The number-one job of corporate report design is to clearly convey information to current or potential investors, shareholders, employees, donors, or even the general public. But a corporate report of any kind doesn’t have to be a bland piece whose only purpose is to serve up facts and figures. To make your publication fresh, interesting, and really stand out from the crowd, you’ll need to incorporate a variety of design elements.
If an image can convey your point, let it. These days, people’s attention spans are shorter than ever, so you’ll need to grab theirs as fast as you can. A large photo with action in it can often speak volumes. If, for instance, your organization helps build wells in Africa, which do you think is more likely to compel readers to act: a tabular listing of the number of wells built in each country or a photo of smiling children drinking and splashing around in fresh water from their well? Don’t make your readers imagine what your organization is all about, show them!
In a perfect world, you’ll have a hearty archive of photographs taken specifically for your organization by a professional photographer from which to populate your report’s graphic design. And while you will want to incorporate at least a few organization-specific photos, be sure to take advantage of low-cost, highly searchable repositories of stock imagery. Adobe Stock and Pond 5 are just a couple of great resources to find the perfect images to enhance your publication.
Compelling photographs are great, but sometimes you have to convey the numbers, facts, dollar amounts, global reach, number of people served, and so on. Using infographics to impart this information is a clever way to give your readers the facts they need while still catering to that shorter attention span. Infographics use graphs, charts, and pictograms to encapsulate data points into a single graphically expressed element or data visualization. A factoid such as “only 38 out of 1,000” might be difficult to conceptualize, but seeing 1,000 tiny dots with 38 of them highlighted in color makes that fact visually come alive in your corporate report design.
THE RIGHT TYPE
Throughout the publication—and on pages with large blocks of type in particular—use a typeface that exudes authority without getting in the way. You’ll want to match the character of the typeface to that of your organization.
Choosing a tried and true serif font such as Adobe Garamond or Century lends a respectability to the publication. That trusted approach will be most felt in places like the CEO’s letter and financial analysis pages. That’s not to say that the content or typeface need to be stiff and lackluster, though; if your organization is more youthful and lighthearted, you might consider a sans serif font along the lines of Gotham or Proxima Nova. Type’s main purpose is to convey the tone of your message and deliver information without calling attention to itself.
EXPRESS WITH COLOR
While you will most likely work within the realm of your corporate color palette, you can always seek out and add colors that enhance your publication even more. Start by adding a couple of colors that complement the standard palette. If you need help picking colors, there are online tools to guide your color choices, such as Adobe Color and PineTools’ Complementary Color Picker.
When applying colors from your newly curated palette, remember to keep colored text to a minimum, letting it signal headlines or items you wish to emphasize. Add in colored graphics or elements—such as callout arrows and divider ornaments—to highlight concepts and add visual interest. When it comes to color, though, remember that less is usually better, and sometimes black and white can make a striking visual impact.
MAKE IT YOUR OWN
The information in your corporate report represents the facts and figures your investors, stockholders, or clients need to have. But how you choose to display this often dry, straightforward data can make a huge difference. Putting time into how your report presented information will go a long way to creating a memorable publication.
If you have publication or annual report design needs, please reach out to our design agency for price estimate at 301-933-4062, or fill out our contact form.
When creating a print publication such as an annual report or policy report, give your font selection as much consideration as you give content, copy, and image choices. A carefully thought-out type plan will serve to convey your report’s message without drawing too much attention to the typefaces themselves. You don’t have to be an expert in typography to make wise choices, as type has been around a long time, giving you plenty of examples to draw from. Remember when choosing the best font for print publications that the main purpose is to offer readability and legibility to easily convey a message; your type should facilitate—not distract from—that message.
If you want to give off an air of traditional class and authority, you might opt for a serif font. These tried-and-true typefaces are easy to read, taking advantage of their serifs—the small, decorative strokes at the end of a character’s main stroke—to guide the eye from one character to the next. One of the most common serif fonts is Times New Roman. Publications with lots of text, from textbooks to newspapers and novels, often employ serif workhorses such as Century, Adobe Garamond, Bookman, or Baskerville. If you want to show that your organization is trustworthy, serious about its mission, and all business, you can’t go wrong with one of these.
However, if you want to show that your organization has a lighter side and can be modern, fun, and less formal, you might opt for another sans serif font. These typefaces often seem friendlier because they tend to have more whitespace within each letterform, and their lack of serifs makes them a little less stuffy feeling. For sans serif examples, check out the type families of Gotham, Nimbus, Proxima Nova, or the ever-reliable Helvetica.
