Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Simple as ABC

Bringing a publishing giant’s digital experience to the head of the class

Issue

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) has a proud legacy of helping students thrive in classrooms around the world. But after a series of acquisitions, and in the face of a shifting industry, HMH needed a more consistent and compelling digital experience—one that could signal their transition from traditional book publisher to modern learning company.

Insight

To better serve users, the business and the brand, the new digital experience had to deliver engaging content while making clear connections between classroom tools and products. This would make it easier for customers to find educational solutions and support, while gaining trust in HMH’s purpose and expertise.

Answer

Supported by a strategy rooted in simplicity and storytelling, we created a modular experience that could scale with HMH’s offerings and business. We infused the site with a distinct personality by refreshing the brand’s visual and verbal style, and developed an intuitive user experience for HMH’s primary audience—educators.

We kicked off with a three-month discovery phase involving user research, stakeholder interviews, a competitive audit, portfolio mapping and a review of the company’s enterprise technology.
We based our design on the idea of “defying gravity”—a nod to HMH’s ability to inspire a love of learning. Drawing from the HMH logo, we created animated 3D objects, mixing them with a warm, unexpected photography style to instill a modern, human feel.

To empower the company’s creative team, we developed a comprehensive set of visual and verbal guidelines, followed by a training workshop to introduce HMH designers and writers to their new toolkit.
Building on the strategic foundation of this work, we continue to reinforce HMH’s mission as The Learning Company by evolving its digital ecosystem and enhancing significant communications across board.

Results

Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts W3 Awards—Silver, Website Redesign

BMA of New York Global ACE Awards—Honorable Mention, Website Redesign

Now that we’ve adopted simplicity as a key part of our strategy, it feels like everybody is marching to the same drum. There’s a deep understanding of the goals ahead and how we’re working to accomplish them.

Amy Dunkin, CMO, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt