The University of Pennsylvania has everything going for it. It’s one of the most elite institutions in the country. It was founded by Ben Franklin. It’s been educating students since before the United States existed. And it’s produced some of the most influential thinkers and leaders of all time.
When Penn came to us, it already had an incredible story to tell. It just needed the voice to tell it. We found there was more to Penn than a reputation. More to its campus than just history. More to the place than a list of its successes could describe. It is an Ivy League institution with a decidedly un-Ivy personality. And its story deserved a voice, a style, and identity all its own.
Penn wanted to create a refined, authentic, and compelling admissions platform for the university – one that was distinct from its elite peers, Ivy or otherwise.
We developed three conceptual directions for the Penn story, each of which pulled from an authentic element of Penn: the revolutionary thinking that takes place in Philadelphia, the spirit of inventiveness embodied by Ben Franklin, and the culture of honesty and realism that exists on Penn’s campus. It was Penn’s one true story, told three different ways.
Bold is revolutionary. This concept issued a challenge to the dreamers, builders, and activists of tomorrow: it’s up to you to find the way forward. Inspired by the revolutionary spirit of Philadelphia, the story was both a call to arms and an invitation to take action against passivity, carelessness, and stagnation.
Bold is inventive. Inspired by the boundless curiosity of Ben Franklin, here we told the university’s story by showing how his spirit influences everyone at Penn. We focused on how Penn invites students to explore everything that captures their attention, as they work to invent new things on their own.
Bold is unapologetic. For this concept, we told the story of the Penn community and its appetite for taking on big challenges, unafraid of the risk of failure. Penn students are open to imperfections, false starts, and less-than-productive endeavors, because who they become is the result of their success and their failures.
Bold is telling your story like nobody else can. Together, we drew on all three concepts to establish an honest, real brand that conveyed Penn’s positioning of interdisciplinarity among a community of curious, creation-centered students. Ben Franklin was recast as the ultimate incarnation of Penn’s give-everything-a-try, don’t-be-defined-by-just-one-thing ethos, with trial and error as a natural part of the learning and growth process.
We worked with Penn to examine its communications flow and identified key print pieces to deliver these messages to prospective students. Each tactic is designed to speak to students at a particular moment in their college search process, and each connects with digital and other important touchpoints.
Not only do these pieces look and sound nothing like materials from other elite institutions, but they’re also printed in unusual formats intended to pique students’ interest.
When prospective students visit campus, they receive a huge, double-sized poster that unfolds from a smaller size. It starts with a cheeky, meta headline, then reveals more information on every new panel. On the reverse is a useful campus map, full of locations, experiences, and wry commentary about life at Penn.
The cover of this tabloid-style newspaper uses striking, eye-catching imagery and style (which also hides the full list of majors). Each page is designed with its own distinctive style, and important information lives next to unexpected bits – like the Table of Tables of Content (featuring a Table of Condiments and a Table of Consonants), a feature on Penn’s toast zamboni, and stories about the Addams Family and Einstein’s brain. A semi-secret puzzle hidden on the back makes readers go back through the piece to find clues that lead to a winking but satisfying conclusion.
In this double-spine book, each spread on the left side (student stories) works with each spread on the right (Penn experiences) to demonstrate how every student takes their own path, but they all have the same limitless opportunities.