QR Codes: From Hassle to Necessity

If you are capable (or even willing) to take a moment, I ask that you try to put yourself in the mindset of your pre-pandemic self. Are you there? Now, imagine that you are sitting down at a restaurant, looking at a menu, and getting ready to order one of your favorite dishes. Next, imagine you are walking past a poster board full of flyers advertising community events, organizations, and other local happenings that might be coming up. I can bet that nowhere during this visualization practice did your mind think to look for a QR code on the menu, table, or posters you imagined. If it did, then congrats! You, like many of us, are adapting to “pandemic brain.” “Pandemic Brain” being the full acceptance and ingrained transition of all the rules, regulations, and social norms of a pandemic-ridden society into our subconscious and applying those to pre-pandemic experiences and memories. Regardless of if you did or did not picture a QR code when you started reading this article, one thing is for certain: QR codes have quickly become a key aspect of our daily lives as we have continued to live during the Covid-19 pandemic. Potentially raising some questions about their origins!

First off, QR codes are nothing new.  It is important to note that abroad, QR codes have been widely used in China and Japan for everything from payments to pet identification since their inception. Making their U.S. debut in the early 2010’s, these little squares, which at a glance resemble extraterrestrial text, were adopted by marketers all over the country and pumped out by almost every brand. As you well know, they did not stick around. Many factors played into the QR code’s initial downfall , but most notably it was a combination of their appearance, their low user accessibility, and their lack of a use case. Remember that in the early 2010’s the iPhone and other smartphones as we know them today were still relatively new to the market. Consumers being bombarded with this foreign and unappealing little square, while also being required to have a smartphone in hand, was a lot to ask. On top of this, most smartphones required that you download a separate app capable of scanning the QR code. Simply put, consumers did not have a compelling reason to use them, no matter how many direct mailers, goods packaging, or stores they appeared in or on. It was not until the iPhone’s iOS 11 update in 2017 and for android users 2018, that the QR code scanning capability became an inherent trait of the cameras installed on these phones. This is the first major shift in favor of the success of QR codes that we see in the U.S.

Bringing me to my next point. The creation and background of the QR code. Here are the need to know facts behind these mysterious little squares. 

  1. The “QR” in QR stands for Quick Response.
  2. The technology was invented in Japan by the DENSO WAVE company, part of the Toyota family of companies, that was looking for a better way to barcode parts in factories. 
  3. There are five types of QR codes all capable of storing different types and sizes of information. (QR Code Model 1 & Model 2, Micro QR Code, iQR Code, SQRC, Frame QR).
  4. More than 90% of mobile payments in China are made on WeChat and AliPay which rely on digital wallets and QR codes. 

It is time to take a step back into the present and think about the exponential growth QR codes have experienced in the U.S.! At the beginning of 2020 the ability of smartphones to scan QR codes had been an in-built capability of the native camera app going on three years, with no notable change in their use in the U.S. Although that major barrier had been removed from the user experience, it was not enough to push QR codes into mainstream use. The potential value that QR codes offered to consumers was still not incentive enough because the behavior to interact with the codes was still not ingrained in the typical consumer’s mind. This all changed in March of 2020. QR codes exploded in numbers because they pointedly and efficiently responded to real consumer needs as the virus began to tear through the States. Inherently, due to their design and accessibility (thank you iOS 11 & Android 2018) they addressed almost all of the new health concerns of retail shopping and service-oriented consumer experiences, and they did so in a low- to no-cost manner for both businesses and consumers. QR codes had now officially entered the scene in the U.S. as an industry changing standard for businesses to employ. 

Seemingly overnight, you see QR codes as menus posted on tables in restaurants, QR codes as a means for contactless payments in stores, QR codes used for checking into appointments, and the list goes on and on. I could continue to rattle off all the innovative and creative ways that QR codes have revolutionized the consumer experience in the States, but I am sure each and every person reading this article has experienced one or multiple surprising QR code uses over the past 18 months. 

