When Mark Thomas, Associate Dean at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, approached us about leading a student workshop with his printmaking class, founders Ben Nunery and Pat Jones didn’t hesitate to get things started. Mark was a big fan of our gig posters, and thought it might give his students a new perspective on creative design. Powerhouse Factories University (PHF-U) was officially born.

Since its founding seven years ago, this 2-to-3-week program is now a part of printmaking classes at the Art Academy and other area schools. It presents students with an opportunity to broaden their skill set and take on memorable, real-world projects.

The Process

“We’re going to need everyone to create a poster for a national touring band.”

If only we all heard that in art class.

It gets even the most lackadaisical high school students to light up. We guide them through our entire poster production process, from ideation to distribution. The students break off and shadow our artists. They learn all about the different equipment, styles, and processes.

We start the project with the concepting phase, where we introduce the students to a particular band. The students immerse themselves in the music, the lyrics, and whatever else they can wrap their eyes and ears around. Once they’re ready, they begin sketching. We guide them along the way, and when the work is in good place, the students present to the class and our team of artists.

Since the final poster will bear our mark, we run it through the same lens that we would any other poster, asking the same questions we do of all our designers. “How did you communicate your idea?” “Does it resonate with the band and the fans?” The ability to speak to the work plays into our decision-making.

Design students from live oaks gather for a photo with Wray.

Design students from Live Oaks gather for a photo with Wray.


On the final day of class, each student takes home a poster. The winning poster goes into production and we invite the designer to come out on the day we print. We then present the final poster to the band.

Recent Apprentices 

A group of high school students from the Live Oaks Career Campus just designed a poster for Wray, a talented and dance-worthy dream-pop trio of Birmingham fame (‘Bama, not Britain). The class was a big confidence-builder for the students. Each student became familiar with the design process in a professional environment.

Wray Poster

A look at the Wray poster.

We invited the whole class to come out on printing day. To make things even more fun, we created a Powerhouse Live session around the experience. When the students arrived at the shop, they were shocked to find the band waiting, with guitars and sticks in hand. Both parties were equally stoked. The band even signed posters for their new biggest fans.

Wray | Powerhouse Live from Powerhouse Factories on Vimeo.

The Future

This program inspires students to move forward in their collegiate or professional careers with newfound skills and confidence. Classes of kids exit our doors with a strong impression of Powerhouse Factories and an expanded view of the opportunities that await them. The students reinvigorate us, too, encouraging us to think differently about bands and brands—vital in an ever-changing industry like the world of advertising. The print is something they can keep with them forever. We hope the experience is no different.

“We make rock posters for our favorite bands. Since our founding, it’s the one thing that never ceases to ignite us. And we love sharing that passion with students.”       – Ben Nunery, PHF Co-Founder

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