Closing out the year with a bang: Rockin annual report design trends

Obsessive-compulsive organizers and self-identified nerds: rejoice! 2017 is your year…the year of the annual report.

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Unless you strongly identify with Monica from the hit 90’s television show Friends, chances are you probably don’t get too excited when you think about the prospect of reading or creating an annual report. Everyone else: relax. It’s not as bad as it sounds. In fact, some of this year’s best design trends translate perfectly into the new gold standard for innovative annual reporting. The combination of design and data transforms raw information into highly engaging – dare we even say entertaining – narratives for your stakeholders, customers, and employees. If you’re still not convinced, here are a few of the hottest trends to transform your annual report.

Start with a story:

When most people think of an annual report, they immediately think about numbers, accounting reports, and your business’s bottom line. All of these elements are important when recapping your year, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to share some of the year’s highlights along the way. If you’ve enjoyed a transformative year of growth, shout it from the rooftop. If your company has renewed its focus on sustainability, or released a new product line, your annual report is the place to share these milestones.

The modern consumer and stakeholder is accustomed to consuming massive amounts of content woven into almost every aspect of their lives. Social media? Check. Image-based advertising? Check. Video and multimedia? Check. Today’s best digital marketers seamlessly blend narratives across channels, devices, and formats. It makes sense, then, that your annual report would mirror this trend. While you don’t need to include a ton of content, adding a human element to your annual report sets the tone for your results, primes the reader about what to expect, and draws them into the most important details you hope to highlight. Consider including your mission statement, customer quotes, board member profiles, images, or information about your year to set the stage. Remember, you don’t want to detract from your actual reporting, but a little story goes a long way. Our creative design team can help you strike the perfect balance between fact and fun.

Infographics link results and themes:

Once you’ve created a clear storyline, introduce your main pieces of data using easy-to-consume infographics. Even the most ardent readers and data-junkies might be tempted to skim your annual report before deciding whether to read more deeply, or determining what areas they want to explore. Choose your choicest figures and pull them out. To do this, ask yourself what you would want to share if you only had 15-seconds to do it, and go from there. Your infographic is essentially your annual report’s elevator pitch, so don’t be afraid to ask your analysts and agency partner what information is most important.

Infographics are a major digital design trend because they can quickly and effectively share critical information without getting lost in the mathematical weeds. And did we mention they are highly shareable? That’s right: your annual report could go viral. Infographics help you draw a link between numbers and your readers’ day-to-day world. This is especially effective when communicating to a broad audience spanning from executives and analysts, to consumers and enthusiasts. We like to think of infographics as a gateway between non-technical readers, and the people who interpret data best. When created properly, they can make your most critical figures accessible to everyone.

Let your brand shine: 

Chances are, you’ll still want to include a deep dive into your company’s performance in your annual report. Whether you do that in the body of the document or use an appendix, you can keep this information consistent and engaging by letting your brand shine through. Use your company’s typography, color scheme, spacing principals, and image filters alongside your reporting. This creates visual consistency and interest even when presenting data straight up.

If you’re reading this and aren’t sure what your brand guidelines are, now is a great time to work with your marketing agency to cultivate a design language that is unique to your company. Brand guidelines help you create seamless visual cues across channels and information archetypes so your brand experience is immersive, consistent, and memorable no matter how or where your audience is consuming information about your brand.

Simply browsing our website will give you an idea of our design language. Like what you see? Check out examples of how we have helped brands like you expand their design footprint to include annual reports, multi-channel assets, and comprehensive marketing collateral. See, we told you 2017 was going to be the year of the annual report. And we’re as excited as you are to get started!