Education budgets

Education budgets: how academic institutions should plan for growth

The most pressing concerns for educational institutions today include cuts in education budgets, insufficient funding, appealing to a wider range of prospective students, developing a strong brand and getting heard in a crowded marketplace. In fact, in today’s marketplace where the competition from other institutions is so intense, schools, colleges and universities are under greater pressure than ever before.

As demographic trends shift across the nation, colleges and universities are honing their efforts to reach prospective students through market segmentation, broader geographic reach, and more. Understanding the needs and preferences of your audience is important, since relevant communications will be different for different segments of your constituents. Using data to drive decisions instead of gut instincts will help you develop more targeted communications.

Get to know your market—and love data

That data is extremely valuable because one thing you know about your customer is worth ten things you may know about marketing. This data—if not readily available—can be gathered through dynamic newsletters, surveys and measuring targetted marketing messages.

Today’s education marketers need to be able to write, create, deliver, and track personalised email marketing messages and communicate more effectively with prospective students, alumni, and current students.

Sometimes for an academic institution this ‘commercialisation’ of their product may seem an anathema. Get the balance right however, and it can be a vital ingredient in the continuing success of any school, college or university.

creativity in education reform

Creativity in education

David Puttnam’s seminal video about how education shapes our lives in the past, present and future. Prescribed viewing for all education ministers and all those considering how we should develop individual potential in today’s vibrant, information-buzzing world. Creativity in education reform is required to break out of a constrictive academic model–without losing the basic skillsets that should remain at its core. There should be more of a celebration of individual talent, which, by its very description contradicts uniformity. Remodelling the education landscape demands patience and a touch of anarchic genius!

The way education organisations deliver their message and curriculum needs the sort of creativity that will fire a learner’s imagination and deepen their knowledge and understanding. A love of learning can hardly be developed with communication material that is dull and uninspiring.

Ignition have a track record of producing highly creative ideas and thinking. Contact us today for some creative direction!


Creative thinking

How to add some creativity into your daily drudge.

Advertising, design and marketing – whether online or offline – relies on a spark of creativity for it to stand out. To defeat the bland, the expected and the pedestrian takes a lateral thought – even a leap of faith. Unlike most professions, designers, writers and art directors can’t simply live a nine to five existence. You can’t sit down and say ‘right, I’m going to have a creative idea now.’ Sometimes the best way to be creative is to take time out. To go for a walk. Maybe have a few beers.

Take some time right now to watch this video. It’s a great distraction. And might even lead to some creative thinking. Whether that’s in the classroom or in the design department.

graphic design agency specialising in education

Teachers know best. What can a design agency know?

When we were asked to write something about how we saw the education market, we asked ourselves “What can a design agency know about education?”

Well, because we maintain that it’s vital to have an intimate knowledge about the people and products that we work with (great when we had the Mercedes account at Leo Burnett). We felt we had to put pen to paper in a considered fashion. So here goes…

Teachers Know Best.

What with the kerfuffle over the current examination system it’s no wonder teachers are exasperated. For decades generations of students have been subjected to ever-increasing scrutiny regarding their ‘performance’ throughout their school lives. First it was O-levels and CSEs followed by GCSEs and the introduction of SATs etc, etc. And now, it is proposed to reintroduce the two-tier system that is polarising opinions not only within the profession but within society at large.

How should excellence in education be measured?

As in business, the consumers’ perception is crucial. All parents would wish their child to receive an education deemed to be ‘excellent’. Sadly, for the vast majority of parents and students, ‘excellence’ has been measured by the grade awarded at the end of Years 11 and 13. For schools still participating in the SATs at Key Stages 1, 2 and 3 the story is the same. There has been much debate about the efficacy of our examination system and whether or not the preparation for these examinations is in fact ‘an education’.

All the Examining Boards, naturally, will be vying for the Pole Position. This is nothing new. Education in the UK has traditionally been regarded as ‘world class’ but in today’s marketplace its prestige has become tarnished. Rather than focusing on the quality of the education it provides, the Government has focused on league tables of achievement. Lip service is paid to the concept of ‘value-added’ achievement but the tyranny of the league tables overshadows everything. Surely the yardstick of excellence should be the progress each student makes rather than whether or not they are awarded a C or above grade?

Can we raise real standards in education?

The inherent difficulty in education is of course the nature of the product. The provision of a first-rate education system lies at the heart of our society and therefore it should not be manipulated by slick marketing that can distort both successes and failures.

Is our education system keeping pace with the rest of the world?

Sir Michael Barber’s comments echo the misgivings that many people are currently voicing. His observations of the global classroom highlight that if we are to continue to produce world-class engineers and doctors, for example, there is much we can learn. The current dilemma has arisen because universities and businesses report that students and prospective employees are not equipped to deal with the challenges that they now face. The CBI has already noted the widening skills gap.

