Vanderbilt University Learns a New Way of Working During COVID-19

Vanderbilt University

Company: Private research university, founded in 1873 in Nashville, Tennessee



While everyone was scrambling toward a digital workplace at the onset of COVID-19, higher education institutions like Vanderbilt University also faced another challenge. It was the need for the most speedy, accurate communications to keep students, faculty, and staff up-to-date and safe.

While students were still on campus, the big push was for flyers and other printed materials. They contained light information that directed students to the university’s website, which could be updated with agility. Because the situation was evolving so rapidly, detailed print pieces were out of date as soon as the university printed them. The materials also took time to distribute. The creative team spent four hours erecting flyers to ensure that students were informed swiftly.

Once everyone was sent home to avoid spreading the virus, Vanderbilt University shifted from the flyers to some new digital alternatives:

  • The Spring issue of Vanderbilt Magazine pivoted to a COVID-19 Special Edition – with the content that was originally scheduled now being set aside for the Fall issue.
  • Other departments were also beginning to find solutions and alternatives for their upended plans. They needed new creative to support their own pivots – and the requests kept flooding in.
  • The importance of tone became clear, with everything needing to be carefully targeted to the audience and mindful of the current situation. As Michelle McMillen, Director of Creative Strategy, put it, “can’t pretend that it’s business as usual, because it’s not. Messaging just won’t hit the right chords if you don’t target it.”


When the time came for the Vanderbilt team to move to more digital experiences and to working from home, there were big issues. The biggest were to send monitors to employees’ homes, and to work together in a new way, since this was their first brush with remote work. The team’s concerns included to maintain collaboration and team camaraderie from a distance. But the team had already been using Lytho and ready for what was next. “I spoke with our project managers and we all agreed, this was why we got it. So that we could be more agile and work in other places,” she said, adding that not having Lytho would have put them “in rough shape.”


Michelle helped the team collaborate remotely by using Lytho’s Review + Approval function. Team members would upload drafts and the rest of the team would provide feedback. They coupled this with a Zoom call for real-time interaction. “We’re able to feed off each other and get that creative energy that we get from being together,” Michelle said. The team also kept their spirits up with some fun projects. One project involved making coloring pages that parents of kids at home from The Acorn School could print out to keep their kids entertained. The Acorn School is an early childhood care and education program for the children of Vanderbilt faculty, staff, and students. “It was a nice thing for our team to do, a small gesture to brighten somebody’s day.”

Vanderbilt by the numbers

Lytho helps you streamline workflows and harmonize all brand collateral under a single, uniform platform. Feel free to reach out to us by scheduling a demo and learning how our creative solutions can boost the effectiveness of your creative projects. We look forward to speaking with you!