The Cornell University College of Human Ecology (CHE) explores the relationship between people and the world — and as you would imagine, that mission is a tall order with a lot of ground to cover.
One of just a handful of similar programs in existence in the United States, Cornell CHE is a large and complex collection of seven different undergraduate and graduate courses of study and related research centers bound by the common goal of examining the human experience.
Eastern Standard was awarded a project that challenged us to reposition the college as a brand unto itself and create a flexible website design framework that consolidated each of the college’s seven different departments into one site with a clear navigational path for visitors to follow, whether they are prospective or current students, alumni, faculty, media, or supporters. At the same time, we had to create and apply a visual language that was consistent across sections but distinct and flexible enough to suit the differing needs of each department, research center, and audience segment.
Building upon some pre-existing content studies that Cornell CHE had undertaken, we completely rethought and retooled the architecture approach in a way that allows the seven departments to stand alone while feeling cohesively joined at the same time, from a user perspective. We employed a unique navigation approach that encourages visitors to explore the college and find areas of interest by either browsing in a linear fashion or jumping to new sections as needed, with clear and quick pathways for those with unique needs looking for specific programs such as Fiber Science.
With a focus on forging lasting relationships with broad audiences, we created the design based on the needs of the user rather than the organizational chart of the college — an important distinction missed by most institutions of higher education. Appropriate visual real estate was applied to the various fields of study, potential career paths, student stories, advancements in research, and college news and events. Going forward, site administrators can use the framework’s consistent and design-forward system to effectively and reliably build out individual department pages to be more or less visual, depending on their individual content requirements.
In the end, the finished product stays true to the Cornell brand with an approach that is at once simple, beautiful, collegiate, and contemporary.