Archive for the ‘Summer 2009’ Category


Seen on the Road

Monday, June 1st, 2009

We saw this group of Amish tourists on a recent visit to the Grand Canyon. Summer is here and it’s time to take a break before regrouping for the Fall.


Miscellaneous observations from an educational communicator’s perspective

No-name brands

Monday, June 1st, 2009

No-name brands About 10 years ago, I took a trip to Egypt and brought back a treasure that is still pinned to the wall in my office—a packet of Chiclets printed in Arabic script. I was amazed that the product was instantly recognizable even though I have no clue how to read Arabic. Several products are now being promoted solely through the use of brand shape and color. Last fall, billboards in town displayed a huge smiling face with a pop-art style background of rice boxes. Who wouldn’t recognize the man as Uncle Ben, even though the type on the boxes was too small to read? This summer, Baltimore billboards display playful words like “chewniversity,” “hungerectomy,” and “substantialicious” in colors and shapes that evoke the Snickers brand.

Perhaps these no-name campaigns work so well because they make us feel like we’re in on a secret. This “less is more” approach might work for colleges that seek to engage alumni—many of whom are passionate about their alma maters. Consider whether your university could conjure up its brand with color, shape, or a photographic detail alone.


Miscellaneous observations from an educational communicator’s perspective

Write hear, right now.

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Write hear, right now. I was listening to National Public Radio one morning and stopped in my tracks over an ad for The Daily Record. The voice-over announcer said, “The Daily Record. Know more.” But what I heard was, “The Daily Record. No more.” During this time of great distress for newspapers, such a misunderstanding is especially ominous. What you write and what you say may not always be interpreted the way you intend. Listen closely when you translate an ad campaign from print to broadcast media.


Miscellaneous observations from an educational communicator’s perspective

Classroom technology blues

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Classroom technology blues I took a campus tour recently and observed a professor teaching with the aid of a PowerPoint presentation. The classroom was new, sleek, and fully wired with all the latest technologies. But the designer in me cringed at the clunky typography and stale graphics in the PowerPoint slides. I spoke with the professor after class, and he explained that faculty members are encouraged to leave chalk and markers behind in favor of new presentation technologies. This is a great idea in theory. However, unless faculty are trained in design, typography, color theory, and a dozen other disciplines that help shape information graphics, the classroom could become a showcase for visual mediocrity.

SMART Board technology will save notes for future use, allow teachers to pull up the Internet during a presentation, and more—but there are still drawbacks that need to be worked out. Professors must be technically savvy so that class time is not wasted searching for content online or troubleshooting the technology. The SMART Board pens are an exciting feature, but handwriting needs to be impeccable for many of these boards to recognize the letterforms.

I remember admiring the spontaneous beauty of a professor’s chalked notes on a board and listening as those notes were expanded throughout the lecture. There was something fresh and organic about that simple way of communicating information. I hope that as teaching technologies improve, they will bring not only a world of information to the classroom but also help professors communicate their own personal energy and style.


Miscellaneous observations from an educational communicator’s perspective

The marriage of art and science

Monday, June 1st, 2009

The marriage of art and science I recently visited Fallingwater, the famous home of the Kaufmann family designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Fallingwater is unlike any building I’ve ever seen, partly because of the way the building blends so beautifully into the natural setting. The walls were built from stone cut from the surrounding mountains, and the windows are designed to frame the outside landscape. From every room inside the house, you can hear the falls rushing below.

The way the structure reflects the natural environment reminds me that art and science are interconnected. When the two are in balance, the result is breathtaking harmony. This is something to remember when designing a website or any complex print piece. We need to remember that function alone is not enough. We also need to treat our readers to a visually stimulating experience. Check out the Fallingwater website for more information about the facilities or to schedule a visit.

Katie Pugh tries to catch a little falling water…

American Airlines web design

American Airlines web design

Monday, June 1st, 2009

American Airlines web design Here’s a fascinating critique of the American Airlines website. The article and the reader comments provide an abundance of food for thought. College and university communicators will recognize similar issues as they juggle internal bureaucracies and decisions by administrators who are often the least qualified to judge design.

FEATURE : Ed Gold, Designer, Mentor, Author, Professor

Ed Gold, Designer, Mentor, Author, Professor

Monday, June 1st, 2009

If you were to trace the origins of educational marketing in America, your journey might lead you to one man in Baltimore—Ed Gold. As creative director at the Barton-Gillet Company, Ed created some of the first innovative designs for education while training many well-known names in the educational marketing business. We asked Ed to tell us about those early days and to help us imagine what lies ahead for our field.

