Admissions Poster.

A long, long time ago - either during the period in which I was applying for this job or soon after I got it - I randomly stumbled upon Ma'ayan's photo-a-day blog. (If you happen to be one of the few people in the world who isn't yet familiar with Ma'ayan's work, she's an Oberlin student who has actively chronicled most of her college experience in pictures.) I thought her project was a pretty fantastic way to show off Oberlin's energy, and actively recruited her to blog for us as soon as I got to campus in the fall of 2008.

I figured she'd just reproduce her photo-a-day project on the site, where it would be discovered and explored by countless prospies. Problem was, the girl could also write. Well. So I wasn't about to say "no, do that other thing" when I discovered that she had filled her entries with more words than pictures.

Still, I couldn't get rid of the nagging voice in the back of my head that kept saying "you've never seen another college do something like this... if you can't do it in the blogs, find another way to make it happen."

Meanwhile, I was watching colleges all over the country eliminate traditional viewbooks from their publication plans, finally recognizing that for years prospies had been getting all of their info from the web and spending about 2 seconds with each of the hundreds of materials they'd receive via postal mail each week. I'd also just been told that we needed to cut half a million bucks out of the print budget in light of the economic downturn. The stars were aligning.

So in November of 2008 (give or take), I made the following list:

  1. Replace current viewbook with something TOTALLY AWESOME.
  2. Do it for a lot less $.
  3. Make it something that prospies will want to explore for more than 2 seconds.
  4. Use students to create most of the content.
  5. Make damn sure it's honest - NO MARKETING.

I stared at this list for a long time, and suddenly I saw a poster in my head, almost the exact poster that we just printed. Ma'ayan's web project in print. Hardly any words, just a photo for each day of the academic year. Close up, each was its own window into some part of the Oberlin experience; from a few steps back, you could see the pulse of the place, notice the seasons changing, watch the community evolve.

I rushed into Megan Harding's office (she oversees Admissions publications, among other things) and jumped up and down with excitement. She informed me that the viewbook had already gone into production for the coming year, but that we could consider this for the next cycle.

I was bummed - bad timing on my part - but I wrote "Ma'ayan Admissions Poster" on a little yellow post-it note and stuck it to my telephone where I'd be sure to see it every day.

Months went by and the post-it note managed to hang on to my telephone through a gazillion calls. (Destiny, perhaps.)

In May of 2009, we officially hired Ma'ayan for a summer project in which she would catalog her collection and select photos for the poster. Throughout the fall, Ma'ayan and Aries shared the challenge of writing captions for each photo, to be used on a companion web site that I would build. And Megan designed the poster itself, carefully laying out 260 chronological photos on one side and beautifully repurposing the former viewbook's content on the other.

When it came back from the printer, we all pretty much gasped.

In real life, it's like 40 inches high (you really need to see one in person!) and really striking. But here's a tiny screen shot, to give you an idea:

Needless to say, I am so proud of everyone who worked on this project. Especially Ma'ayan, whose creativity and passion inspired the idea before I even had the power to implement it.

As my staff will tell you, I have a lot of crazy ideas and very few of them ever actually see the light of day. When one finally does, it feels really really good. A big heartfelt thanks to Ma'ayan, Aries, Megan, and everyone else who made this dream come true.


P.S. The move from viewbook to poster will save the college about 50K annually. And hopefully, lots of prospies will spend their whole senior year with our publication, instead of 2 seconds.

Responses To This Entry:

That is amazing! Oh, welcome back!

Posted by: Densil P. on December 17, 2009 10:30 PM

Are you going to send a copy to all the (identifiable) people in the poster!?

I know who's sitting in the womb chair!!

Posted by: Lillie on December 17, 2009 10:55 PM

As an accepted-yesterday ED kid, I am so, so proud to be going to a school that has produced something like this. Kudos to you all.

Posted by: Kate on December 17, 2009 11:24 PM

You're going to make me cry.

I can't say anything else but thank you.

Thank you.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on December 18, 2009 1:26 AM

Hi Ben,

Great post! Thanks.

Now... how can I get one of those posters?


And I want to participate in the next one!



Posted by: John Bucher on December 18, 2009 8:05 AM

So wonderful to have a boss who inspires creativity and really *gets* it.

Posted by: Megan on December 18, 2009 11:42 AM

Toadly awesome, Ben!

Posted by: Linda on December 18, 2009 1:39 PM

This is absolutely gorgeous.

Posted by: Keri on December 19, 2009 2:47 PM

Great work! Not only are you saving Oberlin a ton of money, you made something that's much more illustrative of campus life than the viewbook. I always had a big problem with the viewbook's visual design. I always wondered about the decision-making process that ended with publishing so few pictures of students and the campus. And the visuals that were used were usually converted into unidentifiable blobs. This is a huge step in the right direction.

I'm excited to see the evolution of this idea over time! And of course I have a bunch of ideas, too. (I'll send you an email.)

Posted by: Ezra on December 20, 2009 8:14 PM

Wow. Very, very cool. Makes me schoolsick, missing Oberlin. ;-)

Posted by: Kasey on August 4, 2010 6:30 PM