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Modern solutions for a modern university. A Dave Woods success story

"At CSUSM, Dave consistently produced quality, innovative work that exceeded expectations. He is truly multidisciplinary — a polished writer & presenter, a talented designer & technologist, always focused on strategy & long-range impact. But equally important, he is a thoughtful & caring person."

Cathy Baur, APR
Associate Vice President for Communications, Cal State San Marcos

Prior to founding Deedub Inc., Dave Woods worked for nearly six years at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) — one of the newest, fastest-growing, and most forward-thinking campuses in the Cal State system.

As the Branding & New Media Strategist in the University’s Office of Communications, Dave played a leadership role in numerous CSUSM marketing initiatives. This success story highlights four critical areas where Dave’s agency-quality work helped advance the CSUSM experience:

An elevated look & feel for higher ed

From day one at CSUSM, Dave was heavily involved in enhancing the overall public-facing appearance and “personality” of the CSUSM brand.

When the Office of Communications investigated a potential logo redesign, Dave was instrumental in the process, providing not only design expertise but also research and strategic guidance. When the campus community provided feedback to CSUSM leadership that they wanted evolution rather than revolution, Dave developed refined logo solutions that honored the past while providing a subtle, future-focused facelift.

Dave was also a leader in the development of modular brochure suites and templates that were ultimately adopted by numerous departments on campus. He also created a comprehensive style guide, and was instrumental in working with the campus bookstore to enhance the consistency and appearance of CSUSM merchandise.

Ultimately, Dave crafted a comprehensive and cohesive look and feel that influences all CSUSM marketing materials and merchandise to this day.

A sampling of numerous CSUSM marketing materials created by Deedub CEO Dave Woods, including a brochure template, a lamppost banner, a business card, and a PowerPoint template.

Sending a message & getting social

When the time came for CSUSM to become more active in its email and social media communications, Dave responded in a big way.

He claimed and merged multiple existing place pages on Facebook to create and launch the first official and centrally-managed Facebook page in campus history. Dave also served as the original manager and social media strategist for the campus Facebook page, all while providing guidance to campus departments with their own social media efforts.

Dave also developed the campus’ original biweekly HTML email newsletter template from the ground up. The campus community noticed Dave’s efforts and called on him to replicate his design and content strategy in their departmental email messages.

Better publications, one step at a time

Steps Magazine is the official CSUSM magazine for alumni and friends of the University. Originally, Dave’s role was more content-focused, writing two feature stories and providing regular proofreading assistance.

However, when CSUSM leadership wanted the publication to literally take the next step forward, Dave leveraged his industry connections by recommending a trusted San Diego-area marketing agency to lead a redesign.

Two years later, Dave developed a budget-conscious plan that allowed CSUSM to bring Steps production in-house, thus saving precious resources while building on the success of the agency’s work. Once the plan was approved by campus leadership, Dave assumed the role of de facto creative director for the magazine for three years, constantly improving its design and layout.

Dave also brought Steps into the digital world. He published feature stories from the magazine to the campus website for the first time ever, and worked with GradMags to bring Steps to iOS devices via a native app.

A sample cover page and two page spread from issues of Steps Magazine created by Deedub CEO Dave Woods.

A website other universities can learn from

Without a doubt, Dave’s biggest contributions to CSUSM involved his leadership role in two consecutive website redesign projects.

Anyone who has visited a typical university website can tell you the experience is typically subpar. Beyond the top-level entry pages, departmental and academic websites in higher ed all too often become a wild west of unintuitive design and outdated content.

While the sheer size of a typical university makes website perfection impossible, Dave was a powerful force in moving CSUSM much closer to that ideal. As a web content and design expert with above-average technical knowledge, Dave functioned as the ideal liaison between the Office of Communications and web developers in the campus’ IT department.

In the original 2008 redesign, Dave developed design concepts that were well liked and quickly approved by campus leadership. More importantly, Dave’s presentation skills and his ability to explain and demystify technical topics played a key role in campus leadership’s decision to mandate that all CSUSM departments adopt the new design.

In large part, the wild west had been conquered, thanks to consistent user experience.

By 2012, with all campus departments now utilizing a common design and content management system, it was time to take the next step. Once again working hand-in-hand with campus IT staff, Dave was a leader in developing design enhancements that would keep both the aesthetics and usability of the CSUSM website moving forward.

But in reality, the 2012 project was more about strategy and content than design. To keep the project focused on what really mattered, Dave took a deep look at website visitation statistics, and he developed and analyzed the results of a campus-wide website survey. He also worked closely with a team of student consultants to hold student focus groups about the website.

The result was a dramatically enhanced CSUSM home page that put the most popular student resources front and center, all accessible with just one click. Dave’s strategic approach and regular consultation with campus web developers also resulted in a new audience-based navigation paradigm, making it easier for groups like alumni, donors, and parents to easily access their “world” within the website without being distracted by content intended for other audiences.

A screenshot of displayed on a MacBook Air.

Dave also worked hard to improve the quality of website content by regularly writing and editing, and assisting campus webmasters with their content questions whenever possible. He even developed a website content improvement course for campus webmasters that was recorded and archived for easy access from anywhere.

Today, attracts approximately 8 million visitors per year, and it serves as a proof that even large websites with hundreds of departmental subsites and thousands of pages can deliver a superior and consistent experience for users. And even in Dave’s absence, CSUSM leadership continues to be thrilled with the results of his efforts:

"In higher education, it's almost unprecedented to see a major project move from concept to approval to completion as quickly as our CSUSM website redesign projects did.

While it was certainly a team effort, I attribute much of the projects' quality and efficiency to Dave's leadership, vision, and high-impact design. His ability to garner support at all levels of the organization was impressive, and buy-in from senior leaders was almost instantaneous.

While we certainly miss Dave here at CSUSM, we're excited to see that he is achieving the same great results for customers at Deedub Inc."

Neal Hoss
Vice President for University Advancement, Cal State San Marcos