You’ll want to avoid having too many different typefaces in one publication, but you will want to mix things up a bit. A great way to introduce font variety is to create different looks for your header and body copy. Add variety by using different styles or weights—italic, bold, light, heavy italic—of the same type family. For instance, you could put your headers and subheads in varying weights of Gotham Condensed and style the body text with Gotham Light.
Another option is to use an entirely different typeface for your headers than the body, captions, and sidebars. This is known as font pairing. Try contrasting a sans serif type of font with a serif one or using a commonality such as a shared historical context. Good combos include using Trade Gothic Bold for headers with Sabon for body copy. Pairing the sans serif fonts Raleway and Calibri can also be a great choice for print.
Feel free to add in script typefaces as well in situations where a touch of whimsy or class is needed, but restrict these fonts to tasteful headlines, infographics, logos, and smaller bits of text. A fun, modern combo of a script and sans serif font is SignPainter HouseScript Semibold and DIN Condensed. If you’re looking for font-pairing inspiration, check out typ.io or typeconnection.com.
When you’re ready to bring some new fonts on board, you’ll need to know where to look for them. If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, you have access to their online font repository, Typekit. Font Bros and Font Squirrel both offer many fonts free for commercial use as well.
Once you’ve made some type decisions, be sure to actually print out samples early on to see that the type looks good when printed vs. what it looks like on a computer screen. Print your sample text in 10–14pt for the body text and around 24pt for headers to ensure all type is legible at those sizes.
Think of the cover of an annual report like an announcement; it lets readers know what to expect inside the report. But beyond putting a year and “Annual Report” on the cover, what sort of content should be on the front of such an integral publication?
To begin with the obvious, an annual report’s cover absolutely should show the year being reviewed as well as the organization’s name (or its logo if it’s familiar enough to the readers). The audience should also be defined in some way so that it’s crystal clear who the publication is intended for. That could be as simple as including wording about current shareholders or—if the goal is to gain investment—the organization’s mission statement or tagline. Make the message clear by literally spelling out the intended audience on the cover.
One school of thought is that the annual report should fall in line with the organization’s existing marketing materials and publications. If the goal is to create brand awareness among potential donors, for example, that might be the right approach to take. However, if each year’s report needs to stand on its own merits, an independent, bold look might be the better option. The cover should be the focal point with the main purpose being to engage and draw in the right audience.
The annual report’s cover design should give an indication as to the general feel of the content inside. Is it serious and all business? Is the information of the report presented in a sleek or modern way? Is the content branded with the organization identity on every page? That isn’t to say the report design should be static throughout, but the cover definitely sets the overall tone. Oftentimes—especially in cases of dry, straightforward presentation of data within the actual report—the cover and front matter offer the only opportunity for any real creativity, but there should be a noticeable harmony between the cover and the contents. Perhaps the bridge between the two lies in a common image that occurs throughout the publication or thematic elements such as bold colors or typefaces. The cover can be the lead character in this tale, but it still needs to tell the same story as the report.
An effective cover grabs readers and compels them to dive into the report’s pages. This is often accomplished through the use of imagery to highlight the organization’s activities or by using shapes and colors that repeat throughout the pages to create a sense of navigation or storytelling. Depending on the organization’s intended image (and considerations like the printing budget), using more expensive finishing techniques such as foil, varnish, and embossing could add variety and interest to the cover.
Other than answering the usual questions of “who” and “what,” a professional annual report cover’s content is wide open to the needs and identity of the particular organization. As long as the design draws in the intended readers with clear information then delivers them deftly into the report’s contents, the cover has done its job.
In a previous blog post, we discussed defining the purpose and audience of a publication, which in turn informs the format that would best bring the report to life. These days, discussions of format often result in a print-versus-digital showdown. Oftentimes, clients are quick to jump on the digital bandwagon simply for the reason that it’s new and buzzworthy. While a digital format certainly comes with several advantages, don’t discount the benefits that a printed piece still delivers. It’s also quite possible that your particular publication would benefit from living in both print and digital form, with the help of great design.