The point is QR codes have finally found their use case, and have begun the process of becoming an ingrained consumer behavior. They provide consumers with the easy and frictionless experiences they crave all the while ensuring the continued health and safety necessary in a pandemic-ridden world. They have become so ingrained in myself and others in my circle that when confronted for the first time in well over a year with a physical menu about a week ago, we were all a little shocked. We had forgotten what it was like to handle a laminated piece of paper consisting of a jumbled mess of words, prices, and that eerily sticky feeling of someone else’s meal that seems to be the pandemic of the printed menu world. Time will tell if these once foreign and annoying printed mess of squares and shapes are here to stay, but I can say confidently that they promote a retail and service experience fit for the 21st Century and beyond. There are many things that this pandemic has shown us as a collective, but one shift I did not anticipate is the role that QR codes have taken on as the backbone of the modern pandemic-ridden society’s retail and service economy.    

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Wildfire and Guilford’s Marketing & Advancement Department Win Gold, Silver and Bronze CASE Awards

Wildfire’s work with Guilford College received four 2020 District III CASE Awards. Out of nearly 1,000 entries, the Guilford Edge Campaign and the Guilford Gazette each received a Gold Award; the 2018-19 Guilford College Bryan Series received a Silver Award, and the Guilford Outcomes Booklet received a Bronze Award.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE)’s North American districts offer awards to recognize and celebrate outstanding programs and individuals. District awards honor everything from annual reports to websites, distinguished service to new professionals, and everything in between.



Traci Naff Featured in the Capitol Communicator’s “Up Close and Personal” Series

Our very own Traci Naff is featured in the Capitol Communicator‘s “Up Close and Personal” series. Traci speaks of her creative design journey, her personal role models, and a hidden talent at a certain classic video game.
Get to know her.

Capitol Communicator is a Mid-Atlantic, regional resource focused on showcasing talent and great work in the communications industry and provides news, trends and education that influence creative business decisions while offering opportunities for networking, career enhancement and business exchange.



Wildfire’s work for Guilford College Wins Multiple Awards at the 34th Annual Educational Ad Awards

Wildfire client Guilford College received recognition in the 34th Annual Educational Advertising Awards with four awards, sponsored by Higher Education Marketing Report. This is the largest, oldest and most respected educational advertising awards competition in the country. More than 2,200 entries were received from more than 1,000 colleges, universities and secondary schools from all 50 states and several foreign countries.

Guilford won a Gold Award for Inside Guilford, an internal campaign newsletter and a Bronze Award for the school’s direct mail advertising. In addition, the college won two Merit Awards: one for its integrated marketing campaign that included out of home, transit displays, social media and collateral materials, and another for its billboard advertising.


Wildfire Rebrands Raycom Media, One of the Nation’s Largest Privately-Owned Local Media Companies

Winston-Salem, NC, – Local advertising and marketing agency Wildfire has created a partnership with Raycom Media to include rebranding and establishing the company’s long-term brand positioning. The new brand was rolled out at a company-wide internal meeting on December 11th and publically at the 4th Annual Raycom Media Camellia Bowl on December 16th of 2017 in Montgomery, Alabama. The Wildfire rebranding includes a variety of deliverables, including brand positioning, values, personality, proposition, promise, logo development, brand style guide and communication launch plan. The rebranding will continue to be implemented throughout 2018.

“Raycom Media is excited about the work we have done with the team at Wildfire and enjoyed the partnership to help us capture our vision,” said Lec Coble, Raycom Media VP of Marketing and Audience Development. “In this new era of multiplatform media, we felt it was time for our brand to represent that to our employees, our clients and those we hope would consider joining our team here at Raycom Media. We feel the new brand articulation helps use convey our leadership as Raycom Media has evolved into a company that provides digital solutions, community connections and content for our consumers and clients.”

Raycom is one of the nation’s largest privately-owned local media companies and owns and/or provides services for 65 TV stations and 2 radio stations in 44 markets located in 20 states. The group owns or offers coverage for stations covering 16% of U.S. television households and employs over 8,300 individuals in full and part-time positions. Raycom Media is the parent company of CNHI (community newspapers and information products; over 100 titles located in 23 states), PureCars (digital ad platform for the automotive industry), Raycom Sports (a marketing, production and events management and distribution company), Tupelo Raycom (sports and entertainment production company), RTM Productions (automotive programming production and marketing solutions company) and Broadview Media (a post-production/digital signage company). Raycom Media is headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama.



