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CASE STUDY

INTERNET, PRINT & DESIGN TRANSFORMATION

institutional
Communication
DESIGN

taking stock & Establishing standards

Upon arriving in my role, I discovered that each department within the school handled its communications.

Designing, writing, printing, and mailing each project independently, the departments acted like separate schools, not one unified institution.

PROJECT DETAILS

Name
Institutional Communications Design

Industry
Education, Marketing

Type
Brand and Communications Design

Medium
Internet & Print

Duration
Six years, 1999—2005

My Role
User Experience + Interface Design, Creative Design, and Production work.

Scope
Project discovery, definition, design, production, and delivery of press-ready files or web pages as needed.

Constraints
Working with multiple departments needing equitable time and space online.

Deliverables
Website (twice), and all manner of print communications.

Outcome(s)
I provided the bridge from a disorganized and incohesive approach to design to one that matched the institution's approach to education.

Full text and more samples are available on the desktop version of this case study.

Upon arriving in my role, I discovered that each department within the school handled its communications.

Designing, writing, printing, and mailing each project independently, the departments acted like separate schools, not one unified institution.

When I began designing, it was clear there was work to be done.

The messaging and presentation lacked coordination and cohesiveness. I had my work cut out for me.

Over six years, I consolidated design and production through a "media group" composed of individuals from each department present to voice any concerns over a project. More importantly, I coordinated efforts and streamlined the entire process.

My priority was redesigning the website that launched in 1996. I redesigned the website twice, once in 1999 and again in 2005—and that website stood until 2013.

Image for Thacher case study
Website screen capture is from the 2006 website redesign that remained online until 2013
Website screen captures is from the 2006 website redesign that remained online until 2013.

Start where you are.

Each department: Admissions, Development, and Administration, has specific target audiences whose relationship is different to the school based on their needs.

Meeting with department reps, I became increasingly aware that each group wanted their message to be upfront and the "first." I felt like I was walking a tightrope, trying to please all the departments and make them content with the results.

It was clear that centralizing the design of the website and all communications from a single source was necessary.

Image of the front of the Thacher DVD sleeve
The front of the DVD sleeve for the Admissions departments promotional materials.
Image of back of the Thacher DVD sleeve

The back of the DVD sleeve for the Admissions departments promotional materials.

Roles + Responsibilities

The school’s next major capital campaign for fundraising was a sizeable initial undertaking.

I began by redesigning, in consultation with the Media Group, all existing materials and producing new materials for the campaign and other projects.

Our team consisted of one person from each department and became known as the "media group" (admissions, development, administration). Other relevant faculty and staff are invited to weigh in when needed.

It was my responsibility to communicate the change in design direction and the reasoning behind having a design guide for communications. I had to sell it to all the internal department stakeholders and the Head of School. Fortunately, it was well received.

Image of Owen Jameson gift announcement

Details and images of the Owen Jameson Gift Announcement for the Alumni and Development department.

Image of Thacher Campaign Announcement

Capital Campaign announcement mailer for the Alumni and Development department.

Scope + Constraints

Each project for a department had its unique print constraints: quantities, colors, paper stock, budget, and deadline.

On the other hand, the school magazine was a twice-a-year print periodical with longer lead times.

On the digital side of communications with the website, email, and social, the school was an early player, having used the web to promote itself and widespread use of email and on-campus messaging systems before I arrived in 1999. 

Image of Thacher Campaign Announcement

Both sides of the Capital Campaign announcement for the Alumni and Development department.

Image of Thacher Campaign Announcement
Image of El Archivero Thacher's yearbook

"El Archivero's" cover and final appearance for the Student body.

Designs marking 25 years of Co-Education at Thacher, it was initially an all-boys school for the Alumni and Development department.

Outcomes + Lessons Learned

Working with many project stakeholders who all have an equal claim to "being first in line" when communicating to the public was challenging and stimulating.

I learned to balance each department's needs, make them feel heard, hit their objectives, and produce good work. Asking probing questions were critical to unpacking 'reality'—versus simply accepting what people say.

Taking time to dig deep, listening intently, and being open to criticism—were crucial to getting buy-in from all the departments.

I refined my ability to quickly iterate designs and deliver the "next step' in the ​​evolution. Keeping momentum is key to the engagement of the team and stakeholders.

Looking back, I can see my role was transformative for the institution and contributed to the school's growth and success. The school has embraced a better approach to the design and presentation of communications to all its constituent groups.

The Process + Deliverables

Beginning with a discovery phase, as I always do, I interviewed each key stakeholder to get a high-level download of their requirements.

I constantly listen for—or try to help clients discover—needs they didn’t know they had.

With requirements nailed down, we went into the design phase supported by a condition somewhat unique to private schools: we had comprehensive data on all the constituents; we knew who they were.

We often had tight deadlines, so it was essential to offer versatile ideas. And it was necessary to educate them on a turnaround to provide feedback and approvals quickly.

The website process was essentially the same, initial stakeholder meetings followed by wireframe meetings and walk-throughs to collect feedback, then iterate until there was a consensus from all involved. We would then present an MVP of the website, and once we cleared QA, we published.

Image from the Thacher News magazine

Covers from The Thacher News, the school magazine; various page layouts from different issues are below for the Administration and the Alumni and Development department.

CONNECT

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Copyright ©MCMXCII–MMXXII — Bert Mahoney.
All rights reserved unless otherwise noted about specific content.

SOCIALS

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To comply with GDPR.

MISCELLANEOUS

Copyright ©MCMXCII–MMXXII — Bert Mahoney.
All rights reserved unless otherwise noted about specific content.

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