Case Study
“The magazine used to present alumni news in little blurbs. Now the stories flesh out real people.”
Crescent School
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  • ● Content Creation
  • ● Editorial Design
  • ● Photography
  • ● Art Direction
  • ● Anthropological Research
  • ● Strategy & Consulting

As a student, Philip Lloyd recalls flipping through his school’s alumni magazine with interest, seeing life at his Toronto private school reflected in its glossy pages. But when he graduated from the school, left home for university and launched a career in communications, he found the magazine less and less relevant.

As with most private schools, Crescent’s alumni magazine is an important vehicle. It connects the school with its graduates and nourishes the school’s community. Crescent works hard to keep its biannual alumni publication Past & Present contemporary and fresh. In 2017, the school approached four advertising agencies, of which Aegis was one, about giving the magazine a makeover.

Lynda Torneck, Crescent’s director of communications and marketing, admits that she was surprised by our approach. “When advertising companies pitch new projects,” she says, “they usually tell the client what the client wants to hear. Aegis didn’t do that. We said we were looking for a new look and they told us that wasn’t enough.”

Instead, we proposed a complete re-think of the publication that would involve examining it from the ground up: talking to its readers, redefining its mission, giving it a real editorial focus and placing it not alongside other school magazines of its kind, but alongside high-quality magazines generally.

We had one of our anthropologists conduct interviews with alumni about their relationship with the school and their engagement with Past & Present. The feedback was remarkably consistent; while most graduates took pride in their association with Crescent and considered themselves part of its “imagined community,” they found little personal value in the alumni magazine.

It became clear that what was required was much more profound than a redesign; the school needed to restore its connection with its alumni by directing the magazine explicitly to them. To put the reader in the driver’s seat, we proposed the creation of an editorial board of alumni.

“What we ended up doing with Aegis was way more work,” says Torneck, “but also way more rewarding. The impact has been incredible.”

Philip Lloyd, who graduated from Crescent in 2009, recognized the difference immediately. The first edition of the revamped Past & Present arrived in the winter of 2018, with a cover feature on a group of Crescent alumni who are distinguishing themselves as entrepreneurs in the booming craft beverage market.

“The magazine used to present alumni, news in little blurbs: ‘got married; had a baby; got promoted’. It focussed on credentials,” says Lloyd. “Now the stories flesh out real people and the choices they’ve made.” At times when he is reading the new Past & Present, Lloyd forgets that it’s a Crescent publication. And that, he says, is a good thing.

of reader survey respondents felt that the new magazine significantly strengthened their connection with alumni culture and the school
of reader survey respondents felt that the new magazine significantly strengthened their connection with alumni culture and the school

Like many students attending private school, Lloyd felt the weight of expectations: to follow one of a few career paths, to excel in traditional ways. The newly launched magazine broadens the focus, illustrating the diversity of options available to graduates of the school.

“Schools often demonstrate their global impact with a graphic of dots, representing grads, scattered across the globe. But that doesn’t tell me much. I’m interested in what they’re actually doing wherever they are, what challenges they face.” Lloyd recalls reading a piece in Past & Present about a graduate who dropped a job on Wall Street to launch a dog-walking business; another about a grad raising his family in China. One day, Lloyd – who has always lived in Ontario - would himself like to set out into the larger world, so he finds these stories inspirational.

Ultimately, the new Past & Present connects Lloyd less to the bricks and mortar of Crescent, than to the people who have come out of the school, their ideas and aspirations. It shows their place – and that of the school – in a rapidly changing world, instills in him a sense of belonging and pride and ensures that the school remains an important part of who he is and who he becomes. ⬤