A different way of storytelling.



Video for higher ed that stands out from the others



Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering



Most recruitment and marketing videos for schools strive for simple beauty: linear and drama-free. But that’s not how engineering works. The essence of higher education as practiced at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering is complex and imaginative, different from the others. How can that be captured?


Kyle Delaney, executive director of Strategic Initiatives and Marketing at Northwestern Engineering:

We knew we had to do something different to encapsulate our mission and serve different audiences, from prospective students and faculty to alumni and donors. But we didn’t know what that new way would be.

There are other points to consider. Northwestern’s new branding standards need to be quickly grasped and interpreted with respectful creativity. Of course, return on investment is part of the equation as well.



For the project, Northwestern Engineering picked the Mode Project team because we’re small enough to be nimble yet fully equipped, Delaney notes, “to bring it all” – design/animation, editorial and production.


The relationship was collaborative from the start. Mode and Northwestern Engineering proceeded as partners, sharing feedback without pushback throughout the process. Together, we decided to engage the audiences with a film that embraces the school’s world view. We wanted to appeal to those who welcome that complexity. We did not want to take a simpler route with a broader, less targeted appeal.


Mode created concepts reflecting a range of ideas and approaches from scripted voiceover to documentary storytelling. In the end, both partners agreed on a dynamic documentary style driven by real voices, unscripted.


Working with the school’s marketing team, Mode hit on an unconventional but sensible approach for creating the video: the cameras stayed behind. Instead, we started by gathering 20 hours of audio interviews with students and faculty whose perspectives reflected the spectrum of Northwestern’s particular “whole-brain engineering” mission.


The subjects were free to share their passions for discovery without the distraction of cameras. Mode edited and organized the audio quotes by subject to ensure all important points were covered, and then formed them into a storyline to guide the collection of visuals before the cameras rolled onsite. This strategy brought efficiency to the B-roll shoot.


The school contributed research imagery and the brand assets such as colors and fonts; Mode delivered style frames for animations and tone boards to convey the look and feel. Art and science came together. Mode packaged its in-house design, motion graphics, live-action and editorial capabilities in a hyperkinetic montage propelled by the enthusiastic affirmations of students and faculty.


To encourage views and shares, it clocks in at under 2 minutes.



Mode and Northwestern Engineering worked well together to summon up all the authenticity, emotion and excitement inherent in the pursuit of big ideas. 


The result is an experience that excels across multiple channels, from web to social media to live events. Soon after its debut on Facebook, “A Different Way of Thinking” logged nearly 7,000 views. It continues to energize alumni and thought-leaders and move them to engage and reengage in what goes on at Northwestern Engineering. And as a recruiting tool, the video draws positive feedback from prospective students and faculty nearly every day. 


The school’s peers agree: It’s the 2016 Circle of Excellence Gold Award winner, presented by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE): 

“By mixing authentic voices – almost symphonically – with great visuals, they delivered what they set out to do: create a video that stands out from the pack.”


Northwestern Engineering is proud to have a piece that captures its story and mission so well and at a comfortable price point. Mode Project is glad to be able to help the school achieve its goals the school’s own way, differently.


And we’re excited to continue our strategic partnership for two more videos. Coming soon: exciting developments in Computer Science and Engineering Design & Innovation at Northwestern Engineering.


Meanwhile, we invite you to take a look at “A Different Way of Thinking



Learn how Mode Project can help energize your brand through creative design, animation and live-action storytelling:


Phone: 312.951.5424 

Web: www.modeproject.com

Twitter: @modeproject

Address: 900 N Franklin St, Suite 700, Chicago, IL 60610