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Looking beyond the practical needs of students for Mystudenthalls.com | #BehindTheBrand

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Student accommodation search engine, Mystudenthalls.com has partnered with Studio Koto to launch a rebrand which challenges hackneyed ideas of student living to offer the modern student an intuitive brand with ‘both style and substance’;  bringing joy to an overwhelming process of students finding accommodation in a market with unprecedented demand.

The brand, which has successfully been helping students find accommodation since 2011, now works with over 90% of purpose-built student accommodation providers across the UK, and worked with Studio Koto to approach the re-brand with rigorous insight directly from students.

The rebrand launches amidst an unprecedented student accommodation crisis across the UK. Mystudenthalls.com has launched the new brand to establish a stronger connection with their student audience, by working with Koto to look beyond practical needs of student users and establish a cheerful and inspiring brand personality to support them through the stressful process of finding a place to live. It aims to be compassionate with students, not condescending - straight-talking, but not blunt. A helping hand where it’s needed most.

Studio Koto spoke to real students to understand the nuance of issues they were facing when finding the right accommodation to cut through a busy market under pressure. One thing that became clear was how important it was to sell the lifestyle students wanted rather than just the properties.

In addition to the rebrand, the search engine has also undergone a mammoth full platform redesign based on extensive user testing which offered fresh insight into the frustrations students are facing when finding the right accommodation online in a strained market.

To learn more, we spoke to Koto Creative Director, Fred North

What was the brief for the rebrand?

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Launched in 2011 as the first ever dedicated PBSA search engine on the market, the business has now grown to become a respected name in the sector, working with 90% of the PBSA providers in the UK. However, the website and brand felt dated and didn’t stand out in an increasingly competitive space.

How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?

Beginning with a creative mood boarding session with the client to gauge the appetite for change and the general tone they were after, we developed three initial creative concepts. Pushing the potential brand in intentionally very different directions, we stress tested different ideas on logo, colour, type, art direction and layout.

Taking the learnings from this we then continued to refine the direction with the client over the course of multiple rounds to achieve a result that balanced the spirit of the creative idea (‘Find your place’) with distinction within the category and a fresh timelessness.

Describe the purpose of the brand and its target audience

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Create a new brand that is fit for purpose for a digital-first modern business, that captures the attention and imagination of the audience and marks a new forward-thinking chapter in the story of Mystudenthalls.com.

What was your thinking behind the rebranding solution?

The creative focussed around the core idea of ‘Find your place’. We summarised the spirit of the creative as follows:

Finding the perfect student accommodation is a highly personal and instinctual process. It’s as much about the vibe and feel as location and price. Criteria that are unique to you. At Mystudenthalls.com, we get this.

We’ve developed a fast, simple and seamless search process that uses your unique preferences to find the perfect home to match your wants and needs. We understand every student is different — whether you’re after a party house, a quiet sanctuary, or somewhere in between. We help you find flatmates that feel like friends and halls that feel like home — so you can find your feet. Find your place with Mystudenthalls.com.

What kit/tools/software were used to create it?

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Being a project run remotely during peak lockdown, we embraced remote working to its fullest. We ran workshops in Miro, chatted away and debated copy and design decisions over Zoom, and built everything in Figma. Whilst we were no strangers to using remote working tools, it helped us refine our process, both internally within our Koto teams and externally with our clients and partners.

What details are you most proud of any why?

The symbol, taken from the ‘My’ of the logo, stands as a powerful moniker for the brand that feels bold and fresh at any size on their digital touchpoints. This then informed a flexible graphic language that signposts the ability for people to find what they are really looking for on the Mystudenthalls platform.

What visual influences fuelled your solution?

While we didn’t necessarily draw from any direct visual references during the project, the ideas of ‘place’ and ‘discovery’ were key to the creative direction, and became the main themes baked into the visual language.

What do you hope it achieves for the brand?

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A true representation of the spirit of the business, a compelling platform to engage their audiences and cut through in the marketplace, alongside a platform that is dynamic and fun to use on a daily basis.

What would you do differently if you could do it over again?

Would have been even more fun to run more workshops and design sessions in person, but lockdown had other ideas on that front. Other than that we had a lot of fun tailoring our process to the needs of Dan and his team, developing a fluid process that really suited both parties.

Credit list for the work?

Dan and his team at mystudenthalls.com for being a pleasure to work with, Matthew and his web design and development team at Castus for implementing the brand so effectively, and the whole team here at Koto. 

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