The Importance of Design in The Education Sector

Education. It’s such an important part of anyone’s development through life.

Designing for this sector helps to project this importance out to the world. To tell the stories of how education impacts the lives of both children and adults.  

When I shifted my freelance design career into working towards good causes, the education sector was a big part of that vision. I’d been working alongside some brilliant, and long established schools for a couple of years and I was keen to continue with this work.

Not your ‘normal’ client

Education sector clients don’t quite fit the mould of the ‘normal’ client for designers. They’re less corporate and usually a lot more personable than the usual clients that us designers work with. From experience I’ve found clients in the education sector to be more friendly and supportive of creative ideas than clients based in other sectors. Don’t get me wrong, they still make money and they still have strict timescales like any other client.

Schools Need Strong Visual Identities

Competition within the education sector if fierce. Even schools and universities have to compete for the attention of their audience, just like any other business sector. This competitive nature calls for a strong visual identity and effective marketing materials in order to tempt in new students and impress parents and stakeholders.

Style guides or brand guidelines help external suppliers like designers to keep the brand’s visual identity and tone of voice consistent.

Tone of voice. It’s not always about the visuals

YesI am a graphic designer saying this! Marketing the education sector is not solely down to the visual design elements. They help of course. Tone of voice comes into play too. Telling the unique story of the school, college or university needs to be at the forefront of the marketing. Things like case studies and quotes from students, staff and alumnae offer an incredibly powerful addition to the tone of voice that is projected.    

A style guide always helps

This a must for any brand, whatever their sector. Style guides or brand guidelines help external suppliers like designers to keep the brand’s visual identity and tone of voice consistent. They also help internal users such as staff to uphold the identity and its values. Schools, colleges and universities tend to have quite a few staff members that communicate internally and externally on a daily basis, so style guides therefore become more important than ever.  

Who does it well?

Here’s a bit of a breakdown of who I believe are doing it well when it comes to their visual identity and marketing campaigns.

Shillington Education

Shillington offers full-time and part-time graphic design courses across the globe.

Because Shillington is solely focussed on one specific course sector they have created a really strong and bold visual identity that adheres to all of the correct graphic design rules…I’d be worried if it didn’t!

They’re visual approach is bold, bright and straight-talking. Perfect for attracting prospective students into the world of graphic design!

Shillington College Website screenshot
Shillington's website is modern, bold and straight-talking.

Manchester High School For Girls

I have to include this school, as they’re a client of mine!

Manchester High has a really strong identity that is simple, clean and consistent. The identity and tone of voice uphold the long history that the school has for delivering the highest quality of education to girls since opening in 1874. They’ve had some pretty important women graduate from the school including the Sylvia, Christabel and Adela Pankhurst, Biographer Catherine Mayer and European Space Engineer Kotska Wallace.

Retaining this historic status that the school has is high priority when it comes to marketing materials and tone of voice. Each piece of communication that the school puts out relies on a strong brand identity, simple but elegant typography and high quality, emotive photography.    

Examples of the Manchester High School For Girls Flying Start brochure
Manchester High School For Girls' yearly magazine for new year 7 students.

University of London (UCL)

UCL’s tagline is ‘London’s Global University’. Attracting students from all over the world means that UCL have to be quite neutral in their use visual language.

UCL’s main identity is a quite subdued. Choosing to use a limited colour palette that revolves around pairing a flat colour against black. Proving that having your core branding remaining quite neutral sometimes works really well. It allows the brand to be more playful when delivering individual marketing campaigns.    

The marketing campaign for their philanthropy and engagement campaign ‘It’s All Academic’ predominantly focuses on bold, blocky typographical elements paired against bright, flat colours and grungy textures. It’s almost ‘punk’ in its approach, which is probably why it resonates with me so much!

University of Central London  marketing campaign example
UCL's 'Punk' styled 'It's All Academic' marketing campaign.

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