These 10 tips will ensure your school prospectus design is remarkable!
Almost all schools have a website. Some good, some not so good but all have the relevant information as required by Ofsted. However, does this mean that a printed prospectus or school brochure is any less important in a school’s admissions process? At Blue Apple Education we believe that now more than ever a carefully crafted and well thought out prospectus or brochure is every bit as important as your school website. In fact, we have proven time and time again that a beautiful prospectus in the hands of a parent is often the deciding factor in them choosing to visit your school open day or requesting a personal tour. Read on to find out how we have turned the school prospectus into a vital piece of the school admissions process.
If you have been tasked with creating your school prospectus we have provided 10 essential tips to ensure that it forms an integral part of your school admissions process and provides a fantastic return on investment.
1. Understanding why you are creating the prospectus.
Your prospectus is a sales brochure. Whether you like it or not the job of the prospectus is to sell the school. To provide a tactile and long-lasting view inside the school. To show the reader why your school is so remarkable compared to the next school down the road. It should enthusiastically showcase the headteacher’s vision, the school’s values and provide reassurances to parents that choosing your school over another is the right decision. A well planned, prepared and presented prospectus offers a great opportunity to convince prospective parents and even pupils to choose your school over your competitors. Not to mention that more and more people are turning away from their screens and back to print when they really need to digest important information.
The prospectus should form an essential part of your admissions process and everyone involved needs to fully understand when and how it will be used when giving or sending it out. It shouldn’t sit under a desk in a box because you’re worried about the cost. It is more costly when it sits there hidden from the world. Because of its tactile and permanent physical nature, a well-designed prospectus will be looked at several times and even passed on to other parents or relatives. So it is important to make sure they are handed out at key times and at every opportunity. A beautiful brochure with gorgeous photography and a lovely textured cover is very hard to throw away and will usually sit on a table or worktop for months, but will often be seen time and time again. So make sure they are used efficiently and effectively. You never know when a parent will be discussing schools with their friend and suddenly remember that they have your prospectus at home and share it.
2. Knowing your target audience
Knowing your target audience is fundamental to getting the right message across in the prospectus design. If you don’t really know who your audience is it is worth seeking help from a professional company like Blue Apple Education first. However, you can always do this yourself with staff and parent focus groups, sending out surveys and generally chatting with parents at the school gates.
- How do you define your school’s target audience?
- You can look at your current customer base (parents).
- What is the demographic of your school?
- Ask who your current parents are and why do they choose your school?
- Check out your competition.
- Analyse and understand your school’s key strengths.
Once you understand your audience, know how they talk, what they need and why they choose your school you can start to focus the content of your prospectus to attract and win over similar types of parents.
3. Planning your prospectus
It is a good idea to have your prospectuses published and available at least 6 weeks before the final dates for applications – so you need to start your planning well in advance.
As Ofsted has made it mandatory for all schools to display their key information on your website this means there is now much more space within your brochure. This allows you to include gorgeous photography that fills the pages, key statistics, quotes, destinations and generally more desirable information to really sell your school to prospective parents and pupils or even potential new staff. Keeping all of the more mundane information online.
The main objective of your brochure is to capture your school’s spirit – so arrange meetings with key stakeholders to agree on the tone of your content, what key points to include or to gather any quotes, statistics and insights that will help support you in creating a true reflection of what your school represents.
Put some thought into who will be reading your prospectus and why – usually parents and pupils who have lots of questions about your school such as “What facilities does the school have?” or “What is the admissions process?”. Writing a list of common questions which you must answer within your content will give you another great starting point.
You could even speak with your current parents and pupils to find out what key questions they needed answering during the prospecting process or what information they would have found helpful and interesting.
Here are some other key points to include in your prospectus:
- Name and type of school
- Contact details
- Information on the admissions process
- Your school values and ethos
- Statement from the Headteacher
- Supporting quotes from pupils, parents, Ofsted and staff
- Curriculum information including teaching methods
4. What you should include and how to structure it.
Once you have your content written up (and checked for grammar and spelling!) you will need to look at the structuring of your prospectus. At Blue Apple Education we always start by mapping out and preparing where the content will go on a ‘flat plan’. This is a simple page map that allows you to see how many pages you are likely to need for the amount of content you want to include.
