Mar 19, 2009

Not Your Average Annual Report

Kristy Lafollette's picture
Kristy Lafollette
Director, Program Planning

Print work is a rare bird these days in our oh-so-web-centric landscape, so we were thrilled when the Women's Foundation of California invited us to design their 2008 annual report.

If you're not familiar, the Women’s Foundation of California is a statewide public foundation that supports women and girls who are creating social change within their communities. Focused on five key areas—economic security, reproductive rights, environmental health and justice, young women’s development and leadership, and women’s philanthropy—the Foundation awards strategic grants to groups seeking greater social equity for women and girls.

The Foundation wanted to take a very different approach with the report than in previous years: Rather than coming across formal and boring, it should read like a savvy magazine. After a recent re-brand effort led by Palo Alto's Totem Brand Strategy, the Foundation was eager to show its fresh face, and the annual report was going to be its coming out party. As with most non-profit work, we knew we had to be expedient and efficient with Hot's contributions to the project, especially amid this increasingly disturbing recession.


With Totem in charge of content, Hot Studio kicked off the project by leading a day-long brand design workshop to establish the tone and key visual assets. From there, we immediately dove into production. We aimed to strike a balance between providing informative data (the expected) and inspiring content (the unexpected).

After the Foundation chose grant partners to profile in the report, we worked closely with Totem to ensure the interview copy and visual layouts captured each woman's unique story. At the same time, the report had to appeal to different audiences—board members, community activists, potential donors. If you've ever tried to do this in an annual report, you know what kind of a challenge this is! But Totem offered us a focused, passionate, and extremely knowledgeable creative partnership, and the client was hands-on and open to new ideas, so we were able to produce an emotionally striking (yes!) piece of work. You can see a few shots of the annual report below.

If you're interested in a copy (and you should be, because the Women's Foundation of California is an organization we all must know about and support), please email the Foundation at or call them at (415) 837-1113.


A special thanks goes out to our incredible print designer, Piper Murakami, for her tireless efforts, Totem founder Suzan Briganti for introducing us to the project (as well as being a wonderful partner to work with), and, last but not least, Sacramento photographer Kent Lacin for shooting amazing photography in a very short time.

Enjoy a different kind of read.


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Joseph Chan's picture

You did a good job redesigning the website.

Cathy Schreiber's picture

This is a print annual report, not our website. I would encourage readers to download the full report from our website or request a printed copy. The entire design and copy are spectacular - a dramatic departure from our previous work. Our image as a foundation has been wonky and static, which belies what we actually do: identify and invest California's fiercest women leaders who are building a broad, diverse and effective movement for social justice. The primary audience for this report is individual donors (primarily women) for whom we provide the opportunity to meet, learn from and support activists on the ground who receive our grants. Donors are a critical part of the movement...they see themselves not simply as check-writers. They are 'donor activists' who choose their philanthropic change strategies carefully. We loved working with the Hot and Totem teams on this project. With one publication, our image and reputation among donors and funders in the field catapulted. We're now being approached by reps in DC for our opinion on national policies. That's a pretty amazing ROI. And then again, it's not really about us. It's about advancing a movement for equity and justice for all of us. We just happen to know that women's leadership is the key to achieving it. Great design (not just good design) can bring attention to the issues we care about...and can rapidly transform the solid efforts of the nonprofit sector into real, lasting positive change on a sweeping level. We do not take this for granted.

Joseph Chan's picture

Not bad for a basic website yet it needs something more to stand out on the internet.

Joseph Chan's picture

Not bad for a for basic website. The colors are good, layout, yet it something more. Maybe this is a printed piece and not a web site at all? I don't understand.

Jack Stroughman's picture

Mediocre guys. You can do better.

Henrik Olsen's picture

Great job Piper and Kristy!

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