When graphic design students Shelby Aranyi, Miranda Melton and Liz Meyers received an email blast through the College news board about participating in a user experience design contest, it immediately caught their attention.
“User experience is something we constantly discuss in studio,” Melton said. “Liz and I knew we wanted to team up together because we both felt we could use our knowledge of marketing and graphic design combined into one project. We asked Shelby if she wanted to join the group and then got permission from our professor Kermit Bailey to pursue it as an independent project for our graphic design studio.”
The competition, the Brand X Challenge, was created to celebrate the power of experience design to transform brands – and to introduce the discipline to the next generation of brand design thinkers. Created by experience marketing agency, George P. Johnson, and in partnership with industry publications Event Marketer and Event Design, teams of students across the country were invited to design a mock experiential marketing campaign using an Under Armour sponsorship as inspiration. Under Armour’s head of events provided “immersion training” to all teams on the company brand and designers from George P. Johnson’s creative team served as team mentors.
“The project was announced in early February 2013 and began in early March. It was a very fast-paced competition, only giving about a month to develop a plan and create graphics,” Melton said. “Our first approach after watching the video brief was to really understand and immerse ourselves in the Under Armour brand. We watched several video commercials and explored the website in detail. We also did a lot of research and gathered inspiration from looking at case studies of successful branded events as well as interaction design. We also researched trends in technology to ensure we were using innovative approaches to tackle the project.”
The team’s mock campaign – which they named “Unleash Your Athlete” – was targeted toward elementary through high school-aged children, and would be a kickoff to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics that supports Team USA. The campaign tied together a virtual snowball fight at malls across America with interactive elements like a mobile application that allows users to play augmented reality games.
Aranyi, Melton and Meyers beat out more than 60 other teams by impressing a panel of 40 judges drawn from some of the world’s top global brand marketing teams and design industry associations. The news of their win was an exciting shock to the team.
“I remember none of us wanted to celebrate prematurely. We received an email a few days before winners were announced but it was very vague, so we held our excitement in until the result was final on the Brand X Facebook page” Aranyi said. “I remember my mom called me that morning around 6 a.m. She had been refreshing the page all morning for the final results. I was as ecstatic as I could be for it being that early in the morning!”
The team received a cash prize and coverage in Event Marketing magazine. In addition, in May they were flown to Chicago to attend the Event Marketing Summit and be recognized in an awards ceremony in front of 1,000 event marketers.
But to Melton, the take-away was even bigger.
“I think, in general, what we liked so much about the challenge was that it was grounded in the real world,” Melton explained. “We had existing things to work off of, and the experience was much different than creating everything from scratch and imagining variables like we normally would in a studio project.”
And, when asked if any of the women planned on launching careers in sports marketing and apparel, Aranyi just laughed. “I don’t know about that. But looking at all the Under Armour ads during our process made me want to start working out again,” she shared.
By: Caroline Barnhill