Congratulations from Archive’s 200 Best Package Designs

The Cakery and Chicken Kitchen packaging for Lowes Foods, along with Farmer’s Finest package design have been selected by Archive’s international jury panel for inclusion in the next international 200 Best Package Designs annual.

Since 2004, Lürzer’s Archive has been publishing the 200 Best series, featuring a range of different volumes focusing on a variety of graphic design disciplines. Each carries only work by the best 200 creatives to have submitted to the respective volume. Titles in this series are published every two years. A jury specially convened for each volume selects from the work submitted the items they consider to be the very best. In 2010, Lürzer’s Archive added a further title – “200 Best Packaging Design” – to the product range.



Print magazine congratulates Wildfire on being selected as a winner in the Print Regional Design Annual, with our entry for The Cakery at Lowes Foods

Print magazines Regional Design Annual competition stands apart and defines the design industry. The RDA is the industry’s most prestigious and well-respected American design competition with tens of thousands of art directors, studios and creative professionals looking to the RDA each year to find the country’s top creative talent.

Founded in 1940, Print focuses on a broad stroke of visual culture today, covering everything from publication design to interactive work, motion graphics, corporate branding, exhibitions, illustration and socially conscious design. Print is bold. Distinguished. Challenging. Experienced. Savvy. The longest-running stateside graphic design publication, it has won five National Magazine Awards—the industry’s highest honor.

Many thanks to the editors and judges that make up the Print Competition Staff for this great honor.


Wildfire ranks No. 2 out of the Top 25 Largest Triad Web development and design firms

Winston-Salem, NC — “The List” from The Business Journal has named Wildfire The Triad’s third largest web design and development firm. The Web Design Firms 2016 list ranked 25 area agencies by number of Web designers and total employees. Wildfire has built, hosts and helps maintain over 100 websites. In addition to website design, we offer a variety of digital marketing strategies for clients including search engine optimization/marketing, social media and blogging. Wildfire was third on last year’s list.


Basketball Season Ticket Mailer for Wake Forest University Athletics gets featured in Communication Arts magazine and the Exhibit section on commarts.com

Founded in 1959, Communication Arts is the premier source of inspiration for graphic designers, art directors, design firms, corporate design departments, advertising agencies, interactive designers, illustrators and photographers—everyone involved in visual communication. People involved in visual communication turn to Communication Arts for ideas and inspiration more than any other creative publication. CA’s editorials, feature articles and annual competitions provide new ideas and information while promoting the highest professional standards for the field.

Updated daily, CA’s online Exhibit section is designed to provide viewers with daily inspiration through multiple free features. Their Premium Online Content, included with a paid subscription, contains galleries of Communication Arts competition winners, over 250 in-depth feature articles, a media database of over 18,000 award-winning images and videos and a profile database of over 21,000 individuals and firms with their work.

Thank you CA for featuring our teams hard work!


The NACMA has honored Wildfire’s work for Wake Forest University Athletics with a Gold in the category of Season Ticket Sales Campaign

Initiated in 2003, the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators (NACMA) Best of Awards program honors outstanding achievement in marketing and promotions. Awards are presented in 13 categories, with each category divided into three groups based upon school size and conference affiliations to promote fairness. Nearly 1,000 entries were received.

Thank you NACMA for this great honor!


Wildfire and Partners Selected as Winners in the 30th Annual Educational Advertising Awards for Work on Wake Forest University and UNC School of the Arts

The Educational Advertising Awards is the largest educational advertising awards competition in the country. This year, over 2,000 entries were received from over one-thousand colleges, universities and secondary schools from all fifty states and several foreign countries.

Wildfire was recognized by the judges with one Silver and two Merit awards granted to Wake Forest University and University of North Carolina School of the Arts.


Carolina West Wireless and Wildfire Won Honors in the Category of Print Advertising – Carrier for the Holiday FSI from the Competitive Carriers Association

Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) was founded in 1992 by nine rural and regional wireless carriers as a carrier centric organization.  Since its founding, CCA has grown to become the nation’s leading association for competitive wireless providers serving all areas of the United States. Today, the licensed service area of CCA’s over 100 carrier members covers more than 95 percent of the nation.



