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Small Business Revamp Aided by New High School Programming

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

Photo of exterior of newly renovated building

Professional development and community improvement through design are at the core of the Summer Youth CoLab, a Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) program launched in 2023. The program aimed to build a diverse pipeline to design careers, support a local business, and expose high school interns to the wealth of opportunities available in the design profession. In action, these goals provided 10 high school students in the region an opportunity to learn,

design, and implement their ideas in a rigorous six-week program. The opportunity also

elevated two small businesses, Rambling House and Honey Cup Coffee, with an exterior refresh that celebrates and integrates the business within the culture of the SoHud community.

Exterior of Rambling House before improvements

In development for several years and inspired by other NDC programs, Power of One and

614Beautiful, NDC embarked on the opportunity to launch the program with the generous support from BDT Foundation, Ingram White-Castle Foundation, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, The City of Columbus - Department of Neighborhoods, and The Ohio State

University – Planning, Architecture & Real Estate.

Curriculum for the program introduced concepts of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, city planning, and graphic design to students as a foundation for the design project. This included a site visit to see the environment and document existing conditions, and a client meeting with building/business owners to understand priorities for improvements, color and branding guidelines, and aesthetic considerations. Once equipped with this knowledge, interns were placed into 3 groups to work on strategies for the building. Throughout the design phase, groups were provided opportunities to practice presentation skills and refine design ideas, culminating in a final presentation to a jury of business owners, design professionals, and program stakeholders.

While the jury selected a final concept, components of the remaining 2 groups were integrated into the final design. Improvements included new base paint of the building, a linework art graphic along 3 facades of the building, new awnings, revamped furnishings, and new signage, all providing big personality reflective of the business and burgeoning creative neighborhood. Interns were also provided opportunities to research and refine design ideas, develop a list of materials needed, and learn about budgeting. With support from NDC staff, interns spent the closing two weeks of the program taking the design from paper and computer screens to walls and spaces with a big reveal to participants family and friends, other design professionals, and program funders at a closing celebration in August 2023.

Before the makeover, we got lots of feedback that the exterior of our building was dull and looked vacant or scary. Our goal for the project was to bring the warm and inviting vibe inside the venue to the exterior, and to attract new customers...The students listened intently to what we wanted from the project, and their design is beautiful and right on point. We love it! Rambling House

Thanks to the generosity of local design firms and organizations Campus Partners, City of Columbus - Department of Neighborhoods, Meyers + Associates, MKSK, and MORPC, interns were also provided an opportunity to explore how design translates into careers. Firms guided interns through personal journeys, "day in the life" presentations, firm tours, and thought-exercises that built upon program presentations, field visits around Columbus, and experiences in the design studio. The variety of firms also exposed interns to the wide variety of career paths, private/public-sector work, and development and policy areas impacted by design.

The program also provided additional employment opportunities for two current OSU students, Elsie Almodovar-Reyes and Haylee Zavaski, who supported the day to day operations of the program as student coordinators. The Summer Youth CoLab advances NDC's belief that design is a right not a privilege, inspiring a more inclusive generation of design professionals, and leveraging partnerships to ensure that together, we create stronger communities.


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