Prof earns state honor for "City of You" campaign

R.J. Thompson

“City of You,” a multifaceted marketing campaign for the city of Youngstown created by Youngstown State University faculty member R.J. Thompson, has been named best in its category by the Ohio Economic Development Association.

Thompson, an assistant professor of Graphic + Interactive Design, said the campaign replaces Youngstown’s former rustbelt reputation with a positive, inclusive public image as a city “where anyone can build a future for themselves.”

The OEDA selected “City of You” as the winner in the Economic Development Marketing category for medium sized communities – those with populations of 50,000 to 150,00 – for the association’s 2017 Annual Excellence Awards. The award will be presented at the OEDA Summit, set for Oct. 18-20 in Columbus, Ohio.

“This is a tremendous honor for me,” said Thompson. “It recognizes the strong, supportive relationship between YSU and the city of Youngstown, and perhaps most importantly, the power that design can have on culture and community.”

Creation of the “City of You” campaign was a three-year process for Thompson, and one of several projects funded by a $250,000 grant awarded YSU and the city of Youngstown by the United States Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration. The funds provided several new tools for the city, including marketing materials, a new website, a podcast and youth programming.

The campaign has strengthened the partnership between YSU and the city, Thompson said, and it can be customized to represent other communities, neighborhoods and civic organizations across the region.

Thompson is also director of Youngstown Design Works, a design agency run by YSU Graphic and Interactive Design students that provides services to area businesses. He has created several interactive course applications for smart phones and has created interactive phone applications for the McDonough Museum of Art, the City of Youngstown and Youngstown Farmers Markets.

Thompson joined the YSU faculty in 2012. He holds an MFA in Graphic Design from Savannah College of Art and Design, a BS in Graphic Design from California University of Pennsylvania and an Associate Degree in Specialized Technology in Visual Communications from the International Academy of Design & Technology.