So how far should Government tweak the system? Reform from the ground up, together with advice from a few educated heads from the world of business would be a good start.

At the very least, if this supertanker of a system is to be turned around, it would be helpful to have a few wise men on the bridge.

Ignition Idea: Why not introduce a ‘Foundation’ aspect to GCSE, to be introduced in Year 9, thereby adding breadth to subject scope and smoothing the path through to a qualification of real integrity?

Ignition is a graphic design agency with extensive expertise in the education sector. Why not contact us for a more creative take on your school’s current design and marketing communications?

Filling in the potholes in the education curriculum

What’s your view on the way education is changing?



The road to a decent education is flawed it would seem. A new super highway of work-based learning and employability skills is being constructed to by-pass the log-jam of inadequate graduate and job-seeker qualifications that the existing curriculum offers.

But are we merely filling in the potholes in a skills deficit dictated by industry? Today’s Apprenticeships, Traineeships and Studio Schools are rushing headlong towards the promise of abundant employment just over the horizon.

Isn’t this a place we’ve visited before? After all our present education system was designed to meet the demands of the industrial revolution.

The difference today is that there is progression without limits. There is no speed gun to moderate our enthusiasm. The truth is there’s no single direction education can take to provide for future economies. Because we simply cannot state what those economies are going to be like. In other words no one can predict for certain where our destination lies.

Striking the right balance between short-term employment needs and the provision of a ‘real’ education that recognises and nourishes individual talent is never going to be easy to achieve. How can there be a more stimulating curriculum with greater learner choice when career paths are being fashioned by the jobs vacant columns?

The answer may lie within the very stuff that we’re mending the road with. Technology. If we harness its power to criss-cross the multiplicity of choice within the curriculum and be driven by visionary teaching methods a truly individual education can be offered. Giving power to the learner. We’re already a long way down the road to online and distance learning. Next we could have virtual work experience. Cross border classrooms. Opportunities for learners to progress outside a curriculum contained within the four walls of a classroom.

It’s worth bearing in mind that today’s learners are ‘digital natives’, far more comfortable with an online world than their educators. Encouraging learners to assume more responsibility for their own education might be just the thing to enable talent to flourish and creativity to be given equal weight to literacy.

The solution might not be as radical as the Sudbury curriculum model (though this has been providing excellent results since 1968) but a consideration of what’s best for our learners’ futures should be at least as important as what’s best for the system.

So are we heading for anarchy? After all society does need some ‘rules of the road’ surely. It’s a debate that will run and run. In the meantime we should try to open up as many new roads as possible and not just fill in the potholes in the existing ones.

Whatever your view on the way education is heading, one thing’s for certain. If it’s results you’re after with your marketing effort, we can help. Contact us today to arrange a first meeting.

Images tell stories

How do images tell stories? Simple. We see before we learn to read. We witness cause and effect. Pain. Joy. Hunger. Thirst. Then we learn the graphic language of the alphabet to link the imagery we experience to story telling. In the spoken and written word.

That’s why advertising is dominated by images. With a caption underneath. The headline. A short, ideally thought-provoking and persuasive plea to read on. To buy. To remember.

The three components of great advertising

There are three components of any piece of advertising or design.

Reason. Emotion. And image.

Image and emotion play a significant role in the choice of car for most drivers. (It’s not often you’ll catch a rugby prop forward tootling about in a Nissan Leaf).

When Rover Group wanted to market tax-free cars to the military the story was centred on the company’s heritage and experience in the category.

The emotional and image components of the ad campaign were balanced with the rational raison-d’etre of Rover’s expertise.

First and foremost however, the campaign stood out on its image-led concept of recreating the 1940’s period. It may well have helped the sales of classic cars. But it achieved its objective of telling the heritage story in stand-out images.

With a resulting 165% upturn in sales.

How effective are the images you use in your own marketing? Talk to us and we’ll show you how to improve your brand image. And your bottom line.

How are children influenced by marketing messages?

Children and marketing: Reg Bailey’s review entitled ‘Letting Children Be Children: the Report of an Independent Review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood‘ should be prescribed reading for educators concerned about the influence of marketing.

Bailey, Chief Executive of The Mothers’ Union, carried out the independent review to investigate the pressures on children to “grow up too quickly”.

Among the review’s many recommendations, the possibility of regulatory control over marketing messages by banning the employment of children under 16 as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing is a contentious one. The current advertising landscape features children second only to women and pets as a emotional ‘hook’ in their selling propositions. It’s a truism that we all respond to a child’s innocence or mannerisms. We will all listen when a child speaks.

Self-regulation and more teeth for the ASA? 

