Never Settle: A Global Award in a Global Pandemic

Viewbook Cover & Mailer

The pandemic forced ATU’s office of University Marketing & Communication to rethink the way they did just about everything. 

It felt like the world stopped on a dime, but recruitment and enrollment had to go on – and so did the work of creating the 2021 ATU Admission materials. How do you communicate? How do you collaborate? How do you create? How do you produce an entire suite of publications in isolation?

Marketing units at universities across the country were having to answer these same questions. 2020 posed one of the toughest challenges the industry had faced yet.

A challenge and a solution

Create a persuasive set of materials showing off the best experiences ATU has to offer – while the university is completely virtual. No focus groups with current students. No brainstorm meetings with Admissions. No team meetings. No photoshoots. No walking down the hall to bounce ideas off your coworker.

Just you, a laptop, and your brain. And Webex – can’t forget Webex.

“This team worked incredibly hard to put together these materials in the midst of a very challenging year. I’m so proud of their hard work, grit and determination to continue the work of telling the Arkansas Tech story. To receive this level of recognition for that work is an incredible honor.”

Carrie Phillips, Director, University Marketing & Communication

The first task was to solve the isolation problem.

The team held digital huddles each week to discuss project timelines, write content outlines, brainstorm layouts, and plan – plan, plan, plan.

Each week, plans were made and team members logged off the call to work through each persons’ tasks – writing stories, choosing photography, designing layouts, layering in rich digital content, working with printers and vendors. All the while the team communicated via chat, text, video, phone, coffee breaks on camera – whatever it took to collaborate remotely.

The second task was to tell the ATU story.

A story of strong bonds with each other, of hard work and determination, and of being on the leading-edge. How do you show hands-on learning experiences and deep connections while everyone is separated?

It took a bold combination of print, photography, video, digital content, web, and storytelling into a layered materials package that spoke directly to incoming students and showed that while this year might be different, the ATU experience is rich, deep, and rewarding – no matter what.

“This year, CASE member schools, colleges, and universities across the CASE global membership were faced with challenges that have never been seen before, and advancement professionals demonstrated their skills and sensitivity as they created inspiring and important work to engage their communities in entirely new ways.”

Sue Cunningham, CASE President & CEO

The journey to gold

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) is the global non-profit association dedicated to educational advancement—alumni relations, communications, development, marketing, and advancement services—who share the goal of championing education to transform lives and society.

As a CASE member institution, ATU submitted the 2020 Admissions materials for awards consideration. CASE awards are judged by industry peers and entries come from every type of institution across the U.S. and the world.

CASE received almost 3,000 entries from 27 countries. Those entries came from 530 institutions for consideration across 100 categories.

The CASE Circle of Excellence awards categories see stiff competition every year as the best of the best entries from CASE’s international membership are judged against one another by an independent panel of judges.

An unexpected outcome

All of the work to pull the 2020 Admissions materials together paid off.

Grand Gold – 2020 Admission Materials

From CASE – A Grand Gold is an entry that is extremely exceptional or “game-changing.” A Grand Gold Award is the highest level of recognition in the program. These awards are rare, and only one may be given per category.

From Felisha Weaver, lead designer:

“My goal in designing the 2020 Admissions materials was to accurately convey the university’s characteristics through visual design to connect with students who possess those same character traits. I looked at each print piece both individually and holistically, aiming to design pieces that were strong and engaging enough to stand on their own while also seamlessly marrying the overarching brand of the university.”

From the judges:

“The thoughtfulness of this package is what truly makes it stand out. The design, graphics, and storytelling of the print pieces are noteworthy, but the print pieces paired with the matching and very unique acceptance box not only set this apart in a marketing sense, but likely make students feel special and a part of the Tech community, even before enrolling.”

The 2021 Viewbook, Your Blueprint, was awarded a Bronze Circle of Excellence award in addition to the Grand Gold awarded for overall the Admissions materials package.

From the judges:

“We loved the blueprint concept and the overall look and feel of this piece. The checklist in the back was a creative way to convey information in a usable format.”

Never Settle

If there is one thing MARCOMM isn’t willing to do, it’s settle. That refusal to accept anything less than the absolute best is what led to receiving a global award in the midst of a global pandemic. 

In the face of the most challenging season they have faced as an office, they managed to create something beautiful. Something they are proud of. But more importantly, they are proud to tell the story of the place and the people we love the most. The story of ATU.