How to Nail Your School’s Brand Identity With Its Website Design

Differentiate your school with a website that ticks all the right boxes, stands out from the pack, and celebrates your uniqueness 

Key Takeaways:

  • Many school websites look alike, with bland photography, taglines from the 1950s, poor color choices, and no sense of a cohesive identity
  • Education is experiential, and you are selling the intangible – the most important impression is a brand identity that shows that what they will get is worth the investment
  • Don’t overlook the importance of color in this equation
  • A strong brand identity creates the credibility you need for the 47% of students using college websites to research and decide upon a school
  • Authenticity is vital – 99% of consumers today say they look for it when deciding which brands to support
  • Conveying your school’s values is important to the 65% of people who are belief-driven purchasers, and you can express these values both in design and content  

Some higher education institutions rely on long-standing authority and heritage to market their schools, but most struggle to differentiate themselves from other universities. When you look at most school websites, you see smiling faces and tired taglines along with wide-angle campus shots.

 

Your website is your calling card, your face, your first impression. What does your school’s website say about you? It’s all about your brand identity. The collection of elements – including fonts, images, colors, and copy – can attract, repel, intrigue, or bore. To set yourself apart from the pack, your school must create its own brand. 

 

A university is much like a business in that students exchange money for education. However, it’s important to look at your institution as an experience where each student expects different things and hopes for a specific outcome. This means you are selling the intangible, which makes it imperative to develop a brand that delivers a promise to your students that the experience is worth the investment. Let’s talk about why brand identity is important and how to make your school stand out.

 

Why school branding is important

 

As we mentioned, those who don’t know much about your school will make judgments based on your branding. It is up to you to present a picture that presents your school the way it wants to be perceived. It’s important to build an authentic brand identity for these compelling reasons:

  • It provides a holistic impression: When students are on campus, they view it as a whole, not as pieces. Proper branding unifies the look of all marketing materials – including your website, printed materials, and content – so every department from athletics to philosophy aligns with your school’s mission, values, and visual brand identity.
  • Trust and remembrance: Research reveals that 47% of students use college websites to learn about schools. A strong brand identity fosters a strong reputation and the credibility you need to convince prospective students that they will get good value for their money.
  • Recruits the right students: You want students aligned with your school values – they are the ones who actually shape the educational and social ecosystem, set the bar for academic standards, and embody the spirit of what it means to be a member of your school. This means your website must portray the institution in a way that conveys your unique culture.

Your website branding can also improve alumni engagement by reminding them of all of the things they loved about your school. The importance of brand identity is obvious. Now, let’s talk about how to get there. 

 

How to develop a brand identity for your school

 

First, let’s talk about what a brand should be. It should be honest, interesting, and, above all, authentic. Authenticity is everything today – 99% of consumers say they look for it when deciding which brands to support

 

At a time when trust in brands is at an all-time low, it’s important to know that 65% of people today are belief-driven purchasers who want to support brands that are willing to take a stand. This means it is important to convey your school’s values in a way that resonates with those who share them. You can do this through both design and content. 

 

Colors and Fonts

 

Colors definitely affect behavior, providing a powerful visual tool to guide the website visitor’s attention. This requires an understanding of color theory. For example, 

 

  • Red is a color of importance, but it is also aggressive. A lighter shade will emphasize the energetic, youthful traits of red. 
  • Orange can add excitement. 
  • Yellow is thought of as a happy color, but it also turns on the anxiety center of the brain.
  • Green is a balanced color, straddling the line between warm and cold colors. Because it represents the outdoors, it is suggestive of nature and has an organic quality. 
  • Blue is seen as a trustworthy color, which is why banks often use it. It’s also calming and friendly, and darker blue can help people feel more secure with its somberness. 
  • Purple is not a color you would likely use often, as it brings to mind romance and sensuality, but a deep, dark purple can symbolize creativity. 
  • Pink is popular when targeting female users, but be careful about reinforcing stereotypes
  • Brown isn’t used often in web design, but paired with green, it can remind the visitor of trees, giving a feeling of reliability.
  • Black is often used just for text, but it works great as a background and adds some sophistication and elegance.
  • White is thought of as clean, but it is harsh. Try a cream or ivory as they give a feeling of comfort that white just doesn’t provide.

Then there are the very neutral colors of gray and beige. Gray in its various hues can take the place of black or white, but remember it is thought of as a formal color. Beige is dull on its own, but it enhances the colors around it, and the colors around it can even change its hue. 

 

When it comes to fonts, the most important points are:

 

  • Limit yourself to between two and four fonts.
  • Readability is key: Use larger or bolder fonts to draw attention, but don’t go overboard. Avoid using hard-to-read fonts, and never, ever use Comic Sans.
  • Use color in fonts sparingly.

Colors and fonts matter, but to decide which colors and fonts to use, you have to figure out how to create your brand identity.

 

Think about what makes your school’s brand unique

 

First, look at the competition. Many are offering the same courses and can highlight excellence in faculty. How do you set yourself apart? The points below will help you sort things out, but the insights into the weaknesses and strengths of other school brands can enlighten your branding path.

 

You likely have developed your marketing personas, your product is your school, and now it’s time to highlight the areas of excellence and develop your unique selling point. Does your school offer a degree path that’s different from others? What about a specific course, degrees, or outstanding faculty members? How does the community see your school?

 

Colors evoke emotions, but so do words. Storytelling is the key to authentic marketing today. Look at your history and what your school has accomplished through the years. If you’re a brand new school, what problems are you able to solve that other schools can’t? You want to provide a purpose for your existence, whether your school is ancient or young.

 

Images convey further meaning. Avoid bland, posed photos, and don’t forget the importance of video.

 

Concocting your school’s brand identity takes some work, and you’ll need to keep updating as things change; it’s definitely not a one-and-done. Take the above tips to heart, but remember: Be consistent, be authentic, and never, ever, use boring slogans. 

 

KWALL helps you develop your unique brand identity 

 

At KWALL, we’re all about growing your brand. We’ll help you create your brand identity and design your website based on up-to-date marketing intelligence because we know it’s an important part of conveying your brand and its personality as part of a unique site experience. 

 

You can count on us to support the development of your higher ed website, help you implement a CMS, and support you while you use it. We can also help you create a maintenance and support plan that works so you can manage content through a content management system.

 

KWALL specializes in helping colleges and universities increase student engagement through the quality of their websites. Reach out and contact KWALL today to talk about how we can help you.