Hucklebuck’s Andy Hayes comes back to his roots, updates Springfield’s image

Accomplished and widely respected graphic designer Andy Hayes is a self-proclaimed country boy who lives in a 160-year-old farmhouse on five acres. Before Hayes and his family took up residence three years ago, the historic property was a bed and breakfast and an alpaca farm.

Hayes, 41, is proud of his roots. So proud, in fact, that he named his graphic design firm Hucklebuck Design Studio. “It’s just kind of a colloquialism for a country person,” says Hayes, whose family hails from Clark County.

The bumpkin connotation of the Hucklebuck name ironically belies the sophistication of Hayes’ track record in the branding and design world. Over the past 18 years, he has worked creating successful brand imaging for such well-known clothiers as American Eagle, Abercrombie and Fitch’s Hollister division, and Express. Hayes has served as both an adjunct and full-time professor for regional advertising and design schools. He has also helped shape the success of multiple agencies.

Hayes bounced around quite a bit growing up. He lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia; Syracuse, New York; and Sandusky. His current rural home is in South Charleston, just outside of Springfield. Within his recent work for Springfield’s Hucklebuck, he has had the opportunity to craft the image of Springfield on many different levels —working with Champion City Guide and Supply, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the city itself.

Hayes didn’t start off doing design for high-profile brands and agencies. In fact, his work life began meagerly, as he toiled at a series of diverse gigs on the advice of his father. In 2001, immediately upon the completion of his degree at Columbus College of Art and Design, Hayes’ dad impressed upon him the importance of having a strong work ethic.

“I think the day after I graduated college my dad drove me to the temp agency and said, ‘It’s time to get a job,’” says Hayes. “I worked at the local graveyard for about a month. I worked at a publishing company putting locks on diaries.” He also sold vacuum cleaners and assembled brooms. These experiences motivated Hayes to strive for bigger and better things when it came to his career goals.

Hayes took the first steps on his present path in an entry-level position creating ads for a publication in Columbus. But soon after that, he and a roommate who’d been laid off after the Sept. 11 attacks decided to break out on their own. They started a small, independent design company called formerfactory.

“It was a lot of fun,” says Hayes. “We had a thing on our website and people could sign up and get free swag — just buttons and things like that. One of the people happened to be one of the creative directors at American Eagle, so we sent him a whole box of stuff and communicated with him.”

That bold communication resulted in a lunch meeting in Pittsburgh and a project for the young business partners. A combination of stellar work and networking soon had them hobnobbing with big names in the design world. Hayes recalls being whisked away from their Columbus studio to a swanky design industry party in New York while they were working on projects for Express.

“I was probably 23 or 24. We got to meet a bunch of cool people — designers like Chip Kidd,” recounts Hayes. Kidd has been described as a rock star of the graphic design world whose revolutionary influence is unparalleled in the field. He is best known for his book cover designs — illustrating covers for authors like Bret Easton Ellis and Dean Koontz. He is also a successful author, among other things. Hayes was personally invited to Kidd’s office while in New York City. He is still in awe of this integral experience early in his career.

When Hayes married his wife, Nicole, and they decided to settle down in Springfield, commuting back and forth to Columbus became a chore. Starting a family only compounded this issue, so Hayes maneuvered his livelihood in different directions to meet the changing needs of his home life.

“I did freelancing for a while. I taught full time at the School of Advertising and Design in Kettering, which now is called The Modern. I taught there for a year, which is when the economy tanked — 2008. So, I got laid off,” recounts Hayes. After that, Hayes returned to Abercrombie — initially remotely, and then on site in New Albany.

At this point, Hayes had already been laying the groundwork for his present business for more than a few years. He was working independently on various projects for his brainchild, Hucklebuck, while holding down more bread-and-butter employment in order to keep his growing family secure.

In the fall of 2013, Hayes felt like he was in a position to focus his efforts on Hucklebuck full time. He had been working in downtown Columbus for an agency called ologie, where he’d had the opportunity to rebrand Notre Dame, in addition to other high-profile projects.

“It just seemed like the right time. The circumstances just sort of allowed me to phase out the agency, so it wasn’t like a cold turkey kind of thing,” says Hayes.

In 2013, Hucklebuck Design Studio set up shop in Springfield’s historic Tuttle Brothers Building, occupying an industrial space that was formerly an auto parts and repair store. Creative director and founder Hayes now works daily at Hucklebuck, leading a team in various branding and design projects, both local and remote.

Hayes says he didn’t know what to expect as far as sourcing local clients, but Hucklebuck Design Studio has quickly become a go-to resource for many of Springfield’s businesses and civic enterprises.

In 2015, Hucklebuck developed a tourism brand for the Convention and Visitors Bureau. The success of this and other projects led to the opportunity to brand the city of Springfield itself over the past year.

“One of my goals for that project was to really try to include all the different levels of demographic that we have in Springfield, and create something that everybody can get excited about,” says Hayes.

“Springfield’s an interesting spot,” continues Hayes. “There’s strong rural community. 4H was founded in Springfield. It has tons of legitimately historical agricultural roots, but at one time it was one of the largest industrial cities in the world. That’s where the Champion City name comes from.”

In his work for Champion City Guide + Supply, a locally focused gift shop, Hayes focused on building pride among residents while crafting cool souvenirs for visitors. “We did a bunch of graphic tees about the history of the city,” says Hayes.

“Springfield has a unique history of sort of being down on itself with a lot of the economic hardships over the last 30 years. It’s a post-industrial city that faced a lot of job loss and generally economic population decline. I think local people just tend not to have as strong an appreciation for the city as visitors that come in and see all the assets that we have. So part of the Champion City store was to really build some pride points into the community,” says Hayes.

Residents may feel great pride about the new images of Springfield that Hayes has skillfully constructed — the result of both his vast professional experience and his personal investment in the place he’s from — but possibly none more than his own five children. Hayes reports that the kids shout loudly whenever they see their father’s designs adorning public transit, “Hey! That’s your bus!”

“It’s an exciting time to be in Springfield,” notes Hayes. “We’ve seen a lot of revitalization lately which is exciting, and it’s cool to have a lot if young professionals moving in. One of the most rewarding things for me is just being able to influence the way everyone sees and perceives the city.”

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.