Anatomy of a Grand Gold, Fundraising Publications: USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Dan Knapp is Executive Director of Publications and Art Director for the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, which is in the midst of a capital campaign as part of the Campaign for the University of Southern California. A key element of the campaign was development of The Bridge@USC Brochure, which chronicles USC Dornsife’s place as a leader in cutting-edge research in the area of health. We asked Dan about this Grand Gold-winning brochure. 

CASE VII: Can you tell us about some of the unique design features used in The Bridge@USC Brochure?
Thank you so much for asking. We’re very proud of this piece. It may sound like a cliché, but this was a true collaborative effort and I really like how the final design turned out. This piece is special because it includes interior gatefolds; dynamic and impactful illustrations mixed with original specialized photography; transparent pages that, when combined, show the internal makeup of the body from molecules, to cells, to organs; a hidden spiral binding (so that the pages turn easily) and a built in pocket so that additional information pages can be customized and added for specific individuals when our advancement team goes out to meet them. We were also adamant that the pages should not appear text heavy, so we took advantage of large, double page images and infographics to convey messages without relying on large blocks of text that invariably “weigh down” any sort of project of this nature.

CASE VII: A major challenge many designers face is producing a brochure that is distinctive but still supports a college’s and university’s graphic identity. How did the team at USC accomplish this?
Ha ha. Well, I have to say, when it came to this, we were very fortunate to work in concert with Pentagram (Austin) on the brochure. In 2011, Pentagram refreshed the graphic identity for the entire (USC) university so they were already intimately aware of all the nuances of the university’s – and department’s – graphic identity requirements. As I said earlier, collaboration was a key component to the success of this brochure’s design, and working with a partner who not only understands the perimeters of a graphic identity, but also constructed those perimeters, made things incredibly stress-free for us.

CASE VII: In what ways was the brochure used to support the college’s $750 million fundraising campaign?
Obviously, it was an important piece to engage donors in potentially giving to USC Dornsife and the Bridge@USC Institute. But beyond that, it is being used to help attract brilliant scholars to USC and to demonstrate to government and private funding agencies the importance of the work being achieved at USC Dornsife.

CASE VII: USC Dornsife researchers have discovered some amazing things about the human body. What have you learned that’s impressed you the most?
It’s all so very interesting, but as someone who is living with someone fighting cancer, Peter Kuhn’s research into cancer cells is particularly important to me. Dr. Kuhn is at the forefront of scientific research into identifying the biomarkers of cancer cells and informed treatment decisions. Just this week, Forbes highlighted a partnership between his team and other educational institutions and biomedical research companies to develop cancer blood tests as part of Vice President Joe Biden's Cancer Moonshot. According to Dr. Kuhn, this partnership will allow researchers to build a database of information in five years rather than 10.

CASE VII: The 2017 CASE Awards of Excellence are just around the corner. What advice would you give those preparing entries?
I definitely think entrants need to take the write-up portion of their entry seriously and answer the questions accurately and concisely. I have been a CASE judge at the national level for several years, and I know we look to those write-ups to answer questions and help select one stellar entry over another. I also think entrants need to be realistic in what they submit. If someone enters something that looks like 50 other entries, then the likelihood of being recognized is not very high. While my job is not necessarily to collect awards, I go into every project with the CASE competition in the back of my mind, asking myself what I can do to make projects special, unique or different than similar type items we’ve all seen a thousand times before. And, also, remember that the judges see dozens of entries and that awards are given on how certain criteria are met, but at the end of the day, it is subjective as well. Just because someone else wins the award is not a reflection on your hard work…it’s simply that the winning piece(s) resonated with the judges in some way.

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