Cabrillo College Website Redesign Drives a New Look for a New Generation of Students
If you’ve logged onto the Cabrillo College website at cabrillo.edu recently, you’ll notice that things look completely different! Driven by the need to modernize and streamline its 10-year old website, the Cabrillo College Marketing Department, in partnership with Santa Cruz-based Design by Cosmic, Inc. not only did that, they modernized and refreshed the look of the entire College, including its storied, 60’s-era, script logo.
Cabrillo was among one of the first colleges in the state to pioneer the Guided Pathways initiative, designed to improve student outcomes and completion rates by making the college-going process easier to navigate, more intuitive, more efficient, and less costly for its students.
A primary way that students learn about and navigate the College is through its website. So working with the Cabrillo College Foundation, the College applied for and received a grant from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation (MPF) to completely relaunch Cabrillo’s website and shift it to a WordPress Content Management System (CMS) platform, which is not only a more stable technology platform, it also yields an end-user experience that is much easier for students to navigate, as well as easier for faculty and staff to update.
“With our website approaching 10 years old, this was a long-desired and much needed change, in order to give our students a better online experience,” said Kristin Fabos, Cabrillo’s Director of Marketing and Communications. “The goals of the Guided Pathways initiative coupled with the Monterey Peninsula Foundation funding, gave us the opportunity to both relaunch the site and refresh the brand, giving a new generation of students a more intuitive, more modern way to interact with the College.”
Cabrillo’s Marketing Department put out a Request For Proposal (RFP) out to local design agencies, ultimately selecting Santa Cruz-based Design By Cosmic, Inc. to work with on both the rebranding effort and the website redesign.
Whenever we are approaching a brand with a history and heritage, we always start from a position of respect and discovery,
— Eric Ressler, Principal, Design by Cosmic, Inc.
“We want to make sure we fully understand what we are redesigning before jumping in with new ideas. Cabrillo as an institution has a rich and meaningful history, and we knew that although we wanted to modernize the brand and build something that would better serve Cabrillo today, that also meant understanding more about Cabrillo in the past.”
In addition to weekly meetings between Design by Cosmic and Cabrillo’s Marketing Team throughout the process, on-campus a committee was formed, called the Guided Pathways Website Implementation team. Comprised of faculty, staff, students and administrators, this team worked together to determine features and functionality that would make the new website relevant and intuitive for both current and prospective students. Once those specifications were determined, the group determined a WordPress CMS would be the new, modern platform on which the new website was based.
“As a project with the goal of benefitting students, having student input at every step in the process was critical to the success of this project,” said Matt Wetstein, Cabrillo College President and Superintendent. “I’m very pleased by the thoughtful and deliberative process that both the College and Design by Cosmic took to accomplish this massive undertaking, especially during the COVID pandemic, when people were already stretched.”
At the outset of the project, a brand survey was distributed to students, to determine which characteristics and colors they personally attributed to Cabrillo College, as well as to ascertain what Cabrillo College meant to them. That work indicated Cabrillo students were seeking a logo and brand characteristics that were ‘warm, welcoming, and modern’ and colors that were ‘energetic, vibrant, and clean.’ Members of Cabrillo’s faculty, staff, and administrators on the Website Implementation Team completed the same survey, yielding surprisingly similar results.
Design by Cosmic took this survey feedback, and developed initial color schemes and logo options that it presented to the College. Once the designs were narrowed to a final three, Cabrillo’s Marketing Department then gave student representatives iPads, and (pre-COVID, when students were still on campus) had them survey members of the Cabrillo Student Community at both the College’s Aptos campus and Watsonville Center.
The results were resoundingly clear on a preferred logo design, as well as a refreshed color palette. The winning logo design, while modernized from the legacy script cursive logo, intentionally retained many of the same design elements. Once the logo and branding elements were selected based upon student input, Cabrillo’s Marketing Department unveiled them to the campus community, presenting at seven College participatory governance meetings, including the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees and the Cabrillo College Foundation Board.
“Because it has such rich history, we intentionally designed the new Cabrillo College logo with very similar attributes of the original logo. The new logo is also a hand (computer) drawn logo, not a font, and the upward-right slant throughout as well as the alignment of the double l’s in ‘Cabrillo’ and ‘College’ indicate forward movement, and are an homage to the original logo that was hand drawn in 1960,” said Eric Ressler, Founder and Principal, Design by Cosmic, Inc.
With a new logo and updated branding elements, Cabrillo could apply those throughout a new, modern, easily updatable and stable website. Since Cabrillo is a Federally-designated Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) with 45% of its enrolled students identifying as Latinx, parts of the new website are translated into Spanish, in addition to a plug-in that will be able to translate pages on-demand.
As many college websites are, the legacy Cabrillo website was extensive, involving thousands of pages, making it difficult for Cosmic to map the entire site.
“One of the biggest challenges of this website transition was getting 10+ years of content across an incredibly vast legacy website, migrated over to a new site in a way that was clean and intuitive,” continued Fabos. “This took an all-out, campus effort that spanned the course of several months.”
“I was pleasantly surprised to see the new website,” said returning Communications graduate Micayela Konnviser.
It is much more modern and current, the colors are vibrant, and it’s much easier for me to find things. It reflects a College that’s up with the times, and one that I’m proud to attend.
— Micayela Konnviser