YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Maybe you've seen the slogan somewhere around Youngstown — The City of You. You might find it on the side of a building, the back of a sign or a promotional item.
The platform was developed by Youngstown State professor R.J. Thompson, who was given the Ohio Governor's Award in the Arts for Community Development in May. He was selected from a pool of 65 applicants.
Thompson is an assistant professor of Graphic and Interactive Design. He said he got the job of devising marketing strategies for the city four years ago through his student-run graphic design agency — Youngstown Design Works — and a government grant.
His first problem?
"There was no branding to speak of for the city."
The brand, Thompson decided, would be "The City of You," which incorporates nicely with the first three letters of Youngstown.
"This idea of, 'Build yourself up in the City of You. You can become the best version of yourself here, and stay in Youngstown, and contribute your skills and your capabilities to progressing the city forward,'" he said.
"My first reaction was, 'Kind of gimmicky.' A little bit, at first," said Stephen Poullas, who co-owns the Soap Gallery downtown.
After he was exposed to the full brand of "The City of You," Poullas loved it.
"Then when I realized it's integrating the entire community and it's making you feel part of the community, I thought it was genius," he said.
A big part of "The City of You" platform is podcasts with people of Youngstown, telling their stories and sharing why the city is important to them.
"We're at episode 197 so we're talking to a whole bunch of people," Thompson said.
"The City of You" can be found on t-shirts, buttons and lapel pins. It shows up on the sides of buildings and was used for a Christmas greeting. But ultimately, "The City of You" is about the people who live here.
"Get the stories of the people who live here out into the world," Thompson said.
"The City of You" is only being used in Youngstown, not in the outlying areas. Eventually, Thompson would like to create similar brands for other communities and then bring them all together in one big Mahoning Valley brand.