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Prioritising student wellness

The Challenge

In a world of growing student burnout and anxiety, how do you prioritize student wellness?

The Insight

Caltech is dedicated to improving the student experience and removing any barriers that prevent students from reaching their full potential.

The Solution

A new brand, website and content series that highlights the uniquely multi-faceted Caltech student body and experience.

Consistently ranked within the top ten universities in the world, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is a world renowned science and engineering institute marshaling 2,000+ bright minds from around the world.

High-performing schools, like Caltech, often struggle with student burnout. 

A recent study found that more than half of college students in the US and Canada experienced anxiety, burnout and depression. To address the unique need at Caltech, the university was keen to invest more in supporting student health, wellness, and overall experience and set an ambitious goal to raise $250m to fund initiatives now and in the years to come. 

To help achieve that goal, they approached Blue State to help. 

Our team was tasked with creating a brand and website to support the launch of a capital campaign. The brief called for brand positioning, naming, messaging, content strategy, identity design, user experience, video creation, as well as tech advice and development.

The audience was a prospective donor pool of engaged alumni, parents, current students, the broader science and tech community (who may be looking to hire Caltech grads in the future!), and those who may have given previously. We were looking for major donors who could not only offer a large gift but also help us raise awareness among the broader alumni group about the initiative and its goals.

We interviewed major donors, student body and alumni and worked closely with Caltech to uncover the right insights to shape the brand and campaign.

It became clear that, in order for this funding initiative to succeed, our creative and messaging needed to address clear measures of success and include data that could better define the problem that the funding could solve. It was less about raising a total dollar amount and more about detailing the scholarships, fellowships, wellness services, and career development this initiative could make possible. 

We wanted to create something that could inform, clarify, align, and inspire the audience, and clearly show the benefits of a better student experience. To that end, honesty and transparency were key communication pillars — particularly in how we talked about the intensity of being a student in this world renowned academic environment. 

The four themes guiding the brand and its outputs

Introducing the Caltech Initiative for Students

The Caltech student experience is multi-faceted, each viewing the world around them through a unique lens. With this in mind, the primary motif that inspired the visual concept is a prism; by funding a range of programs, services, and aid, the initiative considers how every aspect of life at Caltech contributes to student success. The goal of the visual system is to draw the focus to Caltech students and mirror their energy, creativity, and innovation through a modern yet approachable look and feel.

The prism concept was extended into the messaging with phrases like ‘students are the light that shine through our institution’.

With a name, a brand identity, and visual and messaging systems developed, we moved into preparing for launch. We dove deeper into what the student experience looks like in a series of videos that captured the academic rigor, diversity of experience, and boundless curiosity of Caltech students.

In “Caltech Bonds: The Relationships that Drive the Science,” the collaborative and dynamic relationship between students and faculty shines. 

In “The Student Experience,” we profile four students. Coming from all over the world — from Lebanon to Zimbabwe to Chicago to Mississippi — these students represent the very best Caltech has to offer: curiosity, collaboration, and creativity. 

We also produced a lower-budget video. We sent four students some light video equipment to film themselves, and we guided them with questions in a remotely-conducted video interview. This “day in the life”-style video highlights footage of students in and out of the classroom — from reading and playing frisbee to study groups and lab work.

Caltech has raised 53% of their target to date with alumni making up over 55% of those that have donated. 

Find out more about the initiative for students here.

Working with Blue State to thoughtfully design this campaign enhanced our ability to develop a truly customized initiative based on direct feedback from our target audiences. The ability to work in partnership with a firm that has original ideas, and a customized approach was refreshing. The assets we designed together have proved to be successful and relate strongly to Caltech’s culture and brand.

Dexter Bailey, VP Advancement & Alumni Relations, Caltech


  • $133m raised in six months
  • 55% alumni donor population
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