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InspirationAug 17, 2022

UofT's annual report designed by Fresh Art & Design celebrates indigenous achievements

Written by Dean Mitchell RGD

University of Toronto's Office of Indigenous Initiatives Annual Report by Fresh Art & Design was a winner in the RGD's 2022 So(cial) Good Design Awards. Below Dean Mitchell RGD, Founding Partner and Creative Director, shares the design process.


This Annual Progress Report designed by Fresh Art & Design Inc. is produced in direct response to the University of Toronto's Calls to Action, specifically Calls #33 and #34. The client wanted to continue with the story-oriented report format that we designed for their inaugural report the year before. The goal was to celebrate the achievements of noteworthy Indigenous educators, projects and events of the past year. The client requested to work with an Indigenous-owned firm and stipulated that any subcontractors should also be Indigenous. Dean Mitchell RGD is Kanienʼkéha (Mohawk) from Six Nations of the Grand River and his son Ethan Mitchell is half of the photography team of Stef + Ethan.


We began by researching similar universities and college projects in Canada and the USA to see what was out there and ensure that we do not repeat a concept or design. As we had to work within UofT's brand guidelines, we decided that compelling photography would be the focal point for the report

Our initial designs were created just after the discovery of unmarked graves at a former residential school in BC. As a result of the strong emotions this created, our first cover concepts were very impactful. Although impressed, the client requested a celebratory approach instead. 

We knew the water protector mural created by artists Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch was perfect for a cover wrap. Unfortunately, being so wide and captured in one shot, was too distorted. We remedied this by retouching it into proper perspective. We commissioned the stellar photography team of Stef + Ethan to shoot a series of environmental portraits and still life shots across UofT's three campuses. 

One of our favorite parts of the design is the color palette. The color orange is a strong component of the design, as it has become a symbol for Indigenous Residential School Survivors and Victims. While the report remains celebratory because of the imagery and text, the strong undertone of the orange addresses what was on the minds of all Indigenous and many non-Indigenous readers of the report.


The annual report was distributed by the university to researchers, scholars, government officials and administrators across Canada and the world to highlight their initiatives. The report achieves the goal set out by the university and it received positive feedback throughout the Education and Indigenous communities. As a result, we have been commissioned to design their 2020-2021 edition as well.

We were recently notified that the report has won an Award of Excellence in this year’s UCDA Awards (University and College Designers Association - USA). 


  • Creative Directors: Susan Mitchell and Dean Mitchell RGD
  • Cover Mural Art: Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch from Onaman Collective
  • Design: Christine Chiou
  • Photography: Stef + Ethan (Stefanie Neves, Ethan Mitchell) 
  • Writer/Editor: Shannon Simpson 

Read more about the mural here.


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