Goering Center Awards - 2018 by Ryan Newman


Kolar Design is the recipient of the 2017 Goering Center Family & Private Business Finalist Award for Private Businesses with fewer than 25 employees. This annual honor is bestowed upon only two companies and exemplifies what family and private business is and can be.

Kolar Design, founded by Kelly Kolar in 1990, is passionate about finding new and better ways to connect people, places, and brands – from healing environments focused on the patient and family experience to global workplaces that blend corporate and cultural identity. The firm of 17 has always used current employees as the best recruiting tool for the company and has proven that Kolar University is their “secret sauce” for attracting and retaining top-notch talent and emerging leaders.

"We want to thank the Center for this award and the business community that has supported our growth.”

- Kelly Kolar, President, and Founder

This annual recognition program, in its 17th year, honors Cincinnati regional businesses that exemplify the best in family and private business practices. This year, 570 businesses were nominated for these awards. Kolar Design was evaluated by an independent panel of judges who evaluated hiring and employment practices, specifically as to whether those practices have helped Kolar Design unify a multigenerational workforce.

After being named one of only 75 semi-finalists, Kolar Design was then selected as a Finalist for Private Businesses with fewer than 25 employees. Kolar Design is one of an estimated 4,500 family and private businesses in the Cincinnati region; the Goering Center has 330 of these businesses as active members with a goal of 400 members by the end of 2018.  Membership is not a prerequisite for the awards or for a nomination, as nearly half of the semi-finalists are not current Goering Center members.

Goering Center Awards Press Release





When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Will Appear by Ryan Newman

by Nicole R. Roberts

This summer I returned back to my alma mater to team teach Design Systems, a junior-level experiential graphic design (EGD) course. We guide students to research social issues within local communities to co-create wayfinding systems and strategic placemaking design. For most, this is their first encounter designing complex three-dimensional systems, working in scale, and within the built environment. It’s an energizing place where design professionals bring insightful industry expertise to bridge the gap from the workplace to the classroom. This successful model is one that propelled my design career forward as a student many years ago, so it’s an honor to give back.

We are now well into the semester and I can’t help but notice how much the climate within the classroom has shifted since I was last in school. They all have pre-existing ideas about what wayfinding or environmental graphic design is. They are up against the greatest challenge of today’s design student; they are required to learn copious amounts of information within the expansive, global definition of visual communication. The classroom is a true microcosm of today’s larger social context. For that reason, I continue to craft my own teaching techniques by understanding the realities of today's society that drive student behavior, coupled with the expectations professional designers place on new grads. Most importantly to set students up for success, we provide them the freedom to discover their unique superpower and amplify their voice through their own design work.

Day one, we focus on two creative mindsets that are pivotal to the success of today’s professional EGD practice – collaborative teaming and active adaptive behavior. While not new concepts, admittedly they were not top-of mind societal emergence twenty years ago when I sat in the same classroom as a student. More importantly, societal norms back then did not seem to necessitate in-depth design lectures on emotional intelligence and soft skills like empathy. Students are encouraged to remain open to learning from each other’s perspectives, as it adds value when designing for human-experiences. Returning to the classroom, I’ve found that teaching techniques are much like design strategy – today, there is little tolerance for one-size-fits all methodologies. Students must be engaged as unique contributors within the classroom environment.

With digital disruption at the forefront of design systems, we forego the grueling study of hundreds of iterations as I was once taught in design school. Instead, we seek to integrate new opportunities to future-proof students as subject matter experts with heightened skillsets in user research, community engagement and rapid field prototyping. Collaborative critiques with industry professionals and their peers challenge their critical thinking to aim for both growth and refinement consistently over the duration of the project.

It’s known that societal change drives innovative business strategies in the workplace over time. But I’ve found it truly compelling to witness the immediate influence within the educational environment. Students, teachers and design professionals alike – those who do not learn to collaborate well or fail to actively adapt and manage change, become institutions of an old, disrupted story. I believe that it is the duty of those who prevail to rise to the occasion together, as strategic creatives to develop new thinking around meaningful, adaptive systems for purposeful societal advancement. Empowered by the ever-changing design industry, the teacher becomes the student. I like to think of myself as one in the same on any given day, continually learning new capabilities and sharing the knowledge, not only to keep pace and advance, but to make a positive impact on society, uplifting future generations to come.

