StartArticle bank5 design trends for annual reports
April 30, 2024

5 design trends for annual reports

Our first reporting season on the ground in Australia is just around the corner. Alysia Beach, Business Director at one of our design agency partners, walterwakefield, sums up the top five design trends to watch out for this reporting season.

Alysia Beach

Alysia Beach

Business Director, walterwakefield
Corporate reportsAustralia

1. Make an impression

The first few spreads of your annual report act as a front door to your company. These are the first pages that readers will interact and engage with, so it’s important to make the design warm and inviting, whilst making an impact. The design of these spreads should use key brand elements such as typography, imagery, iconography and graphic devices to communicate things like the who, what and where of the business as well as the vision, mission, and values. It’s also important to showcase key strategic outcomes and how your company is delivering your vision, through a summary review of the year.

Remember to remain transparent and note not only the good achievements, but also the challenges faced and how the business addressed them. This can be done through simple charts, diagrams and key figures – remember a picture is worth a thousand words, so use these visual elements to provide a snapshot of your yearly highlights.

2. Back data with an explanation to tell the story

Sometimes charts can be misleading – an increase in bars isn't necessarily a good thing, or an unbalanced pie chart might not be a positive output. It’s important to include a narrative or explanation to provide context to your data’s messaging. This can be visualised through a highlight box or informational note that sits alongside your charts, or through the use of arrows and text to communicate the trend in data or difference between specific data points. Make sure this summary is short and concise so readers can digest quickly and easily.

3. Informative board composition and effectiveness

Investors are keen to understand the diversity of a company’s Board of Directors so it’s important to clearly label different pieces of information in a table like format, or through clear headings.

Board member biographies should show: a current individual photo, their qualifications, their age (ideal, but not always agreed upon), their term, skills and experience, any committee memberships, or directorships of listed entities. It is also preferred to show a skills and experience matrix to show the diversity amongst a Board of Directors group. This can be done through a table or chart and can use a legend with colours or icons to note their level of experience across each skill.

4. Make navigation a priority

Every reader of an annual report is there for a different purpose – whether they’re investors, current or potential employees, analysts, lenders or other stakeholders, they are all interested in finding specific content, so having a strong navigation system in place will help readers find what they’re looking for. A detailed, clickable contents page is a must. This gives readers a full picture of what’s contained within your annual report, and allows them to quickly skip to a specific section if needed.

Colour coordinated sections or colour coded content pieces that are repeated throughout your annual report, such as values, strategic pillars or business sectors, can be useful to provide consistency in messaging throughout. If linking to content outside your report, make sure this content is clickable, but also provide access to this content when viewed in a printed format, e.g. QR codes or short links that can be easily typed into a browser.

5. Focus on purposeful imagery

With the increasing use of AI, it is becoming harder and harder to find authentic imagery. However, it’s important to not become trapped in the generative space and rely on using stock imagery in your annual reports. This can be considered lazy and impact your overall messaging and how readers understand your overall business operations. Therefore, organise photoshoots that capture relevant imagery of both the work you do and the people who perform this work, and can be easily captioned to provide accurate insight into your business operations.

It’s also essential to make sure that diversity and inclusion is addressed and reflected in your imagery. It’s also worth considering ‘greenwashing’ and whether the imagery featured is trying too hard to convey what it is your business is working towards.

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