Posting Print Viewbooks Online Defeats the Purpose

Branding, strategizing, writing, photographing, designing, proofing, approving, printing, mailing...

I don’t need to tell you that the process of creating a viewbook is both time consuming and expensive. The result is a marketing effort that one of the most critical investments a school can make for attracting students and their families.

It’s understandable that with this commitment of resources, any school would want to get the most of their investment. That’s why many schools put the viewbook online using ISSUU or some other flip book service, link to it from their website, and/or send the link via email to prospective families. And this is a good idea for international families to save time and postage. But.

While well intentioned, this isn’t a good idea.

A print viewbook is created for (wait for it) print. It’s designed to be a tactile experience, held in your hands, perused, put down and picked up again, shared with the person next to you, given to grandparents to subtly (or not) ask for help with tuition. It’s a horizontal journey that tells your school’s story from beginning to end with large photos and graphic design that align with your school’s brand. When prospective families get your viewbook in the mail, there should be a certain amount of “wow” factor that makes you stand out from all the others and effectively portrays what your school stands for. 

Yet when uploaded, all of this falls flat. The impact is no longer a wow because in its digital form, it is reduced to a source of information. The (now) novelty of getting something in the mail is gone. The thrill of opening the piece and reading each big, beautiful spread that creates a story is destroyed and replaced by thumbnails and ersatz page turning sounds. The readability is shot when prospective families are forced to enlarge sections and scroll repeatedly on their monitor. And forget it on mobile. As a result of this enlarging/scrolling, the strategy of design, copy and photography get placed in the dumpster, replaced by choppy, tidbit views.

What to do instead?

Take the content that you have developed for the viewbook, rework it, and put it on your website. Port those condensed messages to your homepage, admissions page, prospective student/family page, or interactive viewbook. Then add extensive proof points and outcomes in the form of stats and facts, testimonials, profiles, infographics, accolades, etc. that show (instead of tell) your school’s story. On the web, you have more real estate to prove you’re worth it, so start with the framework of the viewbook and expand from there. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love ISSUU. (Take a look at InspirED’s extensive collection of viewbooks there.) It’s fine to put your viewbook up on ISSUU as a reference, but not for enrollment marketing. Use a viewbook for the purpose it was intended: to hold in your hands, to tell your story, to declare your brand, to wow, and to get families to visit— via print.


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