Mohawk Blog

From Prospect to Accepted — The Art of the College Viewbook

Casey Fisk

Scholars of tomorrow will make an impact on us — but first, a college or university viewbook must make an impact on them.

While prospective students may visit a college or university’s website for details and pertinent information to admissions, financial aid, majors, faculty, and housing, a printed viewbook that they can hold in their hands is what really illustrates environment and essence — making the “college lifestyle” tangible and bringing the culture of campus life into view.

Mohawk Via Smooth
100% PC Cool White 70 Text

“Today’s best viewbooks are emotional exclamation points designed to pique a student’s interest,” says Gardiner Rhoderick, Creative Director at Mighty Citizen. “It’s about feelings, not facts.”

“Viewbooks have the responsibility of conveying the essence and quality of an institution and require an investment in craft,” Rhoderick continues. “Ultimately, viewbooks are about attracting students who are a good fit for your institution, not just an anonymous lead. They’re optimized to support the funnel by driving emotional interest in your institution and catapulting a prospect’s ambition. To do that means wearing a university’s heart on its sleeve — a sleeve that just happens to be a nicely printed, paper viewbook.”

Mohawk Superfine Smooth
Ultrawhite 80 Cover
Mohawk Superfine Smooth
Ultrawhite 80 Text
Mohawk Via Vellum
Kraft 70 Text

According to ArtCenter College of Design, a viewbook is much more than the presentation of information— it’s about the tactile quality of the paper. It’s seeing how color, shapes, images, and words play off one another. And it’s about discovering something new with every page turn.

And it captures a moment in time. Many alumni hold on to their viewbooks for decades, both a memory of their journey and a reminder of what excited them about attending their college or university in the first place, elevating it from just a viewbook to a keepsake — an artifact.

“Viewbooks have the responsibility of conveying the essence and quality of an institution and require an investment in craft.”
Gardiner Rhoderick
Creative Director, Mighty Citizen

A well-designed viewbook made with high-quality materials could be what sets your college or university apart and may very well be the difference between a student walking across your stage and not making it past the walk from the mailbox to the recycling bin.

Here are some things to think about when designing a college or university viewbook...

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French fold, perfect bound

Quality + Authenticity
Viewbooks are a chance to demonstrate the uniqueness of a college or university, and to tell its story at a high level, enticing students to visit and apply. With the focus on student and campus life photos, a viewbook conveys an authentic sense of place. Avoid stock photography at all costs when it comes to your viewbook and employ the skill of a photographer who excels at capturing the energy of student life on campus. Mohawk Superfine is a sheet whose name has become synonymous with quality and a staple in the design community, especially when photography plays a central role in a piece.

Generation Z values authenticity and uniqueness arguably more than any other generation that has come before, so a viewbook’s materials and form factor must stand out. High-quality production, eye-catching design and a commitment to using sustainable and recycled paper are all properties of a viewbook that resonate with today’s prospective students. In order to become an effective tool in attracting the attention of prospective students, the materials and methods used to print your viewbook must be thoughtfully chosen.

Uncoated paper conveys a level of sophistication and material quality to your audience — some of whom may be future art and graphic design students. Mohawk paper is the perfect surface for an image-rich viewbook, offering tactile interest along with reliable on-press performance. Choosing an expertly engineered eco-conscious sheet like Mohawk Loop Inxwell Vellum proves that you don’t have to sacrifice quality for the sake of sustainability.

Mohawk Loop Inxwell Vellum
Eco White 80 Text

Simple design choices make a huge impact, such as printing on contrasting textures, so as readers thumb through they are aware of a subtle shift with just enough variation, inviting the recipient to give pause and invest in the coming pages. Mix papers and page lengths to reflect the multiplicity of experience a student can expect at your college or university. Use paper and print to deliver an interactive experience and tell a layered story.

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Brilliant White 80 Text
Curious Collection Metallics
Galvanised 80 Text
Dense Black
Printed with a double hit of Opaque White

Colored paper opens up new possibilities for design and communication, especially when it comes to colleges and universities whose identities are so closely related to and easily recognized by their school colors. Think of colored paper as a bonus color in your project and the canvas on which you add a unique and often surprising layer of interest that pertains to your college or university.

And as always, consider the envelope. A matching envelope captures your audience’s attention before they’ve even viewed your book. As recipients’ fingers move across the surface of the envelope, it sparks their senses and their interest is focused on the contents within. Because envelopes never work alone — they contain, conceal, protect and ultimately reveal your message.

Texture is the first way to defy expectations and focus attention, while color can be a delicious differentiator. Create an unexpected first impression by matching (or contrasting!) the texture and color of your envelope to its contents. Unify your message by creating a compelling and memorable package — set the stage for an honest, intimate peek into your college or university by sparking curiosity as to what’s inside your envelope.

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Working on a viewbook for a college or university? Email [email protected] for swatches, samples and support.

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