Design Thinking


Integrated Marketing

Integrated Marketing

This term may be somewhat of a buzzword, like “content marketing,” but the power of an integrated marketing campaign could never be overemphasized. Audiences are interacting with messaging everywhere; browsing social media, surfing the web, reading magazines and newspapers, and absorbing countless impressions on-the-go. When developing effective marketing pieces it is important to consider not only one channel, but all media and how they can strategically work together to connect with your audience. We worked with Noble and Greenough School to create an integrated enrollment campaign for an audience that included educated adults in their 30s and 40s as well as their tech-savvy teenagers. Connecting with this demographic range was imperative. Heather Sullivan, Director of Communications at Noble and Greenough School knew she wanted to connect with people early in the process with a conversational application form which invited prospective families to feel as if they were already part of the Nobles community. Interaction carried through into the viewbook, a print piece illuminated with prompts to engage students with the school’s active social media presence. The school’s admission website went even further by featuring video content to familiarize viewers with Nobles culture, from a day-in-the-life snapshot to an experiential learning trip to Cambodia. All of the channels, including complementary advertising, incorporated a cohesive message and visual brand, engaging viewers at every point of entry and connecting them with the unique Nobles experience. The overall yield for admissions was 66% well above the School’s five and ten year average yields with the most diverse student body in the history of the School....

Run Your In-house Group Like a Design Firm

The past few years college and university marketing teams have been impacted by budget cuts, department restructuring, layoffs, and increasing job competition. Marketing and communication offices play an important role in telling the story of their institutions. It is imperative that they market their groups as well as they market the school. Five things to consider: Position. Align your group as a strategic partner and brand expert. Manage. Run your department as if it has to stand alone without university resources. Create. Set clear expectations for scope as well as roles and responsibilities. Promote. Market your team and share success stories. Stay relevant. The industry is changing rapidly and as communication specialists we need to stay on top of trends and help our clients make strategic decisions. A longer version of this article will appear in an upcoming issue of...
The Role of a Creative Director

The Role of a Creative Director

A job title is like a tagline. It’s a quick way to convey what a person does and what their value is to a company. Titles not only help clarify a person’s role to an outside audience but they also help people within an organization understand roles and responsibilities. Job titles also change as people advance through an organization and they gain more knowledge and expertise. An assistant moves on to become a director, a writer becomes an editor, and a designer advances to an art director or creative director. From my experience, I’ve found there isn’t confusion between the role of writer and editor but there is about the difference between designer and art director. This misconception can lead to confusion about roles within the organization. Having worked on redesigns for alumni publications, it becomes apparent during the discovery process that the way the publication is developed follows the path of a newspaper not a magazine. Editors are assigning articles and photo shoots, and even times the writers are assigning shoots. This may be because many of the editors have a background in newspaper journalism and part of their role was to assign shoots to a staff photographer. In these cases the role of the art director is actually a designer. They are taking existing imagery and creating layouts, rather than shaping the visual direction from the beginning. Shaping direction is a key role of an art director or creative director and one of the things that distinguishes the role from that of a designer. Creative directors look beyond the one piece in front of them to visualize...
All Alumni Magazines Are Not the Same

All Alumni Magazines Are Not the Same

Earlier this spring I attended the CASE Editor’s Form to present on magazine cover design. Along with the dine-arounds and peer presentations the magazine exchange is an enlightening experience. It is the one time a year where dozens of alumni magazines are together in one room. Comparisons are inevitable. The good news is the overall quality of publication design has improved since the first Editor’s Forum I attended just three years ago. The bad news is that many are starting to look the same. Alumni magazines are unique. Unlike consumer or B-to-B magazines that are focused on a topic for a specific audience, alumni magazines represent a place and its culture. The culture is the brand and should inform the visual identity. When developing a design for an alumni magazine, design firms should visually represent the school’s culture and not their own style of publication design. A magazine for a small liberal arts college in the northeast should not look like that of a large public university on the west coast. With access to millions of images and collections called boards, Pinterest has become the de facto form of research for many designers. While it is important to stay on top of trends, creating mood boards from other design solutions leads to an end result that looks like something that already exists. This is not research. Research is about visiting a place, speaking with members of the community, understanding what is unique and listening to stories. The outcome from the discovery should guide the look and feel, not something that already exists in a portfolio. It is easier and...
An Engaging Magazine Starts with the Cover

