Project: 1996 Annual Report, for Gardenburger

1996 Annual Report

An annual report for a popular vegetarian brand

We produced several annual reports for Gardenburger in the years before it was acquired by Kellogg; this is our favorite.

In 1996, the company shifted its marketing effort from food service to the retail channel. This was a strategy story, so we replaced the traditional review of operations with a large, plain-spoken shareholder’s letter, punctuated by Q&A sidebars to illustrate the forward-thinking stuff. Paul Mort drew from old-school grocery ads for his illustrations; accordingly, we built the book with sales bursts, dotted rules, and a liberal application of red.

As this was a retail story, the book brings the visual language of newspaper grocery ads into the boardroom: Mr. Mort’s illustrations make great use of overprinting solid colors onto line art; typography is constructed in decks – in the manner of price settings – and kraft and newsprint simulation comes into play as well.



In its salad days, the annual report was the single most important piece of communication published by a public company. Most followed a similar narrative structure: they would open with a letter to shareholders, written by the CEO; then would follow a number of narrative pages, written for individual shareholders, explaining what the company had done that year. Then you’d get the financial statements.

In the mid-1990s, the annual was already starting to die out. Most investors were institutional, and these people would routinely tear the operations section out of a book and file the letter and financials. We got in the habit of saving them the trouble: we’d make the shareholder letter the entire narrative, as shown here.



Financial highlights

This book was a self-cover, meaning it did not use heavier paper for the cover. This was done for the sake of cost and weight (cheaper to print and mail), but precluded us actually printing the cover on grocery bag kraft, which we instead simulated. The text area was defined by a simulated newsprint color, and printed in the black and red favored by independent grocery chains of the time.




The shareholder letter continues across the top of the page in large type. The lower part was given to forward-thinking stuff, presented in Q&A format and punctuated by Paul Mort’s lively spot illustrations.




Opening pages of consolidated financial statements; the newsprint-colored ground switches position to lower contrast a bit for the numbers, making them easier on the eye.




Notes to consolidated financial statements. All business, and yet visual cues from the front of the book carry over. We always paid a hell of a lot of attention to the financials in our annuals; of course, you have to get the numbers right, but it was a point of pride for us that they be pleasant to read.

The Felt Hat
Creative director
Thom Smith
Art director
Adam McIsaac
Brian Kiernan
Paul Mort
Michael Jones