Originally Published on SEGD.ORG

SEGD's Distinguished Member Award by Ryan Newman

Kolar Design's FOUNDER Receives SEGD's Distinguished Member Award

Kelly Kolar, president and founder of Kolar Design, proudly accepted the prestigious SEGD (Society for Experiential Graphic Design) Distinguished Member award during the Experience Miami Conference held June 8-10 at Lowes Miami Beach Hotel.

The SEGD Distinguished Member Award recognizes an individual for demonstrating outstanding volunteer efforts while significantly contributing to the direction, growth and excellence of SEGD programs. Recipients of the award have been instrumental in cultivating university programs, advancing accessible and green design and promoting cultural agendas through design. Past winners include Alexandra Wood and Lucy Holmes, Cybelle Jones, David Middleton, Wayne Hunt, the SEGD Green Committee and Ken Ethridge.

Kelly Kolar said, "We are honored to be selected by our peers at SEGD for this national distinguished member award. It has been an amazing 25 years building our field and the practice at the intersection of people + place. We thank our clients and community partners that have made this possible for us."

Since she joined SEGD in the 1990s, Kelly Kolar has served the association as an involved supporter, Board Member and ambassador, helping build awareness globally and locally. In addition to her award-winning design work, Kolar has been introducing a new generation to experiential graphic design as an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati. As noted by Robert Probst, Dean, College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning at the University of Cincinnati, "Radical design is possible in Ohio and Kelly seems to have built an entire career on this model, far exceeding Ohio. Today her professional work has global reach and she has evolved into a strong support faculty for experiential design here at the College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning."

About SEGD - https://segd.org/ The Society for Experiential Graphic Design, a nonprofit professional association founded in 1973, is a global, multidisciplinary community of professionals who plan, design, and build experiences that connect people to place. They are graphic and information designers, fabricators, architects, exhibition designers, technology integrators, interaction designers, brand strategists, students, wayfinding specialists, teachers, and others who have a hand in shaping content-rich, experiential spaces. A community of over 1,800 members in 35 countries who gather in 27 local chapters around the world, Experiential Graphic Design involves the orchestration of typography, color, imagery, form, technology and, especially, content to create environments that communicate.

2017 SEGD Conference Wrap-up - Hannah Anderson - Focus by Ryan Newman

It was an exhilarating experience to speak at the 2017 SEGD Conference in Miami. Being tasked with the topic of “Learning from Failure” could have been daunting, but the content was wide open and allowed for three designers with three completely separate experiences to share a common ground. With this presentation, “Focus,” I wanted to deliver a message that was real and that reflected where I am at this point in my career. I think that there is something in it for everyone to relate with. We are human, we are dynamic, and we are always seeking to learn more and do better. Remove the roadblocks, focus, and excel!
— Hannah Anderson

Kolar's Dietrich Speaks at Empathy + Innovation Summit | SEGD by Ryan Newman

Liberty Inpatient Expansion - Cincinnati Children’s - Liberty Township, OH

Liberty Inpatient Expansion - Cincinnati Children’s - Liberty Township, OH

The Eighth Annual Patient Experience: Empathy + Innovation Summit took place May 22–24, 2017, at the Cleveland Convention Center in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.

The Patient Experience Summit brought together patient experience leaders, healthcare CEOs, innovators, nursing leaders, policy makers, major stakeholders, industry experts and patients who are committed to not just the patient or caregiver experience, but also the human experience. The theme of this year’s two-day, inter-professional conference was Empathy by Design and featured expert speakers, panel discussions and workshops representing multiple healthcare professions and disciplines engaged in exploring innovative ways to create and sustain a human-centric environment. Designing programs, services, structures, spaces, processes and more with empathy in mind is key to delivering care that can truly meet the needs of everyone. Attendees heard how organizations around the world strive to deliver the best clinical, physical and emotional experience to patients and families.

"What We Didn't Expect to Learn Measuring the Design Success of the Built Environment" was the session Kolar's Mary Dietrich - EDAC, Managing Director, Creative Services, presented along with Michael Browning - AVP Design, Construction, and Space Management, Cincinnati Children's Hospital - regarding lessons learned ( both expected and unexpected ) from the close collaboration between Kolar Design and Cincinnati Children's for over two decades.

Says Dietrich, "In 2009, Cincinnati Children’s embarked on a journey to redefine its patient, family and staff experience within their built environments. In order to measure its success and drive future improvement opportunities, a quality improvement process was developed. This session will provide insights into this process, planned and unintended insights gathered and how these insights are translated into strategies for continual improvement."

