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APSU debuts newly designed student recruitment package

9/9/2002
September 10, 2002

Austin Peay State University admissions counselors hit the recruitment road this fall armed with a new, 14-piece publications package, designed to appeal to teens, ages 16-18.

Typically, APSU's recruitment publications undergo a complete redesign every four to five years. Although two years of use is ideal, budget constraints make that impossible for most public universities, including APSU.

Charlotte Carlin, APSU assistant director of graphic design, was the University's “point person” on the project. After determining specific needs of APSU's admissions counselors, Carlin developed a request for proposals for creative assistance.

Anderson Thomas of Nashville, a national award-winning graphic design agency, was selected, with Jay Smith designated to work with APSU on the project. Carlin wrote bid specifications, and Douglas Printing, Nashville, was awarded the bid.

“Charlotte is to be commended for her tireless perseverance in moving this massive project through its many production stages,” Dennie Burke, executive director of public relations and marketing, said. “We didn't know until July if there would be funds to print the publications. When we were told to proceed, I had serious doubts if it were possible to have all the pieces ready for use by Sept. 1. Charlotte made it happen.”

The Recruitment Publications Committee, comprised of staff from the Office of Admissions and the Office of Public Relations and Marketing, created a “positive attributes of Austin Peay” list, which was used in creative development. The attributes included such descriptors as small, friendly campus, strong and diverse academic programs and opportunities to get involved.

“We knew we needed designs that would set us apart, visually, from other colleges' and universities' publications,” Carlin said. “Not only should the design ‘speak the language' of our teen audience, we wanted to use testimonials by Austin Peay students because current research shows high school students want the real scoop from real students.”

After an extensive review of current nationwide teen research, coupled with informal opinion-gathering from teens within APSU's service area, certain messages came through  loudly, clearly and consistently.

Carlin said, “We learned we should avoid stale, stodgy campus shots that are a turn-off to teens because teens do not accept such photos as credible. Plus, every campus publication is filled with them.”

In November 2001, the agency submitted six design concepts to the University. “They drew mixed reviews from our staff, students and faculty,” Carlin said. “But what was more important was how high school juniors and seniors reacted to them.”

Carlin, Cristina Henley, communication specialist, and Bill Persinger, director of graphic design, asked 149 college-bound students from Tennessee and Southern Kentucky their opinions on the designs of the six covers. The two most telling questions were: Looking at the covers in front of you and thinking about the things you say appeal to you about college, which brochure would you pick up at a college fair or in your guidance office? And, Which cover makes you want to open the brochure and find out more about the college or university?

The results indicated Cover E, “You Are Here,” was the favorite in the three critical categories: overall favorite; makes reader want to pick it up; spurs reader to find out more.

“This gave us clear direction to use Cover E as the viewbook cover,” Carlin said. “And the other pieces have the same look.”

Since research indicates that the words of real college students are viewed with less cynicism by high school students than comments from anyone else, except parents, student testimonials were the key to addressing, up front, the reasons high school students cite most often for not coming to Austin Peay. They are: 1) Where is Austin Peay? Where is Clarksville? 2) I don't know anything about Austin Peay's academic programs. Do they have what I want and are their programs good? 3) I want to be able to get involved in activities, and I'm not sure there would be enough opportunities. 4) They didn't give me a scholarship. 5) I don't know anyone who's going there.

When APSU students were asked to give a testimonial, Carlin gave this list to each, along with these instructions: “If your experience has taught you that one or more of these views is a poor reason for not choosing Austin Peay, this is your chance to set the record straight. Write your quote as if you were talking to a student who made the statement.

“More than anything…be honest and true to yourself. We want to let what is best about Austin Peay come out, but we don't want to paint a picture that's just not true. So, feel free to write your quote independently…if nothing on this list prompts you.”

Some of the quotes by APSU students became testimonials used in the publications.

Burke said, “Each publication varies in colors and graphics, but they have a ‘family' look, with bright colors and layers of graphic elements on textured paper. Although visual layering can be abrasive to adults, teens have no problem absorbing multiple images simultaneously. In fact, without multiple images, teens tend to get bored.”

According to Carlin, the publications also are tied together by common themes of exploration and discovery, which are developed graphically and in the text.

The recruitment publications consist of an image mailer, viewbook, viewbook application, senior mailer, junior mailer, poster, poster reply card, scholarship brochure, transfer guide cover, Fort Campbell Center mailer and four different envelopes.

The residence life brochure and financial aid brochure, both of which are used for student recruitment, were redesigned by Carlin to mirror the new recruitment publications.

The AP Day brochure and poster, which are distributed by the Admissions Office, as well as print advertisements in high school newspapers and APSU's new CD-ROM viewbook reflect the overall look of the recruitment publications. Plus, new billboards, soon to be posted in Davidson, Wilson and Sumner counties, will carry similar design elements.