Conn. College - Admissions

Atop a 100-year-old arboretum campus, Connecticut College houses 1,900 undergraduate students and is the alma mater to 25,000 alums globally. The college markets to internal and external audiences to maintain its standing reputation.

Role Graphic Designer · Photo Editor

Work Brand Identity · Print

Tools InDesign · Photoshop

Agency Inhouse

The Problem

Prospective students consider on average 8-10 institutions to attend during their college search. They are often inundated with marketing materials while finishing a busy and stressful senior year of high school. Students need clear and consistent messaging that answers critical questions about their college of choice.

A narrow and outdated visual identity led to an inconsistent look and feel across print and digital customer touchpoints. Prospective students and their parents often confused the Connecticut College with UCONN and perceived it as undiversified, preppy, and too expensive.

“How can we better tell prospective students about why the college should be their first choice?”
"How can we regain control of our brand identity as we reach our centennial?"

Opportunity

  • Refresh the color and type palettes to differentiate Connecticut College from UCONN.
  • Establish new usage guidelines that govern how the college’s identity should display.
  • Align print marketing with the college’s environmental values and reduce production costs.
  • Establish an engaging sub-brand that shows (rather than tells) the college experience.
Key Performance Indicators
  • Increase the number of applications.
  • Reduce the amount of time and effort it takes prospects to apply.
  • Reduce “summer melt” (the number of students who “melt” away during the summer between the end of high school and the beginning of college).

Research

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Define

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Ideate

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Branding

I adapted the look and feel from the “Viewbox” produced by another agency to new and existing admission publications. Part of my strategy involved directing a lifestyle photographer to capture a vibrant campus life to tell a story through pictures, not just words.

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UX Design

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Prototype

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Testing

Partnering with the third-party agency that designed the initial Viewbox, we tested the box of cards with prospective students in Boston. As we sat behind mirrored glass, we watched high schoolers open the box and sort the cards before consuming their content. From this process, we decided to:

  • Strengthen the visual connection between cards with a similar topic or category since we learned that students preferred to sort the cards. 
  • Reduce the number of colors and typographic styles used throughout the piece for a more cohesive look and feel overall.
  • Introduce more meaningful content about campus life and academics, explicitly using photography rather than icons to strengthen our storytelling.

Over several years, the content and imagery of the Viewbox evolved based on additional learnings, the college's forthcoming centennial, and changes in the higher-ed market.

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Results

  • The college’s public profile improved, as indicated by a record-breaking number of admission applications.
  • Standardized publication formats, environmental policies, and waste-prevention methods saved $8,000 in print expenses in one year.
  • In their college essays, prospective students recognized our environmental values (bleach-free post-consumer waste paper, vegetable-based press inks).
  • The in-house “Viewbox” received a 2011 American Package Design Award.
Lessons Learned
  • Photos are easier for younger generations to digest rather than long passages of text. Millennials especially tend to believe pictures over words.
  • It is hugely impactful to understand gaps in touch points and fill them with emotional pieces that drive excitement when most colleges fall silent.
  • Environmentally responsible print production is not as expensive as it seems and actually may save thousands of dollars in costs.