Reg Bailey himself and the Prime Minister David Cameron appear to agree that a self-regulatory understanding within the marketing industry would be preferable, with perhaps more teeth given to the Advertising Standards Authority for one. However, Sarah Teather, Minister for Children and Families at the Department of Education, said that the introduction of new legislation should not be ruled out and we should “crack down on irresponsible advertising and marketing.”

Legislation in this instance reminds me of the myth of Hans Brinker, the little dutch boy with his finger in the dyke. It may help stop the ‘flow’ of unwanted commercialisation from one rather debatable source.

Unfortunately, it is not the only hole in the dyke.

Creative Business at Google campus

Creative business in 54 hours

Creative business Google Campus Start Up weekend

Setting up a creative business needn’t be onerous or time-consuming.

Ever wanted to start a creative business? It seems eons ago since I was at Start-Up Weekend Education. The event was held at the Google Campus, London. I was taking part in the birth of a multitude of creative business ideas. And yet, at the time of writing, it was only 21 days ago.

Let me see, in that same time I could have launched another 7 creative business start-ups.

So what are you waiting for? Start a creative business today! (Thanks to Night Zookeeper for this excellent video).


This is where creative business is born. Startup Weekend is a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs. All on a mission to inspire. To educate. To empower individuals, teams and communities. And to help them build a creative business.

Startup Weekends are weekend-long, hands-on experiences. Aspiring entrepreneurs can find out their startup creative business ideas are viable.  On average, half of Startup Weekend’s attendees have technical or design backgrounds. The other half have business backgrounds.

The weekends start with open mic pitches on Friday evening. Attendees present their ideas. Then inspire others to join their team. Over Saturday and Sunday teams focus on design. On customer development. And on validating their ideas. The teams practice LEAN Startup Methodologies. Then build a minimal viable creative business product. On Sunday evening teams demo their prototypes. A panel of industry experts and investors provide valuable feedback. The other teams then vote for the best new creative business.

Startup Weekends are all about learning through the act of creating.  Don’t just listen to theory.  Build your own strategy. And test it as you go!

Build your network:
This isn’t just a happy-hour. Startup Weekend attracts your community’s best makers and do-ers. Spend a weekend working to build a scalable company. One that solves a real-world problem. You’ll build long-lasting relationships. And possibly walk away with a job. Or even an investor.

Co-Founder Dating:
We all know it’s not just about the creative business idea. It’s about the team. Startup Weekend is the best way to find someone you can actually launch a creative business with.

Learn a new skill:
Step outside of your comfort zone. Spend a whole weekend letting your creative business juices flow. Startup Weekends are perfect opportunities to work on a new platform. To learn a new programming language. Or just try something different.

Actually launch a creative business:
Over 36% of Startup Weekend startups are still going strong after 3 months.  Roughly 80% of participants plan on continuing working with their team or startup after the weekend.

Get face time with thought leaders:
Local tech and startup leaders participate in Startup Weekends as coaches and judges. Get some one-on-one time with the movers and shakers in your community.

Save money & get stuff:
Startup Weekends typically cost between £75 and £150 (less for students).  Your ticket covers seven meals and snacks. Plus access to exclusive resources from our sponsors. And of course, all the coffee you can drink.

Join a global community:
There are over 45,000 Startup Weekend alumni. All on a mission to change the world.

It’s amazing how much can be achieved in a weekend. Think about how much your business could achieve with an injection of fired-up creativity. Contact us today and we’ll show you in one hour how your business can become more dynamic. More visible. And more profitable.

We’re a creative business. And we want you to be too.

Door to door marketing can be very effective with good creative

Door to Door marketing: make it outstanding

Door to door marketing. Is it still worth bothering with?

Door to door marketing is considered old hat. In these days of instant messaging, Google search and such like, you’d expect door to door marketing (D2D) to have had its day.
Far from it.

Of course door to door marketing needs to be well-targeted. Well written. And well designed.

It’s only “junk” if not enough thought has been given to these three critical factors.

Remember, with door to door marketing you only have only a few seconds for someone to decide if they will read on or not. There are certain creative treatments that stimulate interest. For example the words “new” or “free” used and repeated on the front and back of a leaflet. These are the most effective for persuading people to pick it up. Impact is enhanced by clear bright text and bright colours.

Keep it simple. Keep it relevant. And reinforce trust in the familiar. Complicated creative may be useful as an attention grabber. But it must not in any way hide or confuse the offer


In most door to door marketing creative there has to be an offer. Generally it has to be eye grabbing. 5% off will do nothing! 30% off will draw response. 58% read of consumers read leaflets with money off coupons. 66% of women read money off leaflets. 28% of men read leaflets that have competitions. Make the offer a prominent feature on BOTH or ALL sides of the paper. Do you know which side up it will land?

