Cooper River Bridge Run design for 2015 is unveiled, features fighter jets

The design for the 38th Cooper River Bridge Run, to be held March 28, 2015, was unveiled on Wednesday. The winning artist is Shea Tighe, 30, of Charleston.

The inspiration for the winning design for Cooper River Bridge Run and Walk came in the early spring four years ago, but it had nothing to do with tens of thousands of people hoofing it over the double-diamond Ravenel.

In April 2010, Shea Tighe watched Charleston's Navy Week air show and, like many, was awe-struck by the Blue Angels soaring over Charleston Harbor and the Cooper River bridge.

"That image stuck with me," says Tighe, now 30, of Charleston. "I also realized that with most big events there's a fly by."

Tighe included fighter jets in the design, in part, as a nod to the contributions that aviation has played in the Charleston metropolitan area, from the Air Force base to Boeing, which just happens to be major sponsor of the Bridge Run.

(Nevermind, Tighe acknowledges, that the base is home to cargo planes and Boeing makes Dreamliner passenger jet airliners here.)

In what is the unofficial kick-off to the run up to Charleston's big run, Bridge Run officials unveiled the new design at a ceremony on Wednesday. The 38th annual Cooper River Bridge Run will be March 28, 2015.

Tighe, an Atlanta native who is an avid runner and regular participant in both the Peachtree Road Race and Bridge Run, said winning the Bridge Run contest was a "bucket list kind of thing for me."

"When I got the call (that he had won) and knew that my design was going to be part of the branding for the Bridge Run, it gave me a chill," said Tighe, who created a tech start-up STEM Premier connecting promising students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math with colleges and companies.

The design was selected by a group of sponsors and other interested parties at a judging of more than 60 designs last month. Some didn't like the fighter jets and even suggested that the artist should remove them. Others, including representatives of Boeing, said the jets were a key component of the design.

Long-time Bridge Run Race Director Julian Smith described the design as an "icon for the 2015 race."

"The design is a great representation of the Bridge Run. It will look awesome on all the race material, T-shirts, magazine, web and marketing material," said Smith.

For Tighe's efforts, he received a $1,000 check, 100 posters and 24 shirts, along with the recognition that comes with his design being on more than 40,000 T-shirts, tens of thousands of brochures and other promotional materials and even a few billboards.

A different design won the online voting of the Bridge Run's second "People's Choice" voting. Out of 5,000 votes cast, 800 went for Meredith Johnsen's vintage black-and-white design. While some at the judging liked the design because it was different from the usual colorful depiction of the bridge, the majority rejected it because they considered it "busy" and wouldn't "translate well" on the T-shirt and promotional materials, such as brochures and billboards.

Johnsen, who lives in New Hampshire and only found out about her People's Choice nod via a friend on Facebook, says she knew creating the design was a long shot.

"In my mind, I saw (the black-and-white design) looking best on some sort of vintage-colored T-shirt, maybe green, with the large design on the back - surrounded by Bridge Run sponsors - with one of the pocket designs on the front. I didn't know if it was a possibility, but thought it worth the risk," said Johnsen, a neonatal nurse who graduated from the Medical University of South Carolina in December 2006.

"I can absolutely see why there was concern regarding the visual interest of a black-and-white design for the front of a white t-shirt. I get it. Either way, I really enjoyed creating/drawing it and I sincerely appreciate the support of the community for the People's Choice vote, as well as the judges consideration of the design."

Johnsen is planning to meet a friend and run the Bridge Run in March.

Reach David Quick at 937-5516.