BUIES CREEK – Last fall Steven Walther, a 2013 Campbell University graduate, founded a start-up company that manufactures and sells a new toothbrush he invented: the Toof-inger. Conference presentations, pilot studies at dental offices, media interviews, sales pitches, and investor meetings followed. People took notice, but Walther needed a more dynamic logo for his small business. He turned to Campbell University students for help.
He sponsored a student design contest and ultimately selected a new company logo designed by Victoria Price, a graphic design and studio art major who graduates May 10.
Chances are you’ve seen Price’s work around campus. She has designed posters for Campbell’s theatre department; logos, T-shirts and tumblers for Campus Ministry; ads, T-shirts and posters for Campus Recreation; ads and Facebook cover photos for Campbell Athletics; and admission pieces for the College of Arts & Sciences.
Soon, you could see her Toof-inger logo in retail stores and dentist offices across the country. “It means a lot to me,” Price said. “I really take my design work seriously, and I put a lot of time, effort and thought into the work I present. To be recognized for that is an amazing feeling.”
Looking to students such as Price for logo concepts was an easy decision, Walther said. “Campbell has great resources, including talented students producing quality work,” he said. “Why not give students the opportunity to work on a project that they can put on their professional resumes? Why not help the students at a school that has helped me?”
Like a creative agency
In a Q&A published on Campbell.edu last fall, Walther said the idea for the Toof-inger came to him when he served as a medic with the U.S. Army Special Forces in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010. At the time, he helped run health clinics and aid stations, which included providing dental exams to Afghans. It dawned on him, then, gum abrasion can occur when people brush their teeth too hard.
After transitioning to the U.S. Army Reserve and while developing his idea for a new toothbrush that applied less pressure, Walter worked full time as a health-care consultant and completed in 2013 a Bachelor of Science in Applied Science through Campbell’s Research Triangle Park campus, convenient to his home in Apex.
Once he founded his start-up, officially F.T.G.G., he continued his studies at the RTP campus as an MBA student. His graduate studies, he said, have helped him navigate the risks and rewards of running a start-up. An independent study in marketing, for instance, helped him better understand branding.
Those lessons, with the growing attention the Toof-inger was receiving, led him to reach out to Daniel Rodgers, an associate professor of art and design at Campbell. Walther told Rodgers he needed a new logo, but he had a small creative and marketing budget.
The two decided to offer a juried competition in which students would submit their designs for Toof-inger’s new logo, with Walther picking the winning concept. They opened the competition to third-year students in Rodgers’ Graphic Design II (Art 307) course. Rodgers also invited several graduating seniors, including Price, to participate in the competition.
After Rodgers taught a section on branding, Walther spoke to the students and gave them a creative brief, or a written document that outlines the design project and serves as “a springboard for conceptual development,” Rodgers said. “We set it up like Mr. Walther was a perspective client who came to our little creative agency with a problem.”
Walther told the students he was looking for a logo that emphasized how the Toof-inger brush differed from traditional toothbrushes and that incorporated the colors of red, white and blue, in honor of U.S. military personnel and veterans. He also gave each of the students samples of the Toof-inger.
When Price used one, she was drawn to its innovative handle. Shorter and wider than a traditional toothbrush’s, Toof-inger’s handle “makes the brush easier to rotate and encourages users to apply less pressure when brushing their teeth,” Walther previously told Campbell.edu. This helps prevent receding gums and abrasion, often caused by over-aggressive brushing.
One day Price sketched a simple outline of the handle and wrote the words “Toof-inger” inside of it. She set it aside to work on other projects. When she came back to her sketch, she “really liked the strength of the holding shape,” she said. She kept that shape but did several renditions with the typology. Some versions included simple typology inside the handle; one included a small brush in the shape of an “f” that was substituted in for the “f” in the “Toof-inger” typology.
Walther chose this latter design as his company’s new logo. It was “eye-catching, informative and fun,” he said.
Price received a $200 cash prize, but just getting extra design practice, particularly for a small business, made the experience valuable, she said. “As a student looking for a job after graduation, being able to have a corporate logo and recommendation really strengthens my portfolio.”
Helping students fill their portfolios with practical, real-world experiences has long been a characteristic of Campbell’s graphic design program.
Rodgers frequently passes on to students design requests from units from across the campus and from other business and community ventures. For the past 12 years, one of those clients has included Campbell’s theatre department. Students have also done work for the College of Arts & Sciences; Campbell’s Admissions, Athletics and Advancement offices; Harnett County’s after-school programs; and The Paul Green Foundation, among others.
“While I have to make sure that the project will be an activity that fits with what the students are learning,” Rodgers said, “I am very glad about and open to the projects as it is an important opportunity for students to learn in a real-world environment while still getting to be under the safety umbrella of school."
“For Victoria,” Rodgers added, “I can’t think of a more proud piece in her portfolio, especially if the Toof-inger takes off.”
In some ways, the Toof-inger already has. GLO Science, which makes teeth whitening products, plans to include the brush as part of a product package expected to be sold this summer at Sephora stores, a national beauty-retail chain. Walther and his invention also have been featured by local and state news outlets, including the Raleigh News & Observer, Cary Living Magazine and WTVD 11, and in national trade publications, including the RDH (Registered Dental Hygienist) Magazine’s May issue. Other discussions with major outlets and interested parties that could bring a wave of national exposure – and potentially blow open the retail doors – are ongoing.
And if Walter can create opportunities for other Campbell students in the process, even better, he said. “Who knows what can happen?”
Who knows. Soon you might be able to walk into a national retail store and see Price’s logo on Walther’s invention. For now, since late April, the Toof-inger can be purchased at the Campbell University Bookstore.
By Cherry Crayton, Digital Content Coordinator
Photos by Bennett Scarborough