Special Program Publications Packages: University of Maryland, College Park - Gold Medal

Category 35: Special Program Publications Packages
University of Maryland, College Park, Fear the Turtle Sculpture Project

Contact: Margaret Hall, director, design, University Publications, 2101 Turner Hall, College Park, MD 20742, Phone: (301) 405-4611, e-mail:

Description: The University of Maryland is a public research university, the flagship institution of the University System of Maryland and the original land grant institution in Maryland, founded in 1856. Today the university is ranked among the Top 20 national public universities in the nation and is an economic catalyst for the state. A celebration of 150 years of the university’s growing influence throughout the state and region could not be confined to the campus. The Fear the Turtle Sculpture Project, a public art exhibition (similar to the Cows of Chicago and Crabs of Baltimore), was conceived as an interactive, community outreach effort that would engage the public and the campus while also celebrating the university’s historic achievements and statewide connections.

Artists from across the state, and even nearby by states, responded to our call to transform four-and-a-half-foot tall fiberglass turtles into works of art that reflected their own pride in the institution, and captured the spirit of achievement and excellence reflected in the “Fear the Turtle” slogan.

Beyond the fun of fanciful turtles, the project also had a very serious goal – to raise needed dollars to supports the university’s scholarships campaign. Timed to culminate just before the launch a major institutional fundraising campaign, the sculpture project provided a good vehicle to spread a philanthropic message in advance of the major campaign to come.

Planning and Objectives: In tying it to the anniversary, our primary objectives aimed to:

  • Build awareness of the university’s anniversary across the state and metropolitan Washington region, focusing on the institution’s impact and its broad connections to state industries and enterprises.
  • Reach out and engage alumni and citizens of the region in the anniversary celebration in a manner that would encourage interaction with the university, especially a visit to the campus
  • Provide a visible element to sustain campus excitement and interest in the yearlong anniversary.
  • Promote appreciation of art and culture with a creative exhibit that’s accessible to the general public.
  • Reinforce the branding messages of the ongoing institutional Fear the Turtle marketing campaign.
  • Build momentum for scholarship fundraising leading into the kickoff of a major institutional fundraising campaign.

Guided by these objectives we worked to structure the publications with elements that focused on outreach instead of the traditional internal focus of anniversary celebrations. We wanted to reach people beyond the campus to help them realize how they may be connected to the university and how much the work of the university touches their lives.

Our in-house publications team designed and created a host of materials. The publications we have included in this submission include the Turtle locator map, the invitation package, the event program and 2 of 5 posters that were produced as giveaways. All aspects of these publications were produced in-house (writing, illustration and design).


Turtle Locator Map: This map was created as a tool for “turtle hunting.” It was made available at key display locations across the state plus an online version on the project web site. The map, along with photos of each sculpture, was also featured in the spring issue of the university magazine that went to alumni and friends.
Quantity: 7,500
Total Production Cost: $4,138
Unit Cost: $.55

Turtle Sculpture Auction Invitation and Event Program: The culminating event, a public auction, created an energetic, exciting sendoff for the sculptures with heated competition bringing in more dollars for scholarships. The auction was timed to occur one day before the kickoff of the university’s new fundraising campaign. The live auction attracted about 325 guests, all clamoring to take home a turtle.

Quantity: 3,000
Total Production Cost: $7,769
Unit Cost: $2.58

Event Program
Quantity: 750
Total Production Cost: $3,844
Unit Cost: $5.12

Posters: The posters were created as series. The background illustrations tied the series together and provided a whimsical backdrop for the turtles. The university’s print facility donated 5 sets of limited edition posters. Each print was sequentially numbered from 1-1000 to promote the print shop’s variable printing capability while creating a sense of value to each print.
Quantity: 1000/each of 5
Total Production Cost: free

Target Audience: The Turtle Sculpture Project was meant to reach out to a broad array of constituents. Specifically we targeted:

  • The immediate university family of alumni, faculty, staff, students, and parents.
  • The general public of the region, particularly Maryland residents, for messages about the university’s connections throughout the state.
  • Tourists and other visitors to inspire them to want to learn more about the university associated with the cool looking turtles.

Results: The impact of the project greatly exceeded our wildest expectations for each of our stated objectives. Highlights of the outcomes are summarized below. The level of public engagement and expressions of pride grew throughout the exhibit period as people identified their favorite turtles and formed attachments that were difficult to break as the project came to an end.

Activity on the Turtle Sculpture Web page was phenomenal. There was an average 20,000 hits a month throughout the display period. Some 20,000 people visited to vote for their favorite turtle sculpture; more than 7070 photos were entered in the Turtle Scavenger Hunt with 274 people submitting 30 or more photos; and 11,300 individuals visited to register to win an anniversary iPod (26,206 total entries). Locating 30 of the sculptures on campus ensured individuals would have to visit the university to complete their photo excursions. This succeeded in getting many alumni back to campus and also introducing the campus to many others.

Marketing/Branding Messages Reinforced: The Fear the Turtle marketing slogan and branding messages were significantly reinforced during this project with the repeated use of the slogan as the title of the project.

Scholarship Campaign Highlighted: Every communication about the sculpture project carried the message of our ultimate goal of raising funds to support scholarships for Maryland students. We successfully secured sponsors for all 50 turtles. Nearly $300,000 was raised for this purpose from sponsors who pre-purchased their sculptures and the culminating auctions. Several sponsors donated their turtle back for auction to raise even more for their favorite scholarships. Interest in supporting the Scholarship Campaign has continued to grow, and resulted in achievement of the $100 million mark much earlier than anticipated.