They are the bane of many private school marketing and admissions directors.

Viewbooks are demanding, resource-draining, black holes from which neither light nor budgets can escape.

They’ve been around in various forms since the 1860s, and yes, someone actually composed a history of viewbooks if you’re in an odd mood.

Today it’s still an article of faith among many that having a sharp, hi-quality viewbook is a sine qua non for competitive marketing (forgive the Latin but it seemed to fit).

Yet in one study (InspirED 2017), only 7% of school respondents considered their viewbook effective, but 72% create one.

This is why you should stop the music and rethink.

Higher-impact content, less production frequency

Of the private education clients we served – Hopkins, Darrow, The Foote School, Ethel Walker, and others to drop a few names – many have taken our advice and restaged their viewbooks to be produced every other year. There’s less content, fewer pages, and less production expense.

At the same time, we recommend creating a family of smaller-format pieces for content areas that truly need to be updated: Athletics, Clubs, Faculty, Special Programs, and so forth.

This sets the viewbook free to do what it is meant to do: Look good, sound good, feel good, and convey attitude and authenticity in print, a medium that still matters.

For those who want a bigger revolution, you can consider more radical steps.

Ad meilora (Toward better things)

Think digital first. This could mean a digital magazine with enhanced functionality, embedded multimedia experiences, and images sourced from student Instagram accounts. Or maybe it means text messages and social media hashtags that connect people to a mobile-friendly version of viewbook content. Think small (as in screen).

Atypical sizes. Consider this: If envelope size is driving your viewbook design decisions, something’s wrong. Remember, Gen Y and Gen Z like print (just as their parents do), but they tend to reach for printed work that’s different. Spend the buck on die cuts, get weif envelopes, reduce the print run, and see if it works.

Stop playing “Pin the Tail on the Demographic.” How many of these images have you seen?

  • Students strolling brick pathways, joined in laughter and fellowship.
  • Students of every ethnicity joined in every possible activity.
  • Teachers at lab tables, earnestly engaging students, who are always, always wearing safety goggles.
  • “Service learning” photos of students doing good deeds in the community.

The point: Stop reproducing a viewbook and start producing a lead-generating content marketing program that grows school enrollment.

You can start by contacting us.