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Graphic design students brand Tucker County

WVU students meet with Tucker County stakeholders

West Virginia University graphic design students are helping one of the most rural counties in the state make a name for itself as a popular business and tourism destination. 

Tucker County sits southeast of Morgantown and has never had a highway to connect it to the rest of the world. That will change in the coming years as Corridor H – a 148-mile highway connecting Central West Virginia to Northern Virginia and the only part of the Appalachian Development Highway, authorized by Congress in 1965, still under construction – nears completion.

The Tucker County Cultural District Authority and Tucker Foundation want to take advantage of the opportunity for economic and tourism development that comes with the highway. WVU is one of several partners helping them bring that idea to fruition through a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

“This is a huge project that started with Doug Arbogast, rural tourism specialist at WVU Extension and now includes our department and Landscape Architecture of WVU working on community development and engagement. Our part deals with designing a branding system that best represents Tucker County,” said Eve Faulkes, professor and coordinator of Graphic Design in the School of Art & Design. “Our goal is to help Tucker visualize its own identity while preserving the county’s culture as they would like it.”

Arbogast, Faulkes and her students have interviewed and surveyed Tucker County residents to better understand their vision for the county. Faulkes says an emphasis on authentic, healthy-living close to nature and community is a major key to the identity residents want to convey.

“They want to develop and grow, but Tucker County wants to stay Tucker Culture,” she said. “No chain or box stores, lots of adventure, tight communities, a lot of history and more microbreweries and local eateries than you can shake a stick at.”

After doing their research, each student developed a brand identity system – which includes logo, tone, tagline and typeface – they felt represented the county. The designs were then presented to representatives from TCCDA, Tucker Foundation, the county’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Planning Commission and interested residents.

“This project allowed students to be on the ground in an area very different from the campus but often similar to where they came from and talk to people of all ages, hearing their story and seeing how design can help express that,” Faulkes said. “They see the collaborative give and take of negotiating for agreement in small-town politics, and also how to respect those opinions and see how among all possibilities of good aesthetic design, there can be a fit that is really meaningful for an entity.”

Tucker Culture

Each of Faulkes’ students designed a brand identity system for the county. Brooke Deardorff, a junior graphic design major from Charleston, created the selected brand identity system.

“My inspiration for this project as a whole was learning about Tucker County’s history and personality,” Deardorff said, noting that exploring downtown Thomas, one of the county’s small towns, helped set the tone for the project. “I found it very rewarding to help a very big group of people promote their area, which made me eager to do great design for them.”

For Deardorff, the class project gave her a glimpse into the life of a graphic design professional.

“As a student, I have not been exposed to several things that are soon to come when I get in the ‘real world’ and this was a good taste of how communication among a large organization is extremely strategical,” she said. “This experience has taught me a lot about client work and the ups and downs of the design process. It is an experience that I will remember for a lifetime and has helped shape me into a better designer. Since I have now had a glimpse of this style of work, I believe I will feel much comfortable working for client’s and know what to expect.”

Faulkes will continue partnering her students with local communities that are in need of their expertise. 

“Communities are a great laboratory for trying out ways of making a difference that is measurable,” Faulkes said. “West Virginia can certainly benefit from collaborative efforts and we want our students to learn what their major has to do with being good citizens, discovering empathy as a necessary skill and the need to be aware of their larger world.”