Breathing new life into a historic University’s site and brand

Founded in 1878, Johns Hopkins University Press (JHUP) is America's oldest university press. They provide authors with a reputable forum for discourse and exposure to a worldwide audience—publishing over 100 scholarly journals and 200 new books every year, with over 4k books currently in their system.

They approached Mindgrub with a question: Is there a way to create a fresh brand that still fits into the John Hopkins University family, and a modern website to match? 

Thankfully, the answer was yes.

image of the Hopkins Press lockup behind a computer screen with the JHU Press website homepage

The Opportunity

John Hopkins University Press wanted their website to incorporate modern functionality, while also bringing a vibrant new brand aesthetic to the table. Their goal was to have a bold brand strategy that would differentiate them from both the competition and their University ecosystem, while still maintaining a connection to one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world. 

Their challenges were three-fold: users across their website and mobile platforms weren’t experiencing consistency, their check-out process needed modernizing, and an uptick in online business due to COVID meant they had to strike now, while the iron was hot.

They needed a vendor that would breathe new life into their brand with fresh guidelines and highlight their new positioning on a functional and seamless website.

Our Approach

The experts at Mindgrub were brought in to update the design and structure of the JHUP website, develop their brand to create a consistent experience, and support their revenue growth.

We started by revamping their brand to change the overall perception of its target audiences, and then moved on to designing a site with the latest check-out functionality and UX best practices.

Merging a new media look with an established institution.

examples of the three brand exploration concepts
examples of the three brand exploration concepts
The Brand Refresh
  • We began with stakeholder interviews and collaborative workshops. Key decision-makers from JHUP were invited to collaborate, and we went over their target audience’s needs and motivations, as well as how JHUP viewed its brand going forward.
  • Mindgrub gathered this information, along with competitor analysis, and presented JHUP with an updated brand platform that properly defined its brand persona, attributes, and positioning statement.
  • Then we focused on updating JHUP’s visual brand—inspired by elements from the Johns Hopkins University parent brand in order to maintain unity. JHUP was presented with multiple style explorations, and at their request some options pushed the envelope, some stayed within the expected lanes, and a few lived in the middle.
  • Once JHUP selected a visual identity that married their bold new beginning with the stalwart reputation of their institution, the brand truly came to life. All other choices (including voice and tone, color and logo theories, and more) were put together in comprehensive Brand Guidelines. This served as a foundation for their website.
mockup of slides from the final JHU Press Brand Guidelines
mockup of slides from the final JHU Press Brand Guidelines

A streamlined site with a smooth check-out experience.

The Website Redesign

Now that the new brand aesthetic was clear, the site construction could begin. The goal was to provide customers and stakeholders with a seamless experience, augment their revenue growth, and create consistency. Here were the main priorities:

snapshot of the new JHU Press website search bar

Boosting Site Search
By updating JHUP’s existing Solr Server to accommodate advanced site, book, and journal search, we enhanced search capabilities to include their All Books metadata and Journal metadata.

snapshot of the new checkout experience on the JHU Press website

Shopping Cart Overhaul
Their checkout and account management functions needed refining. By incorporating the latest ecommerce features, the site can now accommodate different billing and shipping addresses, as well as multiple payment methods.

snapshot of the four sub-bands on the new JHU Press website


Unifying Verticals
We recommended merging all four sub-brands (books, journals, HFS, and MUSE) onto the main site. Each originally had its own site because of different updating procedures. Mindgrub and JHUP agreed that combining them would give users a better experience.

snapshot of the JHU Press website footer with the Hopkins Press lockup


Increasing Conversions
To decrease bounce rates and abandoned carts while increasing conversions, the user experience had to come first. Improving the efficiency and navigation of the site—and updating to Drupal 9— helped modernize purchasing and site exploration.

Once all wireframes and designs were approved, development of the site began, and after rigorous quality assurance (QA) to ensure stability, their new site was launched.

image of JHU Press webpages
image of JHU Press webpages
Results that Matter

Soon after launch, JHU Press presented their new site in an internal Town Hall meeting to rave reviews and positive feedback from staff, students, and stakeholders alike.

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