Five Digital Design Trends to look forward to in 2017

With a new year come new trends. TWG Plus is looking to the future as we break down five trend worthy topics!


“…done correctly, GIFs can take your engagement and click-through rates to the next level.”

GIFs, really? I know what you’re thinking. GIFs are everywhere, and you’re right. So what’s so great about them? The GIF is nothing new, but their usage is becoming more popular than ever. Let’s be honest, abusing GIFs can kill your UX (user experience), but done correctly, GIFs can take your engagement and click-through rates to the next level.

According to The New York Times, 23 million GIFs are posted on Tumblr every day. Facebook gets more than 5 million daily. Slack sees more than 5 million GIFs each month.

GIF or JIF? Let’s Settle It.
I can’t tell you how many debates I’ve engaged in regarding the pronunciation of the word GIF — it’s sad really. The “G” in GIF stands for the word “graphic,” so many people believe that it should be pronounced with a hard G. But according to its creator, Steve Wilhite, the correct pronunciation is “JIF,” like the brand of peanut butter. I’ve been saying it wrong for all these years — who knew.


They’re easy to digest.

They’re mobile friendly.

They draw attention to important information.

They help tell a story. 


They bring emails to life.


As we focus more and more attention on content, designers will pay closer attention to headline size. In a world of constant distraction, visual hierarchy and headlines that draw attention are key. It’s important to dedicate plenty of screen real estate to the simple statement defining your company’s product or services. Start playing with space and mixing different fonts…the possibilities are endless.


Google Fonts first launched in 2010 as a way to move the web forward and make it faster and more expressive by creating a simple way to add type variety to websites. It offers an intuitive and robust directory of open source designer web fonts. Google allows you to share and integrate typography, into any design project seamlessly; no matter where you are in the world. It’s Googles world now anyway — we just live in it.

Expect more designers to explore Google Fonts in 2017. Check it out!

Google Fonts



“Duotones can spice up an overused image, add a fun element when once is lacking and just help engage users visually.”

As minimalism came to the forefront in 2016, designers sought out ways to inject personality into their design work. [Insert big, bright colors here]. Duotones can spice up an overused image, add a fun element when once is lacking and just help engage users visually. Expect to see more duotone imagery used to bring consistency when several images are displayed. Check out these color soaked websites that really draw your attention!

As you can see, it’s not only about bright color, but gradients are also making a comeback. Yes, I said gradients, but let’s not get crazy here. There’s not always a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. Use gradients thoughtfully and with purpose.



“88% of online users are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.”

So what is UX exactly? Short for user experience, UX brings user’s problems top of mind, and all design decisions should be centered around them. It’s important to focus on understanding your target audience, not who you think your target audience should be. Get to know your users through research and solve their problems (spoiler alert: actually talk to them!). Research is that genuine friend that tells you not what you want to hear, but the actual truth that makes you think twice. Use the information to your advantage to better impact your decision-making.

Still not convinced? Here are some powerful stats on UX:
• 88% of online users are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.
• Judgments on website credibility are 75% based on a website’s overall aesthetics.
• First impressions are 94% design-related.
• 85% of users think that a company’s mobile website should be as good or better than their desktop website.

[Free Download] Publications Asset Checkclist

In November, we had a conversation with our Creative Director, December Lambeth. During the webinar, she outlined how to get the most out of your creative team – whether they are in house or an outside vendor. In order to add something extra to the event, our team put together a free publications checklist that admissions teams can use to get ready for the pubs season. This is based on the same checklist that we use here in the office and includes:

  • Account information
  • General assets
  • Design assets
  • Content assets
  • Photo shoot guideline

This cheatsheet should help you get prepared and focus your conversations with your design team.

TWGPlus Publication Asset Toolkit

Want to download the entire presentation about designing award winning publications campaigns down load it here

Trials of an Enrollment Guy, Part 7

This post is my seventh installment in the continuing story about my 20 year-old son.

I have spent most of my working life in higher education enrollment, with a brief hiatus into the corporate world. Now, my life consists of visiting and consulting with colleges and universities across the south. In between, I get to sit behind the computer screen and try to keep up with what is happening with this younger generation.

