OHIO graphic design students showcase their talent with exclusive T-shirt designs available at The Bobcat Store

Published: May 9, 2023 Author: Jen Jones Donatelli, BSJ ’98

What do the Athens County Courthouse clock tower, the paw-paw, and a geometric rendering of College Green all have in common? All will take center stage on a new student-designed T-shirt collection for The Bobcat Store, following the first-ever Ohio University Alumni Association Student Design Competition.

As part of a collaboration with the College of Fine Arts, this juried competition called on 20 students from professor JP Rhea’s graphic design course to submit designs celebrating the Southeast Ohio region. The three winners not only had their T-shirt designs put on sale by The Bobcat Store, but also earned a scholarship award and gained valuable hands-on experience.

“We wanted not necessarily just Ohio University apparel, but something that would represent the area and remind people of their time spent in Athens,” explains Christopher Riley (BSC ’22), Bobcat Store manager and jury member. “I thought it would be really cool to bring in more stuff [representing] Southeast Ohio as a whole.”

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Participating students rose to the occasion, submitting concepts ranging from mischievous squirrels to an Athena-style marquee reading “Meet Me on Court Street” to an ode to “Fest SZN.” Beloved local feline Pumpkin also made cameos on numerous designs, along with native paw-paw fruits, local landmarks, and Rufus.

A jury of five representing The Bobcat Store, Student Alumni Board, Alumni Relations, and the Ohio University Alumni Association Board of Directors worked together to select the final three winners, with four designs total: Emma Geggie BFA ’24, Madisyn Kelly BFA ’24, and Kim Langhirt, BFA ’24. Selection criteria included overall concept and creativity, use of illustration and/or typography, consideration of place, and consideration of the Bobcat Store audience.

Rhea says he typically gives four assignments per semester, prioritizing practical learning opportunities that he considers “portfolio builders.” For the Student Design Competition, Rhea allowed in-class time for research, design prototyping, and critique as students finalized their submissions.

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“Employers don’t want cookie-cutter designers—they want artists, and this assignment helped the students branch out and think in new ways,” says Rhea, who is concluding his first year as a graphic design professor at Ohio University. “They really embraced the challenge and approached it from a perspective of critical thinking.”

The winning designs are available for view or purchase at The Bobcat Store:

https://bobcatstore.org/ohio-paw-paw-t-shirt/ (Emma Geggie BFA ’24)
https://bobcatstore.org/athens-clock-tower-t-shirt/ (Madisyn Kelly, BFA ’24)
https://bobcatstore.org/college-green-line-t-shirt/ (Kim Langhirt, BFA ’24)
https://bobcatstore.org/athens-wildlife-t-shirt/ (Madisyn Kelly, BFA ’24)

Store manager Riley is hopeful that even more student designs will be further selected for the Bobcat Store’s fall lineup—including stickers, coffee mugs, prints, and/or apparel. He also hopes that the Student Design Competition will become an annual endeavor, as does Rhea.

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For her part, competition winner Madisyn Kelly considered the project a labor of love and a unique way to show campus and community pride. “We have a beautiful community here, from the flora and fauna to the brick roads and landmarks,” Kelly said in her artist’s statement. “I wanted to capture that beauty and give people a little piece of Athens they can bring with them anywhere!”