NC Stay with the Times

How does NC State’s Instagram engage and represent their students as a community?
Authors: Parker, Drew, Maura

Our project engages a critique and redesign to a mismanaged university Instagram. This concept is important because social media is a major part of our generation’s community. In fact, a research study on higher education universities found that 98% of schools use social media across their campus (Sehl, 2020). There is a lot of value in social media on campuses, and universities utilize these platforms to promote school spirit, raise money, and recruit new students. In a study by TargetX (2020), it was found that 58% of aspiring students use social media to look up schools they’re considering with 17% commenting that these sources are extremely influential and 61% saying they are somewhat influential.

Not only does Instagram serve as a beacon for potential students, but universities can also promote values and achievements to their wide audience. Let’s take the LGBTIQ+ community as an example. Students who take part within this community want to see their university support and encourage students to freely express themselves while on campus. By posting pictures and captions of students engaging with this community, they can convey a message of inclusiveness. This may attract new members and allies who also support the community. University culture is the driving force for why its members want to associate and support their schools. Think of the culture as a chance to feature the “personality” of the university (Hodgkinson, 2020). In other words, what is it about a certain school that makes it special and appeals to a certain audience?

Another benefit of a student-focused Instagram is its ability to connect with students no matter their location. Whether they are at home, work, studying abroad, or on another campus, an Instagram page can “create channels and groups to rally students around different topics, interests, experiences, and activities” (Sehl, 2020). By generating student-run conversations, you can incorporate campus culture and even encourage students to create their own content. Hashtags and social media contests are a great way to “connect users and build conversations around specific topics” (Ridley, 2021).

One thing students always have is questions. As a university, it is their job to provide those questions with answers in an easy-to-navigate and reliable way. By being responsive and helpful, universities can prove that they are the right choice in a sea of uncertainty. This way, students can not only trust you with your services, but also get to know you as a university on a much deeper level (Henderson, 2020). As you can see, the opportunities for a university Instagram are endless and the need for an interactive and inclusive culture through a social platform is a necessity. Without a dedicated school Instagram that represents its students, the Wolfpack community may not feel as much as home.

Our project engages a representative NC State Instagram where students feel empowered and curious when navigating a student-focused, interactive social media page. As a group, we designed an Instagram page that eliminates useless posts and instead incorporates student interaction paired with an uplifting campus culture. We wanted to create a flow through Instagram’s digital platform so we designed a feature called “strips.” Strips are sections of three posts in a horizontal line and each unique strip revolves around a specific topic. In our case, we wanted to show off the NC State community and culture. Some examples of our strips include student highlights such as scholarship recognition and student club activities. We also have an athletic strip to show a sports calendar, a research strip to highlight different department studies, and a monthly photo submissions challenge to drive audience engagement and create a sense of university community.

Not only has our material content changed but also our color and artwork design. By utilizing one photo across three posts along with additional artwork designs, users can easily navigate and click on desired content. By arranging an eye-catching flow to our page, we are bound to bring in new users and increase user spent time on our site which will drive engagement through the roof. Next comes our use of Instagram stories. We offer focused story posts on sports, frequently asked questions, campus engagement, student pictures, and mascot highlights. Stories will be used to generate interactive clicks and bring users to our main page where they can learn more information on essential topics. We hope to create an open conversation between our students, faculty, and alumni to further drive who we are as a university. Imagining alternatives was crucial for this redesign because we had to think of ourselves not only as students but also as faculty, alumni, sports teams, and a university as a whole. We had to design a culture and a message that incorporates all voices, especially the ones of students who love their university so dearly.

We wanted to dive into this problem space because we are a part of the student population that loves the NCSU community. We first started by discussing the implications of a society that focuses on more left-brain thinking over right-brain thinking. We wanted to discover and apply a more balanced approach at our university level which led us to investigate their social platforms. Immediately after viewing their Instagram profile, we came to the conclusion that their account didn’t embody NC State’s culture through their media. We then began to toy with the idea that we could instead design a more interactive, easy to navigate, and student-focused Instagram that manifested the Wolfpack personality. We began to design and create an Instagram that not only flowed easier but also focused on student achievements and interests. We utilized Canva to incorporate self-taken and online pictures then paired them with attractive design elements. We hand-wrote new captions for our content and tweaked the NCSU color palette to add some creativity. We also designed stories with Canva to show small segments of our new rebranding.

