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O-H-I-O tradition worth 10,000 words

What started as a group cheer around Ohio Stadium on football Saturdays has developed into a picture-sharing phenomenon at Ohio State: four individuals spelling O-H-I-O with their bodies in photos.

A team in OSU Marketing Communications recently collected its 10,000th photo of students, family and OSU community members spelling O-H-I-O in its photo gallery on the university’s main webpage.

“It’s an outward expression of Buckeye spirit. It is taking that Saturday afternoon game-day thing all the way to service projects, study abroad, hanging out in the dorms, in the union, but also going on the best vacation you have with your family,” said Ted Hattemer, senior director of University Marketing Communications.

Since the late 1990s, the University Communications department periodically received photos of people spelling O-H-I-O and started to collect the photos. In 2006, when it had enough photos to display, it opened a page and a link where people could submit the photos. The phenomenon took off by word-of-mouth and more photos were submitted.

Starting in 2007, after Facebook created the option of “pages” in addition to personal accounts, the photos were posted on the OSU Facebook page. In the following year, the university created a public service announcement to run during football and basketball games that celebrate the O-H-I-O phenomenon.

“It has grown exponentially ever since,” Hattemer said. “It became obvious that we needed to make this a pretty predominant link on the main webpage.”

The photos were then moved to the university’s main webpage. In 2010, the site accumulated 5,000 photos and a year-and-a-half later, the site doubled and reached 10,000 photos.

Photos are exclusively online. Many photos were game-day photos but grew to be more diverse and more creative.

“People started taking photos on service trips and study abroad trips. We have photos from Buckeye alumni serving in the military. We’ve gotten them from all over the world,” Hattemer said. “It’s become not only a celebration of Buckeye spirit, but what it really means to go to Ohio State and a fantastic education with all kinds of opportunities.”

The O-H-I-O gallery is divided up into categories, such as graduation day, bowl games, current students and even shadows: a gallery of photos where the subjects’ faces are not visible but O-H-I-O is spelled with shadows.

Hattemer said the team receives many duplicate photos of O-H-I-O with the “I” replaced by the Washington Monument in Washington D.C. or the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Hattemer also said many photos of O-H-I-O are taken by Mirror Lake.

“Rarely do we get an O-H-I-O photo of just one person,” Hattemer said. “It’s about the community. It’s you and your close friends and relatives who make this.”

In order to honor the 10,000 photos, University Communications sponsored a free poster. Scott Denison, a second-year graduate student in design, and a team of undergraduate students volunteered and designed the poster in two weeks.

Denison selected seven students he previously taught to create the poster, providing the students with a real-life experience of working with a team and pitching an idea to a client.

“I thought that this was a nice practice round of what it is like to work with a client and make a presentation,” Denison said.

Denison and his team created a poster connecting about 180 different locations around the world to commemorate the diversity O-H-I-O has traveled.

“We got some very interesting-looking mix of global data plus a nice visual graphic,” Denison said.

Denison said he believes the 10,000 commemorating poster is a visual representation for what O-H-I-O represents.

“What is cool about the poster is it really does tell you a lot about the O-H-I-O idea,” Denison said. “When you see the little icon with the people with their arms raised and you see the destination, you just know, and you know you are part of the club and it reinforces the idea that you are part of a bigger institution.”

Students can pick up a free poster at the Alumni Association Office in the Ohio Union, Hattemer said.

Some students said they can see the connection the O-H-I-O photos have to each other and the university. Caitlyn Horn, a fifth-year in psychology, said she sees the ties to the university.

“I’m not an OSU fan, but it’s cool and a nice representation of the university,” Horn said.

Stephen Belden, a first-year in film studies, said he thinks the O-H-I-O photos bring people together across cultures.

“I guess it kind of connects people,” Belden said. “It ties people, coming through places, together.”

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