Photonics & WINTERSUX Help Create a World Without Type 1 Diabetes

Lily of Team Lily standing at registration booth at Wintersux event in 2020

Every once in a while, we need some fun, creative indulgences to help set ourselves free from our clients’ day to day causes and take time to promote our own. This past year, our creative indulgence was the rebranding and promotion of an event called WINTERSUX. The event is held to raise awareness and funds to support the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation and its annual OneWalk fundraiser. This year, the JDRF OneWalk’s goal is to raise $1,058,500 to help find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease that strikes children and adults suddenly. It has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle—and it’s serious and stressful to manage. There is nothing you can do to prevent T1D and there is currently no cure. T1D has affected the life of our Development Director, Tom Hutchinson, and the JDRF cause is near and dear to his heart. His father had T1D, and a couple of years ago, his granddaughter, Lily, was diagnosed with it as well. This year’s event honored Lily and her Team Lily fundraiser for the 2020 OneWalk.

While JDRF’s focus is on curing Type 1 Diabetes (T1D), they also pursue new treatments to keep people with T1D healthy until the cure is found. They push for increased government funding for research and work with academia, clinicians, insurers, and regulators to get new therapies and devices to market quickly and safely. Therefore, raising funds is crucial to this effort.

The Event:

Now in its 4th year, WINTERSUX is a summer-themed event held in the dead of winter. Attendees= come dressed in their summer attire, listen to summer tunes, and party for a cause. Business sponsorships, donated raffle items, split the pot, t-shirt sales, and cash donations are the financial drivers for the event. In addition to the sponsorships, many services were donated to the cause, including a DJ and a venue, while the venue also made a cash donation.

Built upon the fun newly rebranded graphics, website, and social media marketing that Photonics created and deployed, this years’ event filled the room of 300 to capacity with old and new attendees, making this the most successful WINTERSUX event to date.

How We Filled the Room:


We redesigned the WINTERSUX logo to align with the energy behind the brand and event. This new branding provided a platform to build more awareness about the summer-themed event. We also developed a Team Lily logo utilizing JDRF’s messaging, “Help Create a World Without Type 1 Diabetes.” Alongside the message, a posterized image of Lily depicts freedom of the disease once a cure is found. The Team Lily logo was used throughout social media and made an appearance on the back of the WINTERSUX shirts.


We redesigned the WINTERSUX website to align with the new brand and provide history and event information. The website needed to include access to the JDRF Team Lily donation page and the online t-shirt shop. We also used the website to provide recognition to event sponsors and key donors.


We created a social media strategy starting 3 months before the event, utilizing Facebook and Instagram. Our goal was to build a following for WINTERSUX using fun messaging to build anticipation for the event. To do this, we scheduled bi-weekly posts on both platforms to build event awareness. We wanted to build a summer mindset throughout the winter when the weather was less than fun. In addition, we created a Facebook event for further awareness, tracking both our reach and RSVPs.

Changing Our Way of Work for COVID-19

Woman working from home with coffee and laptop

Like others who are lucky enough to still be working during this unprecedented time, our entire team is now working from home. We knew for the safety of our employees and our clients, we had to make the switch to remote working for a bit. Other than client meetings, we’re pretty lucky in that most of our client work can be done digitally or online. Over the last few weeks, we’ve learned some tricks that have helped us to stay productive and remain a steady resource for our clients. Here are some things that are working for us.


While not everyone has a home office, especially not those who typically spend their work hours in the office or on location, a dedicated workspace that is set specifically for work is a necessity during this time. Keeping a consistent environment just for work is going to help you stay productive and separate work space from personal space. Keeping a healthy work-life balance during this time (or any time you’re working from home) is important. This is the first thing our team worked on once we received word that we’d be working from home. Check out our spaces:

We’re keeping it real and doing our best, adjusting our spaces every day as this new way of work continues. Keeping to-do lists and schedules nearby, with tools like Google Calendar, also helps us stay productive.


Our favorite tool to stay connected while away from the office has been ZOOM. Zoom is a popular video communication tool that is perfect for team meetings. There are both free and very affordable account options that make it useful for anyone – freelancers, small businesses, large corporations. Virtual meetings, rather than constant back and forth emails, have helped our team continue on in a way that doesn’t feel too far off from our typical office experience. It allows us to connect face-to-face in a digital way during a time that can feel very isolating.