That Aha Moment

Thought I would share a funny, yet enlightening thought my 20 year-old college junior had last night at the dinner table. We were discussing that my 13 year-old got his first piece of college mail from Hampden-Sydney College and he proceeded to say “Wait till you go on a college visit with Dad, it will be like taking your chemistry professor to the fireworks show. He will tell you why the fireworks explode and why they don’t and then you don’t get to enjoy the show!”

Now how many times have you been on a campus visit and thought about how the school could improve the experience for the prospective student and family? I am sorry. I am guilty of this, too!

There’s Nothing Wrong with Starting Early

In the last few days, I have been talking with some of my clients about how they are reaching out to their prospects. When that first piece of mail arrived for my younger son, I knew exactly what company had produced it as soon as I pulled it out of the mailbox. I want to share a couple insights that I think everyone should consider when doing a search campaign.

Being First to the Prospect

Even in the digital age, being first to the mailbox is a big deal.

It was definitely a big deal for my son the other day. He had never received a piece of college mail addressed to him. I give HSC kudos for buying the Duke Tip Names and reaching out to a kid in upstate SC. You never know if he will apply or even go visit but he did ask “Where is that?” and promptly went off to Google it.

What was the first result? Wikipedia.

Keeping your online properties up to date and properly maintained for SEO so that you will be found online is imperative for just these moments.

Now, what if you found students in your primary market that were connected to you via a niche major, sibling match, alumni, child or something you are known for? And then you were the school that first showed an interest in them?

There’s an old saying that “nearest is dearest.” It also works for marketing. Making the first move with students who are already near you physically or psychologically greatly increase your chances of receiving an inquiry from them—before your competitors.

We always remember who was first and not who was second or third. Don’t forget this for your next buy; focus your precious dollars on the students who are most likely to respond to you. If you are “nearest” by niche, major or family, you’ll stack the deck in your favor and minimize the workload on your staff.

Buying the Right Name from the Start

Selecting the right students is a science, but using a little prudence can take you a long way. Here are a few suggestions for finding the perfect match.

  1. Buy names using feeder schools without recruited athletes
  2. Overlay your alumni and sibling databases over your recruitment travel plan to make sure you are targeting the best areas.
  3. Consider using geo demographic information to find the best high schools and zip codes
  4. Buy names early, and often, that match your specific criteria to always be fresh
  5. Measure your responses, test and adjust
  6. Don’t give into “this is the way we have always done it”. Times are changing quickly.

In my younger son’s case, I am not sure how HSC chose his name.

Finding the correct names for your school is a science. Don’t just send to everyone in the market. Be a wise shopper and do your homework. Cut and dice the names to best fit your budget and recruitment plan.

So, the next time you’re first, you’ll be ahead of the game.



TWG Plus Partners with College Raptor

This week TWG Plus announced a partnership that will enable our institutional partners to use College Raptor’s fast and mobile-friendly net price calculator.

“TWG’s partnership with College Raptor allows us to further strengthen the focus on our core end-to-end marketing solutions for education institutions while offering clients a robust net price calculator. We researched the market and found that College Raptor had the best solution. These colleges will benefit from the best of both worlds,” said Christine Wyatt, CEO of TWG Plus.

TWG Plus partners with higher education to provide end-to-end marketing solutions. In order to deliver the very best solutions for our clients, TWG Plus chose College Raptor to ensure an exceptional NPC experience for both students and education institution.

“College cost is critically important when students and parents are researching higher education options, but that information is often hard to find,” said Bill Staib, CEO of College Raptor. “We created a net price calculator that is optimized for mobile and is faster to use than other options out there. That means more students and parents can access and complete it. Everybody wins.”

College Raptor serves higher education institutions with mobile-friendly net price calculators, early EFC estimates for prospective students, advanced predictive modeling, customize enrollment consulting projects, and qualified lead generation from its student-facing college discovery platform. So far, over 1 million visitors have used and College Raptor’s mobile app during the college search process.

About TWG Plus: 
TWG Plus is a full-service education marketing company located in Austin, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina. With a portfolio of services from student search and publications to branding, research, and digital media consultation, the TWG Plus approach combines data, strategy, and creativity so that colleges and universities achieve optimal results in their marketing efforts. For more information visit

About College Raptor: 
College Raptor, based in Iowa City, Iowa, empowers prospective students, parents, high school counselors, and college enrollment managers to resolve challenges related to college planning, financing and enrollment. College Raptor ( is the only service that enables students and families to discover quality, affordable college options based on personalized estimates of financial aid, scholarships, academic match, and acceptance chances at every four-year college in the country.

