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19 Bala Avenue, STE 200
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004


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



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


Make a Great First Impression

Fred Wilson


Your Audiences: Communications Messages for Everyone (#2 in a series)

Search Pieces & Travel Pieces

Search pieces and travel pieces are your opportunity to introduce your school to a new audience—through powerful images, beautiful design, and mission-driven messages. When we work with our educational partners, whether at independent schools or colleges—we start our work by establishing the most compelling messages that resonate with our client’s target audience. We do this through a process of qualitative research—focus groups and interviews—that allows us to speak directly to the people who know your institution the best—students, faculty, staff, and alums. This work is lead by our two senior writing associates, Michael Butler and Kristine Connor.

Getting these messages on target is so important for a publication like a search or travel piece in which you are trying to convey both the things that your institution does well and those that may differentiate you from your competitors in a concise way. Like an advertisement, it needs to leave a lasting impression. There are several approaches to this type of piece. One is to send a simple letter to a vast pool of prospects guiding them to a website to capture their information, the other is to send a more polished piece that conveys your messages to a group of qualified candidates. The first approach is likely to increase inquiries who may or may not convert to suitable applicants. The second approach is likely to generate interest from prospective students who are genuinely curious about your institution.

As we create many of these pieces we find that there is no substitute for striking photography to help you convey your messages. Great photos of your students interacting on campus create a sense of place and atmosphere, allowing your prospective students to envision themselves at your school. (click here to see examples of great KWD photography)

Finally, keeping in mind that the goal of these pieces is to compel prospective students to take action by visiting your website and/or campus, it is important that any follow up interaction carries through on the promise of your messages. From websites and viewbooks to campus visits and tour guides, all of these exchanges are opportunities to convey your school as unique and special. The search piece is the first of these—but fundamentally different from every other part of the communications package, because it’s main goal is to intrigue, not to inform or sell. Like advertising, it’s all about impact and hook. 

Click below for some pieces that we've created for clients:

Moorestown Friends School

SUNY Oneonta

The Perkiomen School

Cabrini College

Foster Loyalty

Fred Wilson


Your Audiences: Communications Messages for Everyone (#3 in a series)

Annual Fund & Reunion Publications

It’s exciting to talk about capital campaigns—major strategic initiatives, large fundraising goals, beautiful publications—but the reality is that all institutions rely heavily on their annual fund to support their day-to-day operations and on reunion to invite alums back to campus. Design that is eye-catching and persuasive supports the hard work of your development staff—whether they are fundraising or “friendraising.”

Annual fund and reunion publications should cultivate a sense of school pride—through great stories, compelling images, and striking design. Color and type play a big role in these pieces because they are relatively copy-dense often with a call to action, instructions, and event listings.

Ultimately, alumni communications are about fostering loyalty in your institution, moving faithful donors to continue their support, compelling new contributions, and urging all alums to return to their alma mater.

Here are a few annual fund pieces we have created:

Malvern Prep

Bryn Mawr College


Here's some more recent work supporting reunions: 

Temple University

University of Pennsylvania


Fred Wilson

We have a new portfolio on Behance under design director, Lisa Winward's profile. Behance is a leading online platform to showcase and discover creative work whose mission is "to empower the creative world to make ideas happen." We invite you to view our work there! 

Oregon State University's Campaign Reaches $1 Billion

Fred Wilson


We're so pleased to learn that our friends at OSU have achieved such success with their campaign. KWD partnered with OSU for their first-ever comprehensive campaign which was launched in 2007. The campaign surpassed its original goal of $625 million in its first three years and it has now reached $1 billion. KWD worked with OSU on campaign messaging, naming and identity, case statements, and a website.

Here are the comments from President Edward J. Ray regarding our partnership: “From outstanding photographs to powerful words, you and your staff have created an attractive and compelling look, flagship brochure, and website that we are proud to share with our alumni and friends. We consider ourselves well-equipped for the next stage as we continue our drive to bring Oregon State University to a new level of excellence.” Read more about their achievements in the Portland Business Journal article.

What Happens Next: A Guide to Kelsh Wilson’s Process

Fred Wilson

a series of posts 

People considering launching a project with us often ask about our creative process. After all, working with an agency on a major communications effort is not something most people do every day, and it’s helpful to have some sense of what to expect. So here’s a quick overview. We organize our process into these four phases:

• Research Strategy
• Concept Development
• Content Development
• Production

The particular steps change a bit, depending on whether you are talking about a web site or video rather than a printed piece, or if you are planning a multi-part communications program rather than a single project. However, the general contours of this approach hold.