How did educational marketing get started?
“One of my first jobs out of college was as a designer at Barton-Gillet, a printing broker in Baltimore. David Barton, Sr., sat on the board of several colleges. At that time, which would have been about 1956, colleges were mainly using printers to produce their marketing materials. Hood College had a need for some printed brochures, and Dave Sr. volunteered to print the brochures. Dave Jr. turned the job over to his designers, who, of course, took the opportunity to create something that most printers would never have done at the time. Designers being designers, we, of course, entered the brochure in a few design competitions and happened to win some design awards.

“Dave soon realized that he might be able get a lot of college work, so he got busy contacting other colleges. It wasn’t long before B-G started winning a bunch of design awards for other work done for colleges and universities, which raised the bar for all the others. The demand for well-designed materials quickly spread. I won some of my first awards for the Park School in 1959.

A viewbook for the Park School designed in 1959

“For a long time, B-G had no competition. We would win nine out of ten jobs we pitched. Then, as designers from B-G began to leave to start their own firms, competition became increasingly stiff, which might explain why Baltimore became a hub for educational design and marketing. Another factor for this might be that Baltimore is such a good place to live that many of the designers who had worked at B-G decided to stay rather than pursue high-profile agency jobs in bigger metropolitan areas like New York. I myself received lots of job offers from New York companies, but I thought, ‘why would I want to leave Baltimore?’ Many folks I knew that moved to New York ended up divorced and in therapy. Baltimore was, and still is, a great town for great design.”

How is educational marketing different? Is it different?
“I think educational marketing is vastly different from product marketing. The creative process is similar—focus on your audience, speak their language, and so on. But most products, like toothpaste for example, are very similar to their competitors. The differences have to be manufactured through packaging or clever advertising. Colleges, however, are very diverse. They need marketing to help clarify their differences so that ultimately people can make the right choice and pick a school that is really right for them. At a time when New York City colleges were having a difficult time convincing parents that New York City was a safe place to send their kids, we produced a series of recruiting brochures for NYU that helped them double their applications. That makes you feel pretty good. You do something that’s good for the school and for the kids that go there.

“Unfortunately, many colleges are not doing a good job defining themselves. They have taken a product marketing approach. The bureaucracy often doesn’t allow individual decision-making. Too much is decided by committee. They need someone from the outside for a fresh perspective.

“When I was at B-G, I much preferred my educational work over the product work I had been doing for an advertising agency. One of the accounts I was responsible for at the agency was the Parks Sausage account. Every time I heard the words ‘More Parks Sausages, Mom…please,’ I cringed. I worked hard at the agency, but I didn’t feel any personal satisfaction. That’s why I especially enjoyed the educational clients. I still worked hard but I felt I was really making a difference.”

What is the future of print and web for educational marketing?
“Although many people go online for information, colleges are still sending out a lot of printed materials, and I think they should. I’m convinced that web technology will continue to change and will become much faster and cheaper. But you have to remember that the dynamic is different. People have to find you on the web. Your print materials find them.

“I also wonder how long will it take for people to get bored with social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. Will the novelty wear off, and will people move on to newer and trendier networking platforms? I’m optimistic that all this social networking will move us toward what’s really important—getting off the screen and actually connecting in person with friends.”

What are your thoughts on traditional education versus distance learning?
“There are people who should enroll in online universities and others who shouldn’t. I still prefer the real classroom to the virtual classroom experience. I understand how important peer pressure is to students—this is something that is missing from the virtual classroom. Students measure themselves against their peers and find it stimulates them to try harder, to push further. I’ve seen unprepared students come in here and leave much better because of the support and interactions they received in the classroom.”

Ed Gold is an alumnus of the Maryland Institute College of Art and winner of more than 400 awards for excellence in graphic design. He is a professor at the University of Baltimore, co-director of the School of Communications Design, director of the School’s Ampersand Institute for Words and Images, and director of the MFA in Integrated Design. For many years he was Creative Director at the Barton-Gillet Company, a nationally renowned communications and marketing firm. He is the author of The Business of Graphic Design, cited by Critique magazine as one of the “greatest books on design ever written.” Ed teaches Creative Concepts, Theory of Visual Communication, Design-Business Link, and other advanced theoretical and applied design courses.

