Art of the Annual Report

We were captivated when we first picked up The George Gund Foundation’s 2003 annual report and saw Andrea Modica’s striking photographs of women who had chosen careers traditionally dominated by men. Hard Hatted Women, a local nonprofit organization and longtime Gund Foundation grant recipient, had helped the women captured in each shot along their career path. The black-and-white portraits made the foundation’s yearly account of its health as much a work of art as it was a rundown of financial statistics. So when the wave of 2004 annual reports started arriving earlier this year, we set a handful aside for comparison. As we all move toward closing the books on 2005, here’s how a nonprofit organization, public company, transit system and government entity stack up when it comes to boiling the business of 365 days into words and pictures.

  The George Gund Foundation The Sherwin-Williams Company Greater Cleveland RegionalTransit Authority The Ohio Department ofTaxation
Total Pages 51 72 16 158
Cover Image Sixteen photos from the Ohio City neighborhood taken by photographer Thomas Roma. A neon sign depicting the company's "Cover the Earth" corporate logo. First switched on in 1933, it hung in a San Francisco Sherwin-Williams store for 57 years before being retired to the company?s corporate headquarters. A view looking down Euclid Avenue, the path of the Euclid Corridor Transportation Project. RTA broke ground on the overhaul of the city?s main thoroughfare Oct. 19, 2004. Mostly text but with seven small photographs of Ohio people and places.
First Impressions Roma's compelling black-and-white photos dominate the report. The engaging portraits demand you spend a few moment?s with each face. A clear report of corporate performance divided into industry segment (paint stores, consumer, automotive fishes and international coatings) with accompanying information boxes and vibrant pictures. An ultra-simple design with news on the Euclid Corridor Transportation Project, service enhance-ments, marketing efforts and community support. Dense, text-heavy and confusing to the layman. Tax commissioner William W. Wilkins? introduction letter is addressed to Gov. Bob Taft and the state legislature. We?re guessing they know their way around it a little better.
History Lesson "Once a separate municipality, Ohio City is one of Cleveland?s most interesting neighborhoods because of its dense Victorian housing and narrow streets that evoke an era when Cleveland's economic brawn was virtually unmatched." The original fireplace mantle from Henry Sherwin?s office, all of the individual tiles from the hearth and the chameleon lamp that sat on his desk during the 1880s are on display at the company?s ?Center of Excellence? archive, which opened in 2004. No history lesson here. RTA keeps it simple by focusing on 2004 developments. Other than five-year comparisons in the financial section, it?s all ?04. Not a whole lot of looking backward other than a chart naming the state?s tax commissioners and the governors under which they served from 1939 to present.
Trivia Bit The George Gund Foundation has distributed $437,325,981 in grants since its inception in 1952. Founded in 1866, the paint giant surpassed $6 billion in sales for the first time during 2004. RTA logged 55.5 million passenger trips in 2004 ? nearly 2 million rides more than the year before. The state reports Ohioans wagered $514 million on horse racing in 2004.
Interesting Find After graduating from Harvard Business School, George Gund?s early career included working in Army intelligence during World War I and ranching in Nevada. Sherwin-Williams patented the world?s first resealable paint can in 1877 and has been granted more than 600 patents. valign="top"RTA cut the ribbon on its $4 million West 65th Rapid Station during 2004. It was the nation?s first "green-built" rail station and is a key element of EcoVillage in the city's Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. ">RTA cut the ribbon on its $4 million West 65th Rapid Station during 2004. It was the nation?s first ?green-built? rail station and is a key element of EcoVillage in the city?s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. The state raked in $530.6 million in cigarette stamp tax receipts (the tiny stamps affixed to cigarette packs at the wholesaler level) in 2004, while beer sales generated $49.7 million in tax revenue.
Bottom Line An annual report that could hold its own on your coffee table with the rest of your photography books. A quick, concise and inviting look at how an industry leader stays at the front of the pack. A quick flip that gives you a good overview of now only how Greater Cleveland?s transit service is doing financially, but how it?s serving the community. Like those dreaded assembly instructions, everything that seems really confusing at first glance is explained if you take your time with it. Of course, the average person may not find it all that interesting.
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