Case Study by Caroline Bruckner RGD, Creative Director at TMX Equicom
Gran Tierra Energy (GTE) is an international oil and gas exploration and production company that holds interests in properties in Colombia, Argentina, Peru and Brazil. GTE wanted their annual report to highlight a very successful year to investors in ways that would reflect the company's culture of innovation and discovery.
The main audience for the annual report is the 'retail investor' — an individual investor who buys and sells securities for a personal account rather than on behalf of another company or organization. The widening use of online trading and better access to financial information has increased the number of retail investors in recent years. Secondary audiences include institutional investors and employees of the organization.
We started the project with a client interview to gain a full understanding of the past year and the company's future, and to establish the report's high-level objectives. Next, the team went back and wrote what we call a T-Brief (Translation Brief), putting everything we heard on paper. This went to the client for approval, and ultimately became the document against which we measured the creative output.
The next part of the process involved collaboration with Canada's leading Investor Relations professionals under the shared TMX Equicom banner – together we began to build ideas for the strategic messaging and story. We find this unique collaborative approach allows us to combine the most compelling creative with a deep understanding of business and capital markets to produce strong communications for our clients. The concept was presented as a content outline together with the design of a few spreads to illustrate the look and feel of the piece.
Once approved, the collaboration continued as we built out the full design. We reached out to employees and had them send local photography from their job sites and surrounding areas. There was a strong response and we received many great shots from all over South America.
We worked closely with our printer, Flash Reproductions, to settle on the best binding and paper options well in advance, to ensure we would have the paper on hand and would be able to address any unexpected issues well before sending the final report to print. We wanted to use an uncoated stock with a smooth finish and good paper formation to ensure nice ink coverage without mottling. For the front cover, we chose natural toned paper with a subtle fiber texture to communicate a handcrafted feeling. We debated on whether to use white ink as a base layer before printing the colour typography on the natural coloured paper, but decided to print the process inks directly on the paper instead, as the colours still came through and it gave the cover the natural look we were after.
The design was built using Adobe Creative Suite. From kick-off to delivery of the printed books, the timeline for the entire project was about six months.
Obtaining print-quality geological maps that can be edited to match the design of a report is often a challenge, as the software used by geologists does not generally export vector-friendly files. In many cases we need to redraw them, with painstaking attention to detail to ensure accuracy.
The geologists who create these maps tend to include a lot of technical detail that can overwhelm investors trying to understand the high-level story. We worked very hard to simplify the maps to include a level of detail relevant to our audience.
We designed the annual with two views in mind—one high level and one more specific to the work being done. This direction led to the development of the two-part book format. We knew we wanted something unique, something that would appear just as innovative in printed form as the exploration work being undertaken by GTE’s people on the ground. To achieve this we incorporated green stitching, uniquely flecked coloured paper and metal wire binding for a slightly industrial feel.
We developed bold headlines to convey the theme and unite the two pieces together, and wrapped it all up in a custom double-bound book jacket. There is an art to exploration and discovery, and we wanted to find a way to express this while maintaining a corporate feel. Custom typography was created, blending hand-painted lettering within a corporate font framework. The colours lend a South American feel appropriate for Gran Tierra’s operational locations and work well for both the textured, natural-toned cover and the crisp white interior paper.
Financial data and production numbers were presented in a dashboard format, simplifying the information to its essence to ensure clear communication. The large book tells the high-level corporate story, while the smaller stitched book includes a personal account from a Senior Manager working on the ground at the Moqueta project. Hand-painted textures connect the pieces and subtly communicate the art behind the exploration success GTE has achieved. A PDF is available for download here.
While the book won several design awards, the most valuable response for us was an email our client received from a shareholder. This person took the time to compliment GTE for knowing the value of good design and the importance of presenting their facts and figures with creative, intriguing communication materials. Reaching that shareholder is the ultimate objective for us.
- Start by listening to your client and weave their objectives into your solution as deeply as you can, into as many details as possible. This ultimately leads to the most unique, effective solutions.
- Start early! Advance planning is needed when you want to include unique binding, printing effects, etc.
- Work closely with a trusted printer, and bring them into the project early as well. They can provide key guidance, confirm that your idea is feasible, and sometimes offer additional options you might not have considered.
- When evaluating a creative solution that has been presented to you, always keep the intended audience for the piece in mind and consider whether the message you want to convey is being communicated clearly to that audience.
- Resist the urge to convey every detail about your company or product. It’s better to focus on one core message that your audience will remember long after the piece has been viewed.
- When detailed information needs to be presented, look for a solution that creates hierarchy so that the end user can give the piece a quick read and still take away some high level messages.