National design association honors UND in two categories

National design association honors UND in two categories

Senior University Photographer Shawna Schill’s shot of an art student’s work-in-progress earned an award in the University & College Designers Association’s 2019 Design Competition. UND’s comprehensive website redesign also earned recognition. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

The University of North Dakota’s website redevelopment and photography have been recognized by two national awards.

UND won two Awards of Excellence in the University & College Designers Association’s 2019 Design Competition. The awards were in the categories of “Website — Entire Site” for the university’s website redesign, and “Photography” for Senior University Photographer Shawna Schill’s photo of a UND art classroom.

The UCDA competition recognizes exceptional design work done by communication professionals to promote educational institutions. The judges of the annual competition evaluated 1,061 entries, awarding 215 Awards of Excellence.

Winning entries will be part of the UCDA Design Show, which will be on display during the 49th annual UCDA Design Conference Oct. 12-15 in in Portland, Ore.

UND’s massive website redevelopment sought to unify and update a site that had grown to more than 30,000 pages, said Tera Buckley, project lead and director of web & multimedia marketing at the University.

In partnership with mStoner, a Chicago-based agency focused on higher education marketing and communications, UND looked at each of those pages, cut the total number of pages in half and tied the remaining pages together in a comprehensive redesign.

“First, it had to be responsive,” Buckley said.

“The last site was designed for just a desktop, and we don’t all work on our desktops any more. We look at websites on our phones, iPads and other devices, so our sites have to be useful on all sizes of screens.”

Second, the redesign supports UND’s new Leaders in Action brand, with every page now being infused by UND’s unique brand identity.

And third, “we wanted to serve prospective students,” she said.

“We very much wanted to give prospective students a sense of place, a sense of excitement and a sense of community. And the website is accomplishing that.”

From 2018 to 2019, web inquiries increased 386 percent for undergraduate programs and 138 percent for graduate programs, UND reports.

So, is the redesign complete?

“Absolutely not,” Buckley said with a laugh.

“It still is happening right now, and it will keep on happening. My goal is that it never ends, because it always needs to keep evolving and changing, or we’ll end up in a hole again. And I’m not going to let that happen.”

Among other changes, the redesigned website has lots more imagery than it did before, because prospective students and other visitors love seeing photos and videos. So for Senior University Photographer Shawna Schill, the task last fall was to accompany a video team around campus and shoot photos that would complement the videos online.

Schill’s award-winning photo of an art student grinding down a piece of metal was one result.

“For that photo, everything just came together,” Schill said.

“Anytime you’re shooting something that has moving parts such as sparks, it’s hard. That’s because as the person shooting, you don’t have any control over where all those sparks are flying.

“But in this photo, you could see her face while the sparks created a visual interest, and the video team’s lighting created some nice light for me. So all the elements came together in that frame.”

The Award of Excellence from the University & College Designers Association is especially meaningful because it comes from peers, Schill said.

“Higher education is a unique field, and the association is made up of creative professionals in this field from all over the country. They understand the challenges, but they also can share and celebrate the things we work on.”

So, it’s exciting to be honored by such a nationally respected group. “And it’s good for UND, too,” Schill said.

“People are doing great work here at the university. And whether it’s the photo or the website or any of the millions of other things that we do, it’s wonderful for the university to be recognized.”