighter and more technical; this was a great departure to try out.

Describe the creative scene there. What do you love about it? What would you change, if you could?

I’ve heard a number of people say that Atlanta is a city that’s up for the making. I think the artists here can shape what they want the arts culture to look like. And it’s a young arts culture still, so a log of it feels like the Wild West – there’s less of an establishment, so there’s so much potentioal in what it all can become. If there was one thing I would hange, it’s that it tends to be a springboard city for people; they come here, they make it, get bigger and better, and immediately leave. Hey, I understand – sometimes, amazing opportunities come up. But I do hope that as more and more people hone their skills when they’re young, some will start to stay in the city and turn their young energy into more mature wisdom.

Give us your perfect “24 hours in Atlanta” itinerary.

I would start out at Octane for a brunch biscuit and good coffee conversation. Then I would probably head over to Piedmont Park for a morning walk – the view of midtown on the south side of the park is one of my favorites. For the afternoon, I would probably go to the High Museum, as well as some of our other smaller galleries, like Mammal or Goat Farm galleries, or do a driving tour of Living Walls Murals. In the evening, I would go to Antico on the Westside for good pizza and wind down either at Churchill Grounds for great jazz or at Northside Tavern for quality blues.

Describe the process of creating this piece. How did your approach the concept phase?

My first step was trying to identify what things were unique to Atlanta that would be worth highlighting and telling others about. The food aspect was an obvious frontrunner, as well as the notion that Atlanta is a city defined more by its neighborhoods than by the whole, so the seven days of eating across seven neighborhoods seemed like a good candidate. The style was developed by running with a bit of my own personal illustration style, but mixing in some good quirky and imperfect character to really play up a Southern-gothic folk-art quality.


Faun Chapin and Meg Paradise, Oakland, Calif.

Hailing from Oakland, Cali., Faun Chapin and Meg Paradise are the founders of Guts & Glory, a design and branding studio. They created a marvelous piece in the form of a record player, symbolising Oakland’s music scene. The textures they used in the overall piece and the revolving record-player are a must see – the picture doesn’t show its full glory.

What inspired you to use the idea of music history to represent Oakland?

Oakland isn’t known for that many things, although it’s the most ethinically diverse city in the country. But music is a huge part of its history, starting with the Jazz Age, and a lot of music still comes out Oakland – it’s tremendously diverse music, from an amazingly weird mix of people. We focused on hip-hop because these are the names that most people recognize, but there’s a lot of other music here to explore.

How did your individual areas of expertise come into play with this piece?

We do a lot of illustration in-house, and we both have a strong print background. We’re always trying to push the medium forward, and explore new finishing methods and printing techniques. For us, it’s always gold foil – our brand color is gold foil.

Describe Oakland’s creative scene. What do you like abut it? What would you change, if you could?

There’s a lot of amazing crafting coming out of this area. It’s interesting because the tech industry is so omnipresent in everyone’s mind, which is sort of antithetical to the industry of art and design. As more and more primary cities become cost-prohibitive for creative, we hope that secondary cities like Oakland will emerge as creative hubs. As for what we would change? Everything is so spread out here – it’s nice because people have bigger spaces with fruit trees in their yards, but it requires a lot of driving. After living in New York for the last 10 years, it’s a big change.

Do you have a favorite music venue in Oakland? What was the last great show you saw?

The Paramount and The Fox theaters are two amazing, gorgeous old venues, and there are endless underground hip-hop and punk clubs. There’s a famous jazz club called Yoshi that has hosted a lot of great names. As for our last great show, Meg would tell you that she saw Beyonce in San Jose recently. Since the Bay Area bleeds into other areas – Oakland into San Francisco, and San Jose into Oakland – there are lots of places to see great shows.

Describe the process of creating this piece. How did you approach the concept phase?

We were thinking of how we could combine music and paper, and realized there was an opportunity to create a paper object, not just an illustration. And it spins!


Jay Fleck, Chicago, Ill.

Chicago illustrator Jay Fleck, whose style ranges from cute to whimsical and abstract, represented Chi-town by combining mass transportation with the world famous Chicago hot dog – made the proper way without ketchup.

What inspired you to use a transit map and food to represent Chicago?

Public transportation is an essential and vital part of the city. And to me, the Chicago-style hot dog is the quintessential Chicago food. We have a very specific set of ingredients that every Chicagoan knows; it’s kind of a goofy part of our identity.

Did you learn anything new along the way, about working with paper or about your chosen technique?

Yes, I learned quite a bit about printing on darker paper. I will now probably obsess over it whenever I work on a piece: How could I do this on a darker blue? What colors could I use?

What’s your favorite way to eat a Chicago dog?

I eat it with the standard Chicago-style ingredients: an all-beef hot dog in a poppy seed bun topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt.Most important: absolutely no ketchup.

Describe the creative scene there. What do you love about it?

There is such a high concentration of art and artists in such a relatively small area. Walking down the street, you’ll see art everywhere — on walls, posters, in shops. It’s a constant source of inspiration.

