Cincinnati Chapter

Cincinnati, OH Blog


Better Luck Next Time

Our rain date is threatening to be another wash-out, and so we regret to inform you that our Spring Social  at the Cincinnati Zoo has been cancelled.

We will reschedule a happy hour at a later date. Meanwhile, please keep an eye out for our next event, Documentation: Exterior Signage, coming late Spring (Date TBD).


Margaret & Hannah

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I’ve been musing over the ability to provide “original” thought versus harnessing great ideas. As designers and creatives, we put a lot of effort into forming innovative solutions for our clients and communities. Take a moment and visit a handful of design firm websites. Spoiler Alert: repetitive buzz words abound. We market our profession however necessary to reach our audience, but how do you as a person get down to the business of designing something that is meaningful? Something that is great?

If innovation is one key component to growth as a designer or a firm, is original thought the only true vehicle? I would guess that a great number of us consider innovation to be a completely new method, idea or product. Tasking yourself with the goal of bringing a brand new concept into the world is a tall order. In our fast-paced digital lives we would be hard pressed to form a truly first-of-its-kind, original idea. What about the process of innovating? Creating a transformation or a breakthrough? These actions do not happen without first following the footsteps of an existing process or harnessing a great idea.

Think about it in terms of an early design process. First you go through a period of research and gathering of information. Primarily, you are getting to know your client and defining a project. Then you start to seek inspiration and a framework in order to conceptualize the possibilities. What is the existing or future space like, what assets does the client have to work with, what is their budget? Maybe you made your way over to the SEGD website to review the Global Design Awards profiles. Maybe you’ve started a Pinterest board to gather concepts and solutions that might echo the idea you are starting to form in your mind. If you seek to explore a new technology for your client, where have you seen this technology used? Who has pioneered the way? Stop Here: Think about how important it is to have content and great ideas available to you. Even after something hits screen or paper, becomes refined and is approved, great ideas must be sought out and explored in order to bring the solution to life. “Great” does not mean “most expensive” or “most different from anything seen before.” It simply has to solve and honor the reason the design problem was identified in the first place. When it fits perfectly, tangibly and intangibly, it becomes great design.

I love promoting great design. It’s what grows me and helps me innovate. It’s about soaking up inspiration from all around me, even when I’m not actively thinking about a design problem. I read about all kinds of topics. A piece of internet click bait leads me down a digital “rabbit hole” of content. I get involved in activities and events. I often joke about starting a collaborative blog called “Weird Shit Designer’s Do,” because I am that person who is walking through the Detroit Auto Show, not only observing the marketed content laid in front of me, but crawling into the exhibit sets to see what’s going on inside. In doing so I get to make discoveries for myself and see a different world.

How do you innovate?

Hannah Anderson, SEGD Cincinnati Co-Chair
Kolar Design

Interested in contributing to our blog? Email us at: [email protected]

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As soon as I volunteered to post something to the SEGD Cincinnati blog with the goal of reinvigorating our members, I started panicking. For weeks, I’ve been agonizing over what I should write about, fearful that it wouldn’t be the inspirational spark of our members’ next big ideas. The SEGD community has been so valuable to me, and I often think about how I can better contribute as a member. This blog, I hoped, would be a good opportunity to get more momentum and conversation in our local chapter.

I found myself, full of lofty goals, trying to think of something brilliant to share with you all – a project that changed the world, a new material that wowed a client, an Illustrator tip that would blow your mind… I asked my husband, an architect and avid reader of all things design, what I should write about. He responded with lots of ideas – legibility of highway signs, alleys as public spaces, whether buildings should be branded for their purpose or their neighborhood… all interesting things. So why was I anxious? I started to worry, am I a good designer if I’ve never even considered these things, let alone formed an opinion around them? He could sense my anxiety and followed up with, “Just write about whatever is interesting to you.”

