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The challenge of designing annual reports The challenge with designing annual reports, proposals, and other business

reports is to turn balance sheets, corporate mission statements, and mug shots and mini-biographies of the company executives into a visually appealing package. Annual reports are special financial documents used to provide a summary of operations and financial standing of a company or organization. They may also include other special information about the company including its mission, future plans, and profiles of key management or staff. The target audience may be investors, customers, employees, or partners. Also charitable and non-profit organizations and schools may publish annual reports. Large companies may produce their annual reports in-house but independent freelancers may be able to get their foot in the door by approaching smaller companies and nonprofits with limited budgets. Annual reports may take a considerable amount of time to produce and several individuals or departments within a company will probably provide input (i.e. be prepared for lots of revisions) but they can also be a good source of repeat business. Proposals are another type of report that companies may produce for perspective clients or investors. They may be formal or informal. Companies may also produce reports (for internal or external use) outlining plans, proposed acquisitions, research, and any number of other purposes. Depending on the scope of the report the company or organization may want a formally designed layout with charts, illustrations, or photos. Designing Annual Reports & Proposals While the company or organization supplies the content, the designer (in collaboration with the client) is responsible for arranging the content and creating an attractive, readable annual report. It may be necessary to coordinate with other in-house or freelance providers such as copywriters and photographers. As with other types of multipage documents, the page composition of an annual report or proposal may incorporate some or all of the five types of visual signposts: artwork, titles, paragraph emphasis, character emphasis, and explicit navigation elements. It's likely that the design of the annual report will incorporate the corporate identity system (such as logo or colours). There are some fairly standard parts of an annual report including mission statement, financial summary, stock analysis, and future plans, although not all reports will include every section. You can learn the ins and outs of designing annual reports by looking at past reports from the same organization, reports for other companies in the same field or industry, and reading books on designing annual reports. Printing Annual Reports Paper and printing options for annual reports are almost endless. It's likely you would choose a nice book paper along with a matching card stock, cover, or bristol paper for the cover for an annual report.Offset printing is probably the most common printing method. The cover or other parts of the report might incorporate some spot varnish, diecuts, or decorative embossing.

Annual reports may be enclosed in a folder or an envelope (or both). Booklet envelopes or perhaps catalog envelopes are typically used for reports. Software for Creating Annual Reports You'll need software that handles multiple pages easily and has robust typographic features. Professional level software such as Adobe InDesign, QuarkXPress, or Serif PagePlus are generally your best bets for software to create annual reports. On the free or open source side, consider Scribus.

More information on the creative aspects of Annual Reports The most creative aspects on an annual report, for a designer, are the cover and narrative sections. But the financial section should also continue the same visual theme and it's often the most critical part of the report in the eyes of stockholders, investors, and financial analysts. For publically traded companies and non-profit organizations some elements are required such as Auditor's report and financial statements. While the company or organization supplies the content, the designer (in collaboration with the client) is responsible for arranging the content and creating an attractive, readable annual report. As with other types of multipage documents, the page composition of an annual report may incorporate some or all of the five types of visual signposts : artwork, titles, paragraph emphasis, character emphasis, and explicit navigation elements. 1. Cover The cover design should reflect the company image. It might incorporate corporate colors and logo. It may include images suggestive of the past year (new product introductions, for example). As a minimum the cover should usually contain basic indentifying information:

Name of Company or Organization Year of the Annual Report Date of Annual Report

Narrative Statements The narrative section may have many sub-sections. These might include any of these: 0. Looking Back / Overview

Mission Statement/Corporate Message Letter to Stockholders History of Company or Organization Services / Product Lines (Sales & Marketing) Management Report 5-10 Year Financial Summary

1. Performance / Year in Review


Significant Events Analysis / Significant Trends Testimonials

New Products New Services New Patents/Research Stock Analysis

2. Looking Forward

Immediate Future Plans Long-term Plans New Initiatives Imminent New Products / Services

3. Photos/Illustrations Any or all sections may include appropriate photographs or illustrations. These may be photographs of buildings inside and outside, pictures of people including company executives, employees, and customers, products in development or in use, events, logos, symbols or icons, sketches or drawings of products, or images that illustrate key services.

Financial Statements The financial statements are the raw data upon which much of the narratives are based.

Income Statement Balance Sheet Cash Flow Statement Auditor's Report Graphs and Charts

Appendices and References Any supporting documents not included in the narrative or financial sections including stockholder information (next annual meeting, general stock info), list of directors and officers, list of offices/divisions with addresses, list of brands, affiliates, subsidiaries would be included after the financial statements. For certain industries, a glossary of terms may be a good addition to the annual report helpful to those stockholders and investors not intimately familiar with the jargon.