Books & Co., in Dayton, Ohio, recently reached out to its local young adult population in an innovative way that has proved mutually beneficial to both a group of college students and to the bookseller. It has also paved the way for future academic and artistic collaborations between the local university and the bookstore.

According to Deb Covey, Books & Co.'s business development director, the bookstore had long sought to strengthen ties with the local student population and other potential patrons in the late teen—early 20s age range. "Most of our patrons are in their 50s. We wanted to make 20-somethings comfortable coming into our store. We knew this generation would appreciate the qualities that a bookstore like Books & Co. has to offer, once we got them in the door," Covey explained.

Books & Co., which is part of the Books-A-Million chain of bookstores, is located several miles away from the University of Dayton. Since the store does not benefit from student walk-by traffic, it has had to make conscious efforts to become a destination for the university crowd.

The Plan

While making plans to celebrate Books & Co.'s 25th anniversary, and ruminating on how best to attract young people into Books & Co., Covey experienced an epiphany. Why not include University of Dayton students in the bookstore's preparations for its anniversary celebration?

Covey approached the head of the University of Dayton's graphic design department, and discussed the bookstore's need for a snazzy new logo to commemorate its 25th anniversary. The bookseller and the professor agreed to join forces, tapping into the creative potential and artistic abilities of the students majoring in graphic design.

The project became a semester's assignment for a class of 18 seniors, who, for academic credit, competed to design a new logo and a poster for the bookstore. The store considered the assignment to be a mini-internship, while the professor teaching the course treated it as the class's senior project. Covey even met with the class several times during the semester, helping them to conceptualize their designs by discussing with them the history and philosophy of the store, as well as how Books & Co.'s staff envisions the store's role in its next 25 years of existence.

The project was a resounding success. The 18 posters and logos were put on display in the bookstore, and customers and staff were encouraged to provide feedback on the designs. "The energy created by the new logos was amazing!" an enthusiastic Covey told PW. "They are so good—each design looks so unique, yet all look so professional."

The designs were winnowed down to six finalists before the store chose Cathy Baker's winning logo, which was officially unveiled during an April 22 wine-and-cheese reception at the store (sponsored in part by Distributed Art Publication) in honor of the students. Baker's winning logo will enhance Books & Co. promotional merchandise and giveaways. Shirts, hats, bags, posters, mugs, and bookmarks will be imprinted with the design.

While Cathy Baker's design earned her $150 (which the bookstore funded from its co-op from Harry N. Abrams), all of the students participating in the project earned academic credit for their efforts.

All 18 designs will be displayed on a single poster in Abrams's booth at the BEA. Carol Morgan, director of publicity for Abrams, is highly supportive of Books & Co.'s partnership with the University of Dayton, and told PW, "What Books & Co. is doing with local art students is a great idea that other bookstores might consider. Something like this unites a local bookstore and a community in a way that a chain bookstore can't do. Collaborating with local groups or students like this to create something encourages people to feel a warmth about going to this bookstore."

"I'm going to talk up this project to my fellow booksellers at BEA, and show off these students' work," said Covey.

"We hope that more bookstores and students will collaborate on such projects," Covey added. "It could not have worked out better. What a win-win situation: these students are getting real-life experience that they can include in their professional portfolios, while we get an amazing logo for our 25th anniversary. If anyone calls me about any of these 18 students, I'll give every one of them a good recommendation. I'm just floored by the entire experience."

Now that Books & Co. and the university have developed a working relationship, Covey intends to foster it. She already plans to collaborate further with the university by organizing in-store student art and photography exhibits, as well as other events showcasing the talents and interests of Dayton's student population.