I started to think about all the things piquing my interest these days: minimalism, politics, the right way to brew coffee, my new baby and how she’s learning new things every day, and, of course, the new typeface from Hoefler & Co. The defining characteristic of SEGD is our diversity – a diversity of expertise, surely, but this extends beyond the walls of our disciplines. The broad nature of our organization is such that there will be topics within it that don’t interest you, and that’s okay. I hope that this blog post is a kickoff point for anyone out there who is worried that their perspective isn’t worth anything because they don’t go home and think about the next Adobe update or the best way to organize a sign schedule. And if you do think about those things as you fall asleep at night, we want to hear from you too.

What makes you a valuable designer? Is it your love of typefaces, your knowledge of materials and fabrication techniques, or is it the mad storytelling skills you’ve mastered while putting an ornery 3-year-old to bed? The change of ‘E’ in SEGD from “environmental” to “experiential” has caused much debate and discussion within the SEGD community. Whatever your stance, know that the goal of that subtle shift was to be profoundly more inclusive. Whatever your interests, there is a place for you here, and we want to hear from you. As EG designers, we are tasked with taking a great interest in people’s every thought and experience. We extend this interest and empathy to our clients every day, why not to our own community?

I’ll end these 500 words with a plea: If you’re interested in contributing to this blog, or just looking for a way to stretch and put yourself out there, please reach out to SEGD Cincinnati. We know there are a lot of great folks out there with stuff to say, so let’s get to know each other, learn lots, and reinforce the inclusivity, support, and inspiration that SEGD is known for.


Margaret Lange, SEGD Cincinnati Co-Chair
BHDP Architecture

Email us: [email protected]


*Inkblot vector artwork provided by Freepik


Clive Roux, CEO of SEGD, recently visited the Cincinnati Chapter, which was a valuable opportunity for everyone to ask what may not be FAQ, but were definitely QTSBFA (Questions That Should Be Frequently Asked).


What can SEGD do to increase the industry and an individual’s “interdisciplinary” thinking and teamwork skills? Does SEGD risk losing focus or relevance when members access core disciplinary engagement through specialist professional organizations that align with their training like the AIGA or the AIA?

SEGD encourages collaboration and cross disciplinary thinking in almost every article and event we produce. By its very nature, Experiential Graphic Design is interdisciplinary. Our vision to create a community of practitioners who create experiences that connect people to place means that all our programming is tailored towards demonstrating how this interdisciplinary community operates to create the integrated solutions that represent excellence in the profession.

Members would like information such as roles, wages, benefits, industry trends, reliable rates, service agreements, job descriptions, etc. for the field of XGD. What is SEGD doing to produce that?

We have been working for 18 months to describe the business of XGD and now have a comprehensive overview of the field. All this work has been done in the SEGD membership database (integrated with the SEGD website), which means it will be available to enrich the content on the website and will also be searchable by members by the end of this year. Starting with minimal information on each member and firm, now all firms are categorized and connect to their websites; we’re still updating contact information. So for the first time, we can show a profile of the XGD industry and where XGD designers work. This was shown to the board for the first time in October. We’re also working on the first-ever industry profile for XGD, which will be distributed to the community.

This is now an on-going intelligence gathering activity. Members will be to access the information for free in the Business of Design section under the Xplore tab on the SEGD website.


How about competencies tied to training opportunities that you can find easily on the website?

This already exists!

Click on the Xplore tab at to see the SEGD Index. The first section consists of practice areas: Wayfinding, Placemaking, Exhibition, Public Installations and Strategy, Research, Planning. Click on one and you will find all the content—feature articles, member news, member bios, firm listings, weblinks, videos, sketchbooks and SEGD courses and events—for each practice area.

Also under the Xplore tab, you can see all SEGD content by Industry Vertical (like Healthcare or Retail) or Design Fundamental (like ADA or Branding).


With the valuable info you now collect using Leadfeeder on search and visits on the website, can firms review or purchase it for their own use?

