Why we love UvA

University of Amsterdam (UvA) is the biggest university in our country with tons of study programs. We love education. And we love Amsterdam. So we were delighted when UvA asked for our help.

The challenge

To study pickers, open days are a crucial part of their quest for the right study. But we all know that physical events and the year 2020 aren’t the luckiest combination. So universities have to bring things online.

UvA wanted to know how they should organize online open days and — more importantly — how they could make it a permanent tool. A tool that keeps helping students pick the right study year-round. 

They hit us up right before summer. The new school year was knocking at the door, so we had to move fast.

The solution

We jumped on board and learned all about UvA and the world of study pickers. From there, we designed an online Open House in a matter of weeks — a place where students can experience UvA year-round without ever setting foot outside their house.

Nothing beats a good old Design sprint

UvA was in a rush — when they decided the open days had to be moved online, they only had a few months left. On top of that, each faculty at UvA has a marketing and content team with their own wishes: quite a challenge to come up with a fast solution that suits them all. This complexity made us organize a Design sprint.

Bringing all our information online is quite a challenge; it’s important, complex, and many people within UvA are involved. A design sprint was a great method to come up with beautiful ideas in a very short amount of time. The final result has a lot of support internally and resulted in a feasible solution, all because we did it together.”

Giem Vliegen — Online communications manager

In a nutshell, a Design sprint is a tight process to solve complex problems in just one week: from a challenge, to a bunch of ideas and sketches, to a prototype, and eventually a tested solution.

Currently, organizing Design sprints isn’t what it used to be. We can’t be in the same room, slap post-it’s on the wall, sketch while sitting next to each other, and have lively conversations about the different concepts we come up with. However, with just a few tweaks, we can bring it all online pretty easily. 

A hybrid Design sprint
For UvA, we did the sprint partly online and partly offline. We defined the challenge, sketched, and decided on the concept in one of the big rooms at the university. These crucial steps of the design sprint simply work better in a face-to-face setting. Especially because so many faculties were involved. Prototyping and validating requires less involvement of the team, so we did that fully online.

Kick-off of the Design sprint at UvA
Design sprint at UvA
Remote interviews with study pickers
Remote interviews with study pickers

UvA’s online Open House

Enough talk about the process. You must be curious about the results of the sprint by now. Let’s walk through the key elements of the online open house. 

A warm welcome
On open days, visitors are welcomed by students of the faculty. During the sprint we learned that this warm welcome is much valued by study pickers. So we decided to bring this online by adding avatars. Each avatar represents a master‑, bachelor‑, or international student. 


On top of giving visitors a warm welcome, the avatars are their online guide. They answer questions and provide information about UvA and the studies.

A student knows what you’ll experience, so he or she is the perfect person to tell you what the study is like.”

Youssef, study picker

A landing page with clear entry points
The Open House landing page is the core of the concept and provides three main entry points.

The three main entry points of the open house: get inspired, explore studies, and discover the UvA

How did we decide on these entry points? Pretty simple: during the sprint we learned that these three elements are the main motivation for study pickers to visit an open day.

Discover the UvA and the city of Amsterdam on an interactive map
An important reason for study pickers to visit an open day is to emerge in the city, university, faculty, and the different studies. It’s about the full context and experience. Not just the study program itself. So, we designed an interactive map for study pickers to discover several UvA locations and the city of Amsterdam. 360 degrees pictures and videos provide a realistic image of what the environment inside and around the UvA looks like.

Students often come from far, so it’s nice to see where the university is at and what you can do around the area.”

Danka, study picker

Map to discover the UvA online

Explore studies as if you’re at the university
UvA offers tons of studies — that can get pretty overwhelming. And all the names of studies might sound vague to study pickers. That’s why we decided to present all the studies with an image — one that adds another layer to the first impression and helps study pickers scan more easily.

I like the images, it makes it much clearer.”

Maud, study picker

Study overview page

Each study links to a detail page. The goal of this page is to inspire visitors with real content. Real’ because that’s one of the reasons study pickers visit open days. They want to ask current students about their experience to paint a realistic picture. Videos from students, lectures, live Q&A sessions (with students and lecturers), and (live) student vlogs on the detail page all contribute to this.

Get inspired by theme weeks
Through a theme week — from a week of history to a week of health sciences — we inspire students who are still searching more broadly. We show inspirational content, like articles of alumni, videos on the subject, and ofcourse the studies within this theme. This makes it easy for visitors to discover interesting studies that were off their radar. 

A permanent Open House

From the start, UvA intended to make the Open House permanent. They wanted to create something that has just as much value for study pickers after the pandemic. Something that helps people discover studies online at any time.

Together, we made it work in just a few weeks. Now, students can pick a study from their couch year-round.

  • Chris Scholten
  • Saskia Slegers