TRIED AND TRUE: PRINT
Printed material is such a ubiquitous presence in our lives that most people don’t give it much thought. Because it is everywhere, designers often have to find ways to make a piece stand out from the crowd. When it comes to putting ink on paper, you and the designer—if you’re not one and the same—have the advantage of controlling the piece from start to finish. You can be relatively sure what the final piece will look like, as the resulting report is a physical item that you can quality check. This also allows you to control the physical distribution of the final product. If something goes awry, your team will theoretically know ahead of time and should easily be able to troubleshoot any issues.
One downside to print is that this physical product can mean higher costs as quantities increase. Not only do quantities affect price, but storage and distribution can add to the costs. The issue of distribution means you’re responsible for getting a real-world item into your stakeholders’ hands. In addition, updating or correcting errors can be costly and time-consuming. Depending on the frequency of your content—for example, a monthly fundraising update versus a professional annual report—this may or may not be an issue.
THE DIGITAL FRONTIER
You might think that a digital solution would be the winner in the print-versus-digital debate, but there are pluses and minuses here as well. Because “digital” can mean so many things—from PDFs to web reports to ePUBs to graphic design—the back-end creation and learning curve can add time and expense to any publication. Since the end user might interact with your publication in a number of ways, you’ll need to design and distribute in a format that will serve as much of your target audience as possible.
Sending your piece into the great digital unknown aside, digital distribution gives you great opportunity, as well. Once you’ve dialed in your preferred digital platform, you can easily customize the experience for your end user. Keep in mind that an advantage for the reader—though often a downside for the designer—is that a digital format gives the reader more control over how the final piece will look and how they will interact with it. Again, knowing how and where your audience will read your publication is key. Finding a harmonious digital solution will pay off in the end for everyone involved.
WHY NOT BOTH?
You might think that going with both print and digital sounds like you’d have all your bases covered. Working in both formats will probably force you to maintain two (often separate) workflows or find a smooth way to integrate the two. You might discover that trying to please both digital and print consumers all the time means you never really satisfy either very well. That being said, finding the sweet spot where print and digital work side by side means more eyeballs looking at your publications. No matter where you design, just be sure data visualization is artfully directed by your design agency. Don’t forget to mix bold colors with black and white styling so that the report is designed in an engaging, easy to read way.
THE BOTTOM LINE
As with anything, the pros and cons of producing should be weighed against the needs of those using your report presented. In the end, you know your stakeholders best, so create the publication they’ll want to read and deliver it in a way that works best for both them and your team.
If you have report and publication design needs, please reach out to us for price estimate at 301-933-4062, or fill out our contact form.
Designing your company’s brochure can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t need to be. If you know your main purpose in creating a brochure (beyond “because we need one”), the other items will come easily. One guiding principle that should inform your design is the drive to create a piece that will project confidence and put your organization in a competent light.
When deciding what to include in a brochure, also give thought to what not to include; don’t bombard the reader with too much information. Think of the brochure like a movie trailer for your organization. It serves to highlight the main points, create a reaction or emotional response, and give readers a call to action. That call to action may result in readers eventually donating or otherwise supporting your organization in some way, but the brochure should drive them to call or visit your website to get all their questions answered. Don’t feel like you have to throw everything at them in this one piece.
You might consider highlighting one key part of your organization’s story. This could be in the form of a recent client success you helped facilitate, or maybe a photo essay is the best way to illustrate the story. Find the focal point and build the design around that.
When writing the copy, craft unambiguous headlines so that even a quick skim of the brochure will give readers a firm idea of what you do and exactly what you’re asking of them. Present those headlines in such a way that they stand out by using color and a clean, fresh typeface.
Another way to add interest without clutter is to use blocks of color to visually break up the design. You can do this by adding graphical elements that guide the eye from one point to the next or by putting different segments of copy within colored boxes. Be sure to break up that color by using a decent amount of whitespace, though. Give your readers gentle breaks as your copy travels between subjects.
One of the most popular brochure formats is the trifold brochure, which has six panels that fold up to one-third of a letter-sized sheet. But just because there are six panels doesn’t mean that you have to keep your design segmented into those panels. Try treating the interior panels as one cohesive canvas or at least have elements traverse the dividing lines between the panels. This format also lends itself well to wraparound images, which start on the front panel and reveal themselves on the interior panels as the brochure is opened.
If you’re having the brochures professionally printed, you can ask the printer for cost-effective ideas that will help them stand out a bit. Using a matte paper elevates the quality of the piece without necessarily adding cost. You might also think of unusual treatments for images, such as using black-and-white photos with a color tint applied or creating a full-page collage.