We embarked on this intelligence gathering as a form of behavior research to learn what potential clients are seeking on our website. Knowing, for example, they will search for signage when they really need a wayfinding solution, helps us fine tune our tags and indexes. That allows potential clients to connect to you and your firm on much more effectively.

As this work is completely manual data mining - much like working with Google Analytics - we don’t have the staff resources to offer it as a service. But we will be producing summary information for the membership.

The work has proved our underlying assumption in the design of the new website that there were thousands of clients or potential clients visiting the site to look for designers, fabricators and vendors. This is true and we can now see over 170 City and Government Institutions visiting a month, over 700 universities and similar numbers of Museums, Healthcare facilities, transportation utilities etc. With over 40,000 visits a month, that should be no surprise given we only have 1750 members. If you are not on you are missing a huge opportunity.

Understanding the behavior of our site’s visitors also helps us design the information flow so they reach their search goals easier and more efficiently. It will also help us better describe what the site can do for members, and enable us to create new valuable member benefits.


Finding and retaining excellent fabrication partners continue to be a challenge. Is there opportunity for open dialogue about designers and fabricators helping each other execute with excellence?

There are many opportunities for open dialog. A series of conversations - possibly at the chapter level - and outcomes in an article outlining expectations from both sides would be a good start.

We are looking for a way to describe or index the criteria that designers seek in a fabricator. This would help tremendously in matching fabricator and designer on

Making a match between designer and fabricator is definitely not easy yet and we are working on ways to help facilitate the partnerships necessary for great projects. Right now, you can start by looking at SEGD Sponsors, all of whom are very well respected partners in the profession. These firms are deeply involved with the organization, the profession and awarded for their excellent work.


As experiential graphic designers, how can we educate multi-disciplinary or non-design focused firms to let us solve the bigger, meaningful problem vs. providing the off-the-shelf solution they ask for?

The simple answer is that SEGD already promotes design excellence through the Global Design Awards and the regular weekly feature articles on By ensuring that everything we produce online is search optimized, we’ve grown website visitors by 200% and pages views by 300% over the past three years. That is generating a lot of awareness for design excellence already!

The long answer is that we recognize the issue and we’re tackling it head on. Kate Heller, our Director of Content, is constantly looking for deeper dives for our articles. It is not enough to write a description of the project; we need to present in-depth details on the challenges the designer tackled, the thoroughness of their design process and the skill and craft of the fabrication. We ask about the ROI of each project we write about. We ask what criteria are used to measure the success of a project and what user research was done to determine the real issues to be solved.

It is challenging to get this information from firms. But we persist so that we can determine if there is really a commitment among the profession to solve the bigger problems or not. Graphic and Product Design have used Design Thinking as a language to ratchet themselves effectively into the C suite. I hear very little discussion about the use of Design Thinking as a process to get to the C suite in our community and I believe that is where the real issue lies. As we keep researching, we have a hunch that Wayfinding for instance is a cornerstone of the customer experience. We applied for a grant to try to do some research on that topic this year. However, it is customer experience that will be discussed in the C suite, not wayfinding, a component of it. Language is everything in getting to a strategic level.


I would find it rewarding to work with students in my community more, as a member of SEGD, not as a manufacturer or fabricator—but as a mentor.

Last year, we encouraged all Chapters to increase their outreach to schools in their cities, with a goal of creating stronger connections between students and our community. Mentorship would be a great addition to that outreach, probably at the local level, as it is far more effective over a cup of coffee than via email.


What has SEGD done to facilitate designer/fabricator interaction? What aspects of SEGD are most beneficial to fabricators?

We emphasize the equal importance of designers and fabricators in the partnership and standing within SEGD whenever we can. We have substantially improved sponsorship and advertising opportunities and benefits to ensure good value for fabricators and designers and a high profile in how we present our sponsors, including showing a headshot of the sponsor rep at events so people know who to connect with. We’ve been working to ensure that SEGD provides 50% physical benefits (through our events) and 50% benefits(through our website; that includes a big firms listing section - one of the top 20 pages on our website. On-line, we have implemented member bios and firm listings so the community can get to know each other more quickly, more effectively and in greater depth. None of this existed 3 years ago.

