Snapshots of Success

Challenge: Need for spotlight on student success

Consistently ranked among the top ten engineering schools in the U.S., the Grainger College of Engineering has been part of the academic journeys of numerous well known founders, scientists, and innovative scholars. With hundreds of talented students entering into the industry every year, naturally, the college wanted to know where its graduates were going after graduation. As part of a larger campus-wide initiative, the college encouraged engineering students to share their post-graduation plans. While this data provided the college opportunity to celebrate and document student success, there was also an opportunity to make use of the data and showcase student success. Beyond merely collecting the data, there was potential to use the information within admissions, advancement, alumni, employer relations, and various areas in recruitment.

Approach: Documents for many audiences

As a collaborative project between my supervisor, the director of Engineering Career Services, and another colleague, we discussed the vision and purpose of the project. Within our small team, my director oversaw the project, providing support in obtaining the data. My colleague was responsible for cleaning and organizing the data, and my role was to create a document which provided key information for each of the dozen departments within the college. Based on our discussions and our director's guidelines, the project vision was a customized document created for each college department that included information about experiential learning, primary post-graduation plans, salary information, employers, employer locations, and position titles. As documents for various audiences, we identified numerous purposes for the project:

  • "Trophy materials" for departments and college to document college success;
  • Resources for admissions and departments to share with prospective students and families to reinforce proven success; 
  • Materials for college advancement team to showcase college success;
  • Content for alumni office to share updates and manage relationships with alumni network; 
  • Resources for career services and employer relations to share with current students and recruiters;
  • Supplementary materials for departments to use in faculty and staff recruitment and hiring processes.

Solution: Embracing the data

With a dozen departments in the college, there was a lot of data. My colleague cleaned and organized the data into spreadsheets before sending them my way. The major design challenge in creating these reports was presenting a lot of information in a structured way that was equal parts concise yet informative, while being visually exciting without overwhelming the viewer with numbers. Beyond tables and lines of text, I wanted to create a layout that could easily be adapted for each department.

Outcome: Customized One Pagers

The finished products were one page documents which utilized an almost modular approach. Incorporating elements of the university color palette gave the reports an official branded look but provided opportunity to experiment with simple shapes and forms that kept all of the data in focus. Finding a way to have the numbers take center stage made this project a fun challenge for providing detailed snapshots for student success.

Extending the Work: ECS Salary Data Portal

The process of obtaining, cleaning, and organizing the data for the reports was a lengthy process and was subject to human error, varying work loads, among other moving parts. As a move toward efficiency and away from static reports, I worked with my director and the college's data team to create an online data portal called the ECS Salary Data Portal that was based on the design of my reports. This streamlined approach created an interactive site where visitors could manually select department and academic level. As a design consultant, I collaborated with the data team to advise on layout, color scheme, and key areas to include.

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