Holy Cross: New brand, smart questions

The cover of the College of the Holy Cross’  beautiful new viewbook is striking for several reasons. The generous size, new logo and vivid violet and gold color scheme are obvious, but more meaningful is the thoughtful tone and message of the image. A scene of two students deep in study sets the stage for Holy Cross’ appeal to prospective applicants.

“Ask More” is the college’s new tagline and the recruitment materials are laced with thoughtful and inventive questions certain to intrigue prospects. The overarching message is that Holy Cross is a place for those who are motivated by exploration and discovery.


The admissions campaign coincides with the launch of a new institutional identity developed by Washington D.C.-based strategy and branding firm GMMB. Based on an extensive research effort that culminated in a planning summit with college leadership, alumni, faculty and students, the new branding intends to raise the national visibility of the college, translate the Jesuit values of spiritual and intellectual exploration to non-Jesuit audiences, and differentiate it from other institutions that include the name “holy cross.”

Monadnock_HolyCrossViewbook_006The new logo includes a more definitive name — College of the Holy Cross — alongside a modern adaptation of the traditional college seal and the tagline Ask More. It is highlighted on a subtely embossed gold banner, set into the richly toned cover photograph, showcasing the school colors of purple and gold.

The purple and gold are prominent elements in the design, along with inventive writing, principal photography by Russ Schleipman, and an ample 9 x 12 inch format with gated foldouts that separate the book into sections. Throughout the campaign, the pacing, rhythm and scale of the text and imagery varies, avoiding monotony and predictability and giving the reader a different twist at every turn or two of the page.

The foldouts are one surprise that draw the reader in, stopping them with a question, then revealing an appealing aspect of Holy Cross in answer. The phrase “What’s it like to live on a hill…among people who aspire to move mountains” is a call calculated to resonate with the type of student Holy Cross covets.

hill mountain foldout

The carefully-crafted narrative was shaped by extensive background information and strategic planning provided to the designers and writers. Generated by Baltimore-based consultants Edge Research and GMMB, the research was complemented with additional briefs prepared by the design firm KOR Group and the copywriting team at Libretto. Asked to reach beyond the college’s traditional markets, the creative team also pushed the art direction and photo selection in new directions. While honoring the college’s tradition as a leading Jesuit institution, they stretched the college’s image to appeal to a wider population of prospective students across the United States.


KOR and Libretto were selected for the project by Holy Cross’ Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Ellen Ryder and Director of Admissions Ann McDermott for their experience with college and university publications and their ability to respond to the research and strategic objectives of the campaign. The fact that the two Boston creative firms had collaborated for more than twenty years on campaigns helped move the project forward seamlessly.

Chief writer Neal Kane’s team at Libretto and the design team at KOR have enormous mutual respect for their counterparts’ talents, so the creative work proceeded with a lot of honest give and take between the writers, designers and staff at the College. Ann McDermott attributes the success of the campaign to this spirit and the team’s courage to pause and revisit the direction whenever needed, ensuring alignment with the strategic plan.

Kane and designer Jim Gibson both value work that is fresh, lean and surprising and their collaborative process allowed the graphics to evolve in concert with the writing. After an intense immersion in the research and strategy, KOR and Libretto jointly produced an outline that presented their understanding of the messaging through a narrative storyboard with potential headlines, ideas for imagery and placement of charts, sidebars and other supporting text, organized by spread. This became the blueprint for the writing, design and photo selection.



Beyond the images, design and writing, the Holy Cross campaign is arresting for its rich production values. There are a number of pieces in the campaign, seamlessly tied-together by the intense, saturated color and smooth, velvety feel of the UV inks on Monadnock’s Astrolite Smooth. 10_HC_oThe purple and gold solids feel like they were literally painted on the sheet and the full-color images are clean and bright, amplified by the paper’s intense pure white shade.

The production design is punctuated by the occasional creative treatment of toned photographs, especially a dramatic image of Crusader football players. Orchestrated by the designers at KOR, collaborating with the color department at Flagship Press, the toned images merge desaturated color files with the spot colors of purple and gold. The techniques required a degree of back and forth, including the press proofing of variations to select the final look of the cover image. In addition, the variety of sizes, folds and paper weights echoes the Monadnock_HolyCrossViewbook_024diverse treatment of headlines, imagery and layout seen throughout the design. While the design elements are intentionally peripatetic, the look and feel of the print surface holds the entire campaign together. It is really a beautiful tour-de-force of design and printing.

The campaign was run on a Komori 40-inch UV press at Flagship Press in North Andover MA. Flagship is a full service commercial printer serving a range of industries since 1950. Watch for a follow-up post on the production details.

Contributors to the project:

College of the Holy Cross
Edge Research
Kor Group
Flagship Press





Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.