Tree Talk| 4 min read

Behind the Scenes: National Geographic x tentree Collection

Get a sneak peek at how our design team drew (literally and figuratively) from the Nat Geo archives for this iconic collection.

The trees are taking center stage (as they usually do here at tentree) with our new limited- edition collection in collaboration with National Geographic. This collection serves as a simple but powerful reminder that when we plant trees, we protect our planet, and in turn each other. Trees literally give us the air we breathe, along with just about everything else we need to survive, and our future pretty much depends on them.

The limited-edition graphics you see featured in the National Geographic x tentree collection pay homage to some of the world’s most magnificent trees. Every design was drawn by hand and inspired by iconic photography sourced from the National Geographic archives. We caught up with our Graphic Designer Lisa to learn how she and the team brought this campaign to life.


Q: Could you tell us a little bit about the art direction behind the campaign?

Our team was really inspired by the vintage National Geographic covers from the late 1800s and early 1900s. They feature hand-drawn inking styles and ink woodblock artwork which this period is really well known for. You can see the style I’m talking about in the archive photo of the Redwood below.


red wood illustration

Location: N/A (An original Illustration), Tree: Redwood


From there, we wanted to play around with a vintage style of framing while still translating the illustrations into modern graphics that could then be screen printed on fleece sweaters and sweatpants. Given the art direction from our senior designer, it was a fun challenge ideating how we could meld this style of artwork with the tentree aesthetic while amplifying the trees’ beauty through these illustrations.


Q: How did you choose which archive images to bring to life for this collection?

The National Geographic team offered us a huge library of archived photos to choose from. With so many gorgeous pictures, from close-up photos of leaves to widescale landscapes, it was a pretty hard decision. To start, everyone working on the project chose their top five picks, and then from there, we narrowed down the selections together. We took a democratic approach taking into consideration all the different locations, silhouettes, and shapes available to us. In the end, we chose five images. Four of these images we re-illustrated and the last image we left as it was originally printed.


Q: What trees are featured in the designs for this collection?

Of the four images we re-illustrated, the trees come from all over the world. They include tall and short baobabs from Madagascar, an acacia tree from Tanzania, a dragon’s blood tree from Yemen, and redwood trees found in California. Below you can see that the left is the original photo from the National Geographic archives, and the right is a scanned version of the inked drawings I drew.



Location: Madagascar
Tree: Baobab



Location: Madagascar
Tree: Baobab


Location: Tanzania
Tree: Acacia Tree


Location: Socotra Island, Yemen
Tree: Dragon’s Blood Tree


Q: Were there any challenges when it came to illustrating these images by hand?

For these redrawn illustrations of the photos, I chose to use ink and a quill pen to really give them an imperfect hand-drawn look that you can’t really achieve if it’s done digitally. This medium is not very forgiving, but mistakes and ink spills can easily be fixed after the drawings are scanned.

This style of illustration is challenging in the sense that you really have to think about what parts of the image you’re going to give detail to and what parts you’re going to blur into the back as squiggles and dots. It takes some thought, but I enjoy analogue drawing because once I’m in a flow of inking, the repetition is quite therapeutic. For this project, it took about two hours to complete each drawing after the composition was penciled in.


Q: What image is your favourite illustration from the collection?

My favourite image is the one of the tall baobabs. I really enjoyed inking the details of the bark.



These beautiful illustrations are a reminder that trees are the key to the future of our planet. This collection plants ten trees for every sustainably-made item purchased. It also helps support the global nonprofit National Geographic Society in its work to protect and illuminate our world through exploration, research, and education.

To learn more, visit Protect the earth and look good doing it when you shop the National Geographic x tentree collection.

Tree Talk

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