Originally Published on SEGD.ORG

Musical Teamwork by Ryan Newman

For years, the allegory of the team has been used by business leaders as a means of representing their inter-cultural goals and the ideal ways their businesses should run. This concept of a “TEAM” has moved beyond sports and other competitive events and permeated its way into the world of business. As a member of a company, we practice “teamwork,” how to be a “team player” and eventually how to lead our team to success. This is a relatable model and one that we have been learning since the first time we played soccer as young children. We weren’t there to become the world's next soccer stars or to win the big championship; we were there to learn those same skills we are practicing today: teamwork, being a team player, and following direction to success. The problem with this is that the definition of "achievement on the field" and "success in the field" varies and begins to render the team model inapplicable.

No matter what the sport, the “rules of the game” serve to dictate the goals and definitions of success that work within each team. One team may have a different strategy than another, but the overall structure of both the game and the team model only allow for so much derivation. Perhaps business was at one time that predictable and consistent, but today the rules change on a daily basis and companies seem to be spending less time seeking to defeat the competition and more time redefining themselves in such a way that there is no contest. The market has grown to such a scale that when we perfect our approach and define our strategy, another team has rewritten the rules and won the metaphorical "Super Bowl" while we were not looking.


But this isn’t about Super Bowls. Success has been redefined. A successful business is a successful brand... less like a team, more like a band. A band who is interdependent. Cohesive from the inside out. We've always heard there is no “I” in "TEAM," but that is not always the case. Teams have ridden on the shoulders of individuals for years and, undoubtedly, bands have as well. But members of a music group rely on each other in a different way than those on a team do. Bands are only as successful as their fan base. Teams have fans built in. The success of a team is an independent function from their fan base; one doesn’t have to look beyond Ohio to know that's true (Cleveland Browns). If a band puts out a bad album or two their fan base dissolves and, as such, they do as well. When a fan goes to a show, they are there for the sound and the experience. One person may be able to drive the experience, but it takes the whole band playing together, in time, with a smooth sound for the show to go as planned. A group seeks to break the basic top down, coach-guided team structure and works to achieve one harmonious sound. A sound fans return for over and over again.

Wilco fits as a perfect example of this structure. Jeff Tweedy has led the group as the creative engine for years and, for the casual listener, is what makes Wilco who they are. If you were to ask him, though, he would say you've got it all wrong. As it stands today, only two of the current members (one of which being Tweedy) are members of the original group that started in 1994.

“There’s a widely held belief among musicians, and maybe artists in general, that there’s some zero-sum game being played, that it’s a compromise even to think about business as being a part of what you do,” Tweedy says. “I think our approach is that there’s another way to be creative. How we run our business is another thing to think about creatively.”

- Jeff Tweedy

The music industry was not always this way - record labels acted as the coaches and used a predictable market as their cited source for a band's direction. Technology has broken that predictability as music has come to be consumed in more ways than ever imagined. Record labels, like coaches, combined knowledge of the “rules of the game” and worked offensively against the strategies of their competition. The industry worked with the same type of structure a football team does, replacing wins with record sales. When the records stopped selling, though, the structure was shattered. Labels had to adjust or risk becoming outdated and overrun. Bands like Wilco saw this trend and sought to build their structure from within rather than on the shoulders of their label. What resulted was a much stronger and cohesive group that despite conflict and personnel change, has created one of the most consistent fan bases in music today. They may not sell the most records in the industry, and their music is not played on radio stations across the country, but it only takes attending one show to see the power Jeff Tweedy’s creative vision has had.



1. There is no such thing as the “best” member of the band. Each person plays a different instrument and has a different role. You being the best drummer doesn’t directly help me become the best bassist. Each has their moment in the spotlight, and the overall sound is the result of each person's individual talents and successes. That sound is only ever as strong as the weakest link.

2. A good band leader knows when to use their resources. The bass player may not be the best in town but you know he’s got the best tone; Knowing each person's strengths and when to use them is critical.

3. What your members do outside the band is as important as what they do in the band. What can each person bring to the table? True collaboration requires independence. If every member of the group goes home and listens to the same music, their inspirations will be limited and the resulting sound will not push the boundaries it should.

4. Fans need something relatable and revolutionary all at the same time. When a band releases new material, fans want to be reminded of what brought them to the sound in the first place, but are simultaneously searching for the unexpected next step that further deepens their connection to the band. Consumers are notorious creatures of habit, but if you keep giving them the same sound, the fan base doesn’t grow. The goal is to create something that is relatable for those with prior knowledge and acts as a stepping stone for those who have never heard you before. Don’t get stuck in the same rut - keep pushing boundaries while relying on what you know.

