Case Study: Dell 2011 Corporate Responsibility Report



  • Tabitha Upshaw, director, corporate responsibility marketing
  • Trisa Thomson, vice president, corporate responsibility marketing
  • David Lear, executive director, environmental affairs
  • Bruno Sarda, marketing director, Dell sustainability team
  • Deb Bauer, director, Dell Giving
Project Title
Dell 2011 Corporate Responsibility Report
Five to six months

Dell is committed to minimizing the impact of technology on the environment and maximizing human potential in the world. The objective of this project was to formulate and execute a creative design concept for the Dell 2011 Corporate Responsibility report, clearly demonstrating Dell’s work in these areas over the year.

Additional goals of the report were to highlight and lend credit to Dell’s CSR and sustainability priorities, by sharing current challenges, solutions, progress toward solutions and measures of customer/employee engagement.

The target audience for this report was visitors to the Dell Corporate Responsibility site, passionate environmental advocates, stakeholders and the Global Reporting Initiative.


Discovery is an integral part of the team’s creative process, looking inside and outside of our industry for design best practices and copy inspiration. To begin this project, we put up a “question board” in our work space to ask passersby about issues relating to Dell and corporate responsibility. Questions included: Who decides what our goals are? What can Dell do to make this a better world? Why doesn’t Dell celebrate its CSR innovations? How can we engage more with our communities? How can we be a better employer?

We then used responses to those questions to help shape the report’s look and feel, stressing the points that seemed most in need of further explanation. Four unique creative concepts were developed before the final approach was chosen.


2011 marked the first year that the report was designed and developed in-house with a clearly articulated concept. The biggest challenge was determining how to present an honest and transparent representation of Dell’s commitments and goals, while also acknowledging shortcomings.


This concept for the 2011 Dell Corporate Responsibility Report instills the notion that you find answers only when you ask important questions. It uses carefully crafted questions to first open up a topic with the reader then, through a shift in the visual hierarchy, also give our point-of-view. Color is used to code the key report sections, and a concentration on information graphics was developed to bring the report data to life.

We think it’s critical to continue efforts to merge the Dell brand with corporate responsibility at Dell. We designed the Dell 2011 Corporate Responsibility Report to highlight how our brand platform and our commitment to corporate responsibility meet, and how they consider our present work and relationships—and our future.


The effectiveness of this project is evident by the following:

  • Content developed for the report has lived beyond the confines of the publication and has inspired a range of areas associated with the brand.
  • As an ongoing part of the Dell brand transformation that is taking place, the report stands as an embodiment of the brand transformation: a commitment to our customers and to our internal brand purpose “to enable people everywhere to grow and thrive.”
  • We worked with our local print vendor to ensure sustainable methods of printing and production. Using soy inks on FSC certified paper stock and with a Rainforest Alliance Certification helped to align this piece to the spirit of the report.
  • The concept and design of this piece is about authenticity, integrity and openness—key personality traits and the heritage of Dell since it was born 27 years ago.