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19 Bala Avenue
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

267.765.0700

Kelsh Wilson Design creates message-driven marketing communications, in print and on the web, for education, business, and nonprofits. Admissions / Advancement / Branding / Photography + Video

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Blog

Print & Pixels: Kelsh Wilson Design's blog where we post our latest news and inspiration. Kelsh Wilson Design creates message-driven marketing communications, in print and on the web, for education, business, and nonprofits. Admissions / Advancement / Branding / Photography + Video

 

The School Magazine Reimagined

melinda wissmann

In this age of digital media, one of a school’s most potent forms of outreach is actually one of the most traditional—the school magazine. The magazine offers the rare chance to reach all your institution’s audiences with a single compelling publication. It allows for multipage feature stories—virtually the only option left to explore important ideas in depth. And, in a strategic messaging program, it can play a key part—helping weave your message into your community’s sense of itself over time.

Think about it. Your brand strategy starts when you identify the way you want to position your school and the messages you want to send. But can you simply repeat those points again and again? No. You have to keep re-illustrating your strengths with fresh and interesting stories—and that’s the heart of a great magazine.

Kelsh Wilson has worked with institutions as diverse as The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, NY, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania to help bring new impact to their magazines. Most recently, we teamed up with The Independence School, a pre-K through grade 8 school in Newark, Delaware, to reinvent their semi-annual publication, Spirit.

Part of the project was to restructure the piece with the right departments—from “Portfolio,” showing off student work, to alumni profiles (formerly rambling and appearing on an ad-hoc basis, now short, sweet, varied and in every issue).

Another aspect of the challenge was to impose a new level of discipline on copy counts, making most stories shorter and the magazine as a whole more accessible.

And part of the challenge was also to update the look of the publication, aligning it with the KWD-developed visual branding that unites the rest of the school’s communications and projecting a new level of quality through the design.

The most important step forward in the evolution of Spirit, however, was in planning the content of major and supporting feature stories in order to align with the pillars of the Independence brand. In the first edition of the new Spirit, this meant diving deeper into the student experience and the minds of teachers with a feature on character education, a signature strength of the school. In future issues, features will rotate, with careful intention, through other key themes—always linking core messages with anecdotes from the life of the school right now.

The result of the Spirit redesign is a lively and colorful publication that’s generating lots of buzz—helping turn the school’s branding initiative into a sustained conversation. 

The Knox School—Drone Photos With a Professional Touch

melinda wissmann

In a new viewbook and search piece, Kelsh Wilson helped the Knox School show off its stunning waterfront campus in St. James, NY, as it never had before, in part, with the help of a drone.

One of the most important goals of a school’s admissions marketing program is to inspire families to visit, and one of the best ways of doing so is through photographs that tantalize with a preview of the sights that a visit will offer.

Unfortunately, practical challenges often get in the way: power lines obscuring the façade of your beautiful main building, or the simple fact that there is no place to stand to frame a shot that equals the impressive sense you get in person.

Over the years, Kelsh Wilson’s photographers have made a habit of solving these problems, delivering pictures no one has before. In the case of the Knox School, the solution was the smart use of a drone.

Knox sits on a lovely stretch Long Island’s North Shore. Its crew teams launch directly from campus, and every day, its students take in a range of gorgeous sites—the waters of Stony Brook Harbor, the historic mansion fronting the shore, the paddocks where the school’s resident horses graze. To get shots that showed these assets to full advantage, for instance, looking over the beautiful Georgian mansion to the waters of the harbor in a single shot, Kelsh Wilson took to the air with a drone—a professionally operated drone with a professional quality camera on board.

The results are a viewbook and search piece that show off the Knox campus as never before—and a series of photos that can be used again and again online, in print, and in table top displays at school fairs.

Villa Joseph Marie

melinda wissmann

Like so many excellent small schools, Villa Joseph Marie has traditionally done a better job fulfilling its mission of education than it has in the task of self-promotion (a less inspiring, but necessary endeavor). However, that recently changed when Villa’s admissions and marketing team decided to take the school’s communications program to a whole new level.

As a partner in this effort, Kelsh Wilson developed a set of powerful admissions publications for the school and also a User’s Guide to the Villa Message—a key tool in bringing consistency and impact to other communications, be they print, digital, or face-to-face.