If you’re stuck as to what to include in the brochure copy, use your organization’s FAQs as a jumping-off point. These are the questions people have had, and the brochure is the perfect place to address those issues.
KEEP IT FOCUSED
In a time where everyone has a digital presence, a streamlined brochure becomes an eye-catching tool that points potential donors, clients, and others to your info-packed website. Use design elements that match the image of your organization without overwhelming the reader, and you’ll gently steer them in the direction you want them to go.
If you have publication design needs, please reach out to us for price estimate at 301-933-4062, or fill out our contact form.
Designing a publication from scratch can be a daunting task, and you may not know where to start. Taking the following factors into consideration can help you create a roadmap for your annual report, policy report or impact statement and can help inform your design choices along the way.
Before diving into a new publication, you’ll need to give some thought to the purpose of the finished piece. Is its main purpose to inform members on facts and figures—such as an annual report or policy report—or to convey the mission and backstory of a trusted nonprofit to potential donors? Maybe the publication will accompany the company’s annual fundraising event. Make it clear to everyone on your team what the focus of your publication is.
Going hand in hand with the idea of purpose is the potential audience. Who will consume your publication? Once you’ve determined a purpose, a general idea of the audience should take shape. If the publication in question is an annual report, then your target audience might be comprised of your members. If you have demographics for that group, use them. If your audience is the general public from whom you’d like to solicit donations, then try to imagine an age range and income level to start. Zeroing in on one ideal reader type is a great way to focus your content and design so that you can create just for them. Speak the language of this ideal client, using terminology they are already familiar with and explaining terms and concepts that might be outside their scope of knowledge. Every decision you make from this point forward will be to create the ideal publication for this conceptual reader.
Next, you’ll need to decide what form the publication will take and how your readers will interact with it. Will it live in the physical world as a printed piece, or will it exist in a high quality digital format to be consumed onscreen? Keep your ideal reader in mind: Are they older with a preference for a classic magazine-like piece? Or are they the type to want to read shorter, more digestible articles on a tablet? [NOTE: We will cover the print-versus-digital topic in the near future.]
Once you’ve settled on print or digital (or even both), you’ll need to think about the physical look—and feel, if it’s being printed—of your publication. Many of these decisions will be dictated by budget when you’re going with a print version. For instance, a letter-sized publication done in landscape (wide) orientation with full-page images on premium paper stock might be your ideal look, but each of those items can add significantly to the overall cost. This is where taking every step of the process into consideration at the beginning pays off. Learn what’s possible and who will be handling each component, and keep the lines of communication—including with your printer—open at all times.
Now that you’ve identified the what, the who, and the how that will guide you, it’s time to get to the real meat of the design. You’ll want to establish an overall look for the publication, one that will convey the intended message to your target reader. Will you need to pack a lot of information in its pages, and if so, how will that information be presented? An annual report could be well served by large, colorful infographics and graphs to convey stats and figures. A pledge drive brochure might marry the company’s story and funding needs with large, compelling images. Continually ask the question, “What will drive my message home to my ideal reader?”
Even if you’re working with a designer who will decide on the actual fonts to be used, you’ll want to have a general feel for how type will be used in your publication. From cover type to body text, your type choices say a lot about the publication itself. A serif font—think Palatino or Minion Pro—can convey a sense of classic formality or authority. For a more modern and crisp message, try a sans serif typeface along the lines of Franklin Gothic or Aktiv Grotesk. Expand the possibilities by pairing fonts in harmonious ways. You might try mixing a serif with a sans serif font or utilizing a variety of weights from within the same font family. Online tools such as typ.io, fontpair.co, and typeconnection.com can help in creating font pairs that work well together.
JUST THE BEGINNING
These concepts are just the starting point to a great publication. Once you’ve assembled your team of editors, contributors, and designers, you can create your roadmap together to help guide you from idea to execution of your publication.
If you have publication design needs, please reach out to us for price estimate at 301-933-4062, or fill out our contact form.
Any pub designer who has worked on a publication for days, weeks or even months knows the sheer terror of worrying that his/her InDesign file has become corrupt. It happened to us this week. Here are the steps we went through to restore the INDD file to better health, and what eventually was the key to saving it.
We restarted our Macs and INDD. This is always the best first step.
