Campus Banner + Design a quality business model, learning environment for students
Fans visiting the east side of Memorial Stadium this fall to catch a glimpse of Howard’s Rock probably also noticed a 24-foot-wide, 32-foot-high banner affixed to the south upper deck that showcases head coach Dabo Swinney and the coveted College Football Playoff championship trophy next to the Tigers’ 2017 schedule.
The same could be said for fans strolling through the north and south concourses on a given gameday. Hanging above their heads are 6 feet by 9 feet prints commemorating moments from 1981 and 2016, Clemson’s two National Championship football seasons.
Both large format productions are the fruits of a successful, long-time partnership between Clemson Athletics and Campus Banner + Design (CB+D). Despite a relatively obscure location on the third floor of Swann Fitness Center at Fike, CB+D has become a predominant graphic solutions provider for a number of Clemson University and external clients.
With a capable business model and quality learning environment for students, CB+D is a far cry from what essentially started as a low-end printing operation in the first part of the 21st century.
Real Clients, Real Money and Real Projects
Tina LeMay was an advisor to a student programming board in the University Union shortly after her graduation from Clemson. The group recognized a growing need to produce signage on campus.
“We had a small printer, but it got to a point where we were making too many banners and it wasn’t meeting our needs,” LeMay said. “When the division took over management of Littlejohn Coliseum, we got a bigger machine because we were pumping out concert posters.”
To better meet increasing demand, then Vice President Gail DiSabatino approved the formation of a publications department to support creative solutions for Student Affairs. LeMay hired Daniel Austin as an assistant creative director, and the newly named Campus Banner + Design relocated along with Student Affairs Publications to the top level of Fike.
“CB+D only had room 308 in Fike when we started,” Austin recalled. “As it continued to grow over time, we were able to get room 306, which was a conference room at the time, and we cut a doorway between the two to give us a larger production space.”
With an army of students working 40-hour weeks earning graphic communications internship credit, and a 65-inch Roland XC-540 large format eco-solvent printer, production was at an all-time high. But then the Affordable Care Act passed and when it took effect, student workers were limited to 28 hours per week, forcing CB+D to change its model by hiring primarily through the UPIC program.
Nathan Smith was hired as a part-time production manager in January 2013, a role he held for three and a half years until a promotion to full-time status. Smith, who graduated from Clemson with a visual arts degree, began his career as a student employee in CB+D.
“It introduced me to something I wouldn’t have even thought of at the time,” said Smith, who specialized in roughly 60 percent production as a student employee. “I think it’s way different than anything else you can be a part of as a student.”
LeMay reiterated Smith’s assertion and acknowledged strategic student involvement was a key tenet in CB+D’s mission.
“We have a good business model,” she said. “We knew we could provide a quality learning environment for students and they’d be far more prepared than others who hadn’t worked in a business with real clients, real money and real projects.”
Student Growth and Long-Term Impact
As CB+D’s business continued to grow, LeMay recognized the need for a dedicated approach to customer service. She brought Katrin Beck on in January 2015 as a temporary employee, and she was elevated to full-time customer service manager eleven months later.
Upon entering the CB+D reception area, Beck is the first face a customer sees. No stranger to the business world, she worked with H&R Block customer service for about 25 years. But she wasn’t as familiar working alongside such a large group of students.
“It’s been really nice to work in this kind of environment,” Beck admitted. “What I like about this setup is you get to teach students about communication and interaction with the customers. Many of them come from graphic communications or architecture backgrounds, so we work with them on explaining things in layman’s terms.”
Past the reception area, the second room includes two work stations, a cutting area, pickup location for clients and office space for Smith, CB+D’s production manager.
Smith helps prioritize the queue of jobs as they’re separated between quoting, design and production.
“I assign the students what needs to be done from an organizational standpoint,” he said. “We empower them to apply analytical thinking to lead a project through the process, but it’s good to guide them along and keep things organized.”
The third room of the suite is better known as the production space, an area housing two large format Roland printers, a 63-inch laminator and a storage area for different types of material used in printing. CB+D’s options include multiple varieties of canvas, vinyl, laminate, film, photo paper and wraps. One student is in charge of the team’s inventory, ensuring a minimum of each material is on hand at all times.
The newest member of the team, Rob Atkinson, joined CB+D as creative manager in January 2017. With about 40 different types of products created on a regular basis, it hasn’t taken Atkinson long to gain an appreciation for the return on investment yielded to the team’s student staff.
“We have student admins who do price quoting and customer service,” he said. “We have designers that preflight existing files and create graphics. We have students involved in production, both running machines and doing finishing work. They handle every aspect of the business.”
The experience gained through working with CB+D is invaluable from a student’s perspective. Graduates have gone on to careers with LucasArts and Pixar, while one even works for the corporate headquarters of Starbucks in Seattle, Washington.
Those success stories are endorsements for the CB+D model, according to Austin.
“We have a healthy of mix of students from all sorts of academic backgrounds, ranging from architecture to graphic communications to business,” he said. “One of the biggest benefits is seeing our students grow and the long-term impact you have on their lives, and in a direct way.”
‘A Huge Resource for Campus’
In the 2017 fiscal year, the Division of Student Affairs comprised 56 percent of the business, while athletics accounted for 17 percent and academic colleges 14 percent, respectively. Internal clients receive a discount and enjoy the convenience of a transfer payment option.
Roughly nine percent of jobs went to external clients, such as Itron, a manufacturing facility in nearby Oconee County, and Emory University athletics in Atlanta. All told, CB+D generated nearly $185,000 in revenue in the most recent fiscal year.
Clemson Athletics is a big believer in CB+D. On a weekly basis during the fall semester, the football coaching staff selects players of the week. Once players are identified, CB+D students use a template constructed by Associate Director of Creative Media Jeff Kallin and images provided by Associate Athletic Communications Director Brian Hennessy to design mounted boards which are prominently displayed on the second-floor team area of the Reeves Football Complex.
“We’ve had a great relationship with Campus Banner + Design for several years now,” Kallin said. “CB+D has a really strong offering of materials, scale and post-production that we have taken advantage of. Their large format capabilities are very competitive with what we see off-campus, and it’s been a pleasure to work with Daniel, Katrin, Rob and the rest of the team.”
No one works closer with CB+D — and understandably so — than its next-door neighbor, Healthy Campus. A subset of Student Health Services, the department focuses its work on promoting health and wellness initiatives to the campus population.
Lauren Pollard coordinates all marketing and communications efforts for Healthy Campus, whose office shares the third floor with Student Affairs Publications and CB+D. Most of the marketing materials they use to educate the student body on healthy choices — banners, flyers, posters, and even its office window wrap — are produced by CB+D.
“I love working with them because they always produce high-quality designs and materials that perfectly fit our needs,” Pollard said. “Because they’re a part of Clemson, they are familiar with our expectations and ensure all our promotional materials fit our brand and meet department and university standards. They’ve helped us excel in promoting health and wellness initiatives to all students on campus.”
Not bad for a team whose marketability is inhibited a bit by its almost secretive location.
“It’s a huge resource for our campus, and what’s funny is that no matter how much exposure we get, some people still don’t know about us,” Atkinson said. “But we’re truly a student-led business. What gives me the best satisfaction is when our students see the things they produce for campus come to use. They get to say, ‘I did that.’”