By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer
Editor’s Note: While we focus on our work in the community and rarely shine a spotlight on ourselves, this series is designed to put faces and names to the great and challenging work United Way does every day.
United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Publications Manager, DJ Reichel designs art for every campaign, fundraiser, event and promotion. From Pancake Flip banners to the simplest of nametags, his work can be found throughout Greater Cleveland, Geauga and Medina United Ways.
Recently celebrating his 10-year anniversary, he came to United Way after being self-employed as a freelance designer for 16 years.
“I really wanted to go somewhere to be around other people. I was sending out resumes and United Way called back,” he said.
Designing for events
In his decade at United Way, Reichel has designed for Fall Ball, Rock the CATWALK, the Campaign Kickoff and Pancake Flip and the now defunct golf tournament and Ride United bike ride.
“We used to do a golf tournament, we probably did that for 15 or 16 years in a row,” he said. “And that raised $2 million for the community.”
For Ride United, Reichel designed signs to mark trails and levels — the longest of which was a ride to the University of Akron and back, close to 100 miles.
“People would pledge money to sponsor riders,” he said. “That was a big project; I made all kinds of signs to mark the course, commemorative t-shirts, signage for vans and things like that.”
Recently, he helped with this year’s Campaign Kickoff and Pancake Flip, as it moved from several Cleveland schools back to its traditional location in Public Square. He hopes to visually rebrand it for next year, including redesigning logos.
He also lays out all the campaign and fundraising material and literature.
“As we move into the future, we’ll probably have more companies opt to do digital campaigns,” he said. “But at the same time we’ll probably still do paper [campaigns], because not everybody has access to the internet in their jobs — some factories and places like that don’t.”
Reichel works with project managers and committees to design their promotional materials. Taking cues from committees members, he creates proofs, giving them multiple ideas to pick from.
“I’ll assess their ideas and add what I can to make it better and move forward with what they’re after,” he said. “Sometimes multiple ideas lead to a new hybrid.”
Handling printing costs, Reichel said United Way typically gets a discount from vendors. Foote Printing, a Cleveland-based printing and design company, typically trades the printing of Pancake Flip items in exchange for free breakfasts.
“They’re very generous with us, their pricing is always good and we try to give them as much work as possible,” he said. “We like to hire a union printer because unions support United Way so we like to support the union and they always have the best price and they do good work. So it’s a win-win.”
A mighty task
Outside of work, Reichel said he enjoys spending time with his wife of 21 years and his 11-year-old son.
He grew up in Lakewood, and was always the artist in his classes. Beginning by drawing illustrations for his middle school newspaper, he continuously elected to take art classes before pursuing it as a college major. After high school and ready for a change of scenery, he attended art school in Fort Lauderdale. Afterwards, he returned to his childhood city, drawn to its urban qualities.
“This is where I belong,” he said.
Now, he owns an almost-century year-old home and often spends weekends working on it. This summer, with help from his father and wife, he has undertaken the task of meticulously repainting and repairing the aging façade.
“I spend a lot of time working on [the house,] and I enjoy that kind of stuff,” he said. “This summer I decided to paint it and I’m four weekends and some weeknights into that and I’m about half-way done. It’s a mighty task.”
Ryan Platten has worked closely with Reichel for the year-and-a-half he’s been at United Way – handling the website and other online media.
“When you envision a great coworker, he’s who you see,” Platten said. “He’s one of the nicest, funniest, most genuine guys you’ll ever meet.”
Sharing interests, including music and pop culture, Platten and Reichel are friends outside of work.
“DJ was one of the first people to greet me when I walked in,” he said. “He is true to himself in every aspect of his life, whether its work or personal, it’s all the same.”