Visual design: Goldman Sachs’ 10K

When a corporate reputation is under scrutiny, could slick communication save the day? Goldman Sachs is hoping with their annual report design.

Goldman Sachs 2010 Annual ReportThe intended message
With all the accusations, Goldman’s messaging strategy is crucial. To sum it up: “We performed for our clients in 2010 and we’re hell-bent on continuing that. Also, we’re looking into where we might have gone wrong.”

To support this, the words harmonize with visuals: a steady dose of well-dressed people in well-dressed offices; global imagery exhibiting power; and some balanced touches of community outreach.

Their interactive version feels like it’s built for tablets, with spacious navigation and features designed to slide along a touch screen. If the medium is the message, then this is just one bit of proof that Goldman still cares about the details.

Is it working?
To put it crudely, Goldman’s visual message is one of stubbornness. They acknowledge a need for oversight and transparency with their words, but most of their content is geared to profit-driven clients and investors. They aim to be seen as unbreakable, unwavering, able to weather the storm without flinching. Concerns of the “general community” are addressed, but that isn’t their main point.

The question is, has it helped? The current media environment is none too flattering, so on the surface it doesn’t feel that way.

On the other hand, if you’re a client or investor, it could be comforting stuff.

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The Goldman Sachs 2010 Annual Report

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.

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