Change is coming and the excitement is building in the Sixth Form at Sandbach High School as the students prepare to complete their last year of study in the current building, before being moved into the new, state of the art, multi-million pound project that is being produced at the back of the school as we speak.

Sandbach High School and Sixth Form College is a fabulous opportunity for students; in the past academic year the main school achieved a GCSE pass rate of 100% and the Sixth Form achieved an A Level pass rate of 99.5%. Focusing particularly on the Sixth Form, students who attend are offered quality higher education with excellent teaching and pastoral support, as well as providing students with the experiences and confidence to achieve their goals. Beyond that, Sandbach Sixth Form has an excellent record of assisting students into further education and employment. Sandbach Sixth Form sounds like the perfect choice for higher education, does it not? So what’s the problem, you might ask?

Currently, the site is referred to as Sandbach High School and Sixth Form College, and while they are two separate entities they often come as a package in any discussion. Students that attend the Sixth Form do not have to have gone to Sandbach High School, nor do they have to be female, contrary to popular belief, but as the two are so commonly paired together there is believed to be a stigma with the Sixth Form that is preventing students, both male and female, from the wider population pool considering this fantastic establishment for their higher education.

Both the staff and the students of Sandbach want to encourage more students to attend the Sixth Form, both from the main school and from surrounding schools and to do this, they have asked for our help here at Design Office.

During our original consultation with Gill Kesteven, Marketing & Publicity Manager and Design Office’s main point of contact, we established that while both the main school and the Sixth Form are celebrating continuous success year after year and the Sixth Form are hosting a steady number of students (around 300 per year), 75% of which are students from the main school, Sandbach seems to have plateaued. Gill approached Design Office to discuss new ways of marketing the school and explained that a successful campaign would produce an increase in the overall number of students in the Sixth Form, subsequently increasing both the number of students from the main school and surrounding schools.

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From our first consultation we deducted that the marketing campaign would focus around the new, state of the art, Sixth Form building that is currently undergoing construction and will be open in September of this year. Our creative team at the office then started to think of ways that we could do this that would help Sandbach stand out from their competitors, thinking particularly about the target audience, the students. While it is important that the information that is being given out about the Sixth Form is appropriate and of a good quality, Design Office concluded that at the tender age of 16 years old, a student is more likely to pay attention to their friend’s opinion (or anyone else their age) of a school over anyone else’s, including their parents. Therefore, we decided that the perfect way to market the Sixth Form would be the development of a ‘student voice’ through various social media platforms.

The team at Design Office, including some young designers, were very excited by this idea and a series of focus groups were arranged, free of charge, between the Managing Director, Kev Edge, ex-pupil and Graphic Designer, Stephanie Quinn and a group of enthusiastic Sixth Form students, all part of the school’s SLG organisation (School Leadership Group) to discuss the new project, develop the brand for it and establish how we are going to implement it.

The first focus group outlined the process that the Design Office team hoped to go through with the students, before talking largely about the different social media platforms that are available and the most popular ones within their age groups, to try and establish what platforms are going to be used when the student voice goes live.

The second focus group took place two weeks later and the time inbetween gave the students the opportunity to meet on their own and have a more in depth discussion about what sort of name they want to have for their student voice, what sort of branding they are envisioning for their project and what social media platforms they think will be successful. When they talked to us, they talked enthusiastically about an Instagram page, a YouTube channel that could host their vlogs and an app.

They also showed a unanimous agreement that the brand for the student voice should be purple and silver and the name should be in some way connected to either Sandbach or the Sixth Form. Following this focus group Design Office agreed that for the next focus group they would have a range of logo concepts, names and straplines to present to the students in the hope to finalise the identity for the student voice.

As Stephanie had been involved in both of the focus groups, is an ex-pupil of Sandbach High School and the Sixth Form and at just 22 years old is closer in age to the demographic, she took on the creative project, partnering up with colleague and young Graphic Designer Michael Merrill, 21, to create a range of logo concepts that they felt answered the brief developed by the students in the focus groups.

