branding illustration

Snug but Flexible: Amanda’s ‘Athleta’ Illustration Process

Athleta is an athleisure-wear chain founded in 1998 and acquired ten years later by Gap Inc. To add some local personality to their debut in West Edmonton Mall, they enlisted Amanda Schutz (our Creative Director) to develop a custom illustration for the store.

For a brand with this amount of equity, there is a lot on the line and a lot to capture. If you’re curious as to how an illustrator goes from client consultation to final delivery for a job like this, Amanda very kindly wrote out a bit about her process for this CURIO BLOG EXCLUSIVE (take that, The Washington Post! Scooped again!)

Take it away, Amanda:

Hi friends!

I’m excited to do a bit of a deep dive into my process for creating an illustration for GAP/Athleta!

We started by reviewing the company’s brand values and chatting about any ideation directions. We settled on the idea of blending concepts of:

  • being active,
  • women empowerment,
  • sustainability,
  • and a peppering of Edmonton visual cues.

Initial Proof:

The technical specs for the project were simple: A single-colour application with high contrast that can be easily silk-screened onto fabric. As usual, I began with a very rough sketch (below-left), which was later refined into a final proof (below-right).

When I make a sketch, I’ll do it many times over and refine each time (as you can see from the images above). Generally, I also like to show a rougher iteration to a colleague or someone who is familiar with illustration process. With I’m working with new clients (or clients who do not regularly hire illustrators), I send a tighter sketch to help them visualize the final product a bit better!

This first concept went to the graveyard, although I really like it (as it shares ideas about our amazing trails in Edmonton). I clock a lot of time in the Edmonton river valley on my bike, and our trail system is one of the biggest in North America. BUT, it turned out the client felt the style was a bit too youthful and busy, so we moved on to some new concepts….

New concepts:

These were better-received, but after some back and forth, we decided to move away from a character-based concept. Athleta takes great care with providing inclusive sizing in their clothing line. While the client found these concepts to be nice-looking, they felt that they showcased a narrow and potentially-insensitive view of all the beautiful bodies that wear the clothing.

This was a good note to consider and to bring forward to similar future assignments. I love being able to learn new ways to adjust my work so different demographics of people feel seen or celebrated in my work.

Final Artwork:

This is the final set of sketches showcase the concept my client selected:

We stuck to celebrating the environmental splendour of the province with the wild rose, wheat, coniferous trees, and northern lights. The Edmonton cityscape and our river peek through as a nod to the new store location.

Thanks for following along!

Much love,


In her spare time, Amanda is also a pretty talented illustrator and fine artist. Shocking, we know!

This post was last updated on January 31, 2023 by Matt Steringa