Advances in technology have, paradoxically, made communicating more difficult: a virtually limitless number of people and products now compete for our limited attention. Moreover, specialist skills have multiplied, and the job of making them work together has become more complicated. Education is not immune from this. As with other public or semi-public sectors, colleges and universities are confronted with the need to market their services and products to a local, national and international market.
Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design is a world-renowned institution with a significant international community among its staff and students. With their marketing programme we pioneered a cross-media approach, combining excellence in the fields of strategic planning, creative visual design and technological know-how, to exploit the potential of individual media whilst ensuring consistency and efficiency in communicating across a range of media.
This presentation demonstrates an innovative and holistic approach to communication design, developing new ways of working and improving the quality of output for the benefit of the client, their customers and the designer. We illustrate the principal components of the program: the visual identity, the editorial system and the publishing tool (the design engine), the two main marketing outputs: the website and the brochures and some examples of supporting marketing elements -posters, stands for fairs and flyers such as reply-cards.
The College needed to consolidate its visual presentation to better promote its services and products in an increasingly competitive education market, yet it was imperative not to appear overly corporate and to allow the rich diversity that distinguishes the College to be retained.
The visual identity consists of four components: (a) the Colleges messages; (b) typographic styles; (c) colour palette; (d) paper and printing process.
The Colleges messages are the dominant component of the visual identity. Stories are developed in text and images by using the body of work generated by students, staff, alumni and other associates. Structure, processes and procedures for the collection and organisation of images were developed and put in place. The editorially controlled use of these messages ensures diversity while providing an invisible thread that unifies all outputs.
Typographic styles, a colour palette and a defined print-process system complete the identity ensuring recognition and a sense of family.
We designed and built the Colleges website around the concept of an exhibition: the visitor is directed to areas of interest by signposts, indicating the direction across the page, rather than the conventional scroll-down.
The exhibition allows the user to engage with content: discover additional information about their area of interest, students work, and top-line information for all 900+ courses - all without leaving the homepage.
Navigating through the highly-engaging homepage offers the visitor a complete view of the Colleges offering.
On selecting a course, the visitor is presented with a new window and a clear visual change - much more textual information is displayed.
The exhibition navigation options featured in the homepage is now compacted in a drop-down menu to continue to allow the user to reach all corners of the site.
The availability of dynamically updated PDFs for each course, downloadable from the site, have significantly reduced the number of hours College staff spend in responding to enquiries,as has the introduction of the online booking facilities for short and evening courses, the latter has also produced a marked increase in sales.
Each year Central Saint Martins produces a range of printed outputs marketing their different types of courses, from degree (Directory and Postgraduate Directory) to part-time (Short Courses, Summer School and Portfolio Preparation Courses).
The brochures share the same format (A5), materials and printing processes and vary in number of pages (20pp to over 200pp).
The selection shown in the following pages was produced using the publishing tool we developed for the College. New editions of the brochures are being produced every few months.
Posters and others
Each brochure has supporting marketing materials, such as posters and leaflets, to raise general awareness of the courses on offer. The posters are visually recognisable as part of the same campaign, providing continuity and re-enforcing key messages.
Additional marketing is produced quickly and simply, since the College does not have to start the design process from the beginning. The publishing tool minimises the work to be done: the editorial system determines the type of message; the content is already available in the database; the poster templates in the design engine are ready for use.
Publishing tool: design and guidelines
The design of the publishing tool itself was important. Key considerations were ease of navigation and usability, clear and simple-to-follow rules on cataloguing and content organisation, and security issues; namely, control of user access and authority.
To assist the College staff using the publishing tool, we produced a set of guidelines explaining its functionality and scope, with information and guidance on administrative matters, the editorial system and the visual identity.