A fresh look

Working together, Webster City business owners and Iowa State University students met on Tuesday to create new looks for local shops.

Twenty-four senior design students travelled from Ames Tuesday morning to meet the business owners they would be working with for the university’s Downtown Design Project. Students asked business owners questions about what existing designs, logos, colors and advertisements the owners were using and will use that information to improve the look of those businesses.

Among those business owners was Faye Mason. She is working to open “ReSale by Fras,” a large furniture consignment shop set to open around mid-November. It is opening through the Webster City Incubator Project, created by the Chamber of Commerce to help find more businesses in town. The project includes reduced rent, assistance with building a business plan and a free local building inspection.

“I starting asking around downtown, and people told me we need a used furniture store in town,” Mason said.

While many of the students who came to assist with the project were working with businesses who have had longstanding logos and outdoor designs, ISU senior Spenser Johnson talked with Mason about how she would want to build a brand identity from the ground up.

“I want to get a real feel for what she wants for the place, what they’re selling, what you want to draw people in, and after looking at the place, I’m going to work to make what she wants a reality,” Johnson said.

To get an idea of what Mason was looking for, Johnson asked what she wanted to convey about her business through the design. Mason said that she’s looking to sell used furniture, but only furniture that is in good shape. She also plans to sell some clothing items and some new furniture. Mason asked for a modern look with happy color tones.

ReSale by Fras will be located at 641 Second Street, next to Leon’s Pizza. The pair discussed the existing blue awning and blue trim on the business. As the blue is similar to the Leon’s awning, Mason suggested changing the color, but not to one that would clash with the blue next door.

Picking a logo

After Mason and Johnson come to pick a logo for the business, Johnson said she will work on designs for stationary, business cards, letterheads, envelopes and punchcards for the business.

All of the ISU students that attended were part of the Graphic Design 5 class, taught by Associate Professor Paula Curran. This class for first-semester seniors covers corporate identity and incorporates the Downtown Design Project.

This is the second year that Curran has taught the class which has participated in the Downtown Design Project which began in 2000. Last year, the class travelled to Ottumwa and Curran said she and the students had a great experience.

“We had several businesses and the shop owners were more than happy to talk about their businesses with the students,” Curran said. “It really depends on how cooperative the owners are and it sounds like, to me, that the business owners in Webster City are really quite enthusiastic about the students coming here.”

The project has worked with many communities since it began, according to Susan Erickson, PLACE Coordinator at ISU. PLACE stands for partnering, learning and community engagement. She said that the program works with communities that have about 20 to 25 businesses in a central, core downtown location to work with. Other cities the program has worked with include Maquoketa, Dubuque and Marshalltown.

Partnership benefits

The partnership between students and business owners benefits both parties, according to Erickson. Applying what they’ve learned over the years as they prepare to graduate gives them a taste of their future careers.

“What we find is that students really learn more and they work harder and they put out a better product when they have a real world problem to solve,” Erickson said.

Curran agreed, saying that graphic design does not exist in a vacuum.

“For students, its a chance to see the positive impact that design can have on a community,” Curran said. “They’ve had a few applied projects but this is the first one where they deal with clients. They have a chance to hear client feedback with is always very important.”

Whether or not the business owners decide to use ideas or designs the students create is up to them. Students have returned to Ames to continue working on the project and both businesses new and old in Webster City could soon see a fresh, new look.