“Top Tip – you will usually need 2 pages for every 200-300 words for a powerful and impactful prospectus”
You will need to think about the running order of the pages, as well as the page by page structure. Each page will need to include a similar amount of information broken down into similar chunks of content for consistency throughout. For example, will each one of your pages include a heading, subheadings, block of text, quotes or testimonials and statistics? Having a clear vision of how much content you are going to be placing on each page and how they will be broken down into bite-sized chunks will help you when it comes to the design stage. The running order of your prospectus is also extremely important. The flow of the document needs to make sense. Think about the reading of your prospectus as a journey through your school. What information will people want or need to know, before they move on to the next section?
There is no exact science to the order you should be presenting your content, but here’s an example of what could work:
Cover and inside cover page – School logo, name, location and contact details including website
Page 1 – Contents
Page 2 – Statement from the Headteacher
Page 3 – School’s mission statement including supporting quotes
Page 4 – Statement of teaching methods
Page 5 – reasons to choose the school
Page 6 – Supporting quotes from students, teachers and parents
Page 7 and 8 – Curriculum information including statistics and supporting quotes
Page 9 – School security
Page 10 – Term dates, admissions and charging policies
Page 11 Closing statements and statistics
Inside back cover and back cover – School map and other useful information
“Top Tip: Remember that brochure pages need to be printed in multiples of 4 so when you are planning the structure of your brochure ensure that your pages add up! If you are struggling to keep your page count to multiples of 4 you could always add in a full page of images to break up the content and bump up your page count.”
The school photography you use to represent your school within your prospectus is just as important as the words you use. This is where your prospectus will really come to life – so it is incredibly important that you do not scrimp on this stage!
Now that you have your content planned out you should have a good idea of what types of photographs you need to really bring your school’s spirit to the pages of your prospectus. This is where most school’s fail to get their photography right. They have some nice school photographs taken by a staff member or perhaps a parent and because they were cheap or even free then that is seen as acceptable. However, when a professional photographer is taking images they need to know at the very least:
- The orientation of the page or container they are going into
- The media they are to be used on
- The message, vision and values of the school
- The target audience
- Why you are having a prospectus
A good school design agency should provide the photographer’s brief for you and these considerations are then given to the photographer to ensure everyone knows what is expected of them. It will also make your day much more enjoyable and the end results much more powerful allowing you or your design agency to quickly and easily select the right images for each section. So, start by making a checklist of the types of images you need to sit alongside your written content. For example, if your school is prestigious for its sporting results, make sure you have lots of imagery of your pupils and staff enjoying themselves in your gymnasium or playing fields. If your science department is state of the art, arrange some time to capture the amazement on your pupils’ faces when they are experimenting in your laboratories. Hire a professional photographer and plan a day to capture the photographs you need. Don’t forget to let the parents of your current pupils know this is taking place and ask for their consent for their children’s image to be used within your prospectus.
Top Tip: Arrange your photography day in September. You will have lots of fresh-faced and eager pupils in brand new uniforms – this will greatly increase the impact of your photographs!
6. Designing your prospectus
Now that you have all of your written content and beautiful imagery you are ready to pull it all together and begin to see your new school prospectus take shape.
The first thing you will need to decide on is what size your prospectus is going to be. At Blue Apple Education we like to suggest this based on why you are producing a prospectus and how you are going to use it. Most schools will suggest an A4 portrait school prospectus, but why stick to that size? Remember, you are looking to unearth the remarkable in your school, not look like all the others! Smaller sizes are great if you want them to fit into bags and can save on postage costs. Larger sizes provide visual impact and even can look more like a coffee table brochure or magazine. There are lots of options for you to choose from when it comes to the size and shape of your brochure – just make sure you think about the amount of content you have, the format of the images you will be using and where you will be displaying these brochures to ensure you pick a format that will work!
There should be an overall concept or theme to your prospectus. This should be implemented creatively and consistently throughout the design. Good prospectus designers will understand this and often use elements of your school logo or brand throughout the design.
7. Colour and fonts
The importance of choosing the right font and colour palette when designing a brochure is often overlooked. Using an illegible font or picking a dull colour scheme could really do the opposite of what we are trying to achieve. Having brand guidelines designed will overcome this. When we produce a new school logo we always produce a set of brand guidelines to accompany it, which includes font usage and primary and secondary colour palettes. Ask your design agency for this if they are designing your logo! Fonts should work well with, and reflect your school vision and values. Don’t use a childish font like comic sans because it is child friendly, most children are not your target audience, the parents are! Colours should be carefully selected to complement one another with a selection of secondary colours to provide an accent to key elements within the design. Don’t simply choose lime green and fuchsia pink because they are your favourite colours. Have a look at your current website and other marketing materials. Ideally, your school prospectus should match the rest of your current branding and colour schemes.
