It’s that time of year again where we are commissioned to produce the Annual Reports of various organisations. I’m on a one-woman-mission to make this document more interesting and appealing rather than the standard list of facts, figures and functions from the previous tax year.
I’ve seen many an Annual Report discarded on the empty seats of countless AGMs, and as a combined memoir of an organisations achievements over a year, it saddens me that they are not embraced more. Many of us will be familiar with the Annual Report Format and our eyes will glaze over at the prospect of reading, but unless you’ve been avidly reading the e-newsletters each week, they are full of information relevant to an entire year’s work, and no mean feat to produce!
Our first Annual Report of the season was for Penrith Building Society. We’ve recently refreshed the entire brand identity of the Society and after discussion, they were prepared to do the same with their Annual Report. This report, in particular, was sent out pre-AGM to encourage people both to vote and participate in the AGM itself. Previously, this document had been quite a ‘stoic’ one but sent out with a separate newsletter. The decision was made to combine the newsletter and annual reports in the hope that both would be read as avidly.
As a financial institution, there is a lot of information to be included and we needed to present the facts and figures in a more digestible manner than the previous 9pt black text on white. Segmenting information, using colour blocks and simple imagery is one of the easiest ways to make flat information more of a joy to read. Small sections of text with bolder headings allow the eye to choose what to read and stop and start – this is especially important in the current market where we are constantly conscious of time (and lack thereof) so rather than being daunted by a great lump of text, this layout subliminally suggests you can dip in and out to suit you, choosing relevant areas and ignoring others.
The second Annual Report we completed was for a new client, CAfS. Cumbria Action for Sustainability is a charity who promote low carbon living, energy saving and reduced use of fossil fuels throughout Cumbria; providing information, advice and motivation through events, site visits and practical projects. Having previously opted for a standard Annual Report booklet, they wanted to tackle things a little differently this year and embrace the fact that they had achieved so much in the previous year. Having seen a document from Greenpeace which was an A3 page folded down to a handy A6 size, CAfS wanted to emulate something similar but with much more vibrancy to show their proactive nature.
The third Annual Report recently completed is for The Oaklea Trust; a charitable organisation with a vision based on the principle that everyone has a positive contribution to make to society and the right to control their own lives. We have designed the annual reports for Oaklea for 3 years now on behalf of Acorn Marketing. A satisfying report to complete, Oaklea give their report space to breathe.
Designed in landscape A4, the information can be displayed in a much more readable format and allow the imagery and graphics to speak for itself. This lends itself to bold, clear information, and creates almost a photo album or magazine of information showing the progress and growth of the trust.
Flat graphics are very much the style of 2013/14 with large areas of colour and uncomplicated shadings to almost create a haven for our over stimulated eyes. This trend all began in September 2013, when Apple released iOS7 and has not halted in momentum. The 3-D icons were flattened down, the reflective tint was removed, and unnecessary design elements were stripped away. For an annual report, it is important to remain of its time: in reality, an Annual Report is a year long time capsule and as such, should embrace and reflect the current moment as much as is possible. As you can see, these elements have been employed in different degrees, relevant to each client and their existing brand guidelines and style. Next year, no doubt each report will have a subtle makeover to keep it’s communication current and forward thinking, and personally, I can’t wait.