Fannie May chocolate company and alum Katelyn McManis partner together for the new ‘Chicago Line’

By Amaris Edwards, Staff Reporter

Kayla Macedo

As a way to pay homage to the hometown in which they originated, chocolate brand Fannie May partnered with Columbia alum Katelyn McManis to create illustrations for the company’s new “Chicago Line.”

McManis graduated in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, majoring in illustration and minoring in graphic design.

McManis learned about the opportunity with Fannie May during her senior year, through a job posting on Handshake.

“My adviser at the time, [Jo-Nell Sieren] had emailed me with the opportunity saying, ‘This would be perfect for you,’ and ‘You [should] totally take hold of this opportunity and apply for it,’” McManis said.

McManis said she used photo references of the city and then made a series of 12 sketches. She then narrowed it down to the requested four designs, finalized them and submitted them to Fannie May.

“Once I had narrowed down the four out of the 12 sketches that I had … I took my sketches onto the digital platform Procreate and then I added color and I just perfected everything until I was happy,” McManis said.

Fannie May’s new “Chicago Line” features three tins with colorful illustrations inspired by recognizable landmarks in the city.

The Assorted Chocolate Gift Tin showcases the Chicago skyline with Navy Pier and the John Hancock building. The tin contains individually wrapped “Milk Caramel Presents,” “Mint Meltaways” and “Mini Pixies.” The Assortment Gift Box is presented in a Chicago three-image skyline and offers “Pixies,” “Trinidads,” Buttercreams, Toffees and “Crunchy Nut Clusters.” Lastly, the Pixie Chicago tin features an image of Michigan Avenue.

McManis said her favorite design was the Assorted Chocolate Gift Tin, which features her drawing of Navy Pier.

“When I think of Chicago, I kind of think of Navy Pier because that’s where I always went when I was a kid,” McManis said.

Associate Professor Christopher Arnold, an illustration instructor in the Design Department, was McManis’ teacher. He taught McManis for both “Illustration Studio II” and III classes in 2021 and 2022.

Arnold said he was thrilled when he learned McManis’ concept illustrations were displayed in Fannie May’s Chicago Line.

“You always want to see your students do well, but I think when they do something that exists within the community you live in it makes it extra special,” Arnold said.

Assistant Professor Dave Pabellon, a graphic design instructor in the Design Department, highlighted McManis’ abilities to strive when challenged in his “Graphic Design II” class.

“[She was] really great when challenged to create solutions that were a little bit outside of the ordinary and then also thrived when the constraints were a little bit more narrowed and specific,” Pabellon said. “[McManis’ Chicago Line work] really resonates with her personality; the solutions of bubbly, fun, but also within brand and system.”

McManis said Columbia gave her a good understanding of what the real world is like.

“I think a lot of classes helped me figure out a set way I tackle projects and come up with a rhythm for how to go about projects,” McManis said.

Her Columbia classes also taught her how to act in a professional manner with clients of all sizes, including Fannie May.

“As the fastest-growing premium chocolate brand in the country, we are proud to call Chicago our hometown and to work with a renowned local partner,” said Rick Fossali, vice president and general manager of Fannie May in a press release. “We’re proud to partner with Columbia College Chicago and Katelyn McManis to bring our Chicago Line to life in a truly authentic way and show appreciation for the city we’ve called home for over 100 years.”

McManis said the experience was surreal and is the biggest project she has worked on to date.

“I started working on this project while I was finishing up my senior year of school. So I mean, it was huge,” McManis said. “It’s hard to believe that you could just walk into Fannie May anywhere and see my design.”

Chicago Line chocolate tins are available online, at nationwide Fannie May stores, and near campus at their South Loop location at 144 S. Dearborn St.