Texas Tech University System

Endowment Report

Delivering a challenging message with clarity

Black-and-white photography evokes a timeless feeling of permanence. Faced with delivering a challenging investment message, the 2019 endowment report created for the Texas Tech University System embraced this classic style, trading exuberance for quiet reassurance.


The Texas Tech University System provides donors who have given to an endowed fund with an annual report of the endowment’s investment performance. In a year when the timing of the reporting window minimized the overall return, it was important to communicate honestly and directly to build trust.

Endowment report front and back covers
Front and back covers

For the 2019 report, our design featured black-and-white photographs of the campus’ original building. Adding to the landmark’s symbolism, we highlighted architectural motifs such as columns and masonry work to communicate themes of resiliency and institutional longevity. Tilt-shift photography created selective focus that gave a timeless and cinematic quality to the imagery. A thoughtful selection of color photographs kept the composition from veering into gloominess and reinforced the immediate impact of endowments on today’s students and faculty.

Endowment report inside front cover spread featuring crossover imagery and the executive message
Inside front cover spread featuring crossover imagery and the executive message

Throughout the piece, callouts and figures invite multiple points of entry. Inspired by the institution’s branding guidelines, the color palette for information graphics was deliberately desaturated, resulting in a muted tone that complimented the art direction. Conservative typography and an uncoated paper finish further reinforced the publication’s staid mood.

In a year when performance did not meet expectations, content development was crucial. Considered messaging transparently communicated a long-term perspective of the fund’s performance and investment approach. Writers worked with leadership and subject experts to craft a narrative that straightforwardly balanced the reality of the fund’s one-year performance with improving 10-year trends.

Endowment report interior pages featuring information graphics and callouts
Interior pages featuring information graphics and callouts
Endowment report inside back cover featuring pocket for individual donor endowment statements
Inside back cover featuring pocket for performance statements of individual donor endowment funds

A mix of offset and digital printing methods were used to balance production quality and affordability. Traditional imagery and design elements were arranged in asymmetrical and layered compositions to add visual interest to a piece whose overall style was restrained.

Each design choice, from photography and typography to paper stock and color palette, was deliberately made to reinforce the report’s themes of solemnity and steadfastness. While the overall construction of the report is straightforward to deliver on a conservative production budget, the use of binding, crossover imagery and scale deliver an impact greater than the sum of its parts.


Communicating difficult or unexpected news can be precarious. Layering on complex financial information and an audience with varying levels of financial literacy further complicated this brief. The thoughtfulness of the communication strategy tempered donor concern and resulted in a level of donor feedback in line with previous years.

By acknowledging a minimal return and communicating transparently about underlying factors and ongoing remediations, the report succeeded. The considered approach to art direction and content development ensured this piece furthered the donor relationship and successfully conveyed a challenging message with openness and credibility.



Gold Circle of Excellence Award, Publications on a Shoestring

Council for Advancement and Support of Education 2020

Gold Award, Printed Annual Report

American Advertising Federation, Lubbock chapter 2020