Door to door marketing can be very effectiveDon’t skimp on the creative!

Your door to door marketing creative brief should ensure it’s easy to redeem the offer. Such as an A6 card that can be taken into an outlet. An instant discount appeals to the consumer. It’s also easier for the retailer. If the promotion response must be returned to the promoter to qualify for redemption, then make it easy! Use a double DL with a half that has the return address pre-printed and stamped. People are lazy.

Cutting corners on creative will reduce impact. And reduce response levels. There are numerous factors involved in creating effective door to door marketing. It takes an expert to know what to use when. For example, knowing which size the leaflet or postcard should be to maximise impact. Plus knowing what address to use to encourage offer redemption. And when to use an instant discount.
Find a door to door marketing expert like Ignition to advise you on the size of the mailer. It’s no good putting a business card into a newslink drop. You’ll no doubt be up against stiff competition. You need A3 or tabloid folded to stand out amongst up to 20 items. If you are using smaller items like DL or postcards they need to be cards to get noticed.

Here’s a useful guide to Door to Door marketing published by the DMA.

For expert help with your next door to door marketing campaign talk to us first. We’ll soon have customers knocking on YOUR door.

We will show you how a low-tech option can still be invaluable to your marketing efforts!

visual literacy in creative graphic design

Visual literacy. Open your eyes. Open your mind.

What is visual literacy? When people talk about literacy they’re usually referring to words not pictures. Being ‘literate’ means being well-read. And in formal education, it’s easy to measure literacy with the traditional yardsticks of form, structure and textual comprehension.

Literacy usually refers to the written word. Yet it’s in pictures that we think, act and remember. From cave paintings to the ‘head-up’ displays in fighter aircraft, it’s imagery or symbols that impart information. They’re far more effective than the written word. This is a visualisation of data. Infographics. It enables ‘visual literacy’.

Visual Literacy, graphic design, data visualisation and Infographics

Visual literacy is the ability to interpret and make sense of what you see. Thus learning from it.

Professor Edward Tufte describes how visual symbols are a better way to communicate perfectly. He said that they give “the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space.”

This visual communication of information is a key component in improving knowledge. Improving perception. And improving understanding. The so-called technological revolution owes much to a re-think of how information is communicated. Apple broke the mould in 1984. Until then data processing was the domain of IBM programmers in air-tight sterile rooms. Apple introduced us to personal computing. To visual literacy. A ‘language’ of icons and visual shorthand.  It was a new intuitive way of working. For the first time, a computer could be as valuable to an artist as a scientist.

Infographics: improving data communication in bite-sized chunks.

Designers and marketers love ‘Infographics’. Which is simply an exposition of data visualisation. Its effectiveness is down to the way in which the data is visualised. How it’s laid out hierarchically. And how relevant the chosen graphics are to the target audience. Such visualisations save hugely on words. They compress data into bite-sized chunks. But most of all, they are able to present the information using visual memory-hooks, metaphors and interactivity.  All of which are proven to increase recall and comprehension and deepen understanding. We are all improving our visual literacy.

The ubiquitous PowerPoint remains a very effective presentation tool. But most often the presenter uses it in a visually illiterate manner. Each slide is crammed with paragraphs of copy. Lists of bullet points. Far better to present that same information using photographs. Visual metaphors. Film and audio clips. And animation.  Visual literacy involves visual thinking. Intelligent ‘mind-mapping’ techniques now present information in a more memorable way. A good example of the use of a visual metaphor would be the roots and branches of a tree to illustrate concepts of production line working and interdependency.

Research has shown how visual literacy improves business. A study by Professor Martin Eppler showed that managers who worked with visualisation tools experienced a 30% greater understanding and recall of a topic than those who did not.

In today’s very visual age, successful learning is personal, visual and informal. Jay Cross has concluded that 80% of learning is informal. That is, outside the traditional classroom environment. For example, learners can ‘live’ in gaming environments. Here they can challenge their emotions and decision-making skills to the full. They have far more advanced visual thinking capacity.  And it’s a result of the increased volume of visual stimuli they’re exposed to.

There’s also positive proof from neuro-scientific studies of brain function related to design and visual stimulus. So it’s easy to understand why designers and marketers are turning to more visually-led ways of communicating their messages. And why many educators have challenged the reduced presence of the Arts in a future curriculum.

It’s in the arts and in visual literacy that we are able to develop our imaginations. To exercise our visual skills and emotional creativity. It’s where we find our most innovative thinking and entrepreneurial ideas.

Ignition are experts in designing and creating infographics from a variety of data. We practice visual literacy every day. Contact us and we’ll show you how to present complex data in the more effective way.