annual report design tips

Annual Report Design Tips: Small Changes to Increase Value

Ann O'Brien

August 1, 2022

At the end of every fiscal year, companies commonly produce a document to provide management, employees, clients, potential customers, and sponsors with a comprehensive look at the business’s past year. This valuable data and business information are vital to illustrate corporate health and future plans, but numbers can be a struggle to make exciting. Whether your company is small or large, public or private, a nonprofit or an ESOP, an annual report can disperse key information metrics about your business and provide a quick resource for the upcoming year as well. So let’s take a look at a few annual report design tips to make your next one look great.

Why Print an Annual Report?

Having a hard copy of year-in-review data and critical stats that show the progress a business has made over the past year is a common strategy. While some companies could make the information digitally available, most choose to print and distribute an annual report because of its formality and beautiful presentation.

Additionally, these reports are meant to be a finalized set of data and a snapshot representation of the company at a moment in time in contrast to the potentially changeable nature of one in a digital format. Meaningful data, curated pictures, and helpful graphics all are very impactful strategies to show off a company’s hard work and accomplishments for the past year in a tangible, lasting way that many businesses continue to rely on every year.

Annual Report Design Tips

The layout and overall design of an annual report will determine whether or not it is viewed, because let’s face it, statistics and data can be dry. But utilizing basic design elements will captivate the reader’s attention and draw their eye toward the valuable information included in the report. Our top annual report design tips will make sure that your report will show off the best aspects of your company, its people, and the essential data by keeping your audience engaged and interested.

Use a Table of Contents

A simple inclusion like a Table of Contents is something many reports miss out on, mistakenly thinking it is a waste of space in a short reporting booklet. But the variety of material included in the report holds varied importance to the audience. So even for brief annual reporting, including a quick reference with content and page numbers is a must to get the most out of your final product.

Mission Statements: How to Use Them

Critical to the values and focus of a business, a mission statement often drives decision-making and financial choices throughout a year and in strategic planning. Prominently displaying a company’s mission statement shows a commitment to its mission and provides a touchstone for those unfamiliar with the business to see and feel the heart of the organization. Reader engagement at the very start of the report is essential and including a mission statement will help readers connect with the company’s purpose and what drives results.

Incorporate Graphics

One of the easiest ways to increase engagement through good annual report design is to use graphics to explain essential information that is complicated or just vital that it is understood. Combining simple graphic elements, like arrows or dollar signs, with brief phrases or key terms is high impact and creates memorable visuals. Incorporate graphics that will use bright, colorful colors to:

  • Show year-over-year improvements
  • Communicate concrete progress
  • Simplify complex numbers
  • Make large volumes of statistics digestible

Utilize Imagery for Interest

Bright, crisp images are a must for any annual report because they bring the company to life. Use large photos to represent the company’s mission statement in action, record milestones or achievements, and highlight individuals who contributed to the year’s accomplishments.

  • Use 2-page spreads as a backdrop for graphic overlays.
  • Include close-ups of leadership team additions or changes to mark their arrival or departure.
  • Pictures of volunteers acknowledge their importance and value to the organization.
  • Spotlight employees in action who contributed to the year’s successes.

Make it Personal

Reader engagement will be higher when an annual report is personalized with the stories of the people involved in the organization. Learning how the business functioned from the ground up will not only demonstrate what the employees, volunteers, and leadership accomplish. but will show clients, customers, or shareholders that each contribution is valuable.

Consider including voices from all levels of the organization, since each contributes differently to overall success. Sprinkle these words, responses, or statements throughout the report to demonstrate critical metrics, as a response to a graphic, or to show the mission statement enacted by a team member. Utilize a singular color scheme to tie quotes together visually. Always acknowledge the speaker as well as their function in the business and any key descriptors they have earned or are known by like Employee of the Year or 3-Year Volunteer.

Include Corporate Sponsorships

Prominently display names and branding for corporate sponsorships to thank them as well as acknowledge their contribution to the year’s successes. In some cases, also including partnerships, meaningful accounts, or other significant donors in the annual report can boost relationships as well as signify their importance to the organization.

Leadership Board Introductions

Use pictures, short bios, and relevant timeline information to introduce current, outgoing, and incoming board members who contributed to the past year’s accomplishments. Group relevant graphics nearby the board introductions to make it easy for readers to visualize achievements met goals.

Spice Up Dry Data

The purpose of an annual report is to provide the business’s statistical data to give a picture of the company’s year, but that data can be overwhelming and at times boring to read in bulk. One of the annual report design tips that helps with presenting dry or potentially hard-to-digest data is through the use of personal stories.

  • Interviews. Seek out key personnel to give an account of their experience with reaching a goal or meeting a critical metric during the year to present necessary information.
  • Q & A. Present a question and answer format that illustrates important data points through the eyes of a company leader.

Highlights of the Year

Big-picture content is critical for annual reports, but choosing specific events and activities to spotlight show the fun, meaningful, or noteworthy events that led to the year’s successes as well. Some reports benefit from the use of a timeline to illustrate a year’s highlights, and it is a great visual way to present this type of information. Highlights might include:

  • Pictures from special events or milestones
  • Quotes from customers or clients
  • Human interest stories about employees, volunteers, customers, or clients

Final Impressions

Finish up the report with a striking visual. A full-page photo of employees, volunteers, or a significant place or item that represents your year can complete the annual report design on an optimistic note. Smiling faces and bright colors leave a positive impression as well, so be sure the final page of the report reflects the overall feel of the rest of the report and projects a confident, upbeat tone for the organization.

Creating Your Annual Report

Companies and organizations that are ready to apply annual report design ideas to their own books can follow a few basic steps to prepare their own book for publication.

1 Gather data. Prepare year-end data for your report by focusing on how well the company met or exceeded its mission and goals for the year.

2 Get help with the human interest content. Ask teams to contribute high-quality pictures from events and activities. Conduct informal interviews to turn into stories or Q & A sections. Request quotes from impactful individuals.

3 Engage a graphics professional or use a high-grade design program. The annual report design should look crisp and clean, so make sure that all graphics look great before including them.

4 Format pages and choose a binding option to finish the report. One great option is to use Saddle Stitch binding to create a sturdy booklet between 8 and 80 pages in length.

5 Partner with a trusted printing company like Publishing Xpress. Digital printers can help you make your project look good from start to finish. Publishing Xpress offers professional cover design assistance so your annual report design will look professional as well as unique to your organization.

6 Determine how many annual reports you will need. Print enough to distribute now and to have on hand for the upcoming year for clients, customers, potential business sponsorships, or for other uses and then place your order.

Annual Report Design Matters

Creating a visually appealing publication that is also professionally useful is not hard when you utilize our annual report design tips. By including critical information alongside meaningful data that is presented in bite-sized graphics, readers can easily understand your company’s vital stats that define your past year. The addition of human interest stories, spotlights on employees or customers as well as beautiful photographs that illustrate your organization’s heart will showcase what motivates your organization to do great things. And wrapping it all up in a perfectly printed book by Publishing Xpress means you don’t have to worry about how your annual report looks again until it’s time to put together next year’s publication.

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