Describe the process of creating this piece. How did you approach the concept phase?

This was the first concept that came to mind, but I was concerned about whether I could execute it. Could I make it look enough like a transit map, but also like a hot dog? Could I include all of the ingredients and yet still make a coherent piece? Maybe it doesn’t seem all that complex, but to me it was actually quite difficult.


Emily Brown, Portland, Ore.

Portland’s cut-paper artist and designer Emily Brown created a beautiful Forest Park invitation. She combined a die-cut sleeve with a die-cut and embossed insert.

What inspired you to use this particular scene to represent Portland?

One of my favorite attributes of Portland is the city’s connection to greenspace. We have so many amazing parks and gardens. Forest Park is acres upon acres of forest and trails right at the edge of the city. I believe it’s even the largest naturally forested urbanpark in the U.S. Portland’s proximity to amazing hiking definitely inspires my love for this place, but even if I can’t make it to Mount Hood or the Columbia River Gorge, Forest Park is right here.

Describe the creative scene in your city. What do you like about it? What would you change, if you could?

Portland is a very DIY community. Almost everyone will try anything at least once, and it really feels like everyone is creating something —art, music, stories, ‘zines, food, beer. Everyone seems to be an artist in their own right, and I think that is generally true about those who apply themselves to something they are passionate about. And most of the time, it’s a hugely inspirational atmosphere.

I suppose the only thing I would change is the shared instinct to say “I could make that.” I’ve heard it personally, I’ve heard it said in front of other artists, and I’m sure I’m guilty of uttering the words at the wrong time myself. Sometimes it’s great to just appreciate another person’s work without letting them know you think you could replicate it.


Describe the process of creating this piece. How did you approach the concept phase?

When trying to come up with a concept, I visited and photographed my current favorite places in Portland, and I knew it would be outdoors. When people think of Portland, they think rain, [but] truth be told, though we get a lot of rain, people here spend a ton of time outside. Hand-cut paper is my usual medium, and I love showing off the meticulousness and delicacy of it by layering it in shadow boxes. With this piece, I was able to make something in that style without the shadow box.

Did you learn anything new along the way, about working with paper or about your chosen technique?

I have been cutting paper for about 10 years, and I have become comfortable with a specific type and weight of paper. This forced me to cut paper of different weights; with paper cutting, when you change your paper, you have to alter your technique. This was a great exercise in learning to adapt my technique.


Sarah Jacoby, Philadelphia, Pa.

Sarah Jacoby, Philadelphia illustrator and desinger, used Neenah Classic Paper to construct a magnificent Mummer mask. The inspiration stems from the giant New Year’s Day parade in Philadelphia, where the Mummers dance in amazing masks and costumes.

Have you experienced a Mummers parade in person?

You can’t avoid the parade — the whole city goes to it. When you get to Broad Street, there’s an explosion of people, sound, and color. But the best part happens later, with an entirely separate celebration that happens on Two Street. The parade loop comes back around and goes up and down the street for hours. It’s a bit like Mardi Gras — very carnival-esque — and I’ve never figured out the legality of it all.

Describe the process of creating this piece. How did you approach the concept phase?

I wanted to do something with the Mummers because it’s such a rich subject. Neenah Classic seemed like great building paper, so I imagined I could make a really solid structure. The initial mask design was small, but Neenah sent me a lot of really beautiful paper. I was so inspired by the material that I went nuts. I asked myself, “What would my Mummer Clubhouse theme be?” I did more research into other Mummer and folk traditions, and fell in love with images of the Bulgarian Kukeri festival. Look it up; it’s amazing.

What were the challenges of creating this mask from paper?

The paper stock is thick, so it was difficult to make small and specific shapes. I couldn’t cut out anything elaborate, so I had to stick with simple shapes and make patterns with them. My natural inclination is to make things that are complex and small — I couldn’t do that here.

Did you learn anything new along the way, about working with paper or about your chosen technique?

I was happy that I chose to work with the paper directly, rather than paint or print something on it. I initially asked for a lot of white and eggshell paper and a little bit of color. I had thought about illustrating designs on the paper and making a mask from that, but when I saw how vibrant the colors were, I knew that that was going to be where the color was going to live. Nothing I could draw or paint would be as good. So, I learned, as I usually do, to adapt to the materials that were given to me.

Describe the creative scene there. What do you love about it? What would you change, if you could?

Philly is a great place to start projects; it’s a breeding ground for creativity. It’s not as expensive, so the stakes are lower for risk-taking. There are art collective mainstays like Space 1026, but then there’s usually a new gallery growing up in the Vox Building or in North Philly. There’s a lot of young innovation from places like Tyler and Uarts. It’s very raw, and that’s what I love; it’s easier to see where there is substance and where dazzle camouflage exists. I wish people didn’t feel so compelled to move away, but it’s inevitable when there are thousands of creative jobs available in New York and not that many available in Philly. So, get more art jobs, Philly! Maybe I’ll start my own mask-making business. Watch out.

See more about Future Classic by visiting Neenah Paper’s blog.