At a deeper level, there are effectively two types of fabricators. Those who view what they do as a craft and focus on producing excellence, and those who are volume producers more interested in small batch runs and volume. We don’t have a complete picture of what business model each fabricator works on as it is never even one or the other. SEGD allocates a lot of time and effort to highlighting excellence in the profession. Use the Awards and the listings of the partners who produced the excellence in every awards article to look for quality partners. That is where you will find this sort of information.


What trends are prevalent with digital technology for the built environment?

SEGD hosts Xlab every November in New York specifically to highlight what is happening at the cutting edge of digital. The Digital Technology link from the Xplore page on the SEGD website contains all the information that has been published about new trends in technology over the past few years: new applications of technology to create experiences in projects, how people are experimenting with new technologies such as digital mapping, Smart Cities, Virtual Reality and more. Another fantastic member resource is the collection of 50 videos from leading practitioners in the use of digital technology that can be accessed on the SEGD Talks page at These videos from Xlab and other events provide a very clear picture of where the profession is in the implementation of digital technology into their projects.


How does SEGD report material developments and trends? What are some examples?

We have the mechanism: Member News. Once an item is posted on the home page, it cycles off into the appropriate Xplore tab as part of those indexed archives. We rely on members to submit their news and it’s tough to get them to think about as a news outlet. But with over 420,000 visitors every year, we are definitely a very good place to launch your newest project!


Many thanks to Kolar Design for hosting SEGD's first “Conversations with Clive” event with the Cincinnati Chapter. On November 10, a collective of thirty designers, fabricators, educators, and digital media representatives engaged in conversation with SEGD CEO Clive Roux, and each other, about where the organization's focus has led the community thus far, in addition to what is happening in the design schools and the professional community. Clive presented the organization’s “what’s next?” goals and gave insights into the model for our future website. The SEGD Strategic Plan 2015-2018, outlined by Clive and the Board, states that SEGD should “Become a vital tool for the profession.” In order to educate and inspire, 50% of the focus should be on network / face-to-face events and 50% focus on informing, through the website. A lot of time and research has gone into understanding our membership base, how we currently use the website and tools, and the “specialties” that our member firms are marketing themselves as offering. (It’s more diverse than you think!) A good portion of the conversation was geared toward Experiential Design and cross-disciplinary education as well. Q+A forms were filled out by many attendees during the event for Clive to respond to on behalf of SEGD. The Q+A feature will be posted on the SEGD Cincinnati page for all to read. The format of this event was so well received that Clive took the presentation and ‘Conversation’ to Singapore the very next week as he met with their chapter chair and design community / students at Tongji University.

November 11 was the 20th Annual Cincinnati Design Awards banquet and the project submissions did not disappoint. Clive Roux sat on the jury panel and had this to say about the  experience: “They are called the Cincinnati Design Awards, but the Experiential Graphic Design work we reviewed was simply world class and considering the number of entries it was great to see how many were winners. I also felt that the awards make for a really fun day of judging given the number of different professionals present in the room.” The Cincinnati Design Awards (CDA) program recognizes the best built-environment design produced by Cincinnati area creative firms and promotes the social and economic value of good design in our community. Each year, a distinguished nationwide jury of design thought leaders and eminent practitioners presents the awards to submitted projects created by local architecture, interiors, landscape, and experiential graphic designers.

Congratulations to all of the 2016 CDA20 Award Winners, including the following in the SEGD category:

Honorable Mention – Cincinnati Children’s Liberty Expansion (Kolar Design)
Honorable Mention – RAMTEC Center at Scarlet Oaks (MSA Architects)
Merit Award – Cincinnati Children’s Proton Therapy Center (Kolar Design)
Honor Award – Procter & Gamble, Geneva Business Center (Kolar Design)


SEGD is the smallest, friendliest, most open design association. Join and find out what community really means!.