FEATURE : A GCF Magazine Workshop

A GCF Magazine Workshop

Monday, June 1st, 2009

A GCF Magazine Workshop
In April, GCF and the University of Baltimore hosted a workshop that took a thought-provoking look at the challenges facing alumni magazines today. Fifty registered attendees joined us in the University of Baltimore’s Liberal Arts & Policy Building to discuss design, copy, layout, budget, deadlines, organization, inspiration, online vs. print, and individual critiques of several attendees’ alumni magazines.

Speakers included Ed Gold, professor and director of the MFA in Integrated Design program, University of Baltimore; Catherine Pierre, editor of Johns Hopkins Magazine and director of the Johns Hopkins Publishing Group; and Domenica Genovese, Brenda Foster, and Katie Pugh of GCF. You can see a list of presentations and download the PowerPoint slides here.

Below are a few comments we received about the workshop:

“I feel the workshop was very helpful, and would attend again if one is done next year.”
–Jim Lord, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

“I found this one day workshop more useful than several day conferences that I had to fly to. Honestly!”
–Allison Ernst, Community College of Baltimore County

“The workshop was terrific, and the tips and designs were compelling. It is so hard to know what the rest of the world is creating if you do not get a chance to see what they are doing, or know where to look on the web for amazing design…”
–Diane Green, US Naval Academy

“Given the amount of material covered, you all did an admirable job of keeping the workshop on schedule. I got a great deal out of five hours plus the short individual critique.”
–Donald Challenger, Hamilton College

If you are interested in attending a similar workshop next year (or know someone else who might), please email Brenda and let us know.

FEATURE : Mighty Microsite

Mighty Microsite

Monday, June 1st, 2009

A conversation with Bill Cole
GCF recently completed a microsite for the University of Baltimore’s capital campaign. We spoke with Bill Cole, Associate Vice President, Institutional Advancement, to see how the site is working for the campaign.

Please give us an overview of the campaign.

The University of Baltimore, which is part of the University of Maryland System, is charged with raising $40 million of the System-wide goal of $1.7 billion. Our campaign ends in 2011. We needed a website to coincide with our public launch so our alumni could stay informed on the progress and goals of the campaign while also receiving information about the changes at UB over the years.

What role does the website play in the campaign?

It’s critical. We see it as a landing spot. The goal of the microsite is to create—and maintain—interest in the capital campaign. The world has changed. People look at a website first. They do research online and make decisions based on their research.

One of the goals of the website was to limit the number of print materials; is that working?

It’s still too early to tell, but we have adapted the majority of print materials so they are available as pdfs that users can download from the site. We are doing our best to be environmentally friendly by reducing the number of brochures alumni receive and, ultimately, discard. Major gift officers can now go online and print only the information they need. There’s no question that it saves on printing costs.

Do you keep stats on site visits?

We have the ability to track visits but we haven’t yet printed the site’s URL in many of our publications. That will change when our magazine delivers in October—that’s when we anticipate a big increase in site visits. It’s important for us to know where our visitors are going and which areas of the site they visit most frequently. That information will help us to focus our efforts more strategically.

Are departments successfully using the content management system?

The CMS has been working well. There’s no excuse for stale content with the CMS. Our staff is quick to revise and update information, and we appreciate being able to manage updates in-house rather than depending on an outside source.

What feedback have you gotten on the site?

The initial response has been amazing. We’ve seen and heard many positive comments. It integrates seamlessly with UB’s institutional site. It’s clear, clean, easy to navigate, and visitors can easily find what they need. Copy is short and to the point. In my opinion, a page is too long if you have to use the scroll bar. I want a paragraph or two at a time—tops. I want to click on links rather than scroll.

Are people using the website to make donations?

We get some online donations but you’re not going to get a major gift online. A website is better for annual fund gifts. Many people have stopped using checkbooks altogether so they are very comfortable giving online.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I enjoyed working with GCF. I’ve worked with many website firms and they often show you what they think you need and then try to sell it to you. I enjoyed that GCF built the site we needed and wanted instead of building a site that you wanted us to like.


Marketing: Are you the target? You should be.

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Marketing: Are you the target? You should be. For years, we’ve performed SWOT analyses (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) to profile students and donors, break the market into segments, and concentrate efforts on one or more key segments. For years, it worked just fine. But it’s not working anymore.

Online communities like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have changed today’s marketing landscape. Your audience doesn’t want you to find them. They want to control when and how they find you. They want to bypass your carefully and lovingly crafted marketing messages and get the skinny on you as revealed by students, alumni, and friends on social networking sites. In other words, your goal in marketing is not to target your audience but to become the target.