The school’s president, Tom Kardish—who brings years of business experience and a Wharton MBA to the job—shares his thoughts on the project’s success:


I have two things to say about Kelsh Wilson:

1. They took the time, did the research and really “got” our school and our points of difference. More than the words, the look and feel match the incredible environment here exactly!

2. The hiring of Kelsh Wilson was a big step for Villa. It was a conscious decision to no longer be “the best kept secret” and a break from our quiet humility. I am truly excited to see the long-term impact of this investment on our school and our community.

Our communications across all parts of our organization are clean, crisp, consistent and complementary. And most of all, honest. Villa is enjoying record enrollment, and it feels like the school could grow another 10 percent with the arrival of the class of 2021.
— Tom Kardish, President, Villa Joseph Marie

Lessons from Choate’s Viewbook

melinda wissmann

Why is the campus visit such a powerful enrollment tool?  It’s not because of the information families learn, but the feelings they have. At Kelsh Wilson, we believe viewbooks work the same way. In projects like the one we just completed for Choate Rosemary Hall, it’s our job to inspire those feelings before the visit happens—in fact, to help make it happen.

In Choate’s case, prospective students respond not just to the school’s impressive academic program and the wonders of its 458-acre campus, but also to the personality of the place—its openness and diversity, energy and creativity.

In strategic, creative ways, Kelsh Wilson captured this personality in print:

  •  A series of original drawings bring a distinctive texture to the viewbook and search piece, illustrating highlights from inventing things in the school’s makerspace to the comfort of finding your niche among friends.
     
  • Storybook-style headlines give the publications an attitude all their own: “How to Make Almost Anything” for a spread on design thinking or “Into the Woods” for a page highlighting Choate’s immersive environmental experience.

  • A striking variety in page layouts signals the variety and vitality of the school community—and helps hold reader interest.

Are these the right ideas for every school? Absolutely not—and that’s part of what makes them perfect for Choate.

With each new project, the Kelsh Wilson team asks the same questions as when we began our collaboration with Choate:

What feels just right for this school?

What statement can it make that no one else can?

What will set it most strongly apart?

A boarding school like no other—with the same challenge as every other.

Lisa Winward

In a world where everyone seems to claim uniqueness, Princeton International School of Science and Mathematics really does offer something different—from its atomic force microscope to its international faculty, to the multi-year research project every student completes.

Still, the school’s communications with prospective applicants have to walk the same fine line as those of any other boarding school: presenting a whole new world of independence and opportunity to kids who still may not make their own lunches.

For PRISMS, the answer was a two-part message: first, share plenty of examples of teenage students doing graduate-level work (identifying new viruses and designing wind-turbine blades), but then explain all the step-by-step support that prepared them for these remarkable feats.

As other schools highlight their own impressive offerings—from capstone projects to study abroad—it’s an approach worth keeping in mind, especially for the boarding audience. With every thrilling possibility, add a dose of comfort, support, and reassurance—for student and their parents.

Oregon State University — THE FINAL CAMPAIGN REPORT

Jodee Winger

In 2007, the OSU Foundation publicly launched “This Amazing Place. This Historic Moment. The Campaign for OSU.” By 2010, the campaign goal was increased to $1 billion, and it closed in 2014 with a grand total of $1.14 billion — making OSU one of only two organizations in the Pacific Northwest to achieve this milestone.

To commemorate this success, the OSU Foundation invited Kelsh Wilson back to campus in 2015 — a full decade after our first visit — to create a final campaign report that could serve as a “bookend” to the award-winning case statement. The goals were to help donors see the impact of their gifts, cultivate emerging major donors, and chronicle a historic time in the life of OSU while looking to the future.

Balancing bold statements of accomplishment with supporting stories about OSU people and places, the final campaign report celebrates the campaign’s many successes, including:

  • 1 in every 5 alumni made a campaign gift
  • The campaign generated 201 gifts of $1 million or more
  • More than 1,100 families and organizations gave at least $100,000
  • More than 106,000 donors from every state and 58 nations, 40% were first-time donors to OSU

It was an honor to return to OSU and help them create a publication that put the final touch on such an amazing and historic campaign effort. The name, brand, and messaging Kelsh Wilson originally created was able to sustain the campaign for its entire ten-year run and instill a sense of confidence and pride among OSU students, faculty, staff, alumni, and donors.

