The University Experience - Making first impressions count.

In the experience economy, how can universities differentiate their environments and make a first impression that is lasting and connects with students? 

Building a strong first impression has become the new differentiator for universities to attract students and build brand alignment. With increased online engagement, an influx of international students, and the expectation of an experience rather than just a place, universities now more than ever need to consider the entry experience. 

In a recent survey undertaken in on “improving student experience” ( it was found: 

 “43 percent of U.S. students make their decision on where to attend college based largely on their first impression of the campus.” 

The need for universities to align the entry statement and brand is imperative to the overall experience. 

The entry statement is essentially the billboard for the university. The entry is an opportunity to set the theme for the experience and can also drive a point of difference for the University. Entries do not need to consist of just signage. They now extend beyond into urban art pieces and integrated treatments with landscape and architecture.

RMIT University, Storey Hall, Swanston Street facade  

In a built environment that now consists of increasingly vertical gateways and interconnected blurred boundaries, each entry needs alignment and consistency. Beyond the entries, the alignment to other branded touchpoints on campus is critical as it also improves legibility and provides an experience that is simple for first time visitors to navigate. It was noted in the survey that: 

“83 percent of students also consider a friendly campus more important than a university’s reputation, and 62 percent consider the campus tour more influential than their parents’ advice”.

Years ago, experience came last when planning new developments. Now in an economy where experience and first impressions differentiate, it is critical more than ever to provide a strong first impression aligned to the values and foundations of the institution.

The key to making a strong first impression and resounding first time experience is aligning the signage, wayfinding, urban art, digital and lighting. This is what we do at The Blueprint.