Holberton School

Reprogramming how America learns to code

The Background
Holberton School is bringing an innovative model to train the next generation of software developers and address America’s shortage of coding talent. Holberton School teaches students not only how to code, but to rethink how they learn. It encourages life-long learning resilience to thrive in an industry where skills in demand are in constant flux.

The Challenge
Proposing an innovative two-year model to prospective students, the brand came up against both quick-turn coding bootcamps as well as traditional four-year Universities. Holberton came to 214 not just to refresh their voice and identity, but to help crack the code on messaging and positioning in advance of some seriously ambitious growth initiatives.

A challenger brand for the independent-minded

To understand the brand’s success to date, we conducted workshops and a student focus group at Holberton’s bustling San Francisco campus. Right away, it became clear that a special culture bound the staff and students together. It wasn’t just the quirkiness you might expect of programmers, or the serious camaraderie. The School’s staff and its most passionate students shared common convictions. That standard, passive ways of learning were broken—and at Holberton, they were actively challenging the status quo. We uncovered the daring to think differently, an idea of outsiders working to change the system.

This key insight led to a clear rationale for a true challenger brand strategy. Next, 214 not only defined how this “outsider advocate” brand would walk, talk, and behave—we created a roadmap of six concrete steps for Holberton School to claim and own its brand position as it grows.

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A high-achieving brand identity

Refreshing the well-established crest and creating a new wordmark, Holberton’s confident new visual system elevates the brand. The new identity sits on par with more traditional institutions, with a more modern, encouraging edge.

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A student manifesto to inspire and encourage

A manifesto brought to life the brand’s voice—the attitude, camaraderie, and even the quirky side—all written from a perspective in which a student could identify themselves. Placing these rallying cries on the walls offers encouragement to students and signals brand values to visitors.

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A messaging framework that speaks to nuanced mindsets

214 developed a messaging framework, a blueprint that informs segmented marketing. Drawing on insight from a student focus group, this blueprint accounts for differences in audiences mindsets. It outlines when and where the brand should highlight benefits like alumni placement and its strong industry ties. It gives clear framing for innovative topics, like the School’s tuition model.

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A site redesign to invite even more attention

The new brand identity and messaging found expression on Holberton’s website redesign. We designed a new, harder-working homepage that better highlights key features and successful student outcomes. Working iteratively, we prioritized major shifts in time for the launch of the second Holberton School location in New Haven. The new site experience makes it easy for those who think a little differently to see Holberton School as the place for them.

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