Need to block out your new WFH “coworkers?” Install Krisp and you’ll be able to mute background noise on just about any communication app!

Worried about what might show up in the background during your meetings? There are plenty of background options at your use, including the option to upload your own videos and images. Block out that overflowing bookcase mail or that basket full of dirty laundry with a fitting background! Try a fun and interactive background from Canva or a perfectly decorated (and clean!) background from Behr®.

Another tool that has been especially useful in gathering files from clients (and vice versa) has been Hightail. Hightail is a user-friendly file sharing platform, perfect for large and multiple file situations. We have an upload link on our website where clients can upload their files of any size. This helps us keep their marketing projects moving along, despite file size issues and the lack of in-person meetings.


During a time as unusual as this, while we’re stressed about the coronavirus and keeping business moving, it’s important to take care of our mental health. For most of us, working from home isn’t our usual way of work. We aren’t just working from home, we’re working from home amid a global crisis and that comes with a lot of new stress and many unknowns. We have found it very beneficial to find time in our daily schedule to get outside. Many of us are taking breaks to go for morning and lunchtime walks through our neighborhoods.

When we’re feeling stuck or antsy, it’s nice to have the ability to take our work outside for a bit. Take your laptop to the porch, patio, or even a hammock while answering emails. These are the perks of working from home and even though we’re here under uncertain circumstances, we should take advantage. Fresh air and a little sunshine are great for our mental health!


Being quarantined can start to feel a little like Groundhog Day, but we need to keep our brains stimulated and creativity flowing. Here are some outlets that are keeping us inspired, productive, and creative:

  • Spotify: Put in your headphones or turn up your speaker and listen to your favorite tunes or an interesting podcast. Once you create an account and start listening, Spotify will create curated “Made for You” playlists tailored to your tastes and preferences. They’ll bring you both tunes you love and some new-to-you songs to mix things up!
  • Pinterest: Quotes, organization tips, DIY projects, future travel ideas, recipes – they’ve got it all! One account we look to for inspiration is Behance, Adobe’s creative showcase platform. You’ll find plenty of things to keep you busy during downtime and inspiration for your latest design and creative projects.
  • Webinars + Classes: Everyone from music artists to corporate businesses are putting on webinars and live videos to keep us entertained. Webinars like #CMOOfficeHours and LinkedIn’s digital marketing courses are perfect for marketers trying to stay on top of current trend changes. Brit + Co, a creative media company, is offering free classes until April 9, 2020. This is the perfect opportunity to learn something new!

Are you currently working from home? We want to hear your tips and tricks for keeping spirits up and staying productive during this time. Let’s connect on Twitter and share!

If you need help to stay connected to your team and clients during quarantine, we’d love to help you find a digital solution. Contact us and we can jump on ZOOM for a brainstorm session!

Photons Take on the Automate Show and Promat 2019

Automate Trade Show booths in 2019

This Spring, we attended the Automate Show and Promat 2019 to help our client with their product displays and marketing materials, assist with social media coverage, and gain insight into the ever-evolving robotics industry. Combined, the Automate Show and Promat featured over 1500 exhibits throughout the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Our client had a large product display, of which we designed prior to the trade show, in the exhibition space of one of their distributors and their product was officially featured in six other booths across both shows. Our main focus during our time at the McCormick Center was Automate as it focused more on robotics and automating the manufacturing process. We knew that would be the place to connect with more potential customers and distributors.

Pendant Armor display in the KC Robotics booth at Automate 2019

And don’t think we didn’t try to fit in a little, non-business related, fun! We made a road trip pitstop at the Albanese Candy Outlet for some sweet treats, went for a long walk around the windy city, and met up with our client for a fantastic dinner at RPM Italian. Just for kicks, we snagged over twenty new lanyards throughout the two showrooms while learning about new products and the industry. We love a good inside joke around the office (#DoItForTheLanyard)!

It was a whirlwind 36 hours, no pun intended, but we are always willing to put in the extra time to get to know our client’s industry, products, and target market. Contact us if you’re on the hunt for a marketing team that understands your goals and your industry or simply need help with trade show materials.

