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June 16, 2024

Identity Initiative focus group talks web redesign

By AMANDA AUBLE | October 24, 2013

The University’s website,, is undergoing a redesign to be completed next year as part of the Hopkins Office of Communication’s Identity Initiative. The project is in its early stages, but the results are aimed to promote the University’s unique story and help users access information. is one of the most visible manifestations of the Johns Hopkins University brand,” Vice President for Communications Glenn Bieler said. “It must tell our story in a compelling way.”

The Identity Initiative was introduced last spring in order to create visual cohesion across the University. Notably, this program is responsible for the new Hopkins logo, which is now displayed everywhere from campus signs and banners to letterheads and envelopes.

During the logo design process, committee members asked students, faculty, staff and alumni to describe what they felt best represented the Hopkins. When these results were compiled, six words stood out as the foundation for communicating a consistent theme: “research, knowledge, world, community, excellence and people.”

The next step in the unification process will focus on the University website.

“My philosophy about this always — and its been working really well up till now — is just provide resources to people, and it’s totally up to them what they want to do, but make it easy to do something together,” Design and Development Team Leader Jason Rhodes said.

To achieve this, the Office of Communication employed a student panel. The focus group, which was comprised of 12 individuals, a combination of freshmen and upperclassmen, provided feedback during its first meeting last Thursday, Oct. 17.

Some participants came already equipped with background knowledge of computer science.

“I like web development and design,” junior Tom Catullo said. “I figured maybe I could give some advice as to what I think would look good and just through some ideas in the mix.”

The meeting also welcomed students without computer or design experience to participate and share their opinions.

“I’m in a lot of student groups on campus, and I’m pretty invested in the school, so I just wanted to put in my two cents on how to make the website look more presentable to people outside of Hopkins,” sophomore Austin Ko said.

Some students saw the panel as a good opportunity to get involved in improving and developing the University.

“I think it’d be cool to be able to say I had a part in fixing the website of the school,” junior Ian McClane said. “Thousands of people probably visit the website a day.”

The meeting was supervised by Bieler and conducted by Rhodes along with Hopkins’ Director of Communications Tricia Schellenbach.

The leaders split the students into three groups. Each team was given a stack of flashcards with key words and phrases relevant to website content written on them. Students were asked to arrange the cards into categories based on similar functions.

These words and phrases included Financial Aid, Tuition Costs, Scholarships, Possible Majors, Housing, University History, About Baltimore and more.

As students began to debate the arrangement of content, they expressed their unique opinions and made suggestions.

“I want the website to be more reflective of student life and culture at Hopkins. I was pleasantly surprised about how diverse people at Hopkins are in their academic and non-academic interests and I think the website could more accurately portray that,” freshman Molly Hirshik said.

Once this activity had been completed, the cards were reshuffled and the students were asked to rank the words in order of importance from a prospective student’s perspective.

“The website was a big part of me applying last year, especially since I’m from Reno, far from Maryland,” freshman Elli Tian said. “I’ve had a lot of experience with the website itself.”

After each exercise, the leaders photographed the groups’ work for later comparison.

The meeting concluded with a question and answer section, allowing students to vocalize their critiques of the previous website layout.

Some other criteria to be considered in future meetings are design, functionality and content. The students are encouraged to formulate their own ideas for improvement.

In order to continue to communicate their opinions, panel members will meet monthly in small groups and utilize technology as well as social media.

The initiative also plans to receive feedback from other vital sources like alumni, faculty and staff before selecting the final web design.

Currently, the site’s only alteration is the display of the new logo; however, major changes are forthcoming.

“It’s very, very early in this project, too early to say with any certainty what our end result will look like,” Schellenbach said.

For more information, Hopkins community members are encouraged to visit the program’s website

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