Cleveland Institute of Music

From behind the scenes to center stage.


A Drupal 8 redesign that evokes the spirit of music and performance and reflects the calibre of a top-tier musical education.

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The Cleveland Institute of Music has been educating musicians for close to 100 years. Today, CIM is one of seven independent music conservatories in the country.

The school is focused on classical training and attracts the best and brightest young musicians to its orchestral, chamber, composition and opera music programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. CIM’s alumni go on to successful performance careers working with many of the world’s most acclaimed organizations.

In addition to the 450 conservatory students, around 1,500 K-12 and adult learners take lessons there each year.

The faculty are highly accomplished musicians who create a supportive learning environment and provide personal attention to their students while maintaining active performing lives as soloists, ensemble performers, and composers.

CIM students, faculty, alumni and guest artists present more than 250 music events for the Greater Cleveland community each year, many free of charge. Students perform as soloists or members of an ensemble in local community venues, museums, and classrooms – engaging audiences that range from a handful to hundreds.



In the past, CIM has relied on name recognition within the industry as a primary means of attracting prospective students. However, increasing competition led to the decision to strengthen awareness of their brand as one of the premier music conservatories in the country and a superior college of higher education through a special partnership with Case Western Reserve University.

This redesign was an opportunity to create a site that would support that brand and stand out from the competition.

The primary aspirations for the redesigned site included making it:

  • Easily navigable, with clear pathways for different audiences;
  • Media rich, to showcase the music that’s at the heart of everything CIM does;
  • Sophisticated and memorable, to communicate the high calibre of music and education at CIM; and
  • Manageable, by a small team of content contributors.

We used a mixed method discovery process including interviewing stakeholders, prospective graduate and undergraduate students, parents, and concert-goers. Peer testing, analytics and heat mapping on the website helped determine how audiences were using the site to develop the best approach for the redesign.


Playing to the Audience

Creating clear pathways for CIM’s different audiences was important in the redesign. For this site, that meant focusing on navigation for prospective conservatory students, concert goers, and parents of students looking for lessons. “Every university has lots of audiences, but CIM actually has three audiences who regularly come to the site for very specific reasons,” explained Senior UX Architect Jennie Salamoun,.

Unlike more traditional academic programs, where students judge the strength of a program or the school itself, elite music students are seeking the best instruction for their specific talent at the individual instructor level. So when we started on the design of this site, we actually started with the faculty profile pages.

Establishing a good calendar for CIM’s hundreds of performances was also important. These events are critical for students to gain practice performing, and they have an enthusiastic following in the community, so events had to be front and center. As one regular concert-goer explained in an interview, “The talent that they have at CIM, it knocks your socks off. These kids are able to play amazingly well. It’s so impressive how accomplished they are at such a young age.”


Who worked on this?

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Awards & Recognition

Gold ADDY and Best of Interactive award in the 2017 Western Virginia Advertising Awards.