Project Media

  • Below is the general layout of what the Instagram looks like design-wise.
  • Incorporated into the account is newly designed story posts/content

Related Work

A 2020 study entitled Instagram as a Tool for Study Engagement and Community Building Among Adolescents: A Social Media Pilot Study, deemed the importance of social media in adolescent influence. The study proved that Instagram acts as a community builder among teens and young adults, and could be used as a tool for building community — rather than simply a photo-sharing app (Thomas et al., 2020). This is precisely the kind of research we wanted to elaborate on. The current NCSU Instagram acts solely as a photo-sharing compilation, something rather uninteresting to those of us in school. Similar to the Social Media Pilot Study, we wanted to test the limits of Instagram, making it more informative and engaging to adolescents and students. Another noteworthy finding of the study is that adolescents were more likely to engage with an Instagram account that featured content made by other adolescents(Thomas et al., 2020). Again, this was a large inspiration for our redesign — a social media for NCSU students should be curated and designed by NCSU students.

In the article, Instagram Stories versus Facebook Wall: An Advertising Effectiveness Analysis, authors Daniel Belanche, Isabel Cenjor, and Alfredo Pérez-Rueda tackle the secret weapon that is Instagram Stories. Being the first study on Instagram Stories as a tool, the article found that the ability to click through stories at the user’s preference allowed for an enhanced relationship with the brand (Belanche et al., 2019). The article also found that brands should utilize Instagram Stories when targeting Millennial audiences(Belanche et al., 2019). We wanted to take this a step further. As the years continue to pass, the population of NCSU students is becoming increasingly more Generation Z. While there is no literature on Gen Z’s usage of Instagram Stories, one can assume that it is a vital part of social media usage, and therefore MUST be a vital part of NCSU’s social presence. Our project outlines what this space could look like for NCSU.

In terms of the actual account, we drew inspiration from Savannah College of Art and Design’s Instagram account. This account continues to be engaging for its students, offering insightful facts and highlights. The overall aesthetic was one that we certainly drew from. (See photo). Another account that we drew creative inspiration from was the cardistry brand “Cardistry Touch”. Looking at their account we can see attempts to aesthetically alter the account from release to release with strategies that look good when viewing the page as a whole. At the top, we have this full blacked-out portion with the words “Salem” going from photo to photo to announce the introduction of another brand under them. We also see an interesting layout choice with the announcement of three new decks where every video uploaded in said column went along with the deck of cards in the column. These strategies inspired us to try and see how we could make NC State’s account stand out when viewed as a whole, not just from post to post.

Funnily enough, in finding inspiration for our project, we ran into many college Instagram accounts that were doing precisely what NCSU’s Instagram account was doing. Upon investigating NYU’s Instagram account, we were inspired by their utilization of Instagram Stories, but noticed that overall brand identity was lacking. This lack of seeing exactly what we pictured for OUR project, led us to solidify our idea. To name a few, we were disappointed with NYU, UNCSA, and Parsons School of Design. They all lacked a certain level of cohesion and creativity that we expected to see from design/art schools specifically. This drove us even further to push what NCSU’s account could be.


After analyzing and digesting NC State’s official Instagram, we came to the conclusion that it didn’t represent its student population much less the NCSU culture. We researched social media marketing and what it means to present oneself as a recognized university. We focused on core concepts such as student engagement, campus culture, and inviting prospecting students. By brainstorming and creating new design features such as a color palette, conformity strips, and story features, we transformed the media into a more free-flowing, eye-catching Instagram page. Not only did we supplement design features but we also redefined the content to be more student-centered. We added student research, athletic highlights, notable student recognition, a photo submission challenge, and a rebranding strip to explain the changes. Therefore, we created a representative NC State Instagram where students feel empowered and curious when navigating the student-focused, interactive social media page. We hope this points towards a future where social media is run with less constraint and is taken advantage of as a creative outlet that still holds on to its functionality.

Works Cited

Belanche, D., Pérez-Rueda, A., & Cenjor, I. C. (n.d.). Instagram stories versus facebook wall: An advertising effectiveness analysis. Retrieved April 25, 2021, from

Henderson, G. (2020, July 2). The Importance Of Social Media Marketing.

Hodgkinson, R. (2020, June 4). Universities: How to Use Social Media as Well as Students Do. Agorapulse.

New York University [nyuniversity]. (n.d.). Posts [Instagram profile]. Retrieved April 25, 2021, from

Ridley, D. (2016, April 5). Today’s Colleges and Universities Using Social Media. Vital Design.

SCAD [@scaddotedu]. (n.d.). Posts [Instagram profile]. Retrieved April 25, 2021, from

Sehl, K. (2021, March 16). Social Media in Higher Education: 8 Essential Tips. Social Media Marketing & Management Dashboard.

TargetX, MStoner. (2021). How Prospective Students Use Online Tools for College Research and Choice.

Thomas, V. L., Chavez, M., Browne, E. N., & Minnis, A. M. (2020). Instagram as a tool for study engagement and community building among adolescents: A social media pilot study. DIGITAL HEALTH.


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[ Parker Mithcell, Drew Hickland, and Maura Estes, NC Sta-y with the times, , ]