Swarthmore College

Our research makes clear that smart students—Swarthmore’s own and the Gen Z-ers who are best fits for the College—are inherently skeptical of sizzle reels and substance-optional branding campaigns. We embraced the necessary evil of marketing with humor and self-aware savvy.

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  • Gold Medal / Viewbook 2016 C.A.S.E Circle of Excellence Awards Program

What They’re Saying:
“ . . . entertaining, daring, and could be #bestcollegehookever.”
—C.A.S.E. Currents

From the Twitterverse:
“A college marketing to my teenage son with creativity, panache, and guts! Bravo!”

“Visited Swarthmore today. Gotta love promotional materials with a sense of humor.”

“Swarthmore gets an A+ for designing this.”

“You know it’s the perfect school when the financial aid booklets make you smile.”

“I honestly love reading emails from Swarthmore. Funny!”

How to make Swarthmore’s highly intellectual climate approachable and accessible to best-fit prospective students? Our research, which supplemented that of Maguire Associates, indicated that Swatties are “social intellectuals” who revel in the eccentric energy of their lively campus. We also discerned among the cohort of current and future students skepticism of marketing that would necessitate an exceedingly high degree of authenticity.

The design solution, informed by the simple, pared-down sensibility of Swarthmore’s Quaker heritage, presented us an uncluttered canvas to channel and feature the College’s unmistakable, inimitable cultural “voice” in two contrasting and constantly interweaving directions—refined intellectual discourse and candid (occasionally irreverent) playfulness.

The work, which is only now rolling out, has been a social media hit—and admission leadership has noted that, for the first time ever, students, alumni, parents, and counselors reach out to the College, unsolicited, to thank it for the honest, entertaining, engaging, and informative communications. There is widely held consensus on campus that the platform represents the quintessential expression of the Swarthmore brand.