Wildfire Partners with Lowes Foods, and Martin Lindstrom, Ranked #1 in Global Gurus Top 30, to Redefine the Local Grocery Chain’s Shopping Experience

Lowes Foods, along with award-winning branding expert Martin Lindstrom, approached Wildfire to assist in bringing Martin’s one-of-a-kind shopping vision to life through an in-store experience unlike any other in the category. Wildfire helped concept, design and implement a variety of store-within-a-store environments, including The Chicken Kitchen, SausageWorks and The Cakery. Each of these experiencesfrom the fun and folksy one-stop chicken shop, to the wonderfully wacky SausageWorks professor, and the sweet, sugary, square-filled Cakeryhas its own distinct personality and offering, giving shoppers a more memorable and enjoyable all-around experience.


Wildfire Wins Three Gold & Five Silver Davey Awards in the Category of Design/Print and Commercial for Lowes Foods, The Dixie Classic Fair, Nocqua Adventure Gear, Milner’s Brother’s, Farmer’s Finest and Wake Forest Athletics

David defeated the giant Goliath with a big idea and a little rock – the sort of thing small firms do each year. The annual International Davey Awards is tauted as the largest and most prestigious awards competition exclusively for the “Creative Davids” of marketing, who derive their strength from big ideas, rather than stratospheric budgets.



The Dieline Highlights Wildfire’s Package Design for Farmer’s Finest

The Dieline, the world’s top package design website, has once again recognized Wildfire for its packaging work. The new Blue Ridge brand looked to Wildfire to create labels for mouth-watering appeal. Three gourmet burgers have been created so far – Bacon & Cheddar, Mushroom & Swiss, and Blue Cheese & Onion – and come deliciously pre-stuffed, ready for grilling!



Wildfire and Two Other Local Businesses Partner to Introduce Flywheel Co-working Space

Wildfire has partnered with two other locally-owned businesses, Workplace Strategies and Storr Office Environments, to introduce Flywheel. Flywheel is an 11,000+ square-foot co-working space located in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter at 525@Vine and will be open 24/7 for innovative professionals to come together to work on the fly, learn and share knowledge. Opening in June, there will be flexible short and long-term membership plans, including day passes, for open and enclosed workspaces.

To learn more about Flywheel, visit www.flywheelcowork.com.


NASDAQ Welcomes National General

Congratulations to National General – looking good in Times Square as its listing on The NASDAQ Stock Market is celebrated. Proud to have designed their logo and be their partner.


Wildfire ranks No. 3 out of the Top 25 Largest Triad Web development and design firms

Winston-Salem, NC — “The List” from The Business Journal has named Wildfire The Triad’s third largest web design and development firm. The Web Design Firms 2014 list ranked 25 area agencies by number of Web designers and total employees. Wildfire has built, hosts and helps maintain over 100 websites. In addition to website design, we offer a variety of digital marketing strategies for clients including search engine optimization/marketing, social media and blogging. Wildfire was fourth on last year’s list.


Wildfire Expands into Recruiting Business

Winston-Salem, NC — Wildfire, a Winston-Salem-based integrated marketing communications agency, announces the expansion of their new recruiting division – WF Connections.

The agency has six years of experience successfully placing qualified candidates with clients under the name Wildfire Marketing Contract Services. As a result of its continued growth, Wildfire now brings a new face to this division as they expand further into the search arena.

With a talented team of Connection Specialists, WF Connections activates its large and diverse network, built on more than 20 years of contact development, to deliver long-term, short-term and temporary-to-permanent placements in the fields of Graphic Design & Production, Marketing, Branding & Communications, Finance & Banking and Human Resources.

“The difference between us and traditional recruiters is in what we call the Fit Factor,” explains WF Connections Managing Director Katie Kenney. “Finding the right candidate goes beyond their qualifications on paper. We work to understand not only the position, but also the company culture, to ensure our candidates are truly poised to be a successful addition to the team.”

To determine best fit and provide a successful connection, the company uses a proprietary process that starts with client engagement and ultimately ends with onboarding the right talent. With this effective connection process, as well as its distinct emphasis on fit between individual and company, WF Connections has positioned itself as a new breed of recruiters – and is excited for clients, big and small, to experience the power of their connections.

WF Connections is located in the existing Wildfire office at 709 North Main Street in downtown Winston-Salem. For more information, visit www.wfconnections.com.


