Columbus, Ohio USA
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ComFest Logo Contest
Annual T-shirt design selected
By Margaret Marten
May/June 2015 Issue

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Gail Bernard's Logo 2015

Gail Bernard will have her design work displayed throughout Goodale Park during ComFest this year after winning the festival’s 2015 Logo Contest.

Each year, ComFest organizers conduct a contest to select a new design for the festival T-shirt, mugs and other merchandise. With hundreds of volunteers wearing the T-shirt bearing the chosen logo at the festival, the winner becomes a part of ComFest history. The designer is mentioned on the website, in the program, and receives a mug and T-shirt in compensation.

ComFest began in 1972 as a street party organized by cultural and political activists and independent alternative businesspeople and has become one of the nation’s largest volunteer-run festivals.

“I was pretty excited,” Gail said about the outcome. “And I was surprised.” Her logo includes a slogan, “One Linked To Many...Moving All,” placed above a collage of gears with a ribbon trailing loosely around it. “It made me think of the core group of the ComFest,” she said, “and how they got all these people around and everyone had the same vision of how they were going to pull this thing together.”

Bernard has a background in graphic arts and has been a ComFest regular over the past 35 years. She worked at Monkeys Retreat in the late ‘70s when she first moved here from New York and learned a lot about the festival at Monkeys because the Comfest meetings were held in the shop (located in the University District at that time). But this is the first year she entered the contest – which is open to anyone – and the first year she even considered it. With some extra time on her hands and encouragement from her husband, she said she began to play around with the idea and decided it would be something different to do. She admits the project was a little intimidating. “If it’s not something you do all the time, it’s really hard to put something you’ve done like that out in front of the world and see what happens,” she said. “I was absolutely completely surprised. It’s wonderful, it’s overwhelming.”

Jonathan Johns presenting designs for a vote at this year’s logo contest.
Photo by Michael Gruber

The contest took place on March 5 at the shelter house in Goodale Park. Every year, the contestants bring their entries, consisting of a black-and-white drawing, through the door the day of the meeting. The logo is given a number and placed on a table for everyone to view. A three-stage voting process follows, beginning with a hand count of everyone’s top three favorites, followed by their top two favorites, and ending with a final one-vote round that produces the top selections, summing up the first phase of the contest. Everyone who attends the meeting, including children, are allowed to vote.

Later, at a separate meeting, the General Planning Committee makes the final decision after a discussion and consensus or popular vote. “The top vote-getter at the contest isn’t necessarily the one that wins,” said committee member Michael Gruber. “We turn everything into a long discussion in ComFest meetings. We were able to get through it and that [Bernard’s] was the popular choice among the committee members.”

There were 20 contestants this year. The number has been two or three times that in past years, according to some committee members, but this year’s number seems to be about average. Gruber said he has no idea when the logo contest was first organized but recalls that Paul Volker did a number of the early designs and remembers silk-screening the T-shirts. “We did it ourselves back in those days,” he said “and didn’t even have enough for everybody volunteering, and we’d share shirts.” We’ve always had a logo design that’s been an integral part of giving something to volunteers, so we always wanted to have a message and a nice design.”

Samuel Lawson, who got involved with ComFest in 1988, recalls an incident where a logo contestant came to the meeting wearing a tie-dye T-shirt and cap with his logo already on it. He won the contest and Lawson got the shirt and cap. “I’m probably going to donate it to the ComFest archives,” he said, “because it’s actually the very first tie-dye shirt that they had. Lawson quit going to the meetings about ten years ago. “I still love the ComFest. It’s just gotten so big, so many levels,” he said. “The people are still all my friends, but now I don’t have to fight with them. That’s the biggest benefit of retiring. I can just concentrate on being friends.”

The 43rd Annual Community Festival is being held June 26, 27 and 28 in Goodale Park. Visit

© 2015 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

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