Progressive Annual Report – How Nesnadny + Schwartz Uses Paper Specification to Create Award Winning Annual Reports


There are just some projects that are iconic, and the Progressive Annual Report is at the top of the list. Mark Schwartz, the late founder of Nesnadny + Schwartz, built his career on bold moves – and the boldest had to be in 1982, when he called up the CEO of Progressive and offered to take photos for their annual report. Since then Nesnadny + Schwartz’s annual reports for Progressive have won more than 500 national awards. And one look at this year’s report, it’s easy to see why. But there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into producing such an amazing finished piece. We ought to know, Parse & Parcel constructed the paper dummies for the project. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing the progression of a project from concept to production.


Our involvement began back in December when our friend Mandy, a rep with Millcraft, brought the design team from N + S into the sample studio. Hours were spent at the work island pouring over swatch books and culling flat sheets. The team at N+S gives exacting attention to detail, so when it came to specifying paper for this job, there was not a chance it was going on a printer’s house sheet.

The paper needed to compliment the theme behind this year’s annual report: continuity. The design revolves around the work of painter and sculptor, Jason Middlebrook, commissioned to translate the theme into his medium. He describes his work as a relationship between man and nature, choosing natural pieces of wood as a medium for his paintings. His work is inspired by the form and grain of each tree over its lifetime.


With that in mind, N + S carefully examined the paper samples looking for sheets with tactile finishes and natural colors to enhance the photography of Middlebrook’s artwork.  Not to mention with wood at the heart of this concept, choosing an environmentally responsible paper was a top priority. Now keep in mind this is an annual report -a page could have a good bit of white space and type on one side with heavy ink coverage on the back, so opacity and basis weight had to be considered as well. After a few hours examining all the options, the team narrowed down their selections.

A few days later, N+S sent over the final paper specs. They decided on using a combination of three papers from the Mohawk Loop grade.Mandy got to work on pricing and quoting printers. Since the paper selections were finalized, she was able to involve the paper mill and see if they were interested in a buy-in. Psst – this is a great example of why it’s so important to have a relationship with local paper reps!

With the details all flushed out, it was time for Parse & Parcel to get to work on constructing the dummies. We’ve done the dummy books for the Progressive annual report a few times, and its safe to say it’s never a simple standard saddle-stitched number. Not even close. With a four page, die-cut cover, two different stocks for the text pages and half sheets peppered in the layout – perfect binding these dummies required fastidiousness and precision.



Here’s a look at the final results. The cover is printed four color process on Mohawk Loop Inxwell Vellum in Eco White 110# Cover. Getting this level of sharp, saturated color on an uncoated paper is not common. This is what the Inxwell technology does. It gives you the kind of hold-out typically seen on coated papers, not only that but it allows printers to get up to color faster – reducing make-ready (and time = money).


Inside you’ll find Progressive’s vision, strategy and values interspersed among Middlebrook’s artwork. One page featuring the year’s financial highlights printed on Mohawk Loop Feltmark in Pure White. The opposite page featuring abstract patterns on long and lean planks with live edge detail printed on Mohawk Loop Inxwell Vellum in Eco White. I love the tactile play of the toothy vellum finish and embossed feltmark on opposing text pages. Again both sheets feature the Inxwell technology, producing vivid, crisp results.


The 2015 Progressive Annual Report plays perfectly to its theme. As someone whose career is based on a medium derived from wood, this particular annual report struck a chord. To me, it represents not only continuity of a company, but growth, sustainability, and a nod to the talent in the industry. I have nothing but love for this medium and the people who champion it. You too? Well, we’re giving away a copy of this year’s Progressive Annual Report to one lucky reader, enter here for a chance to win one for your keeper file.

Cheers to Nesnadny + Schwartz, Progressive and Mohawk – it takes talent (and collaboration) to pull off an annual report like this. And in my opinion, it’s one of the best, bravo!


Interested in improving your paper specification process but not sure where to start? Guess what – we’re launching a guide to help you do just that. Get on our waiting list now to save your spot – you’ll be so happy you did.

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