You should also take into consideration the size that your brochure will be printed and make sure you choose simple fonts that will be legible when used in headings, subheading and main body text. Avoid picking fonts that are too busy, or become hard to read when scaled down.
8. Getting it print ready
Speaking of the importance of colour – you will also need to make sure you select the correct ‘colour profile’ in your chosen design software before you start creating the brochure. Professional printers use the Pantone Colour System or CMYK colour process for printing. The way the colours are created using this process is completely different from how they are created on your computer screen which is RGB. So designing a document for print using an RGB colour profile will result in some surprise colour changes.
Another important factor to take into account when designing for print is ‘bleed’. Bleed is a printing term that is used to describe a document that has images or elements touching the edge of a page. If no bleed is added, then when the brochure is cut down to size, the end result could have small white slithers along the edges of the images or colour elements, instead of them ending flush with the edge of the page. When designing, make sure any images or colour elements extend for 3mm beyond the page (or trim) edge. Most computer design programs will allow you to save your document with the bleed area added. For example, if you are creating an A4 document, the page dimensions should be 210mm x 297mm for the trim size and 216mm x 303mm with the added bleed area around all 4 edges.
The quality and size of your images is also an important factor when designing for print. Print resolution is 300dpi, which means all of the images used in your brochure should also be this resolution. If the images are less than this, they run the risk of printing quite blurred or pixelated which is not going to look great when prospective parents are flicking through your brochure. Images saved from the internet are usually 72dpi and are not suitable for print so avoid doing this at all costs. Hiring a professional photography company like Blue Apple Education will ensure that your images are all high quality and will be suitable for your prospectus.
9. Printing your prospectus
Now that you have your prospectus designed and approved for printing there are just a few more things you will need to consider before you are ready to give the go-ahead.
Choosing the ‘finish’
The printed finish and materials you choose for your prospectus can mean the difference between an average or even cheap-looking prospectus to one that really wows the reader when they first see it and give you an edge over your competitors. It’s a good idea to not scrimp on the materials used when printing. At Blue Apple Education we always specify the heaviest weight covers and inner pages with quality lamination, spot UV finishes, embossing or debossing and gold or silver foiling. This will ensure your brochure gets noticed and stays protected when being used.
What binding should I pick?
The binding of your brochure or the way the pages are held together is another printing option that you will need to consider. If you are working on a budget, or have a prospectus with a relatively low number of pages, opting for a stapled brochure binding will be ideal for you. Known as ‘saddle stitch’, this type of binding sees 2 metal staples through the spine of the document to hold all of the pages together. This is the most common form of brochure binding. If you are looking for something a little more refined or premium, opt for perfect binding. This type of binding is most common with magazines and books. As the pages are glued together at the spine with a strong glue, it gives space for information such as your school’s name or the year the prospectus was issued to be printed along the spine too.
“Top Tip: If you are choosing perfect binding, you will need to supply your cover (front and back) artwork separate to the inner pages. This is because the front and back cover will be printed together with around 3-5mm in between for the spine.”
10. Complimentary items
However, you could be using lots of other printed products to enhance and complement your marketing activities. Such as:
Roller banners – to draw attention
Flyers or folded leaflets – to hand out at open days
Presentation folders – for organising documents
Posters – for putting your school out there
Alternatively, you could house your prospectus, yearly information sheets and any other printed marketing materials you may have such as newsletters or admissions forms, neatly inside a professionally printed presentation folder – for the ultimate school application pack.
To sum up…
Producing a stunning school prospectus can sound like a daunting task at first but with a clear structure and a partnership with Blue Apple Education, it is easy to produce a prospectus that will provide you with a great return on your investment.
Just remember to:
- Create a clear plan and structure of what information you are going to include
- Structure your content in a way that flows well and is easy to read
- Hire a professional photographer to capture your school at it’s best
- Design your prospectus at an appropriate size, using the Pantone or CMYK colour profile
- Choose simple clean fonts and a recognisable colour scheme
- Opt for a laminated cover when printing for protection against knocks or spills – keeping your prospectus looking great for longer.
When you’re ready to start your school prospectus, why not visit our Express School Prospectus Design Service where you can order online from as little as £300. We even offer a 100% MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE if you are not completely satisfied, so you can buy with confidence. Or call one of our creative experts on +44 (0) 330 223 0766 who will be happy to answer any questions you have.
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Blue Apple Education are School Communication and Design Experts. We believe each and every school is remarkable and unique in some way. We see it as our duty to unearth what this is and to convey the essence of this both beautifully and convincingly.
We’d love to Unearth Your Remarkable, contact Mark Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0330 223 0766.