While most university alumni centers are heritage repositories celebrating the past, the Ford Alumni Center equally cultivates the future. As the new front door to the university, this dynamic building welcomes all visitors and immerses them in the pioneering spirit that defines the University of Oregon, providing equal parts inspiration and information. As the launching point for campus tours, thousands of prospective students will get their first impression of the Oregon experience in the Interpretive Center—a 2,000-square-foot space filled with media installations that fuel soaring dreams and invigorate appreciation for the history that defined this innovative institution’s culture. Nine towering “Oregon Cascades” serve stories, information, and artifacts; a large interactive “Alumni Table” recognizes every alum in the school’s history, and the “Entry Wall” reveals the day’s campus events while recognizing those whose contributions made the Ford Center possible.
The University of Oregon Ford Alumni Center presented a unique challenge for Second Story of telling past history and honoring alumni while simultaneously acting as a recruiting center for prospective students and their families. Serving these two audiences with non-traditional interactive surfaces integrated into an architectural space presented interesting challenges but also great opportunities. The interactive media had to appeal to audiences experienced with interactive media as well as to those with less experience.
With this in mind, Second Story created an experience that could speak to multiple audiences at once. From a distance, the “Oregon Cascades” create a montage of images that a passive viewer can appreciate, while up-close, the more adventurous user can navigate through stories containing movies, images, infographics and maps reflecting the university as a whole. Meanwhile, the “Alumni Table” represents every single alumni—some 240,000 strong and growing—that have graduated from the University of Oregon.
The initial screen features a particle visualization, appealing to younger audiences, while the interface itself reveals a searchable database where past alumni can be searched and filtered, providing an opportunity for alumni to find past colleagues.
The Interpretive center is now the hub for campus tours, where campus guides use the installation as a tool to highlight behind-the-scenes features of the University and prospective students seek out their areas of interest. “This is the first place prospective students will visit when they come to campus, and the first place they will return after they graduate,” is how Roger Thomson, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, describes the Alumni Center. “It will be our home base to begin campus tours, conduct orientation sessions, and show everything the university has to offer.”
The installation was built with a powerful suite of administrative tools to ensure that content is dynamic and entirely up-to-date. This powerful, custom content management system, allows stakeholders across the university to log on and modify their respective content areas. They can select between dozens of templates, upload and crop images, add videos, create slide shows, and add whole sections to their themes.
Interactive media is at the heart of the Interpretive Center. Like all the work Second Story does, interactive media allows the story to flow in a non-linear direction where visitors have the possibility to weave their own story. We approach our interactive concepts and creations from the standpoint of an audience—what will pique curiosity, engage, entertain, in the most direct and beautiful way? The craft of interactive design is to blend new technologies, compelling design, and proven storytelling techniques to bring information intuitively to people’s fingertips within an elegant interface.
Our approach ultimately allows people to feel an emotional and intellectual connection to what they experience interactively, and inspires them to look for new ways of engaging with the world. For a University looking to cultivate the future, the suite of interactive media at the Ford Alumni Center serves a new kind of audience and builds connections with future alumni.