The Project

The California Institute for Human Science’s (CIHS) main goals were to build and maintain a professional image and reputation for the institute that would increase enrollment, participation in public programs, and fundraising efforts. 

The Challenge

As a small private higher education institute, CIHS had never conducted user research nor developed a marketing strategy. There was no understanding of brand, nor brand story from which clear and evocative messaging could be based. The institute had three independently developed logos in use, none of which had been market tested. The challenge was to build a brand identity and marketing platform from scratch as a one person team with a part-time assistant.


Working as the Dean of Admissions and Marketing, my role was to develop a new brand story, logos, copybook and style guide; as well as a scalable marketing strategy to help meet growth efforts.



The Approach

I took a four stage approach: research, strategy development, production, and engagement.

Given the lack of a central narrative about the institute, and no marketing or strategy to work with, I had to start with the basics, understanding the people within and around the organization. From there I could create personas , define target audiences, and develop a brand that would speak to them. 

Research Methods

  • External and Internal environment research comprised of contextual inquiry, stakeholder interviews, a focus group, and surveys for internal stakeholders (admin, faculty, students) and external stakeholders (community members, target audience).
  • Qualitative Data analysis consisted of affinity and spectrum mapping, theme testing, empathy maps, and user journey mapping.



  • An ethnographic approach helped me understand end-users and identify their unmet needs, which, to my surprise, had never been explored previously. The programs at CIHS were based on the vision of the founder, and no one had ever thought to ask the communty members what they wanted. As it turned out, while the academic curriculum at  CIHS was well recieved, most members of the community had very little understanding of the organizational focus on integral education. This discovery pointed to a clear need to communicate the uniqueness of an integral approach.
  • User feedback indicated that CIHS new public program offerings did not match the interests of the existing audience.  The research identified two changes that could have immediate impact on community engagement, hence revenue from public programs.
  • CIHS occupies a niche market, and its students self-select. This has resulted in a small but consistent enrollment over the past 10 years. To meet the growth goal of a 10-15% increase in enrollment annually, research indicated that the organization must allocate significant resources to a marketing effort that shifts from a receptive stance (letting people come to the institute) to a proactive outreach strategy.

Research Results

  • I developed three separate personas, two that portrayed existing users (students and community members), and one for a new target audience that would boost enrollment.
  • A comprehensive review of organizational literature, combined with insights from surveys and interviews, generated a set of key value propositions. I tested these with a focus group to see which “landed”- which I defined as accurately representing the experience of the institute and what it offers.
  • I then developed a set of evocative taglines, short synapses of the key value propositions that could serve as the basis for the copybook. These were then refined in meetings with the administrative team and the board of directors.



#1 Brand Identity Kit

Effective messaging and a professional appearance were the first and most important solutions to deliver.

  1. Using taglines developed from the research, I designed a copybook with long and short descriptions, and 8 taglines for use across all forms of media. The top two taglines serve as the starting point for dialogues, each designed to be evocative conversation starters.
  2. The style guide provided guidelines for the collection and presentation of all media objects, from videos to flyer and brochure design. It included a color pallete, fonts, and branded Adobe InDesign templates.
  3. Working with a graphic designer, we developed a new logo that simplified the visual language while having a clear and evocative story that is easy to share.

#2 Marketing Strategy

The strategy delivered took a long-term approach to success. Rather than quick one-off campaigns around specific events, the institute would find greater benefit  developing its brand identity and then focusing efforts to raise awareness and become regionally known. Q1 and Q2 were dedicated to creating a digital infrastructure to reach modern audiences, while simulatenously working on brand development. Once the brand and the marketing channels were in place, then an aggressive outreach effort in Q3 would begin to drive growth efforts. Q4 would focus on measuring ROI and fine tuning the strategy for 2020.


#3  Implementation Plan

Given the constraints of a non-profit with limited fiscal resources and a lack of a marketing team, I developed solutions that would enable a single marketing director to manage the strategy and assets. This consisted of:

    • Backend social media management software that an assistant could run. At CIHS this was typcially workstudy graduate students, a low cost source of labor.
    • Outsourcing parts of the marketing strategy, particularly ROI measures and Lead Generation, both of which could be contracted out to tech savvy digital marketing teams.
    • Focused outreach plans for local engagements with predesigned marketing materials, to be used until revenue increased enough to contract more robust campaigns.
    • User guides that explained strategic management and how to use the assets created.


The Institute now has a brand identity and marketing strategy grounded in user, market, and organizational research. The Q2 enrollment report (June 2019) showed a significant increase in Leads and Prospective students in the admission process.


  • Increase in Leads over 2019 Q1 = (+8)
  • Increase of Prospectives in Admissions over 2019 Q1 = (+13)
  • Out of 89 “officially” listed students, that is 18% jump.
  • Out of 29 active students, 16 new ready to apply is a 55% jump.
  •  If all 25 prospectives in Admissions complete enrollment, the active student body will grow 86%.

Brand Design

Color Psychology

The Gold color symbolizes the sun and illumination, core themes when ideating the brand.

Teal is a mix of green and blue, symbolizing growth, creativity and flow. Blue is also a color of health and health care practitioners.

Grey symbolizes granite stone, a solid ground or foundation of teachings upon which CIHS offerings are based. Grey also serves as a visual background that accents the colorful foreground (gold and teal). The contracts between them is visually compelling.


GOLD: #948A59
TEAL: #2B7C74
GREY: #605E5E
BLACK: #000000

Brochure Outside

Brochure Inside

Logo Rendering

From top left to bottom right are the different drafts of a new logo. The bottom right logo was the final choice.