We carved out a home for the humanities by building a flexible design system tailored to support all the facets of a liberal arts education.
Changing the Conversation
As the state’s leading research institution, Virginia Tech is known for technical programs and a hands-on, applied approach to education.
What most people don’t know is that of its 7 colleges, the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences is the second largest, just behind engineering. For them, Virginia Tech’s call to “invent the future” doesn’t look like lab coats or 3-D models of DNA strands. And their message was missing from the Virginia Tech brand.
With this redesign, the college noticed a golden opportunity to tell its story: that technology alone can’t solve society’s big problems — it also takes human understanding and critical thinking skills — specialties of the liberal arts and humanities.
Why Not the Liberal Arts?
In research conducted with Hanover Research, we found prospective students think liberal arts graduates get a well-rounded education but have a tough time finding jobs. Virginia Tech’s liberal arts graduates rank fourth nationally in earning potential, so we knew that combatting those misperceptions with messaging would be an important goal.
But how could we get web audiences to understand how the hard sciences and humanities not only supplement, but improve each other?
Tech’s liberal arts students mix humanities and engineering classes to better understand the people who’ll use the bridges and buildings they design. They cross data science with digital history projects to share lessons from the past in new ways. 79% of them participate in research as undergrads, many of whom get their work published.
We focused on telling these students’ stories to answer the questions on prospective students’ minds. We added a “Why Study Here?” section to the top navigation and designed their degree pages like product pages, splicing in quotes, research projects, stats, and stories from real students.
We worked with 5 of their 15 departments, writing content to serve as templates for the others. Those departments saw marked enrollment increases the next semester, even liberal arts standards like History, which experienced a 33% enrollment increase after launch.