A top graphic designer decided that two Columbus community leaders were sitting on some of the best ideas for a logo to represent Columbus’ newest architectural venture.

Rick Valicenti of the Thirst design firm in Chicago took inspiration from designer Alexander Girard’s chair cushions and a rug in the kitchen of the late industrialist and philanthropist J. Irwin Miller and his wife, arts advocate Xenia Miller. Valicenti then added a bit of geometry from a second world-famous designer, Paul Rand, who created Columbus’ original dancing Cs logo in 1974.

The result is Valicenti’s logo for the Exhibit Columbus symposium, which runs today through Saturday at several downtown Columbus locations.

In some representations online, the logo letters transform into a variety of colors and shapes like a fanciful cartoon.

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Within the letters of the colorful logo are some literal Girard patterns used in the Miller House, Modernist architect Eero Saarinen’s showcase/tourist attraction owned and operated by the Indianapolis Museum of Art that draws visitors from all over the world.

Valicenti said some people may even find a hint of Chaos I designer Jean Tinguely’s playful exuberance in some of the different manifestations of the logo.

Richard McCoy, who championed the idea of Exhibit Columbus, casually suggested that Valicenti take his color palette from the Girard patterns.

“And I thought, ‘Oh my — that is such a direct shot and direct line right back to the place where the Millers were among those who inspired so many people to come to this city,” Valicenti said. “And here they were sitting on it.

Valicenti said he felt the design for Exhibit Columbus should be as spirited as the Alexander Girard patterns.

“When I look at them, I’m humbled to see all that came before,” he said.

Some of the elements in Valicenti’s logo also were inspired by a Girard 30-foot mural of various textile designs and shapes in what was Irwin Union Bank — now the Irwin Conference Center — on Washington Street. The mural recently was publicly auctioned for $22,500.

Valicenti said he jumped at the chance to create the Exhibit Columbus logo.

“To be able to come here and extend the legacy and the spirit of those maestros of design? It was like cake fell from heaven and landed on my head,” Valicenti said.

Valicenti’s finished product was funded in part by a $35,000 grant from the Columbus Area Visitors Center.

“It’s definitely what we hoped for,” McCoy said. “It is in a sense the first installation of the exhibition.”

McCoy said he hopes such creativity will be a springboard for the 10 Miller Prize finalists to think about making something new that extends the local design legacy and extends the architectural conversation.

About Rick Valicenti

Rick Valicenti’s work with his Thirst design firm in Chicago specializes in projects for high-profile clients in the architectural, performing arts and education communities.

His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, resides in the permanent collections of the Yale and Columbia University libraries, Denver Art Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago, and has been published in The New York Times.

The White House honored Valicenti in 2011 with the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt, National Design Award for Communication Design.

Exhibit Columbus highlights

Today

6 to 8 p.m.: 10: The Miller Prize Competition Finalists, IU Center for Art + Design, 310 Jackson St. Free, no ticket required.

Friday

9 to 11:45 a.m.: Modern Art and Life, featuring a variety of presentations. Requires ticket.

11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Miller Prize Finalist panel discussion. Requires ticket.

5:20 to 7:45 p.m.: “Architecture in Everyday Life,” panel discussion with guests including architects Deborah Berke, Michael Van Valekenburgh and Robert A.M. Stern with moderator Will Miller. Panel discussion free for people who register.

All Friday programs at The Commons, 300 Washington St.

Saturday

2 to 5 p.m.: “The Future of Design in Columbus.” Presentations by the Exhibit Columbus Curatorial Team and partners for the 2017 exhibition. Requires ticket.

All Saturday programs at First Christian Church, 536 Fifth St.

Cost: Friday, Saturday symposium sessions $35 per day or $60 for two days. University students, $10 per day.

Complete schedule: Visit exhibitbus.org/schedule

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.