Who does all those amazing drawings?

His name is Ian Nagy and he’s one of two illustrators at Zingerman’s. We sat down with Ian to ask him a few questions about the process of turning great food to great art.

What do you do at Zingerman’s?
I draw food for money! More specifically, I illustrate products, the people who make & eat them and the places where they are made for mail order catalogs, websites, menus, brochures, packaging, apparel, signage, labels…

How long have you worked here?
Basically 20 years. I started in 1991, left in 1995, spent 1996 doing freelance art for Zingerman’s, officially came back in 1997. Best. Job. EVER.

How many illustrations do you do in a week?
Depends. Maybe I average about 3-4 a week but that’s just a guess. I do a lot of sketching to come up with ideas, prepare final artwork and show people what I’m thinking before I do the finished product.

For the artists reading this, what tools do you use?
My trusty black ink brush pen, tons of non-photo blue pencils (they are light blue and are for the most part not picked up by photocopiers and computer scanners when scanning in black and white), markers, tech pens (fine-tipped black markers), acrylic paint, paint brushes, scratchboard, colored pencils, regular pencils, erasers, white-out pens, traditional pen and ink tools, rubber stamps, a Macintosh computer with Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign and Bridge and other software, a scanner, a printer.

What is the process like? How do we get from food to the printed illustration?
It differs from project to project, but here’s the most common processes. We call images that are just the food alone “actuals” and ones with people, scenes and characters “conceptuals”. This is how they are born.


  • receive the product sample
  • turn on my desk lamp for a main light source
  • unpack and arrange the still life
  • drink some tea
  • sketch the product with markers
  • scan and email it to my client or the project manager
  • sometimes go back and forth with them changing perspectives or the product set ups based on their feedback
  • get approval
  • set up the still life again
  • sketch it on nice watercolor paper
  • paint with acrylic paint
  • let it dry
  • scan it on the computer
  • jump for joy


  • receive the product sample
  • seek out some inspiring artwork
  • sit there with weird looks on my face and try to think of cool ideas
  • sometimes brainstorm with my co-workers, mom, family and friends
  • do small simple thumbnail sketches with pencil, ballpoint pen or Sharpie that only make sense to me
  • drink some tea
  • do a better, clearer, full-color sketch with markers
  • scan and email it to my client or the project manager
  • go back and forth with them tweaking the concept and details based on their feedback
  • get approval
  • sketch it on basic white cardstock
  • ink it in and add shading/texture with the ol’ brush pen, marker, pencil or any number of line-making devices
  • scan it on the computer
  • convert it to digital black and white shapes, chop up and color the shapes
  • print
  • appreciate how freakin’ cool my job is

Do you get to eat the stuff you draw?
Often. I wish it was always.

What is your favorite thing to illustrate?
People, buildings, animals, aliens, monsters, robots, patterns, handwriting, Halloween stuff.

Do you have any favorite illustrations?
See more at my website iannagy.com.

What is your favorite Zing memory?
I have a lot of them, many being bizarre, fantastic and hilarious conversations with co-workers. Here’s one of my favorites.

In 1996/1997 graphic designer/art director Lakshmi Shetty entered the Bakehouse bread bag that we worked hard on in the Print Magazine Regional Design Annual and it got in! I had no idea she did that. Print is a national graphic design magazine that’s been around a while and they often have around 30,000 entries to the annuals. Lots of cool stuff, a huge honor. They did a 4-5 page article in their regular magazine about our department around that time and we got at least one project in every annual from 1997-2002, six years in a row. It was unbelievable.

What do you do when you’re not making Zing art?
Rock! I play guitar and write songs. I’m always in at least one band and I often jam with my musical friends. I enjoy playing bass, drums and piano too. It’s TONS OF FUN. Lots of personal art projects. Freelance illustration work. Hang out with cats, guinea pigs, and other animals. Oh yeah, family and friends too. Watch cartoons, movies and stand-up comedy. Read. Travel. Power sleeping and encouraging people to get more of it. Try to make people laugh. Shop for music and musical instruments. Go to concerts. Eat at ethnic restaurants.