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, profiles of key management or staff. The target audience may be investors, customers, employees, or partners. Some publicly held companies are required by the Securities and Exchange Commission (U.S.) to produce annual reports. Also charitable and nonprofit 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 & ProposalsWhile 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 colors).
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 ReportsPaper 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.
Software for Creating Annual ReportsYou'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.
16 Categories of Design SpecializationIn some ways, designing annual reports is closely related to creating newsletters and catalogs (long, visually consistent documents) and direct mail (often includes multiple types of documents such as sales letters, order forms, and brochures).
- Annual Reports & Proposals
- Business Forms
- Catalogs, Menus, & Product Lists
- Collaterals (brochures, etc.)
- Crafts & Creative Printing
- Identity Systems (logo, letterhead)
- Marketing Materials (ads, direct mail)
- Periodicals (newsletters, magazines)
- Presentation Graphics
- Publication Art
- Publications (books, manuals, booklets, etc.)
- Web, Mobile, and Multimedia Publishing
- Word Processing
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