The Survey of Consumer Finances

Your voice in economic policy.

Client: NORC at the University of Chicago
Scope: Print & Web Materials for a Nationwide Study
The Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) is a study that is conducted every three years for the U.S. Federal Reserve Board (FRB) by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. I designed all of the print and most of the web materials for the 2004, 2007 and 2010 rounds. The SCF is a huge study that covers every possible demographic (race, age, income, family size, etc.) across the United States. Its objective is to capture an accurate portrait of the citizenry's finances so that it can be statistically analyzed and then used by the U.S. government for setting future economic policy.
Because of the sensitive nature of the data collected, it was imperative to strike just the right visual tone in order to establish the veracity of the study, engender confidence in the respondents and ensure optimal participation, which is voluntary. It was also critical to consider the wide range of respondents and to recognize that their circumstances differ greatly from region to region and that their sociological vernacular is enormously diverse. Utmost care was given in order to not be exclusionary, preferential or offensive to any one respondent group.
Materials I originally designed in 2004 were successfully used for two rounds of the survey. As the 2010 date approached it was decided that a new look should be established. There was considerable discussion between the FRB and NORC about what kind of direction the aesthetic should take. Modern? Approachable? Formal? Official? Every adjective was thrown into the mix. Many, many concepts covering the gamut of the spectrum were explored. Ultimately, four were chosen to expand upon for presentation to focus groups for feedback.
We did not end up even close to where I expected! The final "e plurabis unum" themed materials are extremely traditional and governmental. From the focus groups we learned that people, when presented with the prospect of disclosing such highly confidential information, wanted to do it only if they felt that it was VERY SERIOUS. Any softer approaches were perceived as not as credible and viewed as potentially suspect. To this day, I am still surprised as I would have predicted the chosen direction to be too "Big Brother" and potentially off-putting. The final conservative materials were used to great success though, so much so that they were recycled for the 2013 round of the survey.
2010 printed materials folder with a letter from 
Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke. 
Four concepts chosen by the Federal Reserve
team to develop for presentation
to focus groups for feedback.
Rejected Cover Concepts
2007 Printed Materials Folder
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