Cincinnati State students paint the town TED, showcasing branding and graphic design expertise

CINCINNATI - Cincinnati is known as a center of expertise for building consumer brands such as Tide, Olay, and Jergens. Now graphic design students at Cincinnati State are learning that a visually distinctive brand helps all types of organizations stand out and build trust.

Seven Cincinnati State students recently completed a semester-long assignment to develop brand graphics for TEDxCincinnati. The project included designing promotional, website, and event graphics for the “Sound Ideas” main-stage program TEDxCincinnati is hosting at Memorial Hall on Oct. 3. The students also created “Paint the Town TED” visuals that will be used to promote other TEDxCincinnati events year-round.

According to Jason Caudill, who chairs the Graphic Design program at Cincinnati State, a few students hadn’t even heard of TED when the project began, “But when I showed them videos of TED Talks and explained the difference between TED and TEDx, they were very excited about the opportunity.”

“It was incredible to work with the students,” said TEDxCincinnati Organizer Jami Edelheit. “They created at least 15 options and we selected the ‘Paint the Town TED’ idea.”

Edelheit has attended several TED events and organized a TEDxCincinnati main-stage event at the Underground Freedom Center last October. She believes the “Paint the Town TED” theme will help raise awareness that TED-like talks are being presented in Cincinnati on an ongoing basis.

Let’s Talk about TED and TEDx

TED is a non-profit, global clearinghouse of “Ideas Worth Spreading.” The term “TED” originated in 1984 in conjunction with a California-based conference of experts from Technology, Entertainment, and Design.

Since then, TED has expanded its scope and now is committed to spreading ideas that can change attitudes, lives, and the world. Many Cincinnatians have seen at least one of the 1500+ TED Talks that are posted as videos on In addition to technology, arts, culture, and and design, TED Talks cover business, science, and global issues such as education, agriculture, and economics. The online videos have been viewed more than 1 billion times.

TED Talks are less than 18 minutes long and the presenters don’t stand stiffly behind a podium. They speak from their hearts in a relaxed, unassuming manner that is engaging and authentic.

Watching TED Talks onscreen is different experience than attending a TED event. At a live event, you can meet the speakers and mingle with other people with great ideas.

TED started the TEDx program to give communities, organizations, and individuals the opportunity to encourage dialog through TED-like presentations at the local level.

Sound Ideas: Part of Design Week

Because Caudill is active in Cincinnati’s design community, the TEDxCincinnati “Sound Ideas” program is part of a schedule of events planned for Design Week, Sept. 30 to October 5. AIGA Cincinnati and CODE (Cincinnati Open Design Event) organized Design Week to celebrate Cincinnati’s vibrant and growing design community.

“Including TEDxCincinnati in Design Week was a no-brainer,” said Ryan Cayabyab, co-president of AIGA Cincinnati. He believes the creative thinking expressed in TED-style talks resonates well with the design community.

TEDxCincinnati’s “Sound Ideas” program features an eclectic mix of through-provoking speakers and riveting performers, including:

  • Joe Boyd, the independent filmmaker whose Rebel Pilgrim Productions has nationally released “A Strange Brand of Happy.”
  • Patti Ann Collins, the president of the Bootsy Collins Foundation and advocate for greater access to affordable dental care in underserved communities.
  • Dr. Ingrid Bianca Byerly, the ethnomusicology professor who believes music is the great equalizer.
  • Libby Hunter, the executive director of the WordPlay creative-writing center for children.
  • Dr. Jason Singh, the executive director of OneSight, which provides access to quality vision care and eyewear in underserved communities worldwide.
  • Members of the indie-rock-band Ass Ponys who are reuniting to perform their unique blend of rock and country music, storytelling lyrics, and slightly warped humor.
  • Ricky Nye, the pianist and vocalist who is internationally known for his infectious blend of blues, boogie woogie, classic New Orleans jazz, and R&B.
  • Dr. Tonya Matthews, the Cincinnati Museum Center vice president who performs spoken-soul poetry as JaHipster.
  • Ron Esposito, who creates dreamy and introspective music with crystal and Tibetan singing bowls.

Next page: Event details

Graphic Design at Cincinnati State

The TEDxCincinnati Capstone project exemplifies how Cincinnati State is preparing students for real-world jobs.

Jason Caudill founded Cincinnati State’s graphic design program 14 years ago and continues to refine it to match the changing needs of local employers. Caudill not only interviews companies that have hired Cincinnati State students, but also those who chose not to hire them.

He is pleased when employers report that Cincinnati State students arrive on the job with a high level of understanding of real-world design thinking and work processes.

On Capstone projects, Caudill acts like the creative director of a design firm. He coaches team members how to anticipate potential problems and communicate their design ideas to the client.

One key challenge of the TEDxCincinnati project was making sure that all ideas followed the policies of TED’s brand standards manual that have made the TED logo synonymous with world-class content.

“It was very important to keep all seven designers consistent with the TED brand,” said team member Angela Panzica. “Halfway through our semester, a new brand standard manual was issued by TED. Most of the content was similar to the older version, but it was extremely important to know and understand the additional standards put in place by TED.”

The seven students made their final presentation to Jami Edelheit, TEDxCincinnati volunteers, and invited guests on Aug. 15 at Cincinnati State. As they presented each of items they had designed for print or online communications, they explained their reasoning and how the graphics maintained brand consistency.

“It was thrilling to work with a brand as big and well-known as TED,” says Panzica. Although she hasn’t quite finished her dual-major Associate’s Degree, she has already been hired as a digital graphic designer in Kroger’s headquarters downtown.

“Cincinnati State does an excellent job preparing students for their careers,” said Panzica. “Many classes were taught by people in the industry, and they have a mandatory cooperative education program. I felt confident working at my co-ops because of my education.”

“Cincinnati State has pushed to stay the forefront of the design and branding area,” says Caudill, noting that Cincinnati is the birthplace of modern branding.

The Future of Design

According to articles in the September, 2013 issue of Wired magazine, great design is becoming increasingly important not just in how things look, but how they work, and how people interact with digital tools.

If so, success as a designer will require knowing more about people, technology, and global culture –including the types of cutting-edge ideas discussed at TED and TEDx events. Design leaders believe creatives of the future will need to be agile, curious, and aware.

But the Oct. 3 “Sound Ideas” program isn’t just for designers. Cayabyab believes everyone in Cincinnati should attend at least one TEDxCincinnati event because it can reinforce the sense that you can definitely make an impact here in Cincinnati.

If you go:

  • TEDxCincinnati "Sound Ideas" event: Oct. 3 at Memorial Hall
  • Happy Hour: 5:30 p.m.
  • Speakers and performers begin at 7:15 p.m.
  • Purchase tickets and find more information online
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