In 2018, the Nathan Cummings Foundation announced it would fully leverage 100% of its nearly half-billion-dollar endowment to further its mission of driving sustainable and inclusive growth, making it one of the largest foundations in the world to do so. The foundation has since made tremendous progress and has learned a lot along the way. In 2020, the foundation partnered with Frontline Solutions, a Black-owned national consulting firm, to conduct field research of the mission-aligned investing capacity and practices among Outsourced Chief Investment Officers (OCIOs).
The NCF approached us to help them creatively structure their insights and data into a digital and print report for the philanthropic investment community. Thinking of the value of the information within the report and its potential to be a major catalyst for other foundations, the NCF chose Creative Repute to partner with them in making the impact investing report a culturally relevant experience that would activate fellow foundation leaders.
The project culminated into a beautiful, mature, creative, and culturally relevant design system centering on themes of social and environmental justice. It combines striking colors, powerful photography, conceptual illustrations, and accessible data visualizations to deeply resonate with NCF’s intended audience. We opted for a microsite to create an immersive digital experience that hosts the contents of the report in a user-friendly format. The report was also designed for print, offering a PDF download to readers who prefer more traditional formats.
Understanding the Target Audience
To ensure the design would visually resonate with its intended audience, we created detailed user personas to represent the different people who would engage with the report. We explored each individual persona, empathizing with their unique backgrounds, opinions, and perspectives on impact investing. We also considered the problems they face in their own professions or investments and their digital content engagement habits. We then used this information to determine how the impact investing report could activate the audience to propel us toward the project’s goal.
Mature Uplift for the NCF Brand
The NCF brand, with vibrant colors and emotional photography centering on protest and community, required a different approach for this project to resonate more deeply with the impact investing report’s mature and sophisticated audience. Our creative strategists met this challenge by offering a style that balances brand consistency with visual impact.
Visually Representing Social and Environmental Justice
To ensure the report would be both relevant and mission-aligned, our visual strategy centered on themes of social and environmental justice. Expressed through conceptual illustrations and stirring photography, we orchestrated these elements to offer a balanced evocation of accountability, hope, community, and reflection.
One key section of the report, “Focusing on Racial Equity,” was written by Rey Ramsey, NCF independent trustee and interim president and CEO. The section focuses on a difficult conversation between GEM and NCF in August of 2018 which acted as a catalyst for major foundational change. The featured image for this section was initially conceptualized by the client as a moon and its reflection in rippled water. Ramsey explained that NCF needed to hold a mirror to themselves, and they realized that they had overlooked something important: being 100% mission-aligned. He spoke about his experiences growing up as a black boy in a predominantly white community and the inequity he faced. Nilé Livingston, an award-winning artist and the founder of Creative Repute, was inspired to take on this piece of artwork.
Hearing Rey’s key descriptions, Nilé decided to illustrate a black boy looking at his reflection in ripples of water with a large moon behind him. With nighttime being a space for introspection, the moon symbolizes NCF’s pure and worthy goal of being mission-aligned while the rippled reflection symbolizes the foundation’s imperfect implementation. The illustration features Nile’s signature monochromatic style with a pop of vibrant teal color in order to evoke positive feelings of reflection, repose, and wisdom.
Looking Back on 2020
2020 was a year of deep social unrest, environmental chaos, and unpredictability, especially in light of the global pandemic which still affects us all. Inspired by Creative Repute’s background in public art and social movements, the NCF envisioned a cover for the impact investing report that would touch on the varying complex issues facing our country and communities.
Conceptualizing Information and Simplifying Data
Accounting for the busy lives of our intended audience, we designed the report to communicate actionable information for easy comprehension, sharing, and integration. Each section features custom environmentally-themed infographics that highlight important findings, milestones, steps, and definitions.
The Digital Experience
The impact investing report is digitally available at impact.nathancummings.org for foundation leaders, investment officers, and others interested in impact investing to explore. It offers key findings, insights, recommendations, resources, and takeaways. The microsite is structured to allow users to easily jump from one section to another, pull insightful quotes, review data, share infographics, and more.
The Print Companion
A complimentary print report featuring a color-coordinated page-turning layout allows for more traditional readers to keep a physical copy handy as a resource for their own values-investing journey.
Case Study Summary:
In 2018, the Nathan Cummings Foundation made the decision to align 100% of its nearly half-billion dollar endowment with its mission and values. In 2020, the foundation partnered with Frontline Solutions, a Black-owned national consulting firm, to conduct field research of the mission-aligned investing capacity and practices among Outsourced Chief Investment Officers (OCIOs). This research, combined with nearly two decades of impact investing experience, mistakes, and takeaways, was then synthesized into a report featuring tangible insights, information, and suggestions to help foundation leaders align their own organization’s investments with their values. This is where Creative Repute, an award-winning social justice design and strategy agency, stepped in to turn the 40+ pages of copy and data into a visually engaging and impactful digital and print experience. Detailed market research and incorporation of design theory resulted in a visual style that incorporates powerful photography centering on themes of public protest, community, and social justice along with conceptual illustrations to represent the foundation’s values of social and environmental justice. Complex information was divided into color-coded sections with infographics to condense information.
“My organization worked with Creative Repute over a nearly 6-month period. The CR team helped us develop an online report as well as a PDF report. Everything Creative Repute developed for us is functioning great and running smoothly. It’s clear the CR team was very thoughtful when they developed these deliverables and did plenty of testing on them to ensure they were of top quality. Whenever our team flagged any issues, the CR team was on top of resolving them. We’re seeing some great traffic (thousands of uses) to the online report and hundred of report downloads. This is an extremely creative and values-forward design firm, and I would happily recommend them to colleagues and friends.” – Candice Wynter, Communications Manager at the Nathan Cummings Foundation.