GO-FER the Win: Wildfire’s Dixie Classic Fair Campaign Wins Multiple International Awards

Winston-Salem, NC – Wildfire’s work with the Dixie Classic Fair on its “GO-FER the fun” campaign has recently been awarded several Hall of Honor Communications Awards from the International Association of Fairs & Expositions (IAFE).

The IAFE holds the awards competition annually, with the purpose of improving the advertising and publicity programs of fairs throughout the world, and providing recognition of fairs with outstanding campaigns. The competition is divided into five divisions, based on fair attendance, and members of the Advertising, Promotions and Public Relations IAFE Committee, along with media and ad agency representatives, judge all of the entries across various categories. Each entry is based on several criteria, including whether it is motivational; informative; indicative of creative excellence; appropriate to activities, audience and media used; utilizing a central theme; and indicative of production excellence.

This year, the Dixie Classic Fair competed in the IAFE’s Category 3 division, for fairs with attendance of 250,001 to 500,000. Its “GO-FER the fun” campaign featured the fun, food and competition that fairgoers look forward to each year, all brought to life by the fun-loving face of the campaign: Topher the Gopher.

With the help of both Wildfire and Topher the Gopher, the Dixie Classic Fair took home a heap of ribbons across five different categories, including:

1st place – Television & Radio Advertisement

2nd place – Outdoor Advertisement

3rd place – Magazine Ad & Web Advertisement


Wildfire’s Packaging Design of Lowes Foods Highlighted in The Dieline

Winston-Salem, NC – Wildfire has received recognition for its Lowes Foods Chicken Kitchen packaging from The Dieline, the world’s top package design website.

Chicken Kitchen is a new “store within a store” for roasted, fried or grilled chicken, flavored chicken wings, chicken salad and sides found in the deli section of Lowes Foods.

The branding is a unique, one-of-a-kind, fun and slightly folk art-inspired, meant to grab the attention of kids and parents alike. Custom die lines based upon the chicken character playfully distinguish the packaging, “breaking the frame” both physically and visually. Kids boxes were printed with several different variations of jokes and kids’ games on the side, as well as a surprise here or there if you were to take a peek under the box. Ultimately the packaging is one element supporting a unique store environment boasting ‘chicken you’d cross the road for.’ In addition to the brand mark and packaging, Wildfire also created in-store signage, Menu boards and website.

Both Wildfire and Lowes Foods are headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.


Wildfire Heats Up AIGA Winston-Salem Studio Tour

On October 22, Triad NC AIGA hosted the Winston-Salem Studio Tour, giving local creatives an inside look at the Triad’s leading creative agencies—from graphic design and advertising, to letterpress and web development. Each studio was asked to open its doors that evening to showcase its space, work, and company culture, all within a pre-determined theme. Wildfire’s theme was—yep, you guessed it—“Fire Gone Wild”. And its presentation was nothing short of its name. From a fire-themed music playlist and spicy foods and drinks, to a fiery photobooth with the resident devil, a fire pit with s’mores, and a real-life fire spinner, Wildfire embraced all things fire and took the event by firestorm. After the event, attendees were asked to vote for the top studio tour in the following three categories: Outstanding Theme, Coolest Office Space, and Best Experience. In its namesake’s true fashion, Wildfire burned through the competition and won all three awards. (Yes, you read that correctly. All three.) …Is it just us, or did it suddenly get all hot in here?


Wildfire Recognized for Brothers Restaurant Identity Work

Winston-Salem, NC —Local marketing agency Wildfire is currently featured in the online complement to leading trade journal Communications Arts magazine, commarts.com, for their brand identity work for Brothers restaurant. Creative pieces, including the new brand mark, visual identity, menus, uniforms and website, have been spotlighted within the site’s Exhibit feature, which showcases new and innovative projects in graphic design and advertising from around the world.

The brand’s new identity is very much rooted in the balanced personalities of Brothers owners John and Buddy Milner, who originally engaged Wildfire as their agency partner in 2012 for their first restaurant venture, Milner’s American Southern.

“The big brother is quiet and serious, while the younger brother is lighthearted and quick to tell a joke,“ explains Chief Creative Officer Mike Grice, adding, “The new brand captures both personalities—it’s both raw and refined, combining natural and industrial elements to celebrate sophisticated flavors in a fun, laid-back environment.”