Here’s how to paint a bull’s eye on your institution:

Observe your online communities and notice the topics that keep members engaged and chatting with each other. Once you’ve learned what they want to discuss, keep the conversation going. Be friendly, honest, and open.

Remember that each community has a different personality and code of conduct:

LinkedIn resembles a business cocktail party. You’re dressed for business, talking about what you do, looking for opportunities to move up the ladder, and trying to find someone to help with business decisions.

Facebook is a bit more casual, like a neighborhood block party. You’re wearing your sandals and t-shirt, corralling the kids and dog, showing off pictures of your family, and talking about vacation and how to improve your lawn.

Twitter is like greeting a friend as you walk down the street on your way to an appointment. You stop to chat for a moment about something he or she should check out online—an article about the basketball team or a new restaurant in town.

As in any networking situation, you want to make yourself or your organization attractive to others. A blend of charm and character mixed with interesting information will keep you in the spotlight.


Marketing: From the other side of the mailbox.

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Marketing: From the other side of the mailbox. My husband and I have a teenage son and daughter who are a year apart in school. Our mailbox has been on the receiving end of college admissions materials for the past four years. Here’s what worked and what didn’t for our teenagers:

1. If it was from a college they were interested in, they devoured it; if it was not, they didn’t.
2. In the beginning, they looked at it everything. By the beginning of their senior year, they didn’t.
3. If the brochure was different, they looked at it; if it was not, they didn’t.
4. If it came in a plain white #10 envelope, it was tossed out, unopened.
5. If it was colorful and youthful, they looked at it.
6. If it had outstanding photography, they looked at it. Pictures of kids on a campus lawn got ignored.
7. If it was printed on nice stock with embossing or gold foil, it got their attention. My daughter explained that high quality brochures made her feel special, but when I asked her the name of the college, she couldn’t remember.
8. If it came in unusual packaging, they opened it.
9. If they received the same information from the same college time and time again, it was trashed without a glance.
10. Email from most colleges went unread or was ignored. An exception was a valentine sent from the school mascot.
11. If it was from a college they were interested in, they read it.
12. If it was from a college a friend attends or is considering, they considered it.
13. Unsolicited email from other colleges was considered spam.
14. If a college they liked called and left a message, they returned the call. If they weren’t interested and the calls kept coming, they deleted the messages without even listening.

My conclusion? College communications have to be different to get kids’ attention. Youthful, colorful, interesting, unusual, and fun gets noticed. Boring, repetitive, and predictable does not.


Comic Sans: The red-headed step-child of typography

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Comic Sans: The red-headed step-child of typography I used to belong to an exclusive club of typographic cognoscenti who would roll their eyes knowingly when a silly font like Comic Sans appeared in print or online. I’ve just realized that my exclusive club has exploded in size when I came across this article. Apparently, there’s an entire movement to ban the font from use. I feel vindicated and a bit more hopeful about the future of typography. I look forward to the day when other design crimes, like swooshes in logos or dumb quotes have their day in court.


Sign of the times

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Sign of the times Have you ever thought about what might become of your online accounts in the event of your (gasp!) death or incapacitation? We’re told not to share our passwords with anyone or write them down anywhere, and websites have begun asking us to change them more frequently. How in the world would anyone be able to access bank accounts and other important websites without the intimate knowledge of passwords we each carry around in our heads?

Now there’s a service called Legacy Locker: “The safe and secure way to pass your online accounts to your friends and loved ones.” Legacy allows you to save your “digital assets” and select beneficiaries for each one. You can also set up “legacy letters,” post-mortem messages that will be sent to your friends and loved ones. It may seem creepy for such a website to exist, but in a digital world, we should consider a digital solution.


Legislating legibility

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Legislating legibility When Congress recently wrote and passed new credit card legislation, the esteemed lawmakers essentially ruled out the fine print. Provisions in the bill actually set the minimum point size and stipulate that the print on applications and disclosures must be readable. This is great news for the elderly and others with poor eyesight, but did anyone think about putting all those disclosures in layman’s terms so we can actually understand what we’re seeing?


1.5 million views in just 60 days

Monday, June 1st, 2009

1.5 million views in just 60 days  How did the University of Minnesota garner 1.5 million views of an educational YouTube video in just 60 days? They featured science lessons on the concepts behind Watchmen, the 2009 Warner Bros comic book-based movie. This article features an interview with Elizabeth Giorgi from the news service at UMN Office of University Relations. According to Ms. Giorgi, the University worked with YouTube directly to promote the video, built a relationship with Warner Bros, timed the video’s release to coincide with the movie’s media blitz, and combined educational material with pop culture. Basically, the University has turned viral video marketing into, well, a science.


