Pfizer: annual report connections

Pfizer’s new Annual Review document is out, and it’s time for shareholders to pay close attention. Some will focus on governance, others on amortization. I’m focused on the cover.

Pfizer Annual Report CoverThe design
Two red-magenta spores, connected by a strand, explode visually over a dark background. We won’t know they’re cancer cells until we open and read. For now, they’re abstract objects representing science, art and fascination. Ditto for the typeface; the white dots on black evoke a movie marquis, or points of light in a dark, unknowing sky.

Intended meanings
LogoLounge talks about the spore shape as a major design trend of 2010, its multiple arms “reaching out to convey a sense of connectivity and of serving multitudes.” That seems in line with Pfizer’s general message of science serving people. It could also be about product differentiation, to emphasize Pfizer’s point that “it is unwise to rely on one or two blockbuster drugs” (p17).

The connecting tendril may be the link between life and science. It could be a reassurance to people affected by the Pfizer-Wyeth merger. Or a battle cry of pharmaceutical researchers, like the ones pictured inside the book, who are challenged to connect the dots.

The general point is this: Pfizer based their cover design on this semi-abstract image, knowing that it would be seen by investors for at least the next year. It stands to reason that they would try and leverage the powers of emotion and ambiguity. Choices like these are rarely made by accident.

Of course, the rational fact that these are cancer cells should be compelling enough on its own. Here is a foe worthy of your investment dollars, no artsy interpretation needed.


Pfizer Annual Review
LogoLounge 2010 Logo Trends
Critical review of the Pfizer Logo Redesign


Print ad analysis: finance and art direction

Back in 2008, I noticed something about financial print ads. In almost every case, the ad design included a strong upwards movement: the way a photo was cropped, or the angle of a background. In one case an office building had been photoshopped into a giant up arrow.

It made sense. After all, if you’re reaching investors, why not link your brand with the concept of “upness”?

We all know what happened next in the economy. Suddenly all that optimism seemed misplaced. Now that the post-recession ads have been out for a while, I thought I’d assess their use of directional design.

Most in-your-face is the “Turn Here” campaign from Fidelity. The green arrow is the beacon, a navigation system built into your retirement plan. Few executions show the arrow going straight up or straight ahead; there are bends in the road. But surely if we stay on the line, we can all be saved.

Fidelity 2010

Ally turning things around

Then there’s Ally Bank, a brand introduced in 2009—and GMAC’s way of moving on from difficult times. Take a look. A giant logo visually turns things around. After that, everything will be “Straightforward,” as promised by the multifaceted tagline.

Barclays Capital (below) mentions the road to success in its headline, as we’re faced with the ups and downs of suspension bridge cables. Still, the road points straight up on the page, leading to some tree-covered hills.

Credit Suisse

And finally, Credit Suisse has at least three executions, all in love with whitespace, and all using models who have the audacity to look up.


A great article from 2009 talks some more about financial campaigns at large: