Plaid Display - TiesSpring semester 2018 marks the tenth anniversary of the creation of the official University of Kentucky (UK) Plaid by students in the Department of Retailing and Tourism Management (RTM). To tell us more about the project and the impact it has had in the department, we share five questions with Dr. Scarlett Wesley, Associate Professor and faculty leader for the project.

1)      How did the UK plaid originate and what were the initial goals of the project?

The UK Plaid project started when I saw an article about the University of Tennessee (UT) creating an official school tartan. UT is my alma mater, so I called one of my past professors to inquire about the project. Creating an official university plaid sounded like a perfect opportunity for students at UK to learn about the process of creating products for sale from start to finish. I pitched the idea to Dr. Ann Vail, Director of the School of Human Environmental Sciences at the time. She loved the idea and agreed to back the project. To make this project a reality, an advisory board was formed.

The project began during the spring 2008 semester in two courses in the department. Students in Problem Solving in Merchandising designed 35 plaid patterns from which 4 finalists were selected for consideration to be the official University of Kentucky Plaid. The department purchased plaid designing software and the students were taught how to design plaids using the software. Then, through online voting, the official plaid was selected in May 2008. Approximately 12,000 votes were cast during the two-week process. The winning plaid was designed by merchandising, apparel, and textile students Christina Criollo and Jena Everhard.

UK Plaid Recognition in 2008 during a football game halftimeStudents in Customer Relationship Management designed UK Plaid Project logos for use on merchandise tags for apparel and accessory items produced using the official UK Plaid.  Elements from three logo designs were selected for incorporation into the final product tag. The designs were created by MAT students Cyntrale Johnson, Kristin Kover, Erin O'Brien, and Whitney Whitmer.

Beginning fall 2008, students in MAT 414, Merchandise Strategy Analysis, designed products for consideration for production. Their ideas were presented to the advisory board each year and the board selected the next products to be produced. Since then, students in this class have created product designs for the advisory board to review and add to the product line. Not one single item has been made that was not an original student design.

2) Over the past 10 years, how has the UK Plaid Project enhanced student learning?

As the project continued, additional courses in merchandising, apparel and textiles are engaging students in activities associated with the official UK Plaid. Past projects have included designing store window displays using UK Plaid products and brand strategy development. First and foremost, the project was started as a student learning experience, allowing the students to get a taste of what it is like to design, produce and sell their own products.

3) Where do you hope to see the UK Plaid Project in the future?

Plaid is Fab window displayI would like to see the UK Plaid Project continue to be a learning experience for students in some capacity. Very rarely do students in a university setting get to participate in addressing on and solving real world problems.

4) How has the UK Plaid product assortment changed over time?

The plaid product assortment has changed based on the vendors that we have worked with in the past. Different vendors have brought different skills and expertise. This has, more than anything, affected the products offered. 

5) How has the department benefited from the UK plaid project?

The revenue from the UK Plaid Project has allowed the Department of Retailing and Tourism Management and the School of Human Environmental Sciences to offer students thousands of dollars in scholarship money for educational travel experiences that enhance their academic experience.

Author: Katherine Dale
Terms: HES