Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Behind the design: Community college helping community radio

Chris Walker, Jennifer Barr and Kari Hedlund model the brand new Phenology T-shirts for KAXE.
Maria Hileman
KAXE staff members Chris Walker, Jennifer Barr and Kari Hedlund model the new 2023 "Phenology" T-shirt by the banks of the Mississippi River in Grand Rapids.

KAXE collaborated with North Hennepin Community College’s Graphic Design Program to create a design worthy of 40 years of phenology on KAXE with John Latimer. Oyin Omole won our nature-loving hearts with her design.

GRAND RAPIDS — “Initially how it started was looking at the tree lines of the pine, white pine trees, and I realized they kind of looked like sound waves put together,” said Oyin Omole, a graphic design student at North Hennepin Community College.

Oyin’s original design is featured on KAXE’s new T-shirt honoring 40 years of Phenology, nature programming created by Staff Phenologist John Latimer. The anniversary is also the theme of KAXE / KBXE’s fall membership drive.

From its beginnings as the observations of a rural mail carrier to the program’s recent years — when funding from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resourced helped it grow — Phenology is a familiar cornerstone of the KAXE Morning Show.

A photo of a phenology tee shirt, blue with a design showing radio waves beyond a row of white pines.
Heidi Holtan
The design for KAXE's 2023 "Phenology" themed T-shirt was created by graphic design student Oyin Omole, showing the connection of radio to nature and celebrating 40 years of "Phenology" on KAXE.

The inclusion of Phenology Coordinator Charlie Mitchell and the weekly Season Watch Newsletter, as well as training for teachers across the state, expanded John’s impact. And this design collaboration is another way John’s appreciation for nature is spreading.

KAXE Marketing and Social Media Manager Maria Hileman said, “I first wanted to bring in John himself and say what criteria for a design T-shirt he was looking for.”

John requested native plants and native animals, and as he put it, “I’m looking for something to be very eye-catching, kind of further away that draws you near.”

Turns out that’s a perfect description of Phenology. Each and every Tuesday morning, John draws us near, through his passion for nature.

College student Oyin Omole smiles broadly.
Oyin Omole
Oyin Omole is studying graphic design at North Hennepin Community College. She created the winning design of KAXE's 40 Years of "Phenology" T-shirt.

Community connections

Jason Schoch is a faculty member at North Hennepin Community College in the graphic design program. His ad on LinkedIn looking for projects for his graphic arts students led to Oyin’s winning design.

“Who knows what could happen,” Jason said. “I was thrilled to get the response from Maria and KAXE, and when I realized, ‘Oh wow, community radio,’ I thought, ‘What could be better?’ Community college helping community radio.”

From there, Jason presented the information to his class, and after multiple meetings and late-night consultations with KAXE, Oyin’s design was chosen.

Jason said real-world experience is critical for the student’s careers, as they were tasked with “trying to come up with concepts that would hit the targets that were set up for us.”

Oyin’s design and process

As it turns out, the winning design was a last-minute suggestion, not even intended to enter the contest.

After seeing all her classmates' entries and listening to Maria, Oyin said the idea came to her of combining nature with the visual of radio waves.

Not only did the design fit the bill, but she also learned something herself — and is noticing nature.

“Even just researching about phenology and more about your radio station and stuff, I learned so much more,” Oyin said. “Now when I’m driving, I pay attention more. … It taught me a lot, too.”

Phenology program on KAXE celebrates 40 years

All this week on KAXE’s on-air fundraiser, people from around the region and in other parts of the country have stressed how much they have learned from Phenology.

As former Forestview Middle School phenology report contributor in the early 2000s, Ben Stubbs said, “I hope John knows how grateful we all are.”

Want to let John Latimer how grateful you are? Email him and show your support through membership. KAXE was the first rural public radio station in the nation and began in 1976.

Looking to the future of Phenology (he’s not retiring!), remember John’s pithy statement: onward and awkward!

Stay Connected
Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.