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"I think there is a model these days where fashion houses survive by working on the DNA of their founders," he said.
"It is a model that is becoming more and more current and it could work in architecture too, I think."




Cincinnati Children’s Clinical Sciences Pavilion by Ryan Newman


“An exceptional brand experience is brought to life throughout this magnificent new building and embodies our organization’s aspirations. It represents hope, the promise of discovery, and the potential to improve child health.”

-Michael Fisher, Cincinnati Children's President & CEO

When Cincinnati Children’s opened their new Clinical Sciences Pavilion it made a 14-story, 445,000 square-foot commitment to research, innovation, and collaboration. The Clinical Sciences Pavilion is located between the hospital’s main clinical care center and its companion research tower, the William Cooper Procter Pavilion. The positioning of this new facility is symbolic of its purpose which is to connect researchers and clinicians. It allows them to easily collaborate and translate innovations faster from the lab to the patient’s bedside.

Cincinnati Children’s invited Kolar, as a key partner of the multi-disciplinary design team, to envision a branded experience within the physical environment. The vision was to develop a space that inspires collaboration to drive innovation, build a sense of pride in the accomplishments of the organization, and create convenient, delightful spaces that encourage research trials participation.

Kolar began by seeking what makes Children’s research function unique. What we learned is nuances matter:

  • Participants in research trials are not motivated to participate in research the same way patients are motivated to seek care.
  • Pride is individualistic. To build pride, addressing the diverse value sets of the audience was imperative.
  • Providing opportunities to be heard, to give back, and to ask to participate can be very powerful tools in building awareness and brand loyalty.
  • Utilization of space is influenced both by the design and by an organization’s culture.

Equipped with these insights the team was able to define storytelling, brand building, wayfinding, donor recognition, positive distractions, and a comprehensive artwork program to meet the needs of the researchers, administrators, clinicians, patients, families, donors and visitors who utilize the space.

Within the research clinic, the registration and waiting space was designed to provide a functional and delightful experience for families. The spacious, open waiting area overlooks a sculpture garden within a serene outdoor setting. The focal sculpture symbolizes the transformation of ideas into reality that occur daily within this space. Child-friendly activities such as hidden “seek-n-find” animals, interactive games, and play zones provide a variety of choices for children, while plentiful charging stations near tables and banquets provide homework or work spaces for older children and adults during their visit.

The design of the staff spaces was carefully orchestrated by the architectural team to foster a culture of communication and information-sharing. In support of this, Kolar developed storytelling graphics that celebrate the history and accomplishments of the organization. Aimed to foster knowledge of the organization’s history as well as stimulate new conversations, these storytelling graphics engage staff and visitors throughout the building in static and digital approaches.

Throughout the building, Kolar curated a collection of over 600 works of art to inspire and lift those who utilize its spaces. A portion of the collection was created by engaging more than 350 students from local schools and approximately 144 patients, families, and staff. These participants were provided an opportunity to engage with professional artists/art educators in the co-creation of artwork displayed within the building. Through this approach, staff had an opportunity to have a hand in the creation of the new space; patients had an opportunity to give to others, and children within the community had an opportunity to learn about science and research.

In order for the full vision of the space to be realized, Kolar assisted Cincinnati Children’s in the development of a “welcome kit” to celebrate the opening of the new space and acclimate the occupants to the building’s unique amenities and desired culture.

Anyone who walks into the Clinical Sciences Pavilion can feel the spirit of innovation alive and thriving. When 400 researchers were asked if the new space conveys an image on par with the quality of care and research, a post-occupancy survey saw a 30% increase in the old space and the new one. As one staff member said, “I feel inspired when I walk in here every day, and I attribute this feeling of inspiration to my increased productivity and creativity in the past year.”

Within this new building, groundbreaking discoveries will be made that will change the outcome for children around the world. For the Kolar team, it will be immensely rewarding to see how the space enables the next generation of researchers to develop life-saving advancements in pediatric disease.

Check out www.kolardesign.net for more recently updated Healthcare Case Studies.


