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Q&A with Ologie's chief creative officer and founder Beverly Ryan

Posted by Kitty McConnell on September 6, 2013

Beverly (Bethge) Ryan, partner and chief creative officer of Ologie, founded the branding firm fresh out of the Columbus College of Art & Design in 1987. Originally located in an office in the Jefferson Center for Learning and the Arts, Ryan says the firm was built one client at a time.

“There were no bank loans, no trust funds, it was incremental growth. So, nothing fancy just kind of the daily grind and growing as we had the funds to do it,” says Ryan. The Columbus native credits her hometown with fostering an environment where creative industry can thrive.

Today, 73 employees work in Ologie’s stylish Discovery District office (as featured in Columbus CEO’s Sept. issue “Office Space” photo spread).  

The firm has branded notable clients across a range of industries, from JP Morgan and Nationwide to the Food Network. Ologie's established itself in higher education branding, working with Columbus-based and out-of-state institutions. The firm has branded big players (Ohio State, Purdue, Notre Dame, UC Berkeley and Vanderbilt) as well as smaller institutions like Kenyon, Capital, Kent State and Columbus State.

Last month, Ryan spoke with Columbus CEO about her industry, her city and Ologie's not-for-profit work in the local arts community:

 Since 1987, how has your work changed in keeping with technology?

“I don’t think that the creative direction has changed. I would say that we’re able to do more. The work that we do has more impact because of the digital and video components of the work that we do. Whether it’s video that’s really emotive, or moves people and changes their minds, that’s a big part of our work. I feel like the breadth and depth of work that we’re doing (covers) all forms of media--which is, I think, really what technological advances have done for people. A firm like ours can do video, we can shoot photography, you know, all of the technology is there for us.”

And in contrast to the firm’s early days?

“It was strictly print. The Macintosh wasn’t even in the workplace for a couple of years. For the first couple of years in the firm we were doing traditional production boards and pasting down type galleys. The business--you can hardly even quantify it--it’s amazing how much this kind of business has changed.”

How did Ologie find a niche in higher-ed branding?

 “I would say that we fell into it and then it became really strategic for us. So we started working for our friends: Columbus College of Art & Design was our first college where we worked on the branding and position of the school. Ohio Wesleyan, which was another friend, and then Capital. All of that work was local, but it was really different and broke a lot of ground in the marketplace.

“The folks in higher ed started to pay attention and we became really well known for doing breakthrough work. Then it was, ‘This is very fun! We enjoy it a lot and we feel like we make a huge impact and we’re doing something different.’ So that became a huge focus for us and we’ve been very successful in that category.”

And how has the firm approached college branding differently?

“I think that higher education branding in the past has been very conservative and more research driven—it hasn’t been around ‘What’s the big idea?’ and “What’s the concept?’ and doing something bold. I think bold work didn’t have a home in higher education. (But) in fact, you’re talking to 16, 17, 18 year olds, and if (there’s) any audience that requires bold work, it’s them.”

What do you enjoy about those contracts in particular?

“I think that we’re very good at the intuitive aspect of our work where we understand what makes a place a place. Every college campus I’ve stepped on is different. They’re not all the same. There (are) these nuances, and if we’re able to craft a story that’s really authentic, that means that they’re going to recruit students and attract students that really connect with that. It’s almost like being a great matchmaker for education. That means they’re going to have great retention and students are going to have a great experience. So I feel like we’re doing good work.”

Do you still do work for CCAD?

“We do, we’re highly involved. I’m on the board.”

What’s your role on the CCAD board?

“I am the committee chair for the advancement side of the school, which is all their fundraising and philanthropy efforts. I’m also on the marketing committee, so I still help to craft their admissions message and--as the school evolves and grows--expand their messaging work.”

How would you characterize CCAD’s message today?

“I think that what’s so important is that you lead with what your differentiated message is: what makes you different? And what makes CCAD different right now is that you can start your major the first day that you go there. So, you get to focus faster, which means you find out what you love quicker, and that’s really the message they lead with.”

What’s the value of your volunteer work for local arts organizations?

“We track it, every year, because it’s an accounting function. I would say for the last 20 years we’ve done between $500,000 and a million, at least. So you can do the math on that, it’s a lot. We’ve just made a huge commitment to the community and I feel good about that.

Are you a Columbus native?  

“I am, I am, I went to Saturday school at CCAD….when I was little.”

Were you studying art back in primary school?

“I was. I feel like Columbus really supports that, you know. If you really love art and design, if you’re an artist in Columbus, Ohio, even if you’re little there (are) so many outlets.”

 

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