Elevating Emily Carr University’s global reputation by putting students at the centre.


A vision for 21st century learning

Emily Carr University, a Vancouver-based art and design school, was designated as one of the most important design schools in the world by the QS World University Rankings.

Founded in 1925, the University will move after 37 years at its iconic Granville Island location to a new state-of-the-art campus, scheduled for completion in 2017. The new facility is at the core of the school’s vision for learning in the 21st century—a vision of enhanced student access, a culture of research, and a community of students whose big ideas will transform our world.

With all the attention and buzz surrounding the new campus, Emily Carr University needed a new website that reflected both its prestigious reputation and its visionary aspirations. The University came to OpenRoad to refocus their digital goals and launch a new online platform.

Designing for organizations

The Emily Carr University community is comprised of world-renowned thinkers as well as some truly notable alumni, including Douglas Coupland, Jack Shadbolt, and Lynn Johnston. The task of designing an experience worthy of the best artists and designers in the world was something we knew would be a challenge.

But as we got into the project, we realized that the most challenging aspect would be the process itself. The culture of Emily Carr could be described as a collective of like-minds connected by passion, operating with varying degrees of autonomy.

We knew that bringing these dynamic voices and varied perspectives into agreement would be a key condition to the success of the project.

Aligning digital strategy with organizational priorities

Every year, prospective students from all over the globe hope to gain admittance into one of the University’s undergraduate or graduate programs, and competition is fierce. But so is the competition among other art and design schools to capture the attention of the best potential students.

The website’s top priority is converting high-quality potential students into new applicants.

Style tiles

Quickly decide on the essence of a visual direction and the approach most appropriate to the prospective student, without getting distracted by other factors.

Data and art working together

What had started out as a high-risk visual redesign project for a world-class art and design school became an exercise in consensus-building within an organization. By putting the student at the centre of the process, OpenRoad united the University around a common goal which drove internal acceptance and support for the initiative. And by using student-centred evidence and concrete data to back-up design decisions, we helped Emily Carr University transform its online presence into a dynamic and vibrant reflection of the student experience.

OpenRoad’s expertise delivered exactly what we needed—by the monthly engagement numbers alone, our newsletter subscriptions are up by 310% and our bounce rate is down by a full 20%.

— Karin Watson, Digital Strategist, Emily Carr University

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