Stacie and Samantha at Automate 2019 #DoItForTheLanyard

Photonics Inc. Celebrates 30 Years of Unassuming Resilience

staff standing inside photonics inc. marketing and design company

Tucked away among the Victorians surrounding Eden Park, you’ll find a home housing the creatives behind Photonics Inc. From the outside it seems like any other house in the neighborhood and, in most ways, it is. It’s inviting. It’s comfortable. It’s collected, full of antiques and oddities. Throughout the house there are hundreds of vintage cameras, framed and reimagined artwork from previous projects, and the same Macintosh desktops that first sparked the owner’s interest in graphic design, that helped launch Photonics Inc. Thirty years of history spread throughout the 3,658 square feet that now house a small team of seven.

Photonics Inc, originally known as Photonics Graphics, was founded by Cincinnati-native Alan Brown in 1989. The company began as a graphic design company, focused on creative and graphic design, recently evolving to offer a more extensive list of services. This year marked their 8th consecutive year as one of Cincinnati Business Courier’s Top Web Design Firms. They have worked with the heavy hitters, P&G’s Professional Oral Health and Roboworld, but also spend a lot of time working with small local companies and nonprofits, such as OneSource Center for Nonprofit Excellence and Cincinnati Youth Collaborative. Their approachability and trustworthiness have been key factors in landing and maintaining relationships with a wide range of clients, of different sizes and industries. To Brown, maintaining these client relationships seems simple. “Be nice. Do what you say you’re going to do. Deliver. Do good work. Care about your client.” And once more for emphasis, “Be nice.”

Somehow Photonics has managed to fly high yet under the radar, despite being one of the longest-running design firms in Cincinnati. Their unpretentious and unassuming nature may be part of the reason, a true reflection of their owner. Alan Brown is humble and quietly-spoken, known locally for his artistic and altruistic character, offering his time and professional services to nonprofits across the tri-state. In 2017 he received the Mesel Wieder Mensch Award from the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, acknowledging his integrity and honor. His team has taken notice. The culture at Photonics has become a direct reflection of these prominent attributes, helping to build the strong foundation that has kept the business standing for the past three decades.

“I don’t live extravagantly or act extravagantly so I’m able to control costs and I don’t give up, although there were plenty of opportunities to do so. I also think that I’ve been blessed with hard working, dedicated staff that can see the bigger picture and help work towards it,” Brown shares when discussing the highs and lows that he and the company have survived throughout the years. Multiple recessions, talent shortages, slow seasons. All businesses experience these struggles, but not all businesses survive a full 30 years of them. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, only one third of businesses even make it to their tenth year.

In 2016, Brown hired Tom Hutchinson, a fellow Cincinnati native from the design industry, as the Director of Development to help push Photonics to the next level. Over the past two years, Hutchinson has become an integral part of the company, helping Photonics evolve into a full-service marketing firm. Their services have expanded to include strategic planning, social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), media buying, and more, all in addition to their design and web development services. “I think I helped to improve the eyesight of the company as it moves into the 30th year,” says Hutchinson. “I have helped to elevate the self-confidence of some of the team, pushing them to become leaders. If Photonics is going to continue to grow and stay relevant beyond today, leadership has to come from within the staff beyond Alan and beyond me.”

Photonics Inc. is a clear reflection of its past and its owner. In 2019, Hutchinson’s hope is to continue helping to grow the company by elevating the roles of the staff, while maintaining the core values that Alan has instilled. “It’s our story. We have to live it. We have to continue the legacy that Alan has built.”

Article was originally featured in the print version of the Cincinnati Business Courier.

Photonics Welcomes New Development Director

Tom Hutchinson Development Director at Photonics Inc.

It’s been a year of growth and a year of change for myself and everyone at Photonics. We embarked upon a rebranding process in February, which led to the launch of a new logo and website in June. I, Alan Brown, was eager to share that news and imagery with all of you, and now I have more exciting news to share. I recently hired a Director of Development to continue to push me and the team to the next level.

Tom Hutchinson and I met a while back when I was a photographer and he worked for a local design firm. Tom is a native to the design industry in Cincinnati and we recently reconnected through a mutual friend. This meeting proved to be beneficial for both of us, as Tom wanted to make a career change and I was ready to bring someone on board who could continue to push me outside of my comfort zone – something I don’t necessarily enjoy (who does?), but something that I know is necessary to grow our business.