An Engaging Magazine Starts with the Cover

Association magazines are feeling more pressure to the mantras of digital and mobile first, which calls into question the value of producing a print magazine. Competing to gain a reader’s busy attention from numerous media channels—other magazines, newspaper, television, and social media (cat videos on YouTube) is tough!  Getting a reader to pick-up your magazine and engage with the content is imperative to justify its existence. An intriguing cover that speaks to your reader can be the key to success. Continue reading online… Cover Identity and Brand The identity of a magazine is not just about the logo. It is about the combination of the imagery, typography, and voice of the headlines. As recently demonstrated by Vicki Glembocki at the CASE Editor’s Forum in San Antonio, if a reader covers up the logo on your magazine can they tell which magazine they are looking at? The logo is an important element but it should not be the only factor in creating a cover brand. (A similar test, “The Swap Test,” is also noted in Marty Neumeier’s book, The Brand Gap.) The Cover Story What constitutes a cover story? It does not have to be the deepest or most important article in the publication. The job of the cover is to get someone to pick-up the magazine and crack it open. It should be a feature or you have to ask the question why there isn’t a cover worthy feature article in the issue (note: there are exceptions to this such as the beautiful image-only covers for UCDA’s Designer Magazine)? Most importantly the cover article should engage your readership. Answer...
The Collaboration Between Editor and Art Director

The Collaboration Between Editor and Art Director

In the development of a magazine there is no greater partnership than that of an editor and art director. If the word and image sing it is because the people pairing them are working together. With respect for each other’s expertise and roles different viewpoints can lead to a stronger final. That’s not to say there will always be harmony. In the simplest terms, editors focus on the written story while art directors focus on the visualization of that story. But a seasoned editor can visualize and an experienced art director can write display copy to package an article with the visuals. This means a blurring of the roles at times so it is imperative there is respect and understanding of the responsibilities. Some of the favorite layouts I have created are the outcome of a partnership with an editor. A final photo that may have required rethinking a lead or an amazing piece of art that inspired a new headline. It hasn’t always gone smoothly. Years ago I was designing a themed publication and the headlines for the individual articles were not consistent. As I designed the layouts I rewrote the headlines to work cohesively. Unfortunately I neglected to tell the editor I was reworking her headlines before I shared the designed layouts. My input was seen as a lack of respect instead of the collaboration I had intended. I learned that while I had a good idea my lack of communication with the editor earlier in the process was a mistake. Of course, I have been on the other end where an editor cut-up and reworked a layout before...
In-house Teams and Design Firms Make Great Partners

In-house Teams and Design Firms Make Great Partners

I was recently at a symposium for design firm creative directors and the topic of working with in-house creative teams came up. Many people were surprised to hear that my firm partners with in-house teams. We have found that this partnership leads to positive results by combining our expertise and fresh perspective with their deep knowledge of the institution. Through these partnerships we have launched an enrollment campaign, completed redesigns, and consulted on an ongoing basis on multiple publications. It is a style of working that we enjoy and our clients do as well. If your institution has the right culture it may be a valuable partnership that could work for your team. Consider the following: Your in-house team is curious and supports a spirit of collaboration. If you have a culture of territorialism and insecurity it probably won’t work to partner with an outside firm. This move would be seen as threatening to your team vs. an opportunity to learn and grow. So if people can’t share the nut internally they are not going share it with an outsider. Your team is open to a fresh perspective. The positive of in-house teams is that they know the institution and brand really well. This can also act as a weakness. People tend to go to “we have always done it this way or we can’t do it that way because it will never get approved.” This holds them back and they aren’t as quick to push the boundaries of a project. Sometimes a fresh perspective is just a matter of getting out of the office. We have worked on collaborative redesigns...
The Brand Gap

The Brand Gap

Neumeier, was editor and publisher of the former magazine, Critique, one of the best design publications ever published. He continues to inspire with his book, The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design. This 208-page book is packed with advice that will speak to anyone in a creative...