Talking Strategy

Fred Wilson


We begin our work with Research and Strategy, bringing your goals and your messages into focus, thinking about the communications challenges we need to meet, weighing the options at hand.

We’ll cover our approach to these tasks in depth in a later post, but for now a few key points: First, we always take time to assimilate any past research or strategic planning you’ve done. Second, we typically conduct focus groups and interviews to learn more about your organization and the audiences you need to reach, customizing the composition of these groups and our line of questions to meet your needs. And third, we think in detail about the way you will use the materials we create—how they will reach your audience and how you want them to work. This is one of the main topics at the in-depth initial meeting that brings together our project team and yours.

The dialog and thought that happen in this early phase of work are essential to the success of everything that follows. This is why we end this phase with a written statement—a Project Brief or a more extensive Report of Findings and Recommendations. This document becomes our guide for the project, and over the months that follow it can be an invaluable reference, helping keep us on course.

Getting Creative

Fred Wilson


After Research and Strategy building, we move on to developing creative concepts. This is a time for our writers, designers, photographers, and web developers to come together and generate ideas.

How should this piece look and sound? What will give it impact? And what will make it the right instrument to do the job our client needs done?

People sometimes ask how we come up with something fresh every time. The answer is that every project brings together a different combination of creative thinkers with a different school or university facing a different challenge. The uniqueness of the result is almost automatic.

We don’t ask, “What could we do that’s never been done before?” That tends to lead to gimmicky dead ends. We do ask, “What would feel just right for this organization?” Or “How can we take the inspiring glimpse of the place we’ve seen and capture it for the rest of the world?”

The result of this collaboration is a set of choices for you, our customer.We present these in the form of mock-ups showing sample covers and inside pages or home pages and sub pages—complete with photo ideas and sketch headlines. The point is to give everyone a very tangible sense of how the project will really look and work when complete.

We present these ideas to you. We weigh their relative merits. We discuss, debate and listen, and your questions and suggestions lead to refinements and revisions. This can also be a point to share our work in progress with members of our target audience, either in small informal conversations or focus groups.


Writing and Shooting

Fred Wilson


Once we reach agreement with our client about the creative concept for a project, we will often joke, “Now it’s just a matter of tying up loose ends.” Yes, this is a crazy overstatement, but it also holds some truth.

With an approved concept in place, the look, the tone, the content components, and the structure of a project are all decided. The most difficult judgments are behind us. Now, it’s simply time to write the text and shoot the photos and videos that will make the project real. You might even say we’re just filling in blanks. (But don’t say this to our writers.)

A couple of points are worth stressing here. The first is that there is no substitute for careful legwork at this stage: interviewing and background gathering, photo scouting and planning. The quality of the final result depends on attention to detail now. However, all this effort is made far more efficient because we are working to a well-defined plan. For instance, rather than setting our photographers free to rove your campus is search of beauty, we are able to give them ideas for the subject of every image on every page of your book or website. (click here for Kevin's advice on your photo shoot)

Although this description may suggest an almost military level of precision, we’re always on the lookout for the lucky photo we couldn’t have planned or the great story we didn’t know about before. The last ingredient in any great plan is flexibility.

At the end of this phase we are able to present an extremely accurate mock-up of what your finished piece will look—real photos and live text all in place and ready for review.


Finishing the Job

Fred Wilson


The final phase of our projects we call production. The tasks it encompasses range from final proofing, to preparing printer-ready files, to supervising a project on press—something we do every time. In the case of web projects, production includes completing all the coding, populating the site with content, and testing.

In the production phase, our client’s main responsibility is to review work in proof stages. The balance of the labor falls to us. It’s a time to be exacting to the point of obsession, and we are. (click here for Fred's thoughts on print supervision.)

As you’ve probably guessed, the deliverable at the end of this phase is a finished project, ready for you and your audience—whether it’s in the form of 30 cartons fresh from the printer stacked on your loading doc or a new web site, live online.

Now it’s time for you to go recruit students, raise money, or build your organization’s image and for all of us to track, as closely as possible, the impact of our work in helping you do yours. A nice celebration lunch is never a bad idea either!