We were approached by Friends Select School to solve a particularly difficult task: to come up with a unique brand that would appeal to their entire Pre-K–12 student body, as well as a diverse range of parents, teachers, and potential students, all while setting them apart from their many competitors here in Philadelphia.
You’re probably thinking, “You’re 160over90. Higher ed branding is your jam. That’s not a challenge at all.” But this task was a little different. We had to captivate and appeal to extremely young audiences as well as too-cool-for-school high schoolers and their parents. With an audience ranging from ages 4 to 40ish, we needed to create a brand that was smart, fun, and fascinating. Something that everyone could enjoy no matter their age.
To appeal to such a broad audience, we focused on the students at Friends Select—they are extremely bright and forever curious. So we built a brand to match.
Friends Select is the only Quaker school in Center City Philadelphia, and they use the city unlike any other. They don’t have “field trips” to museums or parks; instead, the city is their classroom. To learn, they don’t just sit down and open a book. They go out. They get their hands dirty. They study all the different kinds of trees in Fairmount Park. They stand face-to-face with Tyrannosaurs fossils at the Academy of Natural Sciences. They run through the heart at the Franklin Institute and order lunch speaking Chinese in Chinatown. And the list goes on and on. This piece illustrates how utilizing the city as a tool for learning can really shape your perspective.
In creating an ad campaign, we decided to steer clear of photos. Pictures of small children might allow high schoolers to write the school off as a daycare. Pictures of high schoolers might lead prospective parents to see the school too mature for their young children. We had to find a middle ground that included everyone, so we decided to take the illustrative route. No pictures, no problem! (Just hours and hours of illustration.)
We wanted these ads to speak to the type of bright, curious students that attend Friends Select. At the same time, we wanted our ads to teach the everyday person something new. We came up with the tagline “Fascination, Forever Bright” and paired it with fascinating facts and questions—facts that might seem commonplace or questions you might think you know the answer to, but that, when it comes right down to answering it, you probably get hung up. For example: How many independent countries are in South America? Did you know that there are seven different colors of pigeons? Or that lightning strikes the Earth about 100 times every second? Facts that, once you learn them, you can rattle off at your local water cooler to impress all your equally-cool coworkers.
We designed this brand to spark fascination in everyone/thing that it touches. So in creating a search piece we knew we had to do something a little different. Search pieces are mailed to potential parents to give them an introduction to the school. Most are oversized, high-gloss, trashy-looking postcards with a dash of high-level information about the school. We wanted our search piece to put all other search pieces to shame. We did just that (said in a Jony Ive voice).
It comes in an envelope that ties in with our ad campaign, asking a curious question about postage stamps, grabbing your attention from the get-go. The piece itself greets you with a barrage of colors spelling out “Open the Doors to Fascination,” printed on real, open-able doors. You can’t help but want to see what’s behind those little paper doors.
Opening the doors is like looking into some of the amazing classrooms at Friends Select. Photos are paired with fun illustrations and little ditties. Just enough information to make you want more, which is EXACTLY IT’S JOB. BOOM, SEARCH PIECED. It’s an exciting piece that parents and kids can both enjoy opening together, while discovering what Friends Select is all about.
Creating the new Friends Select brand was a microcosm for the school itself. We learned a lot—about Shakespeare and pigeons and South America— who would have thought design could be fun!?
Copywriter: Chara Odhner
Designer: Mike Smith (Kay Sim: Bus Back)
Creative Director: Cory McCall
AE: Will Connor, Megan Pomplas, Kaliopi Rose