(Click on any of the images below to view the entire gallery.)

Holy Ghost Prep

Jodee Winger

Sometimes it’s better to have three good points to make than ten, even if they’ll all persuasive. And one of those situations is in educational marketing, where a balanced, complete, and well-rounded story can actually end up sounding generic.

During well over a decade of collaboration, Kelsh Wilson and Holy Ghost Prep have worked together to craft a presentation that is narrowly focused, highly visual, and brief. In place of a viewbook, we developed “viewcards,” digitally printed photo post cards, each with a small dose of copy on the back. A search piece and school fair piece—both folding brochures—round out the package. All the materials hit and re-hit the same key themes: about the value of a Ghost education, about the values behind a Ghost education, and about the remarkable spirit uniting the school community.

Actually, the package includes one other key component, a tip sheet for parents, outlining in a few phrases the main points members of the community should make in talking up their school. The piece has been well received and is evidence of the greater attention many schools are focusing on word-of-mouth as a key tool in their outreach efforts.

WHAT MAKES YOU "YOU"?

melinda wissmann

New communications, whether for marketing or development, are a major investment of time and resources. When you partner with Kelsh Wilson Design, though, you get much more than a beautifully executed viewbook, case statement or website. You also gain objective insights into what makes you “you.”

When was the last time you brought an outsider into your school to take a look around, speak with staff and leadership, and engage in conversations with students and parents, alumni and faculty? (More than 4-5 years means you’re overdue!)
 
At Kelsh Wilson, this is how we begin every project. Through careful questioning and listening, we build a sense for what makes your organization unique—and what differentiates it from all of the other great schools we have worked with over 25 years in the business.
 
We have yet to find a client who can do this effectively on its own. Self-assessment can only take you so far: It’s nearly impossible to be objective about the place where you expend so much time and energy.
 
Our job is to help you see your best qualities through a new and impartial lens. Kelsh Wilson then uses these insights to shape communications that authentically capture your school in word and image. In fact, this is the most common (and appreciated) compliment we get from clients: “This piece is so us!” 
 
You’ll also come away with a clear understanding of what makes you “you”—knowledge you can use every single day.

Celebrating Philanthropy with The Masters School

melinda wissmann

When the communications and development teams at The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, NY, began planning their 2015 report to donors, they realized they had a great deal of good news to share. The school was capping off four-years of fundraising success that yielded a total of $45 million. They were opening a stunning new arts and athletics facility. And, they were marking the successful first months in the tenure of a new head of school.

Kelsh Wilson helped Masters make a report that made a splash. A 12-page narrative section running before the gift lists presented brief, magazine-style mini-features highlighting points of progress, milestones in giving, and leading donors. Boldly sized display quotes telegraphed key points, while Kelsh Wilson’s photos showed the impact of donor support in the lives of Masters students.

This was a special report for a special occasion, but it demonstrated ingredients that can make for powerful donor engagement pieces any time.

(Click on any of the images below to view the entire gallery.)

Carolina Friends School

melinda wissmann

After seeing work Kelsh Wilson had done for several other Friends schools, Carolina Friends School invited KWD to produce its first-ever admissions viewbook. Set in the pinelands in Durham, North Carolina, the PreK-12 friends school is a community of 480 students. In creating an admissions publication for Carolina Friends School, Kelsh Wilson focused on the unique aspects of the school—from its camp-like atmosphere to its Quaker-based philosophy that informs so much of the work they do with students. The viewbook is presented in short chapters written and illustrated to focus on those values with beautiful photography and quiet, graceful design. We recently updated these materials with new photography and editorial, refreshing the pieces without a full redesign.

(Click on any of the images below to view the entire gallery.)

The Independence School

melinda wissmann

We are pleased to debut our new work for The Independence School! We recently completed a multi-part marketing project for Independence, an independent Pre-K-8 school located in Newark, Delaware. The project included a new suite of admissions publications—anchor piece, lower school brochure, middle school brochure, and pocket folder; page designs and messaging for a new website, a logo and brochure to support the Summer Program at Independence, and a Message & Style Guide to help bring consistency and impact to the school's communications going forward.

Claire Brechter, Director of Enrollment and Marketing at Independence, recently sat down with us for a Q&A, a new feature on our site about what it is like to partner with us. You can read all about it here