Architecture & Interior Design
GBBN Architects

Architecture- Research Clinic & Dry Lab Planning
HDR Architects

Wet Lab Planning
Jacobs Consultancy

General Contractor
Messer Construction

Experience Consultant & Artwork Program
Kolar Design

Artwork Selection Committee
University of Cincinnati

Artwork Partner

Artwork Partner
Marta Hewett

Artwork Partner
Art Design Consultants

Art Partner
Mary Ran Gallery

Art Partner
Sollway Gallery

Art Partner
McElwain Fine Arts

Art Partner
Pace Prints

Art Partner
Blue Spiral

Art Partner
Malton Gallery

12 Local Grade and High Schools

81 International Artists


CES & ISA - 2017 by Ryan Newman

As we propel into our year of insights and innovation, one thing has become abundantly clear to our team; progress means constant change and new challenges.  Whether it be in communication, research or design, we are continually looking ahead at what’s next to provide our clients the best connection to people and place. Gaining knowledge in technology focused on the user experience strengthens our ability to create environments that communicate.

Last RALOK post, we brought you to the Digital Signage Expo through the lens of SEGD (Society for Experiential Graphic Design). Today, Kolar Design’s design team reflects on their experience at two additional conferences - the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show and the ISA International Signage Expo - both in Las Vegas.

Consumer Electronics Show

Las Vegas, Nevada

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is one of the largest consumer electronics shows in the world, with thousands of attendees, exhibitor personnel, and media members making the trek from around the globe.  In addition to a large number of participants, there are over 50 acres of exhibit space spread throughout numerous buildings, showcasing a rich abundance of revolutionary ideas.

Key Takeaways

  • Overwhelming the Entirety of Technological Advances

  • EGD needs to not only catch up - but LEAD in this realm or others will. ( Look for a future post on EGD's effect in both the digital and physical landscape.)

  • Wearables that Communicate

Salesforce in San Francisco. Creating an environmental experience without adding materials to the wall. Immersive and engaging. A great example of Digital design creeping into EGD.

ISA International Sign Expo

Las Vegas, Nevada - A Sign Conference in the City of Neon

ISA International Sign Expo is a comprehensive “review” of everything related to the sign and graphics industry — including wide format printing, digital signage, new ideas for printing, LEDs, vehicle wrapping and more. It also sponsors lectures, roundtables, and workshops in order to get up to speed on important industry issues. Learning opportunities abound at the show, with expert-led sign industry-specific educational programs focusing on topics such as graphic design, sign code legislation, business management, sales and marketing, technology and more.

A quick review of all parties ( and accompanying acronyms ) involved in our experience at the conference.

International Sign Association

They support, promote, and improve the sign industry via government advocacy, education, stakeholder outreach, and events. Membership is primarily sign fabricators and suppliers.

Sign Research Foundation.

Supplies academic research on sign strategies, systems, and codes. Facilitates interdisciplinary dialogue to "create more navigable cities, thriving businesses, and strong urban identities." Regularly issue grants and scholarships.


The Cross-Disciplinary Program, sponsored by the ISA. Professional designers and design students with varied focus areas are invited to attend.


A one-day event that combines ISA + SRF + interdisciplinary attendees.
Speakers, case studies, and breakout work sessions.

In addition to the speaker’s topics ( which ranged from 3M Visual Attention Software to the court case of Reed vs. Gilbert ) - an energized group participated in a breakout session. Each group of 9 was encouraged to brainstorm the future of sign design in 20+ years, taking into account the exponential growth of technology and changing societal norms.

Standout Ideas

  • A volume knob for visuals: When following a familiar route, you can turn down the amount of signage you see; in a new place, turn it up, or change the blend of wayfinding/advertising/informational signage
  • A reduced dependency on written words for universal icons
  • Signs react to changes in temperature, lighting, scent, weather, etc.
  • Wearables that give you subtle wayfinding cues (two vibrations = turn left, etc.)

Key Takeaways

  • We need to keep improving the communication between designers and fabricators. The more designers know about specifications, the less back-and-forth in shop drawings and prototypes. The more manufacturers know about designers' intentions, the better they can help a design come to life.
  • The role of signage could change dramatically as personal, and public transportation undergoes a major transformation. When cars begin driving for us, a shift from navigational to informational could occur, or signage may start disappearing in areas where it causes visual blight.
  • Our cities provide the first impression of who we are and the values that we hold. They are born with a personality and an identity; the designer's task is to express it, not invent it.
  • Participatory design, especially with communities, can make a project truly successful. Example: Hunt Design worked with Idaho Falls to utilize local artisans and used input from citizens at council meetings. Locals are more receptive to design when they can feel like part of the process. "Invite people to the table."
  • Digital signage continues to be a complex and wide-ranging category. Clients don't always know where to use it, what products to choose, how to generate/maintain content, and how to plan for 5+ years of sign life. Designers must bridge the gap between suppliers (who wish to sell) and clients (who want the best experience).