Open 24 Hours: CreateAthon 2014

"Hey Katie, how’s it going out in Phoenix?”

“Good! I’m loving it. Working on some fun projects, we need to catch up.”

“Awesome! Can’t wait to hear about it! Hey, I wanted to ask if you would like to come out to Furman and participate in a CreateAthon event. We’re not sure about the dates yet, but thinking either the end of January or February. Would you be interested?”

“I think so! Tell me more….”

As I was ending this phone call with my college design professor, Ross McClain, my first thought was, “What have I gotten myself into.” Granted, I hadn’t agreed to anything yet, but I was already feeling the strong desire to take part in this 24-hour CreateAthon. This event, first started by Riggs Partners hailing from Columbia, South Carolina, has now been hosted by 73 ad agencies across the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada and now Furman University's design department was about to take part at the end of February.

I knew that not only would it be good to visit my alma mater, but it was a high honor as well to be asked to take part. Helping me in this endeavor was also Geno Church, a social media (if you can put him in one "box") expert currently working in South Carolina, and the talented design students in Furman's art department. In the spirit of CreateAthon, the client stood behind a social cause: in this case, it was the prevention of child abuse on a local and, hopefully, state-wide level.

Photos courtesy of Ross McClain

Photos courtesy of Ross McClain

In a nutshell, here is how the tiring but fulfilling 24 hours went:

3:00pm: Students are collecting, they know the creative brief. The client, Russell, is there to give us a few pointers. Me, Geno, and Ross head the initial discussions.

4:00pm: After having met with Russell and we do introductions, Geno starts off the group with brainstorming activities that result in initial thoughts, questions, and the beginning stages of concepts from the students.

5:30pm: The students are ready to start concepting. They break off into three groups.

8:00pm: The students return to the room and present their initial rough concepts. One is approaching a tight concept while the other two are more thought collections than concepts. Feedback is given from me and Geno, the students regroup and think about the concepts one last time.

Midnight: we are ready to make a firm decision on which concept we are moving forward with. The past few hours have been spent fleshing out the three concepts. A clear winner starts to shine through: Fight the Bull. Aspects are taken from the other two concepts and are combined with that one. The students remaining, only about 6 or so, are each given an assignment. It's time to start executing.

4:00am: by this time we have put together a logo, website, toolkit, and a brief strategy for the deck. I've started putting the deck together while students take a short break.

7:00am: deck is mostly done. The next few hours are spent designing extra pieces and refining what we have.

3:00pm: We have presented to the client. Our thanks? Happiness, tears of gratitude, and a major sense of accomplishment from everyone involved.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat.