Case Study: Campus Recreation Services Integrated Image Program

Campus Recreation Services Integrated Image Program
University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland

The Department of Campus Recreation Services (CRS) is the official outlet and provider of sport, health and fitness for the University of Maryland campus community. Entering the third year after transition from the south campus headquarters location in the Reckord Armory to its 40 million dollar north campus residence, the Campus Recreation Center, CRS faced certain challenges pertaining its growth and communication.

 

The Problem

Though the quality of the CRS facilities sold itself, there was the challenge of communicating to CRS members the benefits gained from participation in the CRS programs. Active members took part in the usage of the Campus Recreation Center but were not fully aware of (and thus did not take advantage of) all the products offered by CRS. Members were not reading the publications provided by the department, and the CRS web site was ineffective. Along with this challenge stood the challenge of effectively communicating essential information such as rules, schedules, contacts, etc. One of the major objectives had to be to regenerate top-of-mind awareness and understanding of CRS programs and services, in an effort to increase the volume of participation and community support for the department. Another objective was to develop awareness of, and interest in, new recreation facilities managed by CRS while maintaining the positive and consistent public image of the CRS facilities, programs, services and staff.

An initial six-week evaluation of the department’s internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats served as the foundation for this strategic analysis.  The strategies for this project were geared towards the growth of the Department and communications, suggesting ways in which CRS could build on the customer relationships that already exist.

The Solution

In general, the more familiar the campus community becomes with CRS, the more likely they are to be interested in experiencing everything they have to offer.  The participant takes upon the characteristic and standards of that which he/she is a part. Developing a new image for the publications and web site that is integrated through all other forms of visual communications seem to be the most effective solution. This plan focused on the enhancement of the department image through an integrated image program. Through the creative process I conceptualized, designed and developed an integrated image program for the CRS, in compliance with the University of Maryland Visual Identity Program, that unified the look and feel of all CRS communications materials, printed and online.  In designing the new look for this image program, the style and personality of all promotional and informative materials had to maintain a clear and unified channel of communication that supported of each other. All signage, informative and promotional publications, advertisements, public service announcements, annual reports, web site, and program areas were coordinated in such a way that the public could easily identify the Department as a constituent part of the University of Maryland.  Though the program was in compliance with the University’s overall identity program, it still delivered a uniqueness that separated it as an individual entity of the University.

The first step was to establish a word mark that would be used for the flag, banner, and masthead of all publications, print and electronic. This word mark had to work in black and white, but was primarily produced in color. The colors of this mark were the official colors in the University of Maryland visual identity program.  These colors were Pantone 186 (red), Pantone 116 (gold), and black.  This allowed union between the Department and the University. The Maryland State flag was incorporated as a part of the word mark to give an immediate association to the State and University. From the typeface Tempo Heavy Condensed, the word mark was created and manipulated using Adobe® Illustrator®. The word mark was then saved in the file format of EPS for use with printed materials and as a GIF, then later a PNG format for web page design.

 

The second step was to redesign the CRS Recreation Guide. The new format became more magazine-styled then the former catalog-styled.  The function of the new design and style had to deliver information regarding the CRS rules, facilities, programs and services to our target audience in a more appealing and entertaining way. This strategy had to increase awareness of all of the existing CRS programs, services, facilities, related events and pertinent schedules while familiarizing the target audience with key CRS personnel (program coordinators, managers and club officials, etc.).  The new design also had to also reinforce the University’s prestigious image and attitude of distinction, strength and pride.

The new style of the Recreation Guide took on the look and feel of a University sport, fitness, and leisure magazine. The magazine consisted of two major sections: Departments and Features. The Departments section consisted of Membership Information, Facilities Overview, CRS Programs, and Playing By the RulesThe Playing By the Rules (policies) section was reintroduced as a less intimidating approach to delivering the CRS rules and regulations. Headlines were posed as questions or statements that invite the reader to participate responsibly, rather than commanding them. As a promotional measure, any chosen area that the marketing committee determines is in need of intense promotion was addressed through the Features section of the magazine.  For instance, if Ritchie Coliseum was deemed as being under promoted, it could run as a feature article in the upcoming edition.  An article regarding the upgrade of the CRS Web site assisted in informing the target audience of the new look and enhanced online presence.  An article featuring CRS staff members that have worked with the program for a decade or more could work as a public relations strategy.  A maximum of two feature stories would run in any one edition. (Click here for article samples.) We also provided an avenue for alternative correspondence via access to an online downloadable PDF formatted, printable Recreation Guide. Members could access this version of the guide  directly through the CRS web site. Through this integrated image program, the content of the Recreation Guide magazine was developed to complement the Department’s web site, yet maintain its own integrity as it consisted of unique information through its feature articles.

Above: Version 1 – Launched 2001
(Photoshop, Fireworks & Dreamweaver)

The third step in the redesign of the CRS identity was the redesign of the web site ( http://www.crs.umd.edu ).  One of the primary objectives was to enhance the CRS online (Internet) presence. This called for the production of a multimedia driven interactive web site that would surpass the typical “online brochure” look of most university recreation, sport, health and leisure sites.  The function of this web site was to communicate essential CRS information in a readable, yet exciting and entertaining way. The site also had to facilitate an environment where professional staff members could exchange vital information (i.e. registration, schedules, and contact info) with CRS members and the public-at-large via interactive forms and database retrieval 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Lastly, this new design had to reinforced the Departments positive image through the integrated image program. The design had to unify the look of the online and print media.

Version 2 – Launched 2004 (HTML, CSS, JavaScript)
Version 3 – Launched 2010 (CMS – DotNetNuke)

As a design strategy, sub-unit communities were developed within the CRS web site for each program and service area.  The site content consisted of the:

  • Homepage
  • Members Services
  • Facilities Overview
  • Informal Recreation
  • Non-Credit Instruction
  • Intramural Sports
  • Fitness/Wellness
  • Sport Clubs, Aquatics
  • Outdoor Recreation
  • Student Employment
  • CRS Staff Information, and
  • Special Events.

The concept and function of the site was designed to be entertaining and multimedia driven with enhanced interactivity, rollover buttons, and image map navigation.  This site provided an environment for “information exchange” through interactive forms. It also provided a choice for alternative correspondence via online submission of information and/or downloadable PDF formatted printable forms.

Dr. Linda Clement, Vice President of Student Affairs declared it “the best web site on campus.” The web site also won the National Intramural-Recreational Sport Association’s (NIRSA) 2002 Creative Excellence Award for New Media: Web Site, designating it as the best in its industry.