UCLA Anderson School

Engaging prospective students

A lovely shot of a laptop open to the UCLA Anderson website.

As one of the top-tier management schools in the country, UCLA Anderson has a reputation with students as a business education innovator. However, when we started working with them in 2008 the institution was facing several marketing and communication challenges. We worked with visual design partner agency, KBDA on significant updates to website information architecture, content strategy and visual design to fulfill prospective student expectations and the school’s updated messaging goals.

Prior to project inception, analytics had confirmed that the bulk of Anderson’s web traffic consisted of prospective students. However, the site structure and messaging was focused heavily on the institution’s thought leadership. The tone was overly serious and not engaging enough for its key audiences.

“I need to get as much information as I can about what my everyday life will be like at Anderson. As an international prospective student, the school's website plays a key part in my decision-making process.”

Nicola Marconato, Prospective Student

Speaking directly to incoming students

After interviewing 10 current and prospective UCLA Anderson School students, along with 8 key stakeholders, we learned that, while impressive, Anderson’s thought leadership was actually low on the list of information priorities prospective students were seeking.

We learned that prospective students struggled to find out from the Anderson website what they needed to know to make a decision on whether or not they should apply to Anderson. They wanted high-level information about the school’s mission, curriculum, student life and life in Los Angeles. Prospective MBA students, are often, by nature, practical and data-driven. They wanted to know if their time at Anderson would translate into real-world opportunities. Students we interviewed wanted to know the ROI for the program, not just the soft messaging. So we made sure to incorporate both kinds of messages into the design and content strategy.

A high percentage of international students apply to Anderson. These students wanted content tailored to the international student experience of relocating to the U.S. and to Los Angeles in particular – often with spouses and children. Our suggested content strategy put the focus on student priorities as a whole and also focused on international student needs.

“I don’t feel like I alone was accepted to UCLA – it was a joint effort my wife and I did together. WE were accepted to UCLA. So we needed to know: What efforts are being made to integrate the spouses in the day-to-day life?”

Doron Gavra, incoming MBA student

A group of students participating in a ropes course as a team-building exercise.

Baked in teamwork and entrepreneurship

Since the 1970s, Anderson had been known for its unusually-collaborative approach to student projects and its commitment to invention and entrepreneurial thinking. However, we knew we had to try a fresh approach to gain student prospect attention in the vast sea of business schools, all of which were newly claiming to foster teamwork and innovative thinking. While a self-driven environment, Anderson did not foster a “lone wolf” experience like so many other prestigious schools do. Therefore, our information architecture and content strategy recommendations focused on “showing, not telling,” and shined the spotlight on video case studies, student projects and testimonials that would truly highlight the school’s rich, intellectually-challenging and highly cooperative environment.

Proving that Anderson is not a stereotypical “L.A. lightweight”

UCLA Anderson School of Business is very academically rigorous, but its Los Angeles location carries with it a certain amount of baggage. The site’s messaging and the look and feel of the needed to be able to address preconceptions and stereotypes about Los Angeles, while at the same time capitalizing on the city’s significant cultural and social opportunities and yes, even the weather, which we learned was an enormous selling point with prospective students.

Primitive Spark performed a series of usability tests with incoming and current MBA students to make sure the wireframes and designs for the new site had the right mix of academic focus, messaging and location celebration.

“Having an entrepreneurial approach doesn’t mean everyone who graduates becomes an entrepreneur – it can also mean that they learn to be brave and insightful and react quickly. Even the entrepreneurial spirit within large organizations is important.”

Craig Hubbell, Associate Director MBA Admissions