Your friendly corporate logo

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Your friendly corporate logo There is a warm and fuzzy trend afoot in the corporate brand world. Now sporting friendlier fonts, cutesy flourishes, and more colors, corporate logos are attempting to appear welcoming to buyers who may be reluctant—especially in this economy—to trust big business. A “kinder, gentler” image is being adopted by Wal-Mart, Kraft Foods, Superfresh grocery stores, and even Blackwater (with a less hostile-sounding name: Xe). It seems as if a herd of purple Barney’s has invaded the corporate design studios making the world of advertising a lot more huggable.


Extra, Extra!

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Extra, Extra! TED, the Technology, Entertainment, and Design conference that grew into a “small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading,” makes genius ideas available to the average web surfer. In this video, European newspaper art director Jacek Utko shares his experience redesigning a dying art form. His results have been incredible: not only have his exuberantly-designed front pages won prestigious design awards, but they have also greatly increased subscription rates (up to 100% in Bulgaria). His success stems from using design to change the way readers experience and interact with their papers.


Cool Tools

Monday, June 1st, 2009

I wish I could mark up a webpage the way I mark up a page proof or PDF…
WebNotes can grant your wish! It allows you to mark up a webpage by highlighting text and adding “sticky notes” with more details. You can also organize your notes into folders for quick reference. The basic version of WebNotes is free. If you upgrade to the pro version, you can highlight and add notes to a PDF online as well.

What are my chances?
Instantly calculate your acceptance odds at any U.S. college, based on the academic info you plug in. Just choose a school to “chance,” fill in as much information as you can, and hit “Chance it now!” to see your results.

Turning images into patterns
Sometimes pre-created patterns, whether for your desktop or as a background image, are not what you’re looking for. Repper is a free-to-use pattern creator that turns your images into interesting designs. It’s easy to create patterns for your desktop or social profile background. If you don’t know where to begin, or what image to use, check out Repper’s design gallery.

You may have noticed that the text messages your teenager sends you are an indecipherable jumble of letters. Is this some new language? DTXTR will help you decode the messages—but it won’t help explain why the average teen sends and receives over 1,700 text messages a month!

Answers to life’s puzzling questions
Need an answer to a puzzling question? Just go to Cha-Cha. Real human beings will actually research your question, and text you the answer on your mobile phone. Cha-Cha is free, but if you have limited texts on your mobile plan, keep in mind that you will be charged a fee if you exceed your limit!

Help! I need a slice of mushroom and pepperoni!
Send Google a text and get its help to go. Send your question to 46645 (Google without the “e”), whether it’s for directions to the nearest pizza parlor, the zoo, or the donut shop. Google will text you back the name, address, and phone number of the two closest options. GPS technology lets Google know where you are and where you want to be. Text the word “weather,” and you’ll get the local forecast. If you text “weather” and a zip code, you’ll get the forecast for that area. You can find movies, too. Text the name of the movie you want to see with a zip, and Google will text you show times for the nearest theater.



Monday, June 1st, 2009

The National Archives are open for your viewing pleasure. You can click on a photo that interests you, and the archive will provide related images you can click from there.

Great images/illustrations paired with the written word can create a truly interesting experience. Check out this wonderfully illustrated blog.

So many links, photos, and articles out there, but so little time to enjoy them. is a place to look, save, and share the things you enjoy.

One of the missions of the World Global Library is to expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet. Have you had your culture today?

Watch a video about this book—if only the things other people have learned in their lives were shared in such interesting ways.

Just because it’s a chart and it’s informative doesn’t mean it has to be ugly. Information aesthetics—where form follows data.

Firefox seems to continuously work to be the best browser out there. Here’s a list of the Top Firefox Add-Ons.

Their Circular Life: a truly unique website that gives you a glimpse inside everyday life in select places.

View an animation of all flight movements tracked by FlightAware during a 24-hour period in September 2005.

Affect or effect? Lie or lay? The Confusing Words website clears up the confusion.


Fun and/or informative links for the discerning info-snacker.

Just For Fun

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Those pesky post-it notes are everywhere—creeping out of stacks of papers, taking over your computer monitor, and constantly reminding you of that deadline.

GCF staffers unwind in Washington DC.


Do you have comments, questions, or story ideas that you’d like us to cover in an upcoming issue of the Cram Quarterly? If so, email Brenda or call her at 410-467-4672.


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