"We've had a longstanding positive relationship with Altura, so this was a natural extension of that," said Riverside City College Assistant Vice Chancellor Jim Parsons.
Given a down economy, a tight bottom line and genuine appreciation of the community college's publications, when Altura CU Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Ricki McManuis discovered that students in the RCC graphic design program were behind the creative collateral it was an aha moment.
In years past, Altura distributed its annual report as an insert in local newspapers. This required printing some 200,000 copies, a huge expense once the copywriting, photography, translation into Spanish and advertisements were done, said McManuis. The report was professionally designed by a graphic designer also at significant cost.
"We were trying to come up with ways to reduce the cost of our annual report significantly. The report is an important tool for communicating with our members and potential members. Plus we use it as a marketing piece throughout the year. so we didn't want to eliminate it entirely," said McManuis. "We have worked with the college for more than a decade on various projects. When we were thinking about what we wanted the annual report to be, I'd point to RCC's publications, so partnering just made sense."
McManuis serves on the college's foundation board, and Altura is a foundation sponsor. In addition, in her personal life, she mentors young college students.
For the 2008 book, Altura eliminated wide distribution, instead opting to place advertisements in those same local papers about the availability to view or download the report from its Web site.
"Going with the college wasn't just about cost savings," McManuis said. "I see the pieces produced by the college's students, and I like them. I knew the college had a phenomenal graphic design program. Plus, young people often have innovative ideas that appeal to people in their age group, a market we are trying to capture."
RCC's graphic design department, under the direction of graphics instructor Joan Rovan, invited students to submit proposals for the project based on specifications provided by the credit union. The top four were then presented to Altura.
Student Zoey Vegas submitted the winning proposal.
"I volunteered to help with the project because I have experience with designing brochures and flyers and thought this would be a nice experience to design an annual report," said Vegas.
An RCC student for two years, she is working on her graphic design certificate with plans to eventually earn a degree in the field.
McManuis worked closely with Vegas and Rovan to ensure the piece was branded with Altura's design elements and included all the requisite components, such as financials. Altura provided existing photos and tapped student Khai Le to shoot new photos as a way to see the local community from a fresh perspective. RCC's in-house printing department even printed the report on time for the credit union's annual meeting in June.
"Working with students does present some challenges such as they have their own deadlines and other classes to prepare for, but it has been just a great experience," said McManuis. "I think credit unions are missing the boat not working more with their local colleges and universities. Everyone wants to know how do we engage young people yet it's like the classic definition of insanity-doing the same thing and expecting a different result. If we really want to connect with that younger audience, they have to be part of the discussions and delivery."
"Through this collaboration the energy, honest feedback and fresh perspective from the imagery used to questioning why we are even printing an annual report are exactly what we need moving forward."
The total cost for the annual report was less than $10,000. About $5,000 was spent on copywriting, printing and contributions to both the graphic design program and photography club. Another $4,000 was spent to advertise that the report was available on the Altura Web site. In addition, copies were printed for Altura's 14 branches and for use during the year.
"It was a wonderful experience working with the college," McManuis said. "Joan and Zoey were very enthusiastic and filled with ideas. The result is a very professional piece at a very affordable price. Plus it has the added benefit of giving students some real work experience."
Looking ahead McManuis said Altura will be tapping students with help for more credit union communications, including creating an Altura Facebook and Twitter presence.