Do I still need a printed viewbook?
I can’t tell you the number of times I am asked that question. Quite honestly, the answer is simple…..yes.
In focus groups we have conducted with both students and parents, the feedback has been overwhelmingly in support of receiving the “big brochure” that they will look at as part of the decision making process. Can they go online and learn about a college or university? Sure. Can they go on facebook and see updates and happenings on campus? Sure. At the end of the day, there is still something special about holding a printed piece in your hand and turning the pages to uncover beautiful campus shots, to get a feel for the students that attend the school, to learn about academics and to envision yourself as a student there. I have always said that the same holds true when making other big decisions in life, such as buying a car. How would you like it if you were about to make a $20,000-$40,000 investment and you asked the sales person at the car dealership for a brochure with the pictures of the shiny new cars on the mountain tops with the wheels turned and they said….”umm…we’ll send you an email or check us out on the web”. I don’t think you’d be too happy about that.
With all that said, the role of the viewbook has certainly changed in recent years. I have listed below the top 10 rules for developing a successful viewbook both in a creative sense and strategically as well:
10. Make it special.
Simply put, the PRINTED viewbook needs to be for Seniors only. To make an impact, the viewbook needs to be set aside for those that have taken the time to learn about you or have shown some level of interest during the recruitment process. I can’t tell you the number of schools that hand them out at college fairs, send them to Juniors and even Sophomores. By doing this….it is loses the impact.
9. Complement the viewbook with an online viewbook for everyone else.
Here is where technology can play a role. Develop an online viewbook to be sent to Juniors, Sophomores, (competing schools who are certainly all over your website seeing what you are doing) and anyone else that might have an interest in your institution. They are relatively inexpensive to develop (TWG Plus has one!) and they are a great solution to working within a tight printing budget.
8. Viewbooks are not for “all of the lonely people”
A little shout out to the band “America”, sorry had to do it. What I am saying here is that a big mistake in developing viewbooks is taking “lonely” shots of campus and/or students. While you may have a beautiful campus, the shots of buildings with no one around simply convey one thing…a lack of community on campus. Same holds true with shots of students by themselves. Unless you are profiling someone, a shot of a student alone says, “I don’t have friends.” Students and parents want to see themselves fitting in and finding people that they can see themselves spending time with. Not many people like to be lonely.
7. Photography is key
This goes along with my previous point, but I wanted to emphasize this even more. While professional photographers can be expensive, they are worth the investment. Some schools will fill up their viewbooks with either shots taken by students or with a digital camera and quite honestly….you can tell. Experienced photographers who know how to shoot colleges will visually convey the essence of your institution. If budget is an issue, then use any images you get from the photographer in an oversized fashion and then fill in with small inset candid shots by students (or your iPhone 4).
6. 8.5 X 11 is BORING!
Yes, I said it. If you have a viewbook that is the size of a piece of printed paper….it is boring. Consider oversized, undersized, odd-sized, crazy folds, unique bindings etc. When we test viewbooks in focus groups, almost 90% of students and parents polled, like the viewbooks that are NOT 8.5 X11 as their favorites.
That’s it for now. Next time, I’ll cover the remaining 5 rules for designing printed viewbooks.