How The Grinch Stole An Annual Report (City of Suwanee, GA 2020)

The 2020 annual report of the American city of Suwanee is a treat. Suwanee is the inspiration for the song most know as ‘Swanee River,’ but the report issued by its City Council draws inspiration from famous children’s author, Dr. Seuss. This is a difficult trick to pull off at the best of times, but in the year of COVID-19, relying on Seuss’ particular brand of levity is also risky. The risk, however, pays off.

The most striking aspect of the report is the use of illustration. The report won two awards (see below) and the judges describe the report as ‘Seuss-themed’. In some places it is hard to say which of the illustrations are by Seuss and which by the uncredited illustrator. The typographer also deserves credit for the work done in matching title and body-text typefaces to Seuss’s books.

Many recognizable characters make an appearance, including the Grinch, made to represent the Coronavirus, here – the antagonist of the story, whom the town must band together to defeat. The Cat in the Hat appears, as does the mayor from Horton Hears A Who. The characters are almost always interacting with an element of the design – the infographics or text or photographs. This is effective in guiding the reader’s eye. The town of Suwanee is made of collages of towns that appear in the original books. It’s charming in its way and pulls the reader into the report.

The text treatment is a rare instance of designers committing fully to the design – the main narrative of the report is told in comic verse reminiscent of Seuss’ work. The poetry doesn’t always work but the effort is commendable. Coupled with the typesetting, which also references Seuss’ use of ragged edges and swirling, curling text blocks creates the visual illusion of looking at a book by the doctor himself. And what better way to read an annual report than to read it in Dr. Seuss’ voice?

GOV Award Winner 2021, MUSE Award Winner 2021

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