A Lifetime of Education
It’s no surprise that many of our clients are schools, colleges, and educational institutions. As a former director of publications and teacher at two different schools, I’ve seen first-hand the special needs that schools have and know the challenges involved.
Schools and colleges have to address the needs of very different audiences, for example. They need to appeal to 16-year-old high school students applying to colleges, to alumni that may not have stepped foot on campus in 50 years, to professionals and businesses that may hire graduates, to potential educators and staff, and to funding sources for projects, research grants, and scholarships. Then there are the internal brand conflicts that can arise between different divisions with wildly different needs—athletics, academics, financial, to name a few. How can you address the needs of these different audiences while maintaining a consistent brand? How can you speak with a consistent voice while maintaining uniqueness within subdivisions?
Too much variation from a core brand and an institution appears disconnected, losing brand identity. Too little variation compromises the messaging for target groups. An email targeting high school students should share the core DNA with a planned giving brochure for alumni, but the two have very different parameters. Promotional material for the athletics department should share the same DNA as a brochure attracting potential graduate students, but, again, the two target very different audiences.
One of the first goals in designing for education is understanding what the core brand is and what core elements form the identity with the goal of understanding how these elements can be used, manipulated, flexed, so that the resulting designs can be instantly recognizable as connected to the school, but remain fresh and appropriate for the target audience.
Design is a Melody, The Brand is the Symphony
An analogy to this approach can be found is music. Listen to the score of a symphony or even a movie soundtrack. Within this, you’ll often hear a core melody which changes, becomes clearer, more obscured, which is passed between instruments, changed again, returning to its original form over and over. This playfulness is key to keeping the listener entertained and engaged. Periodically, the composer will introduce unexpected elements, quiet passages, loud crashes, syncopated rhythms, minor keys, while keeping within an overall melodic structure. In the end, the work tells a story, completes a picture. In much the same way, designing for an educational institution is like writing that symphony. Individual elements are created that address specific communication needs within an overall structure that is the brand.
Knowing how flexible or how inflexible to be is our expertise. The look and language of a Shapchat filter that targets high school students is different than a dinner invitation that targets your board of trustees. But whether that’s a 1080-by-1920 pixel .PNG file uploaded to a remote server or a 130# uncoated vellum, ivory white, 100% cotton sheet that’s been letterpressed using soy inks, we’ve done it all. We look forward to working with our education clients in the future. As they grow, so will we.