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Design for the British University Finance Directors Group (BUFDG)

Background

The British Universities Finance Directors Group (BUFDG) represents a membership of financial Directors from Higher Education institutions across the United Kingdom. We have been working with BUFDG since 2016 on a large range of design projects. These include an array of print projects such as annual reports, tailored engagement reports for each of their members and printed guides for aspects of finance for higher education. We have also created branding guidelines for their annual conference.

We’ve worked with CWS for several years now, over a number of annual and one-off projects. Their team always bring a creativity to the table which helps our publications to stand out in the corporate arena.

Most recently, CWS produced a large amount of original artwork for a 120-page educational booklet which has been circulated widely across our sector and been downloaded over 2,500 times. CWS delivered the project on time and budget despite our own timescales shifting considerably during the project

Matt Sisson

Head of Membership BUFDG

Design

When we first began working with BUFDG we had very few restrictions or set branding to work with. This has granted us the chance to experiment with a range of styles throughout the years, resulting in a diverse range of illustration styles, so each design is fresh and interesting. Each new design has added to what has become a clear visual language for their brand, creating cohesion across the visual identity of the brand despite the variety within the body of work we have created.

Printed and Digital Annual Reports 

Each year since 2017 BUFDG has asked us to create an annual report to outline the highlights of their year to their members. Each one typically includes letters from those in management roles, testimonies of their membership, an overview of accounts, any key stories from the past year and any highlights to look forward to for the coming year. There will also typically be a member profile and key stats which interspersed throughout the document.

BUFDG implements a practice called Integrated reporting throughout all of their annual reporting. This is where generated value is seen not merely in terms of the financial perspective, but also from aspects of relationships, social engagement and research. These often define the structure of the report, creating a pattern for each year, from which we have created various illustrated themes to support the overall design. In 2018 for example there was a wider theme of crossing cultures, which used the idea of bacteria cultures in order to create circular petri dish inspired illustrations, the contents of which related to the different value sectors for BUFDG’s integrated reporting. Whilst in 2020 the illustrations were influenced by the illustrations for the updated guide to finance.

The illustrations are a core part of each project’s delivery, with the overall design and document styles being very much led by their style. The use of illustration throughout the documents also acts as a way to segment and break up the text, assisting in the telling of the story of that year's particular theme in order to engage the reader. Finance can at times become dry subject matter and so we typically employ bold graphic styles alongside colourful palettes which help bring energy and life to the report.

Bespoke Membership Engagement Data Reports

As well as completing an annual report each year, we have also been creating a smaller bespoke report for each member of BUFDG since 2016. This Includes key statistics and graphs to reflect their engagement with BUFDG over the year, comparing them to other institutions of equivalent revenue. These reports are typically either four or six A5 pages. 

Creating each of these involves handling large data sets to create accurate and clear graphs. We supplement the data with simple illustrations, icons and infographics.

Each year the challenge is to create layouts which are flexible enough to accommodate varying amounts of text and data without looking overly cramped or confusing. This is all done whilst being mindful of the institution’s reports which may have less text, or fewer statistics to report on. 

Our work has developed over the years, from more simplistic textured icon based illustrations, as in the 2017 report, to more recent years where the graphs themselves were the main focus. This created a more modern layout which helped the report stay fresh and relevant, whilst retaining familiarity to help members compare their progress year-on-year.

We provide a full design, print and delivery service for BUFDG for their engagement reports, ensuring that all of their members end up with the correct bespoke report.

Layout Design for BUFDG Engagement Report 2019

Newsletters

In addition to the other annual print documents we have created for BUFDG we have also created a number of newsletters from their chair to their membership.

Initially BUFDG requested a number of templates, created in Microsoft Word so that they can create their own quarterly newsletter in-house, without having to use any unfamiliar design software.

However they have since also requested a fully designed newsletter to accompany the engagement report of last year, which had been slimmed down from six pages to four.

Design layout for BUFDG Chairs Newsletter

Branding for BUFDG

BUFDG has a number of exclusive member services and benefits. We have created an additional logo for BUFDG Pro inline with their existing BUFDG brand mark, which helps to reinforce the additional benefits for members through their pro subscription level.

BUFDG runs a number of conferences and events for the members each year. Over the years we have designed event invitations, marketing materials and programmes for these one-off events o conferences BUFDG has held. More recently we developed the official brand identity of their annual conference in Salford. Taking the theme of the venues and hosting city we developed a brand and visual identity based on the history of the computer.

BUFDG Guides To Higher Education Finance 

As the representative body for financial directors within higher education, BUFDG also wants to educate and assist their members by creating up-to-date guidance to equip and inform them in their roles. This additional support has presented us with the opportunity to work on longer publications.

This includes some of our earliest work for BUFDG where we introduced the method of integrated reporting in more depth to their members. It is also where we first used illustrations as a mechanism through which we help to tell a visual story. This then helped members to  better understand the subject matter whilst generating greater interest in order to keep their attention.

Since that first guide we have also worked with BUFDG to update an older guide which helped individuals who are new to this particular sector of Finance. It was created to explain the specific legislation and conventions that those new to Higher Education finance will encounter. We were asked to modernise the layout and make it more interesting. Once again we created a colourful bold illustration style which has since become the chosen style for that year's annual report and a subsequent original guide which explained the specifics of Pensions and accounting for them in Higher Education.

Feedback on both of these most recent publications has been hugely positive and we look forward to working with BUFDG to help expand their series of guides.

Thank goodness for good designers!

Miles Hedges

Author of Accounting for Pensions

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