For inquiries about TWG Plus, contact Cynthia Rosas 

For inquiries about College Raptor, contact Tim McDougall (319) 538-7527 

54 Things You Need to Know About Gen Z

sm_gen z_tw

Feel like you just got to know Millennials? Well, the time has come to effectively say they’re (I am) old news. It’s all about the next fresh-faced generation – “Generation Z.” While they’re similar to their predecessors in a lot of ways, there are some stark differences that make them unique. Most haven’t experienced a world without social media, and the concept of labels is less important. Brace yourself, there’s a lot here, but take some time to get to know and understand them and it will pay off. If there is a simple concept that remains consistent though, it’s be authentic.

  1. Born between 1995-2010
  2. Approximately 1/4 of the total US population at 60 million currently, estimated to be 1/3 by 2020
  3. Consistently use emojis, hashtags, and short videos to communicate in new ways
  4. Industrious, and future-conscious. Personified by Alex of “Modern Family”
  5. Majority do not recall life without social media
  6. Will be the last generation that consists of a Caucasian majority. Currently comprised of 47% ethnic minorities
  7. Spend 2 to 4 times more time watching YouTube videos than traditional TV
  8. Approximate 8 second attention span
  9. Value experiences more than material items, and are willing to spend more on said experiences
  10. Deterring from traditional norms, and identities are defined more fluidly
  11. 48% identify as exclusively heterosexual
  12. Referred to as the “pluralist generation”
  13. Online and offline worlds are synchronized more than ever
  14. Value personal connections and privacy
  15. Averse to perfection, as it isn’t seen as genuine
  16. View spending as investment, and are highly aware of finances
  17. Friends and family significantly influence 84% of purchasing decisions
  18. Digital influencers are new superstars as they are seen as more accessible and authentic
  19. Twice as likely to use a cell phone to online shop
  20. Work not defined by a physical location
  21. New social platforms emphasize privacy
  22. Aware that digital footprints are forever
  23. “Normcore” (normal hard-core) fashion trend
  24. Define themselves less by gender and more through individuality
  25. More progressive world view
  26. High levels of digital aptitude at younger ages
  27. Be ready for a decent blend of careerists and digital mavericks, based on tech success from Zuckerberg, Spiegel, etc.
  28. Want personalization from brands
  29. Raised mainly by involved parents from Generation X
  30. Value loyalty
  31. Team sport participation has declined, as physical activity has taken a backseat to interactivity. Sports like soccer, baseball, and golf have seen decreases in participation – presumably due to their slow nature and the generation’s minimal attention spans
  32. Less motivated by material rewards, and more motivated by altruistic pursuits
  33. Experience and see the world through numerous screens
  34. More prone to procrastination due to the accessibility of information
  35. Communication with advisors occurs after traditional hours because of 24/7 access
  36. Immediate gratification mindset
  37. FOMO – “fear of missing out”
  38. Many perform freelance or on-demand work (Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, etc)
  39. High college costs and significant loan debt result in a more financially conscious and conservative group
  40. 47% participate in organized religion
  41. Socially moderate to liberal, while financially conservative
  42. Proclivity towards more genuine, imperfect messaging
  43. Value social justice – 56% concerned about racism, 56% concerned with sexism, and 61% concerned about poverty
  44. Over 9/10 have access to a computer
  45. 1/3 send roughly 100 texts a day
  46. Phone communication is increasingly non-verbal – 65% dislike or somewhat like making voice phone calls
  47. Email is seen as a formal and slower form of communication
  48. Over 2/3 prefer interacting with family and friends face-to-face as opposed to over social media or online
  49. Less exposure with in-person communication, although they have a desire for it
  50. 41% of time spent outside of the classroom is spent on a connected device
  51. Social media is used less to share about themselves, and more to keep up with others
  52. Over half of Facebook users have private profiles so they can control who sees their information
  53. Different social media platforms are used for different purposes. Facebook is typically for family and keeping up with others, while Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are for friends.
  54. Nearly 9/10 report being extremely close to their parents



Seemiller, Corey and Megan Grace. Gen Z Goes to College