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    How to Design an Annual Report: Ideas & Inspiration

    at Design tips

    Annual reports are not merely a company year in review. Annual reports are now being seen by corporations as a comprehensive marketing tool for business growth. They provide a channel for high-level business intelligence research to demonstrate company value. Moreover, annual reports provide a host of marketing possibilities for new derivative “offshoot” materials. But your company may be at a loss as to how to design an annual report.

    Every company faces the choice eventually. The question is not “should we?”, but “how?” And the answer is sometimes hard to come by, even for marketing and sales, because in fact an annual report speaks to the entire company’s business operations, brand positioning, as well as the foundation for all marketing and sales initiatives.

    Perhaps the best place to start is with the reasons for creating your company’s annual  report. Let’s review some of these potential uses.

    Key Functions to Design into an Annual Report:

    Shareholder engagement

    Boardroom before an annual report

    Without an annual report, investors can’t keep up on your company or stay engaged with the brand longer term. An annual report allows investors to understand where the true value in your company shares lie, which offshoots are more tailored to their investing experience and expertise, and why your company is a leader in that niche.

    In short, an annual report allows shareholders to understand the why and how of the investment’s future. Make sure to include data visuals and graphs that speak to the bottom line.

    Stakeholder engagement

    Stakeholder meeting and man writing on whiteboard

    Stakeholders, both within the organization and outside partners and vendors, can use your annual report to point to the ways in which your company is well-positioned in your niche. Partners, vendors, as well as department heads and executives can use this as a high-level marketing tool.

    Your annual report can not only demonstrate and reinforce the company mission, but illustrate how individual departments can best contribute to that mission and this quarter’s emphasized business goals.

    Marketing and salest

    Examples of customer profiles (buyer personas)

    At the customer end, it’s useful knowing the breakdown of why you lead in your niche. Marketing can utilize this brass tax profile-facing presentation side of the annual report to craft prospect-relevant communications for campaigns and for sales scripting. It can leverage curated stakeholder-derived talking points to demonstrate brand trust while consulting prospective clients, distributors and other partners on product and service options.

    Make sure your annual report design can speak to the pros of using your product or service for each customer profile.  For example, if you rent out trucks to other businesses, you could highlight that your vehicles come with minimum overhead and risk. You can also demonstrate the value of the customer-facing field service equipment and software in use for the vehicles you rent.

    B2B branding

    Corporate and B2B branding

    Aside from the BI informational aspect, the annual report is a visual branding experience for partners and vendors. It can become the face of the organization, communicating values and quality expectations.

    Using the colors of your brand logo as the color scheme of your annual report allows you to maintain a branding experience throughout the publication. It promotes the identity while reading about company wins and exciting new ventures.

    Infographics developed for the annual report can also be produced as online infographics for sharing and interdepartmental decision-making processes.

    In short, every use you can leverage from your annual report becomes a design consideration. With the above factors in mind, we can describe the key design elements you’ll want to focus on:

    Annual Report Design Factors

    The psychology of color scheme

    Psychological color scheme wheel

    Branding-oriented, conveying industry and business function competence, as well as an upbeat outlook. Simply put, you’re setting the mood and tone for the discussion via the colors you choose. The right colors can either communicate your brand voice or distract from that brand voice. It’s really a simple choice when bringing the psychology of colors into play. Just make sure your graphic designer understands how to use the psychology of colors to the benefit of your organization and niche.


    Woman reads an annual report

    If the text isn’t easy to read, or is inconsistently written or formatted, this speaks loudly to the theme of organizational capacity. Emphases should be in place, but also, font choices will impact how the tone is perceived. Naturally, the logic of your text should be solid, as well.

    Logical layout

    Machine shop trade magazine website design portfolio example

    The order of your layout will also communicate the logic of your brand to stakeholders. When the layout is not logical and intuitive, this diminishes the messaging.

    Is white space there to separate key sections and ideas? Is it currently working for or against your message?

    Digital-ready format

    Digital annual report at a restaurant lunch meeting

    If your annual report’s main version is print, you can still provide a PDF “print replica” version at no significant additional cost or production time.

    If you’d like to ensure your stakeholders read your report, however, you can always extend the issue to a fully digital version via a magazine website, which allows the reader to better consume the document on any device. In the digital-forward, mobile 2020s, this may become a standard.

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    Going the responsive route with the digital version of your annual report is forward-thinking. It can mean encouraging greater consumption by giving greater ease of use. It becomes accessible on taxis, at restaurant lunch meetings, whenever and wherever is convenient for your target audience. A responsive digital report can also allow your brand to take advantage of interactive report features.

    These can include interactive data visuals and creatively-placed reference links to key pages of your company website that can speak to the services you provide in more depth at key junctures. This allows a fuller, more referential presentation that leaves no questions unanswered and doesn’t demand a print copy to get to the bottom of impromptu questions.

    Make sure to set those reference links to open in a new window, so that the annual report stays top of mind. And make sure that your graphic design team understands that you want to see the proofs before the final proofreading.

    Need help designing your annual report? We can help.

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