A total of five logos were produced, each with different names, logo marks, straplines and even colours. While we were given a fairly straightforward brief by the students Design Office wanted to present something that they weren’t expecting and therefore introduced turquoise into some of the colour palettes to represent the communication aspect of the student voice and names such as ‘Student Social’ that tried to move away from the identity being so obviously connected to Sandbach, avoiding students from other schools being put off engaging with the student voice.

At the third focus group Stephanie presented all five logos and the students seemed more than happy with what Design Office had achieved. However, as mature, young adults they were also keen to make an informed decision and narrow down the choices that would eventually form their project’s identity. The students finally decided that they liked elements of two different logos, funnily enough one that Michael had designed and one that Stephanie had designed, and wanted to see a sheet of variations with the two combined.

The Scoop

The first logo they chose features the name ‘The Scoop’. This names derives from the idea that this social media platform will provide exclusive information from the students – the inside scoop. The strapline then invited people to view the content on the platform because they feel like they are missing out on something exciting. The logo mark is designed to look like a scoop but is also stylized to look like a ‘6’ to represent the Sixth Form. The colours used are purple and silver as requested by the students and a soft, contemporary font has been used to make the logo feel more informal as it is primarily for use on social media, as well as to complement the shape of the logo mark.

The second logo they chose features the name ‘Sixth Social’. This name derives from the idea that the platform will be implemented on social media, by Sixth Form students to communicate to a wider audience about the Sixth Form culture. The logo mark is designed in the shape of an ‘S’ to represent Sandbach, while the dots and lines within it represent the idea that all of the students are connected to one another. The pattern being contained within the ‘S’ also represents the idea that this is a connected community with Sandbach. The lines featured in this logo were inspired by the architecture of the new Sixth Form build. The colours used are purple and silver as requested by the students and a script font has been used as the main font in this logo to give it a more personal touch in comparison to the other concepts.

Sixth Social

The students really liked the name ‘The Scoop’. While some of the students thought that it would perceive the student voice to be a place to get gossip, they eventually agreed that the curiosity of such a name might drive more students to the content in the first place, which is ultimately what their goal is. However, they were not so keen on the logo mark and font. Instead, they really liked the logo and font featured in the ‘Sixth Social’ logo as they believed it was more informal and more closely related to their tone of voice as well as more appropriate for use on social media and as an app icon. Finally they chosen a completely different strapline featured in a logo that was dismissed, ‘Connecting the Sixth Form community’.

Finally the students decided that they wanted the new build to be referred to as ‘Sandbach College’ as opposed to Sandbach Sixth Form, as they believe that this is part of the stigma – they believe that some students will not attend a Sixth Form if they didn’t go to the High School and are not female, but they would be more likely to attend the College as they feel that it is a fresh start and a completely separate experience to high school. After the approval of the new name by the Headteacher, this became the final identity for The Scoop.

Final Logo

β€œIt had been great to get the students involved in the marketing of their College. It gives them a sense of importance and belonging being able to make important decisions. The students have really enjoyed having their say in the design and development of The Scoop and it’s identity and are looking forward to the next stage where their ideas will go live!” – Gill Kesteven, Marketing & Publicity Manager.

The students are now eager to set up and being running the social media profiles, as well as develop an app, so the focus groups and the partnership between the students and the team at Design Office will continue after the half term. We are all really excited about the next stages which will include the marketing and launch of The Scoop, the implementation of the brand across the relevant platforms and the maintenance of The Scoop. Beyond that Design Office are also excited to be preparing to develop the overriding marketing campaign for the actual new build, due to open in September of this year.

Here at Design Office we love to work on projects in the education sector, but more importantly we love to get the students involved. We pride ourselves in providing opportunities for people and by conducting focus groups when we begin working on projects in schools and colleges we can offer the students the opportunity not only to engage in creative tasks, but take control over their space and interact with professional individuals in the creative industry and their local community, things that we believe help to stimulate their learning and grow their confidence.

If you think that we can help you with your next creative project, why not arrange a consultation with our marketing department? Call 01270 252106 or send an email to marketing@designoffice.co.uk now!