A non-profit organization advocating for patients' rights approached me to design a cover for their annual report. It had to be done within an extremely precarious time frame - a turn around of 72 hours. The client requested that the project be done without a creative brief, suggesting that would save time. Hesitantly, I agreed: this was a real-world conundrum for any designer.
The only requirements provided by the client were that cover included the organization's logo, the title, and a tagline. The booklet was to be 5x5" with bleeds.
I talked to a few people working at the organization and perused the website to get an idea about their identity.
"Helping hands" was the idiom I had mind was the image that came to my mind. Hands symbolise support, but they also can indicate strength: the organisation's mandate is to empower patients and have an impact on conditions in the health system. After being given the go-ahead by the client, I created an image reflecting this concept.
Despite her initial approval, the client felt that the cover did not adequately reflect what she had in her mind. At this point, she asked for a cover which included a diversity of people reflecting the breadth of their clients in combination with an image conveying that this was a health-related organisation.
Wishing I had insisted on a creative brief in the first instance, and with time ticking, I returned to the drawing board. My second design solution incorporated a mosaic of people representing the idea of diversity coming together. I used green as my overarching colour palette, drawing on associations of health of the colour green in North America. In keeping with this palette, I incorporated fresh grass into the design symbolising new growth and strength of new beginnings.
As is wont to do in real-world projects, disaster struck! The client informed me for the first time that the the particular project involved two parties as decision makers. The other decision-maker, presenting a government agency who had funded the project, had entered the game. This second client was the final decision-maker. She indicated that the palette and design style needed to reflect the colour and image on the funder's logo: a blue and yellow drawing of the local landscape. The logo of the organization that had originally hired me would not appear at all anymore. The rules of the game had been radically re-written.
Back to the drawing board I went, aiming to address three different communication questions: How to convey healthy living? How to represent the impact of patients supporting and empowering each other? How to do this in a style and palette reflective of the logo?
In keeping with the funder's request, I created a graphic mimicing the logo: a landscape of mountains, ocean, and beach, which I felt also represented healthy living. I added arrows to suggest movement, purpose, and direction, characteristics evident in this non-profit organization. I incorporated a line drawing of two dandelion and seeds spreading in the wind, symbolising the far-reaching impact of the patient support group. A series of horizontal lines were suggestive of opening blinds, representing the transparency of the organisation as evidenced in this annual report.
At this point, the overall concept was accepted. However, the government funder decided that there could be no additions to the elements depicted in their logo and she wanted to make sure the logo stood out on the page. I redid the image in a toned down version of the blues of the colour palette and simplified the water structure significantly, ensuring that the logo popped. The dandelions were removed. The cover was accepted.
This process taught me to never work without a creative brief - it's beneficial for all involved, even when there's a tight timeline. This particular timeline suddenly became more flexible as well when the second party appeared.