Background

The British University Finance Directors Group (BUFDG) are the representative body for higher education finance staff throughout the United Kingdom. 

For the past few years we have created a number of reports for BUFDG which has resulted in us having a good knowledge of their brand communications as we have helped to define their design style. 

One of the challenges frequently faced is how to make what can be a dry subject area visually engaging to help BUFDG communicate with their audience effectively.

Brief

BUFDG approached us with a project to redesign their now outdated guide to Higher Education Finance for anybody looking to pursue a career specific to that sector. As the content itself was out of date and needed a renewal, they felt they also wanted to modernise its design and layout. The final deliverable was a multi-page booklet which was more exciting and engaging then the last.In order to achieve a higher quality of finish and more interesting design we set out to create a unique collection of illustrations to head each chapter of the guide. These were alongside clear page layouts with pull quotes and spot illustrations which could be placed throughout the booklet and break up the text. To set it apart from previous reports we utilised different typography styles and colour palettes. BUFDG has the intention of creating further guides in this series which will draw on similar styles of illustrations and layouts, so our ideas had to work with a range of content themes with an easily transferable illustration style.

Process

Given the importance of the illustrations to the overall look and layout of the project we started by collating a number of illustration styles. This allowed BUFDG to direct us in what kind of aesthetic they felt worked best for the booklet. We also were given the original guide to get an idea of the style of content. The aesthetic choice was a very flat style based on line work and abstract shapes with some light texture added in conjunction with block colouring. These worked well to bring strong punches of colour within the spot illustrations and led us towards a sans serif light weight font.

We also started ideating around what themes we could explore in the illustrations as merely using imagery around finance, money and higher education could limit the range and make compositions feel repetitive. We leaned into the idea of the six capitals through which income is generated within the higher education sector, which were provided by BUFDG: 

  • Manufactured
  • Natural
  • Human
  • Social and relationships
  • Intellectual
  • Financial

We worked with BUFDG to understand which capitals best related to each chapter of the guide in order to create compositions that would suit each section and identify which spot illustrations would be most relevant.

We created rough thumbnail sketches for the first chapter and laid these up with two draft style layouts to get sign-off for the typography and text layout we would use throughout the guide. This feedback and sign-off phase also allowed us to check the client was happy with the cohesion between the illustrative elements and the text.

Thumbnail sketches were developed for all the other chapter headings for client sign-off before work started on generating the final illustrative artwork. A number of cover options were also proposed from which the client selected their favourite. 

Once all the artwork and styles were signed off on we were able to build the whole document layout of over 100 pages.

Final Solution

The final booklet includes paired back professionalism with a bright colour palette and engaging illustrations. The layouts are clear and legible and look fresh and modern, whilst the bright bold illustrations bring a little bit of whimsy and fun to what could have been dry subject matter.

BUFDG liked the illustration style so much it formed the base for the illustrations used in their next annual report, along with potential development of a series of guides that feature the illustrative styles established in this one.