The restaurant’s new menu, featuring new American cuisine with a creative twist, has certainly lived up to the image as well. Brothers was voted Best New Restaurant in the 2013 Winston-Salem Journal Readers Choice Awards.

Chief Creative Officer Mike Grice led the Wildfire creative team, including Anna Jacobs, writer, and Traci Naff, lead designer. Interactive Director Chip Crutchfield and Lead Programmer Matt Rowland led the web work.

Brothers restaurant is located at 2391 Lewisville Clemmons Road in Clemmons, NC. For more information, visit https://themilnerbrothers.com


WFU Football Ranked #2

Winston-Salem, N.C. —The Wake Forest University (WFU) Football Schedule Poster designed by Wildfire, a Winston-Salem-based integrated marketing communications firm, was ranked number 2 in Bleacher Report’s list of The Top 50 Team Schedule Posters.

Bleacher Report (https://bleacherreport.com) is a one of the most popular sports news websites with a growing monthly audience of more than 14 million unique users.

Every year, the site collects schedule posters from football programs around the country and ranks them based on the five categories of School Spirit, Schedule Clarity, Photo Quality, Creativity and Awesomeness.

Lead Wildfire designer Kaylan Hufham and team received a 9/10 in 4 out of 5 categories, with specific applause around the use of a reflection in a player’s visor to feature the team and mascot. “We set out to bring the Demon Deacons to life as a team, not just one player, in a creative and impactful way,” explains Hufham.

Under the ‘Awesomeness’ category, Bleacher Report featured columnist Lafe Peavler states, “Whether or not you’re a Wake Forest fan, you can’t go wrong with this poster hanging on your wall.”

This is the first piece in a yearlong, multi-sport campaign by Wildfire, agency partner to Wake Forest Athletics, that will highlight the WFU student-athlete for not only their competition in game play, but also their good nature and generosity. “It’s this dichotomous personality that makes Wake Forest student-athletes truly unique,” says Chace Hoglund, Strategic Planner at Wildfire, adding, “Wake Forest athletes are demons on the field, and deacons off it.”

Hoglund oversaw the project alongside Wake Forest Athletics Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing and Special Projects, Mike Odom and Wake Forest Athletics Director of Marketing, Bradley Keen.



Wildfire Wins Small Business of the Year Award at Annual Chamber Meeting

Winston-Salem – Wildfire, LLC was awarded the Truliant Small Business Award at the 127th Annual Meeting of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce held at the Benton Convention Center. The award was presented by Truliant Federal Credit Union to over 800 business leaders at the event. It is the only meeting in the community that gathers CEOs and high-level corporate executives to discuss the Chamber’s key accomplishments over the past year.

Wildfire is a marketing company that promises to grow its clients’ businesses while lowering their blood pressure and doing it with the highest quality strategic and creative products. Since its founding in 2002, the company has expanded to over 50 full-time employees and is the Triad’s third largest marketing-communications firm.

“We are beyond thrilled to receive this honorable award,” states Brad Bennett, chief executive officer. “This year, we’ve started new relationships, large and small in scope, across a diverse range of industries, and expanded existing relationships. Being recognized by the Chamber for our hard work is a great feeling.”

Wildfire represents Hanesbrands, Inc, BB&T, Lowe’s, Wake Forest Athletics, Carolina West Wireless, The Army National Guard, Dixie Classic Fair, among others. In addition, the agency is active with various community organizations including AARF and the North Carolina Triad Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.

Additional finalists included a/perture cinema, Concinnity Marketing & Technology, Davenport Transportation Consulting and Pro Benefits.

Held in the North Main Hall of the Benton Convention Center, the Annual Meeting was sponsored by Cook Medical, Duke Energy and Truliant Federal Credit Union.

About the Chamber

The Greater Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce is the leading business organization in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, representing nearly 1,800 area businesses that are committed to increased economic development in the region. The Chamber is dedicated to establishing Winston-Salem as a technology-driven economic center, and provides services to strengthen existing businesses, support entrepreneurs, and encourage small business creation. The Chamber supports public school student achievement, workforce, and higher education development.