A 70% year-over-year increase in freshman applications was a defining moment for an ambitious redesign.
The Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts is a new School that has merged the music, theatre and cinema departments into one all-inclusive School. With this change, they were charged with a mission to reimagine their brand and successfully communicate their goals to incoming students. Our mission was to create a website that the faculty and students can both be proud of.
To Be, Or Not To Be
NewCity conducted several stakeholder interviews and KJ sessions with the faculty, staff and students. On several occasions we called them the “Performing Art” School instead of the “Performing Arts” School. We learned that these two terms are viewed completely different! Simply calling their School “The School of Performing Art” implied the visual arts, and it was very important to their mission to communicate much more. It was explained that “Arts” implies the all the different programs that they house collectively, and communicates their goal to be more collaborative. A “s” may be a simple letter to some, but can change the meaning of an identity.
One of the issues with trying to create a unified message is making sure that all of the voices are being heard. We met with first-year and upper-classmen in the department to learn the qualities of the new school. We discovered that the students from each department had very different goals. For instance, the music students used the website to find particular faculty members to study under. Some theatre students indicated they used the website to discover when they started performing in the program.
The overall theme for the VT School of Performing Arts website is unity. We used the feedback gathered during the research and discovery phase to start some simple sketches of how we pictured the website in the early stages. Sketching is one of the most important tools we have available, and it allows us to throw out bad ideas before we ever open an Adobe program.
In the design presentation, we laid out our thoughts about how we approached this project:
“The website for the School of Performing Arts needs to compliment the immersive experience one has in the Music, Theatre or Cinema programs. While conversion is a successful measure of the effectiveness of the site, we should also make it a priority to leave a visitor with the impression of discovery and the richness of the Music, Theatre, and Cinema programs.”
“After several months researching and working with the School of Performing Arts, the warmth, welcoming atmosphere, and endless opportunities remain with us. We have tried to elevate that within visual design of the homepage you are about to see in the same manner and focus that Music, Theatre and Cinema give each and every one of its students.”