Friday, September 25, 2015

The Use of Visuals in Branded Websites

I thought it would be interesting to highlight how colleges and universities use different visuals to communicate their distinctiveness on their websites. Here are some examples to which I would like to draw your attention:

Tagline or Slogan
Overall Message Communicated
Effectiveness of Web Site Imagery in Conveying Brand Distinctiveness
Paul Smith’s College
The College of the Adirondacks
Logging, a boat on a lake, students in a stream, students in the woods, measuring the circumference of a tree, rappelling, Adirondack fungi fest
Outdoors education - living and learning in the Adirondack Park
Reed College

Video featuring students and faculty talking about the philosophy of their educational approach
A unique intense intellectual education
Naropa University
Transform yourself. Transform the world.
Tickets to see Dalai Lama, yoga pose in front of mountain, Bhutan, art studio, massage therapy, contemplative education
A place for spiritual growth and awakening
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Pictures of happy students interspersed with scientific and laboratory images
A fun place for students who are focused on STEM
Princeton University

Mostly text with some very small images
A conventional educational experience
Oberlin College

Full screen images of a wide variety of subjects from an aerial view of the campus to a student working on a bike, a professor talking with a student and a student working in a botany lab
Imagery that draws you in to explore further
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Each day a different image is featured on the homepage. Each image highlights research occurring at the Institute. Today, it highlights a virus that can combat bacteria.
A place where very interesting, leading-edge research occurs
Rhode Island School of Design

Full screen images with lots of color and creativity - from a richly designed fabric to a display of found natural objects
This place is all about design
University of Rochester

Each Friday, the university features a student, faculty, staff or alum photo on its home page.
Speaks to community engagement

Several things occurred to me regarding the effectiveness of website imagery to convey brand distinctiveness. First was the size of the images – full bleed versus very small. In every instance, full bleed images were much more effective.  This worked very well for MIT and RISD and terribly for Princeton. Second was the consistency of images. MIT’s images always conveyed the same thing – very interesting leading-edge research. RISD’s images were also fairly consistent in conveying a design aesthetic. Paul Smith’s images conveyed a fairly consistent feeling of outdoor experiential education. Next, the use of a video instead of still images was very effective for Reed College. And students and faculty talking about Reed’s unique educational approach clearly communicated distinctiveness.  Finally, changing images such as MIT’s new image every day and University of Rochester’s photo Friday indicated a level of dynamism and, in University of Rochester’s case, community engagement.

Don’t underestimate the power of imagery in conveying a certain brand feeling and brand distinctiveness.

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