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to Tom Hutchinson, or as most people call him, Hutch.

Alan: What do you hope to bring to the table at Photonics?
Hutch: I hope to bring a unique view of what Photonics can become. My experience is extremely unique, having been a vice president, general manager and business owner, I’ve been in the design industry for a while and have watched it react to new technology that’s constantly introduced. I’m excited to coordinate crossroads of sales and marketing to meet our end goals.

Alan: What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
Hutch: I played baseball/softball for 35 years, sang in a rock band for five years, then a wedding band for another five (or more) years after that. So, I’ll get on the stage and sing karaoke with no coaxing! Also, as a side business several years ago, I owned a cigar/martini bar in Montgomery, Ohio, with a life-long friend who I’ve known since Kindergarten. I like good beer, good bourbon and a good cigar on occasion with good friends.

Alan: You like to golf too, right?
Hutch: While not a great golfer, I enjoy the environment of a golf course. The sun always shines on a golf course. I’ve been fortunate enough to golf at some of the greatest golf courses in the country, including Pebble Beach.

Alan: Tell me about your family.
Hutch: My wife Bonnie and I have been married for almost 35 years. We have three kids and three grandkids, who always make me laugh. Everyone should be able to go back and see life through the grandkids’ eyes.

Alan: How would your family and friends describe you?
Hutch: They would tell you I’m a social butterfly. I try to fit a lot in with the little time we have. I’m a high energy guy, so that really helps me fit everything in. My close friends and family are so important to me, and I enjoy spending time with them.

I’m excited to introduce you to Hutch and welcome his high-energy to the table at Photonics! I know he’s going to bring a lot of new ideas and fresh energy to our thriving Victorian studio on Park Avenue.

Just a Guy with a Camera

Alan Brown Photographer and Owner of Photonics Inc. in newspaper

At my core, I am an artist. Long before Photonics existed, I, Alan Brown, was a guy with a camera and a passion for capturing unique stills, developing them in a dark room, and sharing the images with those around me. It’s a passion that took years to cultivate and it’s one that I still very much enjoy relishing in today.

Upon graduating from Syracuse University (in a year I will not mention), I began working for a commercial photography studio in Greater Cincinnati, eventually partnering with two photographers to start PhotoDesign. At PhotoDesign I photographed for a wide range of clients and was specifically interested in photographing people. Most of my work was done in the studio as I preferred being in control of the environment – everything from the lights to the backgrounds to angles took careful planning. Plus, it was always risky to leave the studio with our Cincinnati weather.

Alan Brown Photographer and Owner of Photonics Inc.

While at PhotoDesign I also specialized in creating special effect images for a wide range of advertising agencies, design studios, and corporations. My special effects often involved multiple images collaged together. There was no such thing as Photoshop, and computers had just barely been born, so I spent many hours handcrafting the unique images I wanted to create. As a perfectionist, I was always looking for a better way to do my special effects. When the Apple Mac came out, it looked like I might be able to use a computer to help me. I bought my first Mac in 1985 and the color Mac in 1989.

At this point, you could say, “And the rest is history.” That first Macintosh, which still sits in our studio today, allowed me to combine my love of art and photography with my curiosity for technology. I have always been interested in how technology can help further creative minds, and that computer allowed me to create images of which I had only dreamed. It also pushed me to open Photonics, formerly Photonics Graphics.

When I started this company, we worked with businesses and organizations in Cincinnati to develop graphics – logos, printed materials, illustrations. I often chased the latest technology, which gave me a competitive edge and the ability to react nimbly to each new wave of skills that were required by new products and ideas. When the internet was born, I correctly guessed that websites would eventually become a mainstay among our other offerings.

Fast forward a few years – 2016 is our 27th year of serving the Cincinnati community’s design needs. While our tools are a far cry from that first Macintosh, our desire to create incredible art has never wavered. I’m proud to work with my team of designers and developers to challenge the status quo and deliver work that we are proud to share in our community.

While we have moved away from photography as a service offering, I still enjoy pulling out my camera on special occasions, when my wife and I travel, or sometimes when the moment feels just right. My tagline on Instagram (@alanbrownone) is “Never a purist, always an explorer.”