In-HOWse Design Awards Best of Show Winner: Buffalo Roundup

You hear it first. Feel it, actually. A rumble that moves up through the ground into your feet and your chest. Then you see it: a herd of more than a thousand massive buffalo stampeding down from the hills, roaring right past you.

You don’t have to hear designer Ashley McCloud talk about what it’s like to witness the annual South Dakota Governor’s Buffalo Roundup. You simply have to turn the pages of the oversized brochure she created for the event to get a sense of the experience.

Award-Winning Design, Best of Show in HOW Magazine

The invitation for South Dakota’s annual roundup of buffalo in Custer State Park included an oversized, saddle-stitched book and a welcome letter from the governor. The invite was wrapped in burlap and mailed in a rigid black envelope to VIPs, who included influential South Dakotans, travel journalists and business prospects (photo courtesy of Al Parrish). 

Managing the Herd


Remaining photos courtesy of Chad Coppess.

The Buffalo Roundup sounds like something straight out of the Old West — and in many respects, it is. It’s also an effective means of managing the herd of nearly 1,300 buffalo that roam Custer State Park in South Dakota’s fabled Black Hills region.

Each fall since 1965, park rangers and volunteer wranglers have moved the buffalo to a corral area, where the animals are examined and sorted, and some are auctioned off. The roundup keeps the herd, one of the largest in the country that’s publicly owned, manageable and healthy enough to withstand the winter. More than 10,000 people watch from the hillside, McCloud says. ‘“You feel the ground moving even before you see anything — it’s an amazing experience.”

Marketing the State

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In addition to being a necessary event for animal and land stewardship, the Buffalo Roundup is also an opportunity to showcase South Dakota as a tourist destination and business hub. The three-day agenda includes special VIP outings to the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore, fly-fishing excursions and horseback rides.

It’s one of three annual events (along with a pheasant hunt and a golf tournament) sponsored by the Governor’s office, the South Dakota Department of Tourism and the state Office of Economic Development. McCloud is one of three graphic designers and two project managers on a small in-house creative team at the Department of Tourism, which produces promotional materials for all three of the events, as well as an annual tourism conference and ongoing marketing campaigns.

For 2011, McCloud was assigned the Buffalo Roundup project; each of the state’s three big events rotates among the designers. The campaign mailed to a list of about 600 corporate prospects (executives who might be considering South Dakota as a business venue), plus U.S. and international travel journalists. The group also includes South Dakota executives, state officials and community leaders whose role is to talk up the state’s climate for business and recreation.

Capturing the Energy

Because McCloud had previously designed the Roundup campaign, she wanted to take a fresh approach. “I was going for a mix of vintage Western and modern,” she says. That Western-with-a-twist resonated with the HOW judges, who cited McCloud’s use of bold photography, sepia tones and graphic patterns. “The design is classic and elegant,” says judge Megan Lane Patrick. “It feels like some sort of romantic Western movie with its vintage ambience.”

McCloud started with the event invitation—an oversized, saddle-stitched brochure on heavy, matte-gloss paper. The book’s size is appropriate to the scale of the animals that star in the show; just inside the front cover, a close-up photo of a buffalo’s huge, hairy face, big horns and gentle eyes fills the spread. McCloud focused the design on images of the buffalo in motion to capture the energy of the event, but every few pages you’ll find a photo showing one of the beasts standing still, staring soulfully into the camera. An extreme close-up shot on the cover of a separate brochure is all curly fur and soft eyelashes. “I love the texture of that photo,” McCloud says. “It shows you exactly what they’re made of.”

McCloud used Andrew Galarza’s super-condensed all-cap typeface 5am Gender for headlines throughout the campaign; it contrasts nicely with the graphic flourishes she created to frame the headers and callout copy. She used Byron as an accent, layering the script on top of the headline text to soften it.

HOW’s judges were clearly won over by McCloud’s design, awarding her Best of Show for her team’s first-ever entry into the In-HOWse Design Awards. And for at least one business leader, the Roundup was enough to convince him to move his electronics business to South Dakota from California, calling it a “brilliant” showcase for the state in an article published in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader just days afterward.

McCloud, a South Dakota native working at her first job out of design school at Dakota State University, says the campaign communicates what she loves best about her state. “It says that it’s unique, that it’s open. You can come here and be in wide-open spaces. It’s nice, friendly, relaxing, not completely overtaken by busy-ness.”

Title 2011 Buffalo Roundup Invitation | Company/Organization South Dakota Department of Tourism, Pierre, SD; www.TravelSD.com | Creative Team Ashley McCloud, Chad Coppess, Mary Lehecka Nelson, Wanda Goodman

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