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The Ampersandbox: An Integration of Print and Web

The admission team at the College of William & Mary didn’t want a regular viewbook. They wanted a spaceship.

We wanted admission pieces that would vie for attention in a stuffed mailbox. Pieces with impact, interactivity, and integration with the website. — Henry Broaddus, associate provost for enrollment and dean of admission

Following a successful website relaunch project with mStoner in 2008, William & Mary asked us to help create a new viewbook that would jump out of the mailbox, include a distinctive web component, and take on the college’s enrollment challenges – highlighting the fun of W&M to in-state students, and its top-tier liberal arts experience to out-of-staters.

After a dozen meetings, two online surveys, and five focus groups, mStoner developed “The Ampersandbox”: The stories of William & Mary told through a pair of words joined by the William & Mary ampersand and juxtaposed with candid photos from the college’s Flickr feed.

Think Fire & Ice (the arts), Bread & Butter (the library), and Near & Far (study abroad).

In print, the Ampersandbox is literally a box of cards, each tailored to a different aspect of the William & Mary experience. The front of the cards display the words; the backs feature related information such as study abroad locations, clubs and organizations, and research or internship opportunities.

A custom microsite (Ampersandbox.WM.edu) gives current and prospective students and alumni a place to create and share their own Ampersand word pairs and stories.

In terms of value, creativity, strength of writing (and you’re talking to writing snobs here), cooperative style, being committed to understanding unique institutional identity and not projecting a marketing firm style or voice - we would rank mStoner at the top. — Henry Broaddus, associate provost for enrollment and dean of admission

The viewbook and site were planned in a way that lets each medium work to maximum effect. It’s a great demonstration of the way that print is able to assume a more specialized role: As the web carries the lion’s share of information, the viewbook is able to devote more of its increasingly expensive page count to romancing a prospect, using culture and people to differentiate an institution from its competitors. In the case of William & Mary’s Ampersandbox, each card became a freestanding message delivered in the college’s indelible voice. Love letters, as it were.

Building on mStoner’s original concept and wireframes for the companion Ampersandbox microsite, the on-campus team at William & Mary designed and deployed Ampersandbox.WM.edu. The microsite encourages alumni, current students, and prospective students to deliver their own love letters back to the college. Current students and alumni rave about it, saying that it perfectly captures the William & Mary they know and love, while prospective students and their families say it’s made the school stand out to the point that they want to apply. Prospective students and other audiences also immediately began posting their own word pairs and photos to the site.

It is sometimes difficult to articulate our institution well. The mStoner team spent a lot of time on William & Mary’s campus and got to know us. The result was admission pieces that speak to W&M, but are not cliches. mStoner highlighted our quirkiness and intellectualness. — Wendy Livingston, associate dean of admission.

In the end, articles praising the project appeared in the Washington Post and the Chronicle for Higher Education. And while that kind of acclaim isn’t the only reason to embark on an outside-the-box project – pun intended – it’s good to have the creative firepower on your side to make it happen.

CORE CHALLENGE

To create a new viewbook that would jump out of the mailbox and partner it with a distinctive web component.

SERVICES

Discovery, creative strategy for print piece and companion microsite, design, content development, information architecture for microsite

Date

2011

CATEGORY
Universities