Designing for Generation Z: Captivate Today’s Tech-Savvy Teens

For colleges and universities, engaging Generation Z is continually top of mind. As a designer, I have to work strategically when creating your school’s designs and online experiences in order to captivate this new generation.

Why, you ask?

Well, thanks to the digital world they’ve grown up in, members of Generation Z have a very different mindset than our past target audience, Millennials. They’ve known how to pinch and swipe since they were toddlers, and because they were born after the launch of Facebook, their entire childhood has been posted online. They’re snappy, impatient and incredibly tech savvy.

Let’s just say they’re anything but typical.

Because this generation is so different, nearly every industry, especially higher education, is wrestling with how to connect with them. So how do you design for these high-tech trained teens? I’ve put together 5 tips on how to break through to this new set of students!

1. Communicate across multiple platforms.
84 percent of Gen Z’ers multitask, while only 2 percent of the general population does. Most of these tech savvy teens can actually multitask across five screens at once! Therefore responsive design is absolutely crucial. The more screens your design can fit, the better. Your campaigns should span across a variety of media to tell your brand’s story, not only for smartphones, TVs and laptops but through social media as well. With Facebook currently losing a significant portion of its Generation Z users, YouTube, Instagram and SnapChat are becoming the frontrunners.

2. Connect through images.
Generation Z likes to communicate via images, often replacing text in their own messages with emojis and GIFs. These are a part of their everyday language so it’s important to know what they mean and when their use is appropriate. Try to sell the visual idea of your institution first, before you start explaining, “who you are.” A striking image is easier to consume than a paragraph of text.

3. Generate sharable and snackable content.
To break through to this generation, your institution should focus on bite-sized, memorable content. It’s also very important to remember that you’re designing for a completely different attention span. According to a Gen Z study published by Ologie, “Generation Z’s attention span is 8 seconds.” Therefore, only thumb-stopping, personalized content will grab their attention. Be precise. Know what you are trying to say and have a succinct delivery with the design and message.

Always create content with shareability in mind, for example, quotes, short videos, and images with text overlays. This generation demands highly personalized interactions and wants to stay engaged with the colleges and universities they admire across platforms. That means having a consistent, unique and engaging presence across each channel is vital for connecting with this generation.

4. See them as diverse.
Generation Z is composed of 47 percent ethnic minorities, making them the most ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history. Even though they are a melting pot and proud of it, they are also all about breaking down ethnic, cultural and gender barriers. Showing and celebrating diversity is important for marketers who want to engage this generation in a meaningful way.

This generation’s interests and hobbies are just as diverse as their ethnicity. Gen Z’ers want to see content that is customized based on what they’re interested in and is relevant to their location. Thanks to the rise of data-driven segmentation and messaging we can now appeal directly to our diverse audience, by personalizing your brand’s website experience, designs and messaging to tailor-fit your audience.

5. Provide a blank slate.
This generation is more interested in brand’s that let them customize their own experiences or be brand advocates. Interactivity and content collaboration are key content principles. They’re also attracted to interactive marketing campaigns that allow them to co-create or see what happens when they make a decision. They’re more positive towards brands that let them vote for something to happen or choose an option on their own.

Gen Z will continue to define the future of higher education and they don’t just represent your school’s future, they will create it. It’s vital to understand this emerging generation in order to prepare your college or university for success in the next decade and beyond!

By Chelsea Grider, Senior Graphic Designer, Capture Higher Ed