What he did at the blue hour

For over 25 years, the Austria-based Zumtobel Group has been revolutionising the field of annual reports. A leader in the provider of sophisticated lighting-based technology, the company excels in showcasing the spirit of its operations each year in an innovative format. The current report consists of an elegantly produced photobook and a traditional annual report, with the focus of each publication honouring some aspect of ‘light’.

The focus this year was on an atmospheric phenomenon called the ‘blue hour’; an idiosyncratic time of day favoured by artists.

The focus this year was on an atmospheric phenomenon called the ‘blue hour’; an idiosyncratic time of day favoured by artists. It precedes sunrise and sunset; making light look blue. It is a time that makes “…buildings look sexy,” says the chief mind behind the project, architect Elizabeth Diller of New York design agency Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

Ms. Diller joins a long list of notable creative executives who have contributed their own unique spin to every new photobook that Zumtobel releases. She was joined by photographer Matthew Monteith, and the collaboration does not disappoint.

The hardback photography book presents forty-five lush images spanning the space of this single hour. The subject matter is startlingly ordinary – a simple bedroom littered with the paraphernalia of a typical inhabitant. But as the images progress; and in the interplay of natural and artificial light, an ambiguous figure appears, and the reader is left with a tantalising mystery to solve.

The bilingual, softcover annual report (which comes enclosed in a paper sleeve for easy detachment) is an unassuming document that nonetheless reflects the overall theme of the book. Both paper and ink here are blue. Each page is progressively darker than the former, while the type is progressively lighter, reflecting the smooth transition from day to night.

With dimensions measuring 37cm x 28cm, a hardcover format and the fine photographic paper used inside, the book eschews traditional annual report territory and takes on the elegance of a refined coffee table book.

The report uses sophisticated language to convey its information. Balancing this use of language is the enclosed booklet, where an animated discussion on the creation of the report (featuring a discussion amongst the co-creators and the Group’s Chief Technological Officer) is reproduced using a conversational style, which serves as a welcome contrast against the detail-heavy report.

The report affirms the Group’s commitment to sustainable business practices by using circle offset paper. Both the photobook and written report are available as PDF documents from the Company’s website.