I recently completed an annual report for Girl Scouts (equivalent of Girl Guides in most countries), not the big national/international company, but a smaller council, kind of like a franchise, I suppose. In school, I was taught the process
of the 5 D’z of Design:

  1. Define the project and the objectives
  2. Discover the way others have solved similar problems and research any necessary information
  3. Design thumbnails and comps
  4. Develop the comp into the final design, get feedback
  5. Deliver the final project

I’ve found this practice of dividing up a project handy, especially when I am unsure how to start or feel stuck, and it was invaluable to me as I designed the report.


The objective of this project was to create a professional annual report that people would read, be drawn into and ultimately it should encourage potential private, corporate and government donors to give money to our organization. That’s a tall order to be sure!


I was very intimidated by this project, and I put off even starting to think about a concept for a couple of weeks. I finally decided to start with some research. I looked up some of our sister councils, as well as many larger companies, and downloaded their annual reports. Among my favorites were

  • IBM, especially for their typography
  • Aflac, for their use of theme throughout their reports
  • Bank of America for consistency in style

My research phase probably lasted about 10 hours. I had the time, so I took it. I wrote down:

  • which annual reports I liked and why
  • examined their uses of the elements of design (line, shape, space, size/scale, color, value, texture)
  • studied their uses of the principles of design (balance, contrast, direction, economy, emphasis, proportion, rhythm, unity)


I finally started sketching out ideas and mulled over thumbnails about a week or two; I wanted to think up everything I could. After I sketched out different ideas, I took my top 3 best and made at least 3 other variations. Mind you, I had a lot of time to do this, about three months, because I was waiting on content. I know some project turn-arounds don’t allow so much research and thumbnail sketch time!

It was very difficult to imagine what a possible design could be because I didn’t have any content yet. I knew that we would put some spotlight articles about some of our girls and adults, so I started with designing those pages, and then a cover to go with the style of the article. I eventually came up with a very corporate but rather boring layout and color scheme.


I didn’t like the result of my first round of design, and neither did my boss. She didn’t offer much direction, though; she only said “it needs to feature girls more.” I took to my scrapbooking idea books for inspiration.

Scrapbooks contain excellent inspiration for graphic elements (stickers) and layouts that either feature photos (turn them into flyers) or body copy, which is great for magazines, or annual reports! I also like the way scrapbook pages look 3D, with the layers, raised embellishments and textures.

This time, I designed the cover first, and then two different page styles: the profile pages and a page that would have lists of names (donors, awardees, etc) or the financials. I found it easier to match an inside spread design to the cover rather than the other way around.

I thought it would be appropriate to make the annual report graphics girly, but not prissy. I chose a color scheme to reflect the bold, yet feminine organization and designed graphics that complimented the colors, inspired of course by stickers and patterned paper in my idea books. I also chose to make the text 90% black, because I think it’s not as jolting against a white background as 100%, and that 10% difference is noticeable.


This was the first job I ever had printed at a large print house. It was exciting! I was able to go to the press check and take back a few of the first run pages. One of the owners gave me a tour of all their stations and I was able to meet many of the people that had worked on my files. It felt like a big family. Very cool!

One of our biggest goals with the annual report was to impress potential sponsors and get them to give us money. We accomplished this by featuring large pictures of cute girls throughout the report, especially on the cover. I think it really says,
“Look at me! Pick me up! Read me!”. You can check out the final look of the Annual Report presented in a PDF format.

What are your thoughts on choosing a color scheme, fonts and creating graphical elements for a design project?

This guest article is written by Lauren Krause – very talented Graphic and Interactive Designer from

If you would like to guest write for Inspiration Bit, please check out the rules and incentives for guest appearances on Inspiration Bit and contact me if interested.

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11 Insightful Bits in response to “The 5 D’z of Design”

  1. Nice article Lauren. I always find it easier to work on covers first, and will usually work up covers only until I am happy with them before attempting to work up spreads. Working this way round you can pick up on graphic elements from the cover and use them on the insides. I always breathe a sigh of relief when my covers are designed and i am happy with them as I know I’m on the home straight. Similarly to you I tend to delve into my scrap book or buy a load of appropriate magazines.

  2. Once I decided to work on the cover first, it was definitely easier to figure out the inside spreads. I wonder how many others feel the same way (cover first, then spreads).

    It can be hard to find those perfect little elements that will make the piece just right! I sketched out a ton of element ideas before deciding on a few to use consistently.

  3. I’ve never seen an annual report look that inviting. You did a great job.

    The process you went through seems very similar for web design, although you can’t hold a website in your hands to show off to your friends and family.

    Reading the above comments again reminded me of web-design. Once you find that color scheme and a home page you are happy with, the rest of the pages are a lot easier to design.

  4. Vivien

    I agree with Ronald. There were many similarities in the process – the report’s cover is just website’s homepage. Once you got it right, the rest of it comes easy.

    Lauren, thanks for the sneak peak into Designer’s process of working from one D to another. Excellent article.

  5. Lauren, your report looks great. It is amazing how a few simple design elements put together can re-create an atmosphere and the spirit of a community.

  6. Thanks for the compliments Ronald and Simonne!

    Interesting how Ronald and Vivien saw an application in web design for what I learned in print. I’ll have to keep that in mind!

  7. Chelle

    I am going to send this to my national organization so that we can jazz up our annual report. You make scouting (guiding for me) look like fun. Any ideas on brochures and posters???

  8. Wow, thanks for the compliment, Chelle! I’ve done too many flyers and invitations for Girl Scouts and I actually don’t work with them anymore. Are you involved with guiding/scouting at all where you live?

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on