Best Practices

Client Brag: Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University is a branding machine, and we love it.

As part of campus wayfinding and aesthetics/esthetics, we often tell clients they must remind visitors what campus they are on and what building they are inside throughout the tour. On a recent visit to TTU, we saw (Render) textbook dust mats that check both those boxes. And one more - school colors!

Time to step up your dust mats!

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Client Brag: The University of Alabama at Birmingham

We. Love. Food. Especially Southern food. Whenever we're visiting our client, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, we tend to pack some clothes with stretch. It's a good decision.

Birmingham is known for delicious eats, and we love this handout in the UAB Visit Center for guests. Pointing out which locations are within walking distance of campus and student favorites is brillant.

Now, where to eat next time in the BHM...

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FCNY18 & The Campus Visit: The Whitney Tour

Render followers know we're fans of the Fast Company Innovation Festival. This past October, Render's Brittney Joyce spent a week in NYC traversing the city to pick up lessons from the world's most innovative brands.

Couldn’t tell you anything about this piece other than a quick story on how the artist replicated an exact copy of the living room seen from the show displayed on the television set. Stories matter.

Couldn’t tell you anything about this piece other than a quick story on how the artist replicated an exact copy of the living room seen from the show displayed on the television set. Stories matter.

We've been publishing a series of blog posts with lessons from #FCFestival. What did we learn that can be applied to the campus visit?

When a fast track at #FCFestival includes the word "tour," you know we're there. This session was a tour of "Programmed: Rules, Codes, and Choreographies in Art, 1965-2018" at The Whitney.

Did the tour go well? The short answer is: no. Ironically, this fast track reinforced a lot of our Render "no-no's" when it comes to staging an engaging, memorable experience. In particular, the visit checked off three of our biggest tour blunders:

  • No setting of expectations
    • Our guide dived right into walking us through the exhibit space without explaining why this timeframe or artwork was chosen and why we had elected to participate in this tour. Why is this important, and why should we care? And what do we hope to gain out of this visit? All questions that needed to be asked.
  • So. Many. Facts.
    • We get that it is a museum exhibit tour. But going into detail about how every piece of art is installed gets a little mundane after a while (and we imagine isn't unique to The Whitney or this particular exhibit). We heard very few stories, but for the pieces with stories attached, those were the memorable ones.
  • No opportunity to sit.
    • After 45 minutes, we were all exhausted. Everyone started to lean against walls, move on to other pieces before our guide was finished with the current one, and asking about bathrooms/beverages.

Translation for the visit: We often go on these kinds of tours outside of higher ed to see how they make us feel. Most of the time, the tour was boring (and we love art), and we walked away frustrated without having learned much that couldn't be found online or in the exhibit brochure.

TL;DR: If you are staging a visit that is only self-serving and full of information that can be found online/in a brochure, you'll turn off your guests. Guest comfort and their interests come first.

One of the only pieces where we remember a story associated with it: many of the TVs are vintage, and The Whitney team had to scour antique stores and eBay to find enough to create this installation.

One of the only pieces where we remember a story associated with it: many of the TVs are vintage, and The Whitney team had to scour antique stores and eBay to find enough to create this installation.

Client Brag: Fort Lewis College

Adding graphics and enhacing the aesthetic doesn't have to be expensive. When you have an older building (especially with cinderblock walls), a little paint goes a long way in helping the space feel updated and relevant.

Take inspiration from our client Fort Lewis College (Durango, CO). A little paint + a mountainscape design = a fresher hallway.

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Client Brag: Flagler College & Rider University

When you're showing a real student room on tour, the hospitality of showroom hosts can make guests feel welcomed or like intruders. We can't tell you how many times a showroom host has been in their room and stared down a tour group... not cool and also a bit awkward.

Our clients Flagler College (FL) and Rider University (NJ) have showroom hosts that are embracing visitors. We encountered these two offerings of candy for tour guests. It was a small gesture with big impact.

Have you asked your showroom hosts if they need a little bit of $$ to do something fun like this for your guests?

Flagler College: Emily + Tory, you’re the real MVPs. Thanks for the candy.

Flagler College: Emily + Tory, you’re the real MVPs. Thanks for the candy.

Rider University: Room 106, You the bomb-dot-com.

Rider University: Room 106, You the bomb-dot-com.

Client Brag: The University of Pennsylvania

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

Our client, the University of Pennsylvania, has been hard at work the past few years making many changes to their campus visit experience.

We've long been champions of people (not programs) and stories (not stats). Proud that Penn is adopting the same philosophy!

