8 Tips for Sensational Annual Reports that Your Audience WILL Read

Annual report season is upon us. Whether you’re a for-profit or a non-profit, annual reports present a great opportunity to connect with — and grow — your audience. Here’s our take: Your annual report isn’t just any communication effort. It’s a marketing opportunity. Don’t just do it. Maximize it!

Don’t know where to start? How to start? At Ruzow Graphics, compelling annual reports result from expertly blending stunning design, engaging content, and important information. Your biggest objective should be to design for clarity; the primary purpose is to convey information.

If you want to create a compelling, clear, and connective annual report, read on

1. Choose what to include, with marketing intent — think outside the box! 

You don’t need everything in your annual report. What you need is to relay a strong message, clearly, compellingly — and in a way that won’t make your audience fall asleep! It’s okay to break away from what “should be” in a report and instead opt for something that will connect powerfully from a marketing perspective. The best annual reports help investors and other readers keep the company in mind long after they finish reading it.

I gave the Boys & Girls Village Annual Report an extra dose of special by using a unique size, and numbers throughout, for added marketing impact.

2. Use a theme to tie everything together.

Really want to help your story shine? Have everything in the annual report work together by having a theme or storyline woven throughout. A theme can be anything that is important and timely for your organization (inclusiveness, breaking barriers, compassion); it provides a marker that all components should bolster. When writing copy or including a photo, ask: Does this support our theme?

3. Illustrate your story boldly and with purpose. 

Compelling photos and illustrations can bring your message to life, while photos just for photos’ sake won’t accomplish anything at all. Make sure every visual adds something new to the content.

For the Greenwich Land Trust Annual Report, I sourced old-school engraving illustrations to work throughout the piece as graphic elements, and rather than lots of photos opted for a few impactful ones.

4. Ask: What can be better communicated with visuals instead of text?

If you have a lot of text, edit the copy down to its essential core. Consider what you can replace with an infographic, graph or chart, to best get the message across. For a financial statement, one smartly designed pie chart can save you pages and enhance readability drastically.

For this award-winning report for the New York Building Congress, I created a color palette for the charts and graphics, and utilized statement-making photos, to eliminate some of the text.

5. Add flavor, but not chaos.

When it comes to document design, I always design in a grid and then find a creative way to break the grid for emphasis. It’s like having a basic recipe for pound cake and then adding some rum to give it extra depth. (We bring back Havana Club when we visit Cuba!) You can add a special ingredient or two, but if you stray too far from the recipe itself, it’s likely to be chaotic and unpalatable. (Cooking and design have a lot in common. See? The 5 step design process is like cooking a good meal.)

6. Consider print AND digital.

Before you embark on the design process, consider what form this annual report will be distributed in. It might be a print piece, or a microsite (like this one we created for Boys & Girls Village), or published on Issuu, or all three. No matter what, we want to make sure this piece will be easily consumed by your audience.

7. Work from your brand guidelines — but allow for special.

An annual report shouldn’t look exactly like every other piece of marketing collateral. It needs a little extra panache. But that doesn’t mean you should go hog wild. If your brand guidelines are done correctly — with primary, secondary, and tertiary colors and different options for fonts —you should be able to go into the levels to find the uniqueness you need. If your brand guidelines don’t go deep, you may need to incorporate some freshness with fonts and colors that highlight, yet align with, your brand. This should be done with discretion, of course.

8. Take it easy with the typography.

Because annual reports can be text-heavy, we create a well-thought-out hierarchy for how to present text. Simple fonts are best, as well as a set number of sizes. At Ruzow Graphics, we might use three sizes: headlines, subheads, and paragraph text. But that’s it! The report needs to feel uniform, easy to read, and make sense visually — and text is a big driver.

At Ruzow Graphics, there’s a lot more to our secret (rum) sauce that is annual report design.

These tips will give you a good glimpse into our design thinking. Whether you need graphic design — or design, writing, and editing — our graphic design firm has got you covered.

Want to maximize the marketing opportunity that’s before you?

Move into the annual report season with a professional designer as your partner. Let’s talk.



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