27 November 2023
The What: Annual report definition and its importance
What is the first thing you think of when you hear ‘annual report?’
Numbers, statistics, financial information and performance, and a thousand and one pages of data? You might say annual reports are ‘all the same.’ Same layout and template, maybe even the same graphics that are used over and over again because they explain the context efficiently and effectively already, so why change?
But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way… Yes, there is an abundant amount of data and information to include in your annual report, whether in a quantitative or qualitative sense. And yes, there are certain annual report templates that most businesses follow.
But here are a few questions we at Prezlab ask ourselves before we begin our magic when it comes to designing our annual reports, or any report for that matter:
Q1. How can this annual report be different?
Q2. How can we reflect the client’s visual and brand identity in the most seamless manner?
Q3. What makes this annual report stand out in terms of design?
Q4. What’s the company’s story? And how can we collect the right content to reflect it best?
What businesses need to understand and what you need to understand, as a valuable member of your organization, is that an annual report is your opportunity to “get everyone excited about the development of your company – from shareholders to employees and customers.” Essentially, that means you need to add some personality into the mix with concept and design implementation that really speaks to the brand’s background.
Remember, an annual report is more than just a book of numbers. It is a vital communication tool for your business… You can read our blog about how and why business reports are a state-of-the-art marketing tool for your business: The Art of Storytelling in Business Reports.
This is what we can agree on up until this point:
- The annual report is a powerful communication tool
- The design implementation in annual reports that reflects your brand identity is the attraction
- Both quantitative and qualitative content is the story
Now, one thing is certain. The way to appeal to investors is through a visually enriching annual report design. So, here is the bigger question:
The How: Use annual report design to benefit your brand
The purpose of the design is not to cover up poor past or present company performances, but to tell a company story that places employees and investors at the forefront. And that is what makes an annual report engaging.
So, how can the design aspect of a report benefit your business and your brand?
Influence investor decisions
“The purpose of an engaging annual report design is to offer investors an insight into the motivation and attitude of company employees.”
With a proper structure and flowing narrative, the annual report provides investors with an understanding of the decision-making processes and their outcomes.
Understand employee relationships
The CEO’s message at the beginning of the report always sets the tone and provides a deeper connection with the report’s audience. Investors are therefore able to get an overall understanding of the company’s atmosphere in terms of leadership, work culture, and the relationship between management and employees.
Read it as a story, not a report
“Like a story, the report focuses on the past, addresses the present, and builds a foundation for the future.”
Investors want to see these changes.
Through the art of business storytelling, investors can visualize the organization’s values and beliefs, and in turn, they can assume where the company is heading. As a branding tool, the annual report allows for an impressionable impact on an investor and the general public alike. Aligned with the company’s brand identity, a stunningly designed annual report grabs attention even more.
The Why: Annual reports are a source of promotional material
In the other blog we mentioned earlier, “The Art of Storytelling in Business Reports,” we mention how these variations of business reports are also referred to as ‘communication reports.’
As a marketing tool, annual reports communicate certain themes that best reflect your core business objectives. The process of an annual report begins with a theme, provides you with a certain objective, and finally wins the appeal of your target audience.
Themes may include:
- Historical milestones
- Technological improvements and their implications on the business
- Positive stories from employees and customers
- Key moments in your company’s history
Sophisticated design layout techniques that adhere to your company’s brand identity are the language that should be molded, adapted, and realized from cover to cover. And as the report narrative unfolds, readership will increase and will appeal to new investors and customers.
“You want to create a report that is engineered in a way that organically attracts attention, and when promoted, strengthens your brand image.”
The Inspiration: Design tips for your annual report
This is where we come in… As a design firm, our mission for everything we do in design is to create extraordinary stories. And so, when we begin outlining our design, these are some of the most important things we consider:
Aim for maximum impact
Although the term ‘report’ prompts some images of a dry and serious document, the annual report is much more visually appealing and “designed to generate excitement about the company and its prospects for the future.” The maximum impact is achieved when the context and content both convey enthusiasm and energy through your narrative.
Decide on a theme
“An annual report designed with a theme can tie current market performance, company strategic objectives, and industry context. The report, when designed as a piece of visual storytelling, can speak chiefly to investors.”
For instance, financial service companies often go for presenting an image of stability by utilizing specific design elements that reflect just that. For your business, you want to convey your individual identity. If you’re a startup, you can go for a more youthful, trendy design theme. The goal is to set yourself apart from your competitors.
Design for emphasis
Visualizing important pieces of information comes a long way with design. From customized design elements to the hierarchy of text through different font sizes, visual interest is created throughout the report length.
The most important thing here is to adhere to your brand colors, visual identity, and language – this is where your company’s personality is showcased.
Make it easy to read
Readability is the #1 priority. There are two extremes in this case. First, you can fill your report with a great deal of data and information, some might be important, others not so much. Second, you can completely base your report on creative designs and visuals that might look impressive, but in reality, it can get redundant.
The middle ground is found in the concept of creating a report that is both reader-friendly (as in it condenses the data and concentrates on only the most important information to be displayed), and visually interesting (where the readers are attentive and intrigued).
“To impress and be memorable, it’s time to rethink how you present information in your annual reports”
An annual report can introduce new steps for your business, showcase your personality, and open a window into the soul of your brand.
It’s also imperative to consider the digitalization of our world… When it comes to business, technology is always one step ahead. At Prezlab, we create your reports online and in line with your brand’s message and identity.