Read the article from The Daily Pennsylvanian detailing all the changes their admissions offices and the Kite and Key Ambassadors have implemented!

Kudos, Penn!

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

Client Brag: University of Puget Sound

We love brands with a little sense of humor. This handout at the University of Puget Sound proves you can still look polished while having fun.

These drink tickets for accepted students allow for a coffee break at some point during their customized visit. Since admitted students will be bouncing between faculty, class visits, coaches, tours, and admissions, a caffeine break (at one of their three delicious PNW coffee shops on campus) is a must.

Thanks to our creative colleagues at the University of Puget Sound for allowing us to share!

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FCNY18 & The Campus Visit: Nordstrom Men's Store

Render followers know we're fans of the Fast Company Innovation Festival. Last October, Render's Brittney Joyce and Dani Napier spent a week in NYC traversing the city to pick up lessons from the world's most innovative brands.

In the coming months, we'll be publishing a series of blog posts with lessons from #FCFestival. What did we learn that can be applied to the campus visit? First up, the new Nordstrom's Men Store!

Standing tall on W 57th Street, Nordstrom has opened it's first store dedicated to providing men a tailored (pun intended) shopping experience.

Based on their research, priorities for this store included:

  • Providing opportunities for customization and personalization
  • Making convenience and efficiency a priority
  • Elevating services to high-end amenities

Sound familiar? These are all priorities we see in research about the campus visit and anecdotal observations of family behavior during visits.

How did Nordstrom translate these priorities into a new physical space?

  • Personalization/Customization
    • Levi's Tailor Shop
    • Build-your-own-suit experience
    • Complimentary personal shopping
  • Convenience & efficiency
    • Express return (customers can process their own returns at a kiosk inside the main doors)
    • Store-to-door (free same-day delivery in NYC for online orders)
  • Elevating services
    • Shoe shine bar (serves cocktails, food)
    • Full cafe and bar in clothing area (they'll bring you a cocktail to the dressing room)
    • Tailoring services
    • Barber, shaving "shop"

TL;DR: Nordstrom is elevating on-demand services and making the shopping experience all about YOU.

Translation: What can you be doing on a daily basis that allows guest to customize their campus visit experience and make it all about them? And when they do have a request on the day of their visit, are you able to make it happen?

Cycling with Counselors: Lessons from My Summer Biking Adventure

Last June, I had the opportunity to join up with the Tour D'Admission, a group of college counselors that spend a summer week cycling to college campuses in a different region/state. This year, their Pacific Northwest tour route came right by my place on Puget Sound. I started biking a few months earlier, so I joined them for the ride from the Vashon Island Ferry to the campus of University of Puget Sound. As part of their trip, They stay in campus housing, enjoy campus dining, tour campus, and meet with admissions.

When I met up with them, we battled the hills of Tacoma in chilly, wet weather together, dined on delicious chowder and sourdough at a local favorite restaurant (Duke's), and chatted about all things college admissions.

What did I learn from these counseling professionals?

  1. They, like Render Experiences, believe in campus visits that embrace authenticity and reveal the DNA of a campus.
  2. Where students will eat, sleep and live their lives matter and should be revealed early in the tour.
  3. Outcomes matter, and information sessions should have an abundance of them.
  4. Tours all sound alike, and the commonality of campuses (security, forming clubs, one-cards, etc) become boring.
  5. Customize to families' wants/needs as much as possible.

Will I join Tour D'Admission for their Summer 2019 tour? Stay tuned to find out!

Next Level Showrooms: Creating Residential Sales Centers

If you've been following Render(ings) for the past year, you know we've mentioned the increased emphasis and attention today's parents place on dining, residential life, and student services during campus visits. Specific to residence life, how do you reveal the breadth and experience of residential living on campus when you show a generic showroom? And does it have to be high-tech?

Recently, I joined some friends as they searched for a new home. A new home, like a residential college experience, is both an intimate product choice and investment.

I really liked how they had these large boards (imaged and finished on a nice solid board) revealed models; photos on one side and floor plans on the other. I watched as the salespeople used them, as did potential buyers. Putting these "in-hand" allowed a tactic sensory moment and also made it more real (vs. digital).

How can you emulate this approach on your campus?

  • A board could have one side listing all the types of halls (community, suite, apartment), who lives there (first-years or upperclassmen), a map of where it is on campus, and exterior and interior (community spaces) photos.

  • The other side could have floor plans of the building/hall as well as the floor plan of room(s) and photos of current students' rooms.

Bonus points for putting them on the walls of your showrooms to help turn the space into a true residential sales center.