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UC Young Alum Steps into the Spotlight to Win Design Reality Show

Young alum Jesse Reed’s win on a high-pressure design reality show came thanks to the core values and preparation he received at UC. See videos from the show.

Date: 2/12/2012
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Provided by Jesse Reed

Young University of Cincinnati graphic design alum Jesse Reed, 24, recently won the third season of a high-pressure design reality show that aired online and was sponsored by the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts), the oldest and largest professional membership organization for design.
Jesse Reed at left
UC alum Jesse Reed at left during the design reality show Command X.

The three-day contest required Reed and other young designers to present design concepts related to three separate challenges, facing elimination after each day.
  • See Day 1 of the “Command X” show.
  • See Day 2 of “Command X.” 
  • See Day 3 of “Command X.”
Says Reed, who graduated UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) in 2010, “Having to present your work that you just did in less than 24 hours, on three hours of sleep, to 1,500 people, on a stage with a spotlight shining in your face is horrific. I was terrified that I would get called out for making something that looked good but had no substance. I genuinely thought my heart was going to explode the entire three days.”
Fortunately, that didn’t happen thanks to his DAAP training, according to Reed who pointed out that he learned great lessons at UC, lessons that helped him win the show, “Command X: Season 3.” These include
Filming during Command X
UC alum Jesse Reed is filmed for the design reality show Command X. Reed went on to win the design challenge.

  • Do great research.
  • Be decisive. 
  • Have excellent craft. 
  • When appropriate, fly by the seat of your pants.
 He adds, “Eighty percent of every decision I make in design is somehow rooted in what I learned at school. The basic concepts I learned at DAAP are embedded in every problem that I’ve dealt with up to this point in my career.”
And on the plus side of the nerve-wracking “reality” experience, Reed claimed, “The presentations I now have to give in front of 10 people are a total piece of cake.”
The “Command X” reality show took place during the annual AIGA national conference and was emceed by prominent graphic designer Michael Bierut of Pentagram Design.
When given their design challenges – create a new “American Idol” logo, new Arizona Iced Tea packaging, and a campaign centered on immigration – the competing designers worked at stations in the middle of the conference hall.
It might seem that the very public work space would have created added pressure but just the opposite, according to Reed, who is originally from Youngstown, Ohio, but now living in Brooklyn and working as a designer for the department of advertising and graphic design at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.
“The support of the conference goers, all 1,500 of them, was great. We had a lot of people coming up to us  and showing their support. They offered us advice, personal stories related to the challenges and even some constructive criticism. It was amazing to feel so connected to these people,” he remembers.
UC alum Jesse Reed presents on his design.
UC alum Jesse Reed presents during Command X on his redesign for Arizona Iced Tea packaging.

And while Reed won $1,000 and other in-kind prizes, he said that the camaraderie of the conference was the best part of the experience, along with the feedback he’s received since.
“After the competition, I received encouraging letters from attendees of the conference, primarily in response to my design solutions. It’s rare that you can get this much feedback from students, teachers and working professionals,” he explains, adding that he’s also received a few job offers thanks to the contest – though at this point, he’s content to stay and continue working in New York.
He’s instead accepted additional freelance work thanks to his win as well as accepting the opportunity to serve as guest curator for the AIGA’s “Design Envy” blog.
Ironically, Reed says that attending UC’s School of Design was something of a happy accident for him. He actually first enrolled in UC’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business but at the last minute, looked into DAAP because someone told him it had a “great art program.”
In DAAP, he first majored in photography but was drawn to graphic design’s mix of creative thinking and structured analysis.
“But before I was actually in DAAP, I had no clue that graphic design even existed as a profession,” he admits.  
When he did find the program, Reed made the deadline to apply for transfer into the graphic design major by one day.
He claims, “It was the best decision that I’ve ever made in my life.”
Jesse Reed
Jesse Reed's designs for Arizona Iced Tea packaging.