Cardiff School of Art and Design: Positioning

Case Study

Client

Cardiff School of Art and Design

Type of Work

Positioning
Messaging
Copywriting

Repositioning Cardiff School of Art and Design with a new story

Background

Cardiff School of Art and Design (CSAD) is one of the five schools that make up Cardiff Metropolitan University. The school has been in existence for more than 150 years – and offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses in subjects including architecture, fine art, illustration and product design.

Our first contact with CSAD came in 2013, when the dean of the school asked us to guest lecture. We were delighted to help graphic design students get to grips with topics including brand, brand naming, messaging hierarchies, straplines and personal branding.

Then in 2015, CSAD asked us to help them tell the school’s story in a fresher way, repositioning it in the minds of students and faculty alike.

The challenge

CSAD may have a long and rich heritage, but its outlook is – and always has been – avant garde. The school has always been outward-looking, helping its students to become not just successful artists, but game changers who use art and design to better society.

But the school’s marketing materials – and even the story it was telling itself internally – weren’t communicating this effectively. Instead, they were simply listing out course options available to students.

So the school’s dean asked us to review the way they were telling their story, suggest a fresher way forward – and align their marketing materials, prospectus, internal documents and website.

What we did

When you become a student at CSAD, you become part of a belief that artists and designers are changemakers.

The school gives you opportunities to develop your practice, skills and insights. And more fundamentally, it opens up students’ thinking, to show the impact that art can – and should – have in society. CSAD’s story isn’t about a school and courses. It’s about the people it sends out in the world and the change they make.

So our first suggestion was to change the perspective of the school’s communications. Instead of having the organisation talk about itself, we flipped communications around so that, first and foremost, they talked to students about the future they wanted to have, and to live in.

We then revisited the messaging for each subject area and introduced a fresher, brand-aligned tone throughout.

And in line with the school’s maximum impact ethos, we suggested providing the new messaging and narrative in a kit of parts. This kit would be able to be used, re-used and put to different purposes in many types of communication.

This involved creating an overarching narrative for the school that would act as a boilerplate. We also suggested creating similar high-level stories for each subject. The second stage of the project would involve rewriting the detailed course descriptions for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

Stage 1: Creating a narrative

We started by getting under the skin of the school and familiarising ourselves with its ethos and unique way of working. This involved lots of reading, talking to faculty members and research into each subject area.

We then created a top-level narrative for CSAD – an opening piece that would tell a consistent, memorable story to the school’s various audiences. This story conveyed the vibrant, creative spirit of the school and spoke directly to students and potential students.

Next we created individual introductions to each programme in the same style and tone.

The initial need was for material for university recruitment events. CSAD had the story designed into posters that were handed out at UCAS fairs – and faculty from each subject area handwrote the top-level introductions onto postcards. The copy was then used in the prospectus and on the website.

Stage two: Rewriting course descriptions

Once we’d developed top-level introductions for each subject, CSAD asked us to rewrite the more detailed course descriptions. Again, the brief was to focus on the change students could make with the school by their side – rather than the features of each course.

Based on input from faculty, we rewrote all existing undergraduate and postgraduate course descriptions – removing jargon, making them more concise and framing them around students and their needs. 

Results

CSAD now has a differentiating story to tell potential students – one that really helps it stand out at university fairs and other events. Teams have a consistent, easy way to talk about the school – and the documents they create have greater impact.

The school’s messaging is now consistent across its communications – and is also fully aligned with the university’s overarching strategic objectives.