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Designing a Killer Annual Report

Let’s face it: annual reports can be tedious and overwhelming. Even though they contain important financial information about the company, it often comes packaged in walls of text with boring financial data or the long ramblings of CEOs or other executives. Although they are meant to give investors and other interested parties an overview of the company’s year, the standard format of the annual report struggles to keep those people’s attention.

Tell a Story with Imagery

Keeping all that in mind, when HighRock designs an annual report, we like to choose a theme or directive that can make the data more interesting and less monotonous. Rather than get lost in the small details, we get the data to tell a story. The best ways to tell a story are through strong uses of imagery, illustrations, colors, and other deigns elements that break up text blocks.

Example of a annual report page


With text-heavy documents like annual reports, people are more likely to scan the page for important details than to read each line. To accommodate for this trend, we like to include design elements that draw people’s attention to your most important data – callouts, large quotes, or images. It’s similar to the way you would read a restaurant’s menu; your eyes are drawn to areas that have design features like bolded text, blocks, or photos. Pick the most important data in your annual report and use that data in visual callouts that will stand out to readers.

Example of a annual report page

Keep It Simple, but Creative

For important numerical data, we always recommend using graphs or charts to communicate. Our rule of thumb is to keep it simple, with a twist of creativity. Your charts and graphs should be interesting to look at and easy to understand. We like to define important areas with bright colors. You should always include a key so that readers can easily decipher the information. Instead of dots and squares, we often use symbols or icons that draw attention.

Infographics are another great tool to utilize to help people follow along with data. They can be used to tell a better story than a regular chart or graph. Infographics rely on strong use of colors and symbols in a cohesive and balanced way. Another way to make your report more interesting is to somehow personalize your data or include the “people factor”. If you can include stories of how your work and data is influencing people or how it’s being used, that is a strong start. Relating to your readers creates a better reading experience.

Try a New Medium

If you’re looking to set your publication apart, different varnishes, types of paper, and interesting di-cuts can add depth – it really just depends on who your audience is and what you want to accomplish. If you’re still looking for a way to stand out this year, consider going digital.

Using a variety of apps or digital page turning services, you can easily bring your annual report online, making it easily sharable via a link. Digital reports also mean you can link to other attributes, sites, and people which allows you to get readers immediately involved in the work you’re doing. Finally, a digital report can save you costs on printing and distribution.

Ready to start creating your annual report? Contact us today to discuss your project. Our marketing team will work with you to map out ideas, pricing, and a timeline to get your annual report completed in no time!

Jeremy Bohner

by Jeremy Bohner, Creative Director & Partner

Jeremy joined the HighRock team as our Creative Director shortly after HighRock was founded in 2005, and became a partner in the business soon after. He enjoys using his creative talent to build new brands, and promote those brands with his award-winning logo, print, web, and specialty designs. He graduated from Frostburg State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design with a focus in Graphic Design and a Minor in Art History. Before joining the HighRock team, Jeremy worked as a graphic designer/creative director for a firm in the region and pursued personal business ventures. He currently resides in Pennsylvania with his wife Jess and their four children.

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