Case Study by Eileen Ugarkovic RGD, Senior Designer at TMX Equicom
Solium provides cloud-enabled services for equity administration, financial reporting and compliance. Through innovative technology and services, Solium powers efficiency and accuracy of share plan administration for both public and private companies around the globe. The company’s flagship product – Shareworks – is a software platform that is a complete, integrated, cloud-based solution for equity plan management.
This was the second annual report we had done for our client Solium. We started the project Feb 3, 2014 and delivered files to the printer April 2. The client’s main goal was to convey two parallel stories: first, to showcase the results of Solium and second to focus on the Shareworks platform.
We designed the front of the annual as a 9.5”x12” pocket folder with stitched pages that can be used as a stand-alone marketing piece and printed the MD&A (management's discussion & analysis) and Financials at 8.5”x11” so that they could slide into the pocket.
Solium’s audience for the annual report included shareholders, employees of the company, stakeholders, management, the board of directors and potential investors.
The project started with a client meeting to discuss the highlights of the past year and the company’s future goals. Following this meeting, our team wrote a creative brief which was used throughout the process to inform and guide all work as we went along.
With support from the investor relations professional representing Solium, the next step was to devise a flat plan for the report. This approach helps address the issue of how many pages will be needed by looking at the different spreads and allocating information to each page. A flat plan is also helpful for keeping the project organized and encouraging the client to visualize how the content will be laid out.
Before the creative brief and flat plan were even started, we had the dilemma of how we were going to tell two simultaneous stories in one piece. Through spontaneous brainstorming before the initial client call, we came up with the idea of using an insert with short-cut pages between full-size spreads. The full brochure pages would feature information on Solium and the organization's corporate content, while the short-cut pages would focus on communicating key product strengths of the Shareworks platform. This was presented to the client as a 2D diagram to help them grasp the concept and obtain their approval for the idea.
A big challenge was that Solium was undergoing a re-brand during the time when the annual report was being produced. The client wanted the project to reflect their new look, even though it had not yet been fully implemented. As a result, our design was based solely on colour swatches and an approved web page concept provided by the brand team, without any final colour breakdowns or approved images.
The client was fairly involved with the project, providing some content and approving the written content produced by our team. We sourced images from Thinkstock that fit the desired message of the piece, which Solium then approved for inclusion in the report. The client was also able to provide some imagery from their new image library. In the end, our annual report was a strong fit with the new brand, despite the limited information available.
The result was a unique brochure/pocket folder piece that clearly communicated both intended messages while distinguishing the parent company from the “Shareworks” platform. We demonstrated that Solium has a global presence in its footprint, client base and growth potential by using a time-lapsed map. The company made a large acquisition in the past year and reported record revenues which were showcased through bar charts and financial highlights. The cover was die-cut to reveal the shorter pages that told the Shareworks story underneath. These standout elements were well received, creating a memorable impression while also serving the functional purpose of keeping the parallel story lines defined and organized.
The print run was 700 copies, which were mailed out directly to the shareholders.
The client was very pleased with the report and we carried over the look and feel of the piece into a powerpoint presentation for their Annual General Meeting (AGM). For this, the CEO and Director presented material relating to the performance and strategy of the organization through slides designed with the same imagery, typography, colours and overall design used in the printed report.
- Listen to your client carefully. Great relationships, whether personal or professional, start with asking the right questions and truly listening to what other people have to say. Good listening will determine the direction of the project and might help identify opportunities to initiate a unique solution.
- Avoid industry jargon. For many clients, the design process can seem very foreign. Using language that they don’t understand adds confusion and possibly disinterest. It’s best practice for us to learn the client’s language rather than expecting them to learn ours. It is necessary that we understand the client’s goals and objectives if the project is going to be a success.
- Don’t play the blame game. Many people are involved in the process and there will inevitably be breakdowns in communication. Even if the client is in the wrong, it’s not productive to point fingers.
- Keep to the schedule. When delays occur, the creative process becomes a lot more difficult to complete under a compressed deadline. A well-defined timeline helps establish expectations, resulting in a better client-designer relationship and less last-minute panic.
- Design is led by information. Designers are problem-solvers, and we need to have a clear understanding of a project's theme, direction, content and objectives before we can show a concept that effectively addresses the issues at hand.
- Trust your creative partner. The design process will be more successful if you are able to give us the space to flex our creativity and you respect our professional advice.
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