Igniting startups for economic growth and social change

The brief

Create a user-friendly version of the GEM South Africa (GEM SA) report for different audiences.

The clients

University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) and the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor

The context

The GEM SA 2019/2020 report is significant as South Africa faces urgent economic development challenges. This report focuses on how startups can contribute as engines of growth and social change in this unfolding era of exponential change. 

The report contains answers to the pivotal question posed by the results of the annual GEM study of the state of entrepreneurship in South Africa: How do we ensure that more of our entrepreneurs flourish? 

The research – supported by heaps of data – provides clear indications of what needs to be done. Moving from startup to scale requires the right support from the government and the private sector alike, and better data lead to better decisions. But how do you get the right people to access this information to inform decision-making?

As a group of female entrepreneurs interested in doing purpose-driven work that supports the greater good, this topic is close to our hearts. This is also the kind of content challenge we like to take on.

The process

Our aim was to produce a publication that speaks to researchers and non-academics alike.

Firstly, we developed a look and feel that seamlessly combines the corporate identities of SU, the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda), the USB and GEM. We followed a visual strategy with content formats never before used in a GEM report.

Secondly, we worked closely with the client to develop content for this report. Collectively, we took a bold content development approach to increase the uptake of the research findings. This enabled us to think about what proved useful in previous GEM reports while exploring what could be communicated in novel, more effective ways. The result is an innovative product that targets different audiences simultaneously.

Our approach offers a bridge between extensive data and easy interpretation through means of uniquely crafted content that uses edited text, infographics, interactive design, and more to simplify complex information.

We developed a unique visual style using a vibrant colour palette and illustrations that focus on women and the youth specifically.

We created user-centred content that can be repurposed for digital marketing purposes. This ensured that we used design time in a cost-effective way. Seda, a funder of the GEM SA research, has already repurposed some visual elements for use on its social media channels.

Examples of the illustrations we used and the icons created

We also used infographics to provide chapter overviews. Infographics are an effective content format when used for the right purpose. In this case, we used infographics as chapter dividers and to provide content summaries. 

Together the text and visual elements increase the readability of the document. We believe visual and written language should always shape and inform each other in an integrated product.

The result

We delivered a professional product that has a uniquely South African flavour to it but also still adheres to GEM’s corporate identify requirements. 

The publication is packaged for use by researchers and non-academics alike. Busy entrepreneurs that want an overview can access the top-level findings in bite-sized chunks of information and infographics, while researchers and policymakers who want to dig deeper for information in the tables and figures are still able to do so.

Read the full report here.


Project management and content: Jorisna Bonthuys
Editing: Anneke Potgieter
Design, illustration and layout: Unfold

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