Meet Jenna Sedovic, an interdisciplinary designer who has a passion for conservation and sustainability. That passion led Jenna to want to use her artistic talent and interest in natural science to pursue a career that would make a positive difference in the world. Jenna believes zoos are a powerful environment to engage, educate, and inspire kids to take action to preserve our precious natural world. She wanted to have a hand in shaping the mindset of upcoming generations by designing zoos to highlight conservation. Jenna studied illustration and interior design at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. All her hard work paid off when Jenna was offered the opportunity to fulfill her mission as a zoological designer with WDM Architects.
Let’s check out her portfolio of illustrations to learn more about her as a person, what she believes in, and her career journey.
In high school, Jenna was focused on her goal to be a zoo designer and her artwork reflected those goals. She created this realistic illustration of a hippo from the San Antonio Zoo using markers and colored pencils. It was an enjoyable challenge for her as she had never worked with markers before. This piece also earned her well-deserved recognition in a state-wide competition, marking the first outside acknowledgment of her talent.
Another one of her standout pieces in high school was this hyper-realistic Eurasian eagle owl based on a photo from her visit to Hong Kong’s Ocean Park when she was just six years old. “It was really fun trying to do all the texture and the feathers” with colored pencils on an acrylic background. The piece was an investment of time, but clearly worth it.
“I approach my artwork differently than most. I don’t begin with a big layer of light color at the bottom and then build up tones and other details. Instead, I finish one tiny area completely and then move to the next,” says Jenna.
In college, Jenna was assigned to create a unique set of illuminated letters. With thorough research, Jenna chose critically endangered species from the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species and CITES list as the basis for her designs. She digitally drew the alphabetic characters to include the animal forms, names, and native ranges. To further raise awareness of their plight, she also included the remaining count of these species in the wild.
“I would love to redo them by hand someday,” says Jenna.
For a fictional 5K event benefiting the Austin Zoo, Jenna created promotional materials with a spinoff of the city’s quirky tagline of “Keep it Weird.” She coined the theme: “Keep the Wild Weird” when composing the poster — a mixture of gouache, watercolor, and acrylic media in vibrant hues of mustard yellow and bright pink illustrating the zoo’s most famous animals. Then, she used different elements from the poster design to create a family of deliverables, T-shirts, social media posts, and event medals, to support an event that promotes conservation.
“I really do love complementary color palettes, so like green and red or blue and orange. My current work usually lives in that type of color scheme,” says Jenna.
At Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, students were given the opportunity to work with professional illustrators who served as pretend clients with specific projects that needed completion. One of these projects was paired with an illustrator who works for Disney. Naturally, he wanted Jenna to do a project for character design, which she explained would not help her build a portfolio that could lead to employment as a zoological designer. Understanding her perspective, he agreed to allow her to modify the project’s focus to create characters in an imaginary zoo of the future. Her art is based on paleontological opinions and the impact of climate change. The zookeeper has evolved with enhanced melanin and freckles. The animals include a lizard with a cactus-like tail and other animals with large fan-like tails and other adaptations for sun protection in a world of desertification.
Jenna is fascinated by syntropic agriculture, a unique form of farming that seeks to replicate the complex systems of a natural forest instead of traditional mono-crop fields. In this approach, the cultivated land includes various layers of vegetation, ground cover, and even animals, emulating the structure of a forest ecosystem. The system works in harmony with nature, ensuring that fallen leaves, branches, and trimmings are continuously recycled, enriching the soil and creating a self-sustaining microclimate with its own natural defenses against pests and diseases.
She discovered current research on syntropic agriculture focused on the Amazon in South America. For her sophomore year projects, Jenna decided to promote the subject by incorporating diverse plants and animals from the Amazon in a postage stamp design. To add an international touch, Jenna creatively used Brazilian postage values and provided information in Portuguese around the circumference.
For her senior thesis, Jenna designed interpretive signage for an Australian-themed zoo exhibit showcasing a Kookaburra and a Merino sheep. The challenge was to ensure thematic coherence and effectively convey information to zoo guests. Combining traditional illustration and digital typography posed a unique challenge for Jenna. She employed circles as a background behind the text overlay, which contributes both texture and significance to the signage. Circles have meaning in Aboriginal symbology, so on the sheep sign, Jenna utilized concentric circles to symbolize a gathering or meeting place, suggesting a place where humans and animals could come together to interact.
In her Kookaburra illustration, Jenna continues to draw inspiration from Aboriginal cultural history. The Kookaburra’s calls, known to welcome the new day in Australia, have led to its association with sun rise and the attribution of bringing the sun. Jenna cleverly incorporates circles with dots, reminiscent of stars and a clock face, into her design, paying homage to indigenous culture. To ensure cultural sensitivity and authenticity, Jenna reached out to multiple Aboriginal cultural centers while creating her illustrations.
Another insightful feature of Jenna’s signs is that she designed them to be produced at the same scale as the animals themselves. By having life-sized signs, children could learn about the actual size of the sheep, even if the flock was hidden in the shade or obscured from view. Jenna’s incorporation of educational elements into her design makes the illustrations not only visually appealing but also informative and engaging for young audiences.
“I really think that art is the bridge between science and people — especially kids — and so to be able to use illustration or a graphic to communicate complex scientific ideas or talk about endangered species or conservation, I think it is really engaging for kids. It’s a really great approach to get kids engaged and then once they’re interacting with it, then they can learn how to help.”
Colectivo Coffee, a popular coffeehouse chain in Wisconsin, held a design competition for coffee cup art, and they sent a representative to Jenna’s class to explain the printing process and requirements. Jenna imagined her cup designs as if they were to be sold at the Milwaukee Zoo gift shop. She decided to feature endangered animals that lived at the zoo in her artwork. One design focused on primate species, while the other expanded to include other endangered animals.
Jenna began the process by doing some traditional line work, sketching by hand. Once she had the foundation, she digitized her drawings, created vector-based files and added colors to make the final artwork vibrant and appealing.
Jenna enjoys the contrasting nature of zoological design. On one hand, it demands precision, mathematical rigor, and computer-based creation. On the other, it allows for a more playful and expressive approach when crafting illustrations by hand. “Having that balance in my work is great because I feel that I truly have both sides of that in my personality,” comments Jenna.
Overall, Jenna’s illustrations showcase her artistic talent and her commitment to creating designs that are not only visually striking but also meaningful on a deeper level.