Annual & company reports

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Annual accounts and company reports at their best

In this category on Red Dot 21, we display a selection of annual accounts and company reports that have many outstanding design features. Listed companies, foundations associations and similar organisations that reach a certain level of income must issue an annual report in which the management gives an account of the past financial year. Naturally, these reports are bursting with data, numbers and facts. This should not mean that they need to be presented purely in a dry business manner. After all, they are aimed at people – at investors and shareholders, at employees, journalists and other stakeholders, that is to say groups of people who are directly, or indirectly involved with the company and are affected by its activities. Many firms recognise that an annual report can be more than just something that they are obliged to publish. It has the potential to be a highly effective medium to boost the company’s image, by delivering not only financial analyses, but also a vibrant picture of the organisation.

Annual report as an image-building medium

A good annual or sustainability report is, at the best, both a reporting and a marketing tool which gives information and also contains some marketing storytelling. Every year, there are real works of art among the submissions in the “Annual Reports” category that the members of the Red Dot Award: Communication Design jury evaluate. Instead of giving the readers a headache, the reports really manage to entertain them. The best annual and company reports are convincing from not only their external appearance, but also the way the content has been put together. What they all have in common is a cover-to-cover concept that has a central theme that accompanies the reader through the various chapters to the final page. It is not a matter of just portraying the necessary information, but rather also including stories – about employees or customers, or social or ecological initiatives – as well as talking about the history and future of the company. These emotional components are often strengthened by the use of high-quality photos or imaginative illustrations. In this way, by leafing through the report, readers get a first impression of what sort of company they are dealing with. After all, that is the whole point of the exercise.
The skill of a designer is apparent however in what in sport is called the “compulsory exercise”. Part of this is an overarching concept which takes corporate design into consideration (but which, however, may be adapted) handling of typography and colours, the choice of format, paper used and imagery etc. Inevitably, particular attention needs be paid in an annual report to the transmission of the company figures. Clear tables that are easy to read are a must. In addition, hard facts and figures are also presented in an understandable way using sometimes really excellent infographics. They give a brief overview of the most important elements and development and make them the focus of attention.

Although information in the printed form has, in the true sense of the word, more weight, increasingly, companies and institutions are increasingly preparing their annual reports in digital form. In such cases, extra interactive elements such as animations and short videos may be included in order to make the report more understanding and lively. Ultimately, such company reports are as varied as the people behind them. You can get an idea of the great diversity of the design approaches by looking at the examples that we have assembled in the category “Annual Accounts and Company Reports”, some of which have won prizes at the Red Dot Award: Communication Design. Let yourself be inspired.