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The Great VIA Speling Bee

Sharpening our skills and opening our doors with a comprehensive passion project.

The Great VIA Speling Bee


Half Pep Rally, Half Passion Project: All Amazing

The Great VIA Speling Bee was, like all great ideas, hatched fifteen feet from an open bar. During the keynote of AIGA Louisville’s 2019 awards party, designer Adam Garcia showcased his  “Amazing Stumptown Spelling Bee”. Free cocktail in hand, Director of Strategy (and later Speling Bee “Principal”) Ben Wilson’s eyes lit up with the realization of what this simple, silly idea could hold for VIA: an event that would allow us to engage with the community, bring people into our space, and show off our chops.

Thankfully, the rest of the VIA team agreed and dove in! The first “Great VIA Speling Bee'' opened September 11, 2019 as a part of AIGA Louisville’s Design Week - and was a huge success. It would run monthly until the “Final Exam” championship was cancelled by the pandemic in March 2020.

Charity event spelling bee logo design.


Seriously, Studiously Silly

From the beginning, keeping it simple, casual and more than a little silly was key. While this was a legitimate “spelling bee”, the #1 priority always was to engage our community and provide a fun time - not necessarily crown a champion. The very intentional misspelling of “speling” in the title of the event became our touchstone. If things ever got too tense, complicated or competitive - just remember that you are at an adult spelling bee with a typo in the name.

As we began to design the event, the game and all of the details, we kept going back to “school”. The lo-fi, quirky middle-school aesthetic fit well with the “seriously, studiously silly” concept - and we worked hard to express that throughout every aspect.

Spelling Bee event poster.Louisville, Kentucky spelling bee event poster and handouts.

In the end, we’d use our amazing VIA Studio office space - with it’s gym-like open work area - to host it. We’d use construction paper and balloons to decorate it. Our “collateral”? Laminated placards and dry-erase. The cafeteria (ahem, “bar”) menu would offer both school-themed cocktails and juice boxes. When you survived a round, you got a gold star (ahem, “drink ticket”). Our official “pronuncier” sat at a child’s desk, as you sweated behind the microphone, spelling “chrysanthemum”.

Custom designed book mark prizes for spelling bee charity event in Louisville, KY.Spelling bee rule cards.Cafeteria menu design for a spelling bee charity event.


Bringing You Back to School

Materials were extremely important to the execution of this concept– from the construction paper used on flyers to the chalkboard motif in our social posts, we wanted everything to feel cohesive and authentic. This translated nicely over to the drink tickets, the rule card, and the cafeteria menu, which each had a unique color scheme inspired by vintage ticket stubs, and classic paper stocks. The colors, typefaces and textures were all meant to evoke the feeling of being back in the classroom. Our stage even mimicked the feeling of having to stand up in front of the class. The sights and sounds and smells (you ever got a good whiff of freshly cut construction paper? heavenly.) all transported you to a different time and place.

The posters were an added bonus– each month we would design/illustrate a poster that fit the theme. Some examples are valentines day, finals week, school dances, etc. They were meant to be intriguing and eye-catching in local store windows, and they were a fun giveaway item for people who came to the Bee.

Prize bookmarks in a messy pile.Spelling bee posters with cartoons.


Many Disciplines, One Faculty

All disciplines at VIA sharpened their skills with this project. First and foremost, we rarely host regular events of this size and complexity. Learning to repeatedly and efficiently pull it off with quality was challenging and exciting at the same time.

We used a combination of email, social, paid, earned and event digital media to promote our event. As we do with all marketing efforts, we had a measurable, goal-driven marketing plan that we executed and analyzed.

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Our development team created a cross-platform, cross-tech registration and scoreboard system that made the whole school day run smoothly.

With a strong concept and trusted collaboration, each member of the “faculty” brought something new and authentic to the event.

"Faculty members" screen printed in black on a yellow shirt.


Doors @ 7PM. Bell Rings @ 8PM. NO KIDS.

In the end, we ran five Speling Bees from September 2019 to February 2020 (taking December off for Winter Break, of course). We’re looking forward to doing it again in the future - so don’t change over the summer! See you in the Fall (hopefully)!

Microphone close up with sparkly blue background.Man on stage spelling.Woman on stage spelling.Spelling bee judge reviewing contestant's spelling. Spelling bee winners pose together.Man's hand hovers over a bell.

“Everything about this feel right - and feels like you’ve been doing it for years”

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