SoGood Case Study: Photographic approach conveys core beliefs of FQM in annual report from Works Design

Case Study by Scott McFarland RGD, Design Director and Kevin Ward, Senior Art Director, Works Design

This project was selected as a winner and Judge's Choice in the For-Profit, Client-Initiated category of RGD's 2014 So(cial) Good Design Awards.


First Quantum Minerals (FQM), formerly Inmet Mining, has been a client of Works Design since 2011. For its 2013 corporate responsibility report, FQM focused on operations in Zambia and Panama capturing stories of local initiatives through photography and narrative to illustrate the company's broader philosophy. Works Design developed a design inspired by photojournalistic publications such as Life and National Geographic to convey the organization's activities, challenges and successes. 



The report was to be magazine-style and engaging, showing the readers the depth of FQM's commitment to communities and the environment and inviting them to see the company in a new light.



January 2014: Project kick-off
January to March 2014: Copywriting process
February to March 2014: Design development
March to April 2014: Production
End of April 2014: Printing, bindery and delivery


Design Process

To its credit, FQM really wanted to do something different: they wanted to explain their approach to sustainability everywhere they operate, by telling frank, richly detailed stories about their performance in two countries: Zambia and Panama. These stories were to be accompanied by photographs that were more reminiscent of what you would see in a news or travel publication rather than a corporate report. As reference, our creative team reviewed a number of magazines from around the globe. The project team included a writer, proofreaders, photographer, art director, designer and production staff.

FQM commissioned a first-rate photojournalist and then Works Design came on as the writing and design part of the equation. Our job was to provide a structure, to review and combine the material, to incorporate elements of client data and make everything work together as one powerful piece of communication.



There were two additional concepts originally presented to the client other than the final one that went to production. One with a predominantly black background and another using colour elements. As much as the photography looked good on top of a black background there were concerns over reproduction on the uncoated paper and the overall darkness of the esthetic. The colour approach looked very good as well but reduced the overall visual impact of the photography. Ultimately the decision was made to go for a more clean, minimalistic approach – allowing the photography to be the primary focus of the report.


Working with FQM was a great experience as they had bought into the concept of a magazine approach before we began developing our design. They also had hired the photographer directly and were involved in the image selection process along with the writer and our creative team.



There were some challenges in developing an effective structure for the report. Because we were dealing with 80 pages of photography and text we wanted to create a consistent visual language for readers while building in as much variation as possible. Flow and pace of the report was essential in maintaining reader interest as well so much time was spent on pagination development.



Both the writer and the creative staff had access to the image library and collectively established those images to be featured. There were regular story meetings between the writer and creative staff to align content and image selection. The writer also highlighted image ideas within the text which streamlined the selection process for designers. While we needed to keep the reader engaged with compelling imagery, it was important to make sure every picture was relevant to the story. No matter how good a photo might be as a stand-alone image, if it didn't fit the story, we didn't use it. 


Other challenges included selecting the right type of paper and binding methods for the book. The report needed to be sustainable in order to stay in line with its message, but working with this fantastic photography it needed to be high enough quality to support optimum reproduction. With thicker, coated, sheets of paper, perfect binding was on the table. We also considered a sewn bound spine to convey a more organic look that was complimentary to the subject matter.



The other part of that equation, though, was that this was a sustainability report – with partial distribution in underdeveloped countries. We were concerned that better quality paper would create a disconnect with the visual concept and the content. After much deliberation, we ended up using a thinner uncoated paper in a self-cover, stitch-bound format. I think the final approach strikes a good balance.




We judge the success of any project primarily by whether it meets the established objectives. In this case, the client was very happy with the results.


Through carefully crafted text and stunning imagery we showed the complexity – the choices, challenges and limits – that confronts a mining company which is committed to operating sustainably. We used a photojournalistic approach to show what “corporate responsibility” really means. Unvarnished stories about local initiatives and local people show what First Quantum is doing, the challenges it faces and the successes it has achieved in having a positive impact everywhere it operates.

The design and content of this report supports a socially conscious theme through its clean and frank approach. Both the photography and the content tell the company's story through unique, complex, real-life examples. The reader gets the sense of the how FQM is acting on its beliefs.


“Working with Kevin Ward, Andrew Oliver and rest of the team at Works Design was an absolute pleasure. They took on an unconventional idea with gusto and the results were outstanding. They truly nailed it.” - Caitlin Glynn-Morris, Corporate Manager, Community Relations and Development, First Quantum Minerals Ltd.



"Beautiful and impactful photography, understated typography and layout - the recipe for a successful design. The designers did a really great job of letting the photos do the heavy lifting while serving up bits and pieces of important information in a way that is digestible to the reader. Bravo!" - 2014 SoGood Design Awards Judge Joseph Duffy 


Designer Takeaways 

  1. Read the text thoroughly and keep an open dialogue between the creative team and the writer. This ensures a seamless connection between imagery and text.
  2. Allow for variance, for flexibility, within the page grid. This gives the designer more options and more control when it comes to setting pace, ensuring visual diversity and, ultimately, holding the reader’s interest.
  3. Let the photography tell the story and keep graphic embellishments to a minimum. Use active white space to give emphasis to content and to guide the reader from one element to another.


Client Takeaways

  1. As the client, your trust is the designer's most important creative tool. Keep an open mind and don’t allow your personal tastes to override design choices that are right for the project and the target audience
  2. Provide examples of things you think are suitable and not suitable to help guide your creative team.
  3. Be mindful of changes you make and their effect on project scope. More pages invariably means an increase in cost.


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About the So(cial) Good Design Awards
Every year, RGD invites submissions of graphic design projects done under the theme of communication design for social good; work with the power to incite action and make meaningful change in the way we live our lives. When we approach social issues creatively, we can make a real difference in the world. The So(cial) Good Design Awards gives voice to the important work designers are doing and can do to change the way we think and act.

For more information on the SoGood Awards, click here