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In the Foreground: Helping a Community Develop Its Image

Updated: Oct 16, 2019

In August, when I was pronounced creative director for the Fall 2019 BrandJRNY capstone team, I foolishly assumed that I would be doing roughly the same tasks that I have been doing for the past four years. I imagined myself creating graphics and layouts for social media, with little to no requirement because, in most of my previous work, creative was put on the back-burner. Before working with BrandJRNY it seemed to me that creative work is commonly seen as a trivial aspect of some projects, but even just a few days has proven me incredibly wrong.


The Community Branding Kickoff Event for Point Pleasant was the first real eye-opener that I experienced working with BrandJRNY. I thought that a dozen or so people would show up, say their piece, and then leave. I also thought that as a student, people would be more hesitant to take us seriously. However, it only took a few minutes of experiencing the event to realize that I was invested in something far different from anything I’ve ever experienced. We spent the first several minutes of the evening gathering more seating, apart from the extra seating we had already cautiously planned for. People of the town floated around, speaking with each of our team members individually, showing genuine intrigue and trust. Meanwhile, we were all feverishly trying not to allow our growing excitement to take complete control.


A light shines on the streets of Point Pleasant. | Photo by: Claire Hemme

The room was filled, wall to wall, with people of all ages and occupations. Each person seemed just as excited about our project as the last. When the evening found its way to the creative workshop, I paid attention to the different responses to the questions we asked. Each one brought about a whole new conversation about symbolism and character in relation to color, imagery, and wording. When I walk through town I can see the history seeping from each brick and corner, but without the voices of the town I didn’t truly understand what I was seeing. The photos in this piece are only a glimpse of the character that the town naturally exudes.


As the night went on, and the answers continued to become more and more passionate, it became obvious that a shared character within a community is far more important than I ever knew.


The more I realize branding isn't just a logo and color scheme, the more pride I gain in my work. We are personally collecting the components of the character that creates a community. We get to gather this information, and then use it to create a tangible symbol of their home. While it’s strange for me to work with more guidelines and conditions, I finally feel like I’m working to help create something that is not only attractive but reflective of an entire community. I consider myself lucky and am increasingly humbled by the work we’re doing with Point Pleasant. I can’t wait to see what we produce in the coming months.


A snap of the Point Pleasant aesthetic. | Photo by: Claire Hemme

“My name is Claire Hemme, and I am the Creative Director for the BrandJRNY capstone team. If I’m not cooking or coffee-ing, you can find me in the woods somewhere.” — @shimmyhemme

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Housed at the WVU Media Innovation Center, BrandJRNY is a community branding initiative that is a grant-funded collaboration between the American Electric Power Foundation and WVU Reed College of Media.

The Initiative was previously funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation for our three pilot projects.

Original website designed by Mariah Elliott, under the direction of PI and Director Dr. Rita Colistra.

Photos and content may not be used without written permission by contacting brandjrny@gmail.com.

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