Annual Report Design Guide: 6 Valuable Tips For Businesses

Insights / Business

As earnings season draws closer, most businesses will be busy preparing their annual report for both regulatory and investor relations’ needs. While written content is important in that aspect, the way visuals help relevant stakeholders engage and process the information is equally substantial as well.

Essentially, your annual report design can subconsciously influence stakeholders on how they perceive your brand, its competency, and performance within the past years. While some businesses have already thought about how they would want to present their annual report, others might still be searching for the best way to reflect their personality as well as their achievements in that current year. But regardless of where you currently are, it never hurts to learn a little more about how one can produce an even more compelling annual report. So with that being said, let’s explore these 6 valuable tips that could help your business produce a compelling annual report.

A Small Disclaimer

Before approaching the selected agency to produce your annual report, having a theme or direction in mind is important as this puts both of you on the same page with the overall annual report design. This not only saves both parties ample time in the early stages but throughout the entire process as searching for the right references can end up delaying and obstructing the project from starting.

1. Create A Visual Hierarchy For Your Written Content

Now that you’ve got through the preliminary phase, you have to first think about how you want to present your report’s written content. While chunks of words may be unavoidable due to the nature of an annual report, you can, however, plan out ways to separate them with a visual hierarchy (layout) to improve readability.

Here's an example:

Through that, the visual hierarchy creates a reading structure that follows the natural eye movement (from left to right) while letting readers easily navigate around the page to absorb the information with a quick glance at the headlines and subheads. This is particularly useful for readers who usually skimp through information rather than diving in deep for the entire paragraph.

One other way to improve content readability is shown in this next example:

“Utilize empty spaces to break up the content into smaller digestible chunks.”

While the design’s direction for the annual report focuses on a minimalist approach, you can replicate the same style on certain pages where written content can be summarized and fit within your visual hierarchy.

2. The Right Typography For The Right Mood

Next, we need to choose the right typography that’s based on the report’s context. As small as it may seem, typography can affect not just the design and readability but the readers’ feelings and emotions as well.

For instance, the wrong use of typography in an annual report can lead to an outcome shown on the left:

But what if your business is a theatre company? Or a restaurant chain with a ‘traditional heritage’ as their image? Can you then use these individual typographies interchangeably shown below?

As you can see, there’s a psychology behind picking the right typography as it not only blends and complements the entire design.

“It expresses an idea to people, and the ideals your business stands for.”

Based on the examples, one of them portrays a bold and progressive mindset that dares to explore controversial ideas while the other conveys a sense of tradition from humbler times.  With regards to that, typography isn’t just the icing on the cake as it can subconsciously influence our likability towards visuals and written content, where choosing the wrong one will make it stand out like a sore thumb from the entire report.

3. Proper Use Of Data Visualization Techniques For Important Data and Information

After planning out the presentation of your written content with a visual hierarchy along with the appropriate typography, it’s time to simplify the report’s important data and information. Through several data visualization techniques such as infographics, charts, graphs, and other relevant elements, readers will likely be more engaged as they can easily comprehend and compare important data and information over several years.

Here is an example:

4. Focusing On The Right Colours

Let’s jump straight into the examples to illustrate the point:

From a bird’s eye view, using the right colours can help breathe life into your annual report by making the pages seem vibrant whilst communicating important data and information within a short period of time. In simple terms, the use of bold colours and visuals creates contrast within the pages by highlighting information which helps direct the readers to the section they should be looking at.

5. Transforming The Annual Report Experience

Like any product, functionality may play an important role in influencing customer purchase, but it would be reckless to ignore the aesthetics aspect of it as consumer preferences are becoming ever more demanding with every progress in the world. After all, people crave good experiences, which brands are projecting through their image, personality, products, customer interactions, etc. So how do you apply that to your annual report?

Here are some examples:

1) Amnesty International’s 2011 Annual Report

2) D&AD’s 2011 Annual Report:

As you can see, you’re not limited to being creative with the page’s visuals alone as this can extend into the actual report itself. By doing so, you’re creating a new experience for relevant stakeholders when they receive the report which breaks the status quo of ‘boring whitepapers’.

6. Don’t Be Shy To Move Past Traditional Formats

While print and ‘electronic’ formats are conventional industry standards, your annual report can be adapted to other formats such as digital, interactive or even video as the possibilities are near-endless!

On the digital/interactive front, for instance, an interactive website report can be made with this tool to create interactive GIFs that showcase the business’s performance and necessary information when clicked:

While that’s a lot to keep in mind for an annual report design guide, these 6 valuable tips can act as a handbook for you whenever you’re facing difficulties in producing your report. In fact, bookmark this page so you can easily access it whenever earnings season is around the corner!



On the off chance that you’re still feeling confused about how you can improve your annual report design, you can drop us a message or call as we’re always eager to help businesses to bring out the best versions of themselves.

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