When Penn State Graphic Design student Saige Sommese learned the 2016 THON theme was “Believe Beyond Boundaries,” she immediately thought of outer space—a “boundary” that we have overcome. So, when assigned the task of designing a possible logo for THON 2016, she chose to visually represent the theme with a bright orange rocket ship breaking through a turquoise semi-circle dotted with white stars.
Sommese is the most recent in a long line of Graphic Design students who have created the THON logo. The Graphic Design program’s collaboration with THON began in 1991, when professor Kristin Sommese observed the event had a “scattered” identity. So she offered the services of her third-year students, who would design the logo as a class project. The partnership has continued ever since.
The students’ potential logos are submitted anonymously to the THON executive committee, which selects one logo to be used for that year—meaning it’s featured on signage at the event, merchandise available for sale, and the t-shirts worn by hundreds of dancers, volunteers and THON families.
Saige said she was both excited and surprised when she learned her logo was selected, and the experience became more meaningful when she heard from a high school classmate and former pediatric cancer patient who benefited from THON.
“When Sophie [Restall] contacted me on Facebook and told me how much the logos meant to her when she attended THON—that she remembered each year by the logo—I realized how important the logo really is,” said Saige Sommese. “It’s cool that something I designed could mean so much.”
THON benefits Four Diamonds, which supports pediatric cancer patients at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, and is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. Designing the logo for such an event is a feather in any designer’s cap. But the project is also valuable work experience.
According to Kristin Sommese, the experience of creating the logo is beneficial because it gives students a glimpse into what they may encounter in their professional careers. “It really parallels what they may find in a design firm, with multiple people working on different options for a brand identity,” she explained.
Eric Pohle, merchandise director for THON 2016, was involved in selecting this year’s logo. He said the committee looks for the best representation of that year’s theme, which is always announced at Homecoming. The THON logo is revealed in December at the annual carnival for Four Diamonds families. “Each person [on the selection committee] looks for something in the logo that represents THON to them,” he said. “It’s always exciting to see the logo on t-shirts around campus after the reveal at the family carnival.”
For Saige, the logo not only represents the theme, but also what young cancer patients and their families are experiencing. “I wanted my logo to serve as a visual beacon of hope, of breaking through the boundaries that these kids face in their everyday life, fighting pediatric cancer.”
THON 2016 will take place from 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 19 through 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 21, at the Bryce Jordan Center, and is open to the public. For more information, visit https://thon.org. To order merchandise with this year’s logo, visit https://store.thon.org.
Photo by Brandon Rittenhouse