City buses get a lift from students with new graphics, slogan

By University Communications
May 26, 2015
UW-Stout students Melissa Cross, left, and Kelsy-Ann Hayes apply graphics on a Dunn County Transit bus.

Photo: UW-Stout students Melissa Cross, left, and Kelsy-Ann Hayes

Since it was founded in 2010, Dunn County Transit — Menomonie's public bus service — has had plain white vehicles with very little signage.

Partly because of that lack of visible branding, some residents in and around Menomonie have been reluctant to hop on the bus because they didn't know that the vehicles coming down the road and stopping at the corner were for them.

"With the general public, it's been a hard sell," said Kent Conklin, Dunn County Transit director. "We want to show people this is a community bus. We need to get people's attention."

Conklin didn't have to travel far to solve his problem. In fact, the solution was right on one of the bus routes. He connected with University of Wisconsin-Stout and its cross-media graphics management undergraduate program.

Each year students in a senior-level practicum class take on projects for nonprofit and campus clients and alumni. Conklin asked the class, taught by retired Professor Jim Tenorio, for help.

The rest was easy. "I just went to two meetings. It was a turnkey project. They did everything," Conklin said.

Starting in late April after several months of work by four students, the new-look buses began traveling city streets with highly visible, colorful graphics. The buses also have a catchy new slogan, Enroute: Driving Community Together, and each bus is clearly defined for customers as a "Stout Route" or "Community Route."

The students, led by designer and project manager Kelsy-Ann Hayes, a senior from Sturgeon Bay, designed graphics that tap into the history and feel of Menomonie and Dunn County. They feature the UW-Stout Clock Tower, Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts, Wilson Park bandshell, city railroad bridge over the Red Cedar River and farm and bike trail scenes.

Hayes created the imagery with a software program, and she and her teammates then produced the large-format graphics in a printing lab.

Students in cross-media graphics management prepare for careers in which they integrate —from design to delivery —print, the Web, mobile technology, social media and other communications channels for customers. Learn more at www.uwstout.edu/programs/bscmgm.

Conklin couldn't be happier with the results. "I really like the Driving Community Together slogan. We're trying to increase general public ridership," Conklin said.

"It's a project students should be proud of. It has very high visibility content for a student project, and it's a big thing for us," he added. "We're really proud of the buses."

Tenorio agreed. "The buses are really eye-catching. The graphics make the buses look less institutional."

From design to delivery

Dunn County Transit's only cost was for materials and time, about $5,000, or about half of what a similar project might have cost commercially, Hayes said.

"We literally rebranded their company," Hayes said.

Along with creating the slogan and designing the graphics, students managed the setup, printing and lamination of the large vinyl sheets. They also applied the graphics to four of Dunn County Transit's eight buses during a daylong project at the Dunn County Fairground.

The largest graphic was 17 feet long and 21 inches high and took more than an hour to print. The first day of printing kept students in the lab for 12 hours.

"We had to do all aspects of a real job. All the courses in the major lead up to this class," said Melissa Cross, of Bryant, one of the team members.

The other team members were Ryan Dolan, of Menomonie, and Matthew Stoutenburg, of Hayward.

The project was pre-approved by the Dunn County Transit Commission and Dunn County. Keith McCarten, campus parking coordinator, helped connect Dunn County Transit with Tenorio's class.

Dunn County Transit plans to incorporate the new slogan and graphics into other marketing materials and new bus shelters, the latter project which also could involve UW-Stout students.

The bus graphic project was one of 43 projects completed by 24 students this semester in the practicum class. For example, the same team —led by Stoutenburg —designed and printed a new handbook for Family, Career and Community Leaders of America chapters in Wisconsin. The UW-Stout chapter coordinated the project with the class.