We did another “save as” to clean up the file. We do this throughout any project at least a few times a week, so this didn’t fix the issue.
Next we recomposed all of the text using the keyboard shortcut Command-option-/. Sometimes this works, but this time it didn’t fix our super-slow issues.
Most senior pub designers cringe when they have to delete their preferences. We do. But we did it because we know sometimes this works. When we started up INDD, we pressed command-option-ctrl-shift which if our timing was right, threw up a dialog box that allowed us to delete our preferences file. sigh.
Next we deleted INDD cache files by going here on our Mac:
[Home] > Library > Caches > Adobe InDesign > version > language > InDesign Recovery >
Finally we exported the document to IDML. We were so happy this worked! Yeah!
A huge thank you to Keith Gilbert from gilbertconsulting.com, for these fantastic tips he shared at the 2016 INDD Conference in DC.
I polled the Annual Report Design Team at MillerCox Design and these are our top tips on how to make the most of your design budget. Whether your budget is generous or streamlined, your organization can benefit from these tips.
Reuse and repurpose your content! Print copy and images can be refined for an impact statement, web copy for an annual report website, a script for an annual report video and copy for social media channels.
Collect data, stories, and photos from volunteers, clients, partners throughout the year. This material can be recycled for blog posts, social media, print ads, and more!
Designate one contact to communicate with your design firm and give that contact decisionmaking authority.
Provide clean and final text to your annual report design firm.
Provide print quality photos larger than 1mb. Cellphone cameras allow you to take photos almost anywhere. Unfortunately these photos frequently get saved as low-resolution images. While just fine for your website and social media channels, you will need high resolution photos for your printed annual report.
Provide edits in a marked up document using neat handwriting and professional copywriting notation.
Enjoy telling your organization’s story! A mix of story-telling techniques, compelling photos, data and professional design will make your annual report shine.
I had the pleasure of attending an AIGA panel discussion on design return-on-investment (ROI) for nonprofits at the offices of the Human Rights Campaign in DC this week. AIGA pulled together a terrific panel to discuss this complex issue. Much of the discussion defaulted to nonprofit design projects (after all, we are designers), yet there were still a few pearls of wisdom in the discussion.
While many nonprofits equate ROI with donations, at least two of the panelists work for advocacy organizations, and they mentioned that design is core to their brand and everything they do. ROI is about how they are changing policy, not raising donations. This design team faced a dichotomy of pleasing policy experts while at the same time, their bosses were asking them to make the creative “cool.” In advocacy nonprofits, ROI can be measured by whether they become and remain the go-to authority on a particular issue. This can be accomplished through both outreach and education, and can be measured, among other ways, by media impressions. Different kinds of design products can increase engagement (and earned media), such as t-shirts, booth design and bus-sides for road tours, and magazines that get their message out. One nonprofit talked about how their annual report was strategically designed to have usefulness that extended beyond sending them to major donors.
The nonprofits at the table conveyed their frustration with nicely-designed materials that weren’t strategic; and designers on the panel talked about the opportunity costs of not investing in design (and the hit your credibility and reputation can take if you present your cause poorly).
An advocacy nonprofit talked about how their index report became a useful tool in igniting action. In this case, more than double the number of cities scored a perfect 100 points in the Municipal Equality Index (MEI) this year. And even though they had also rated more cities in the current year, cities like Atlanta, Phoenix, Columbus, and Jersey City earned perfect scores, because they took direct action after reviewing their scores in this report. While great design wasn’t the only factor in the success of this report in producing measurable results, it helped this nonprofit’s first impression be a lasting impression, at least for these five cities.
There was a lot of discussion around design thinking. Design thinking is clearly identifying the problem to be solved, collaborating on a solution, and writing a design brief before any design implementation begins. Great design products result from design thinking and early collaboration. When designers help nonprofits identify and solve the right problems — when they change an idea, using design — this has the power to improve the bottom line of a nonprofit.
ROI on a design product can include measurements such as:
How easy is it to comprehend information? (especially complex information and statistics)
Does it drive behavior? (volunteer, choose to care, register, donate, share, or learn more)
Does it influence attitudes and change legislation? (change perceptions)
One topic that came up was how incredibly important it is for a client and a designer to build a relationship. Once there is trust, a design team has leverage to take risks, and clients feel safer in taking leaps of faith with their design partner, and this can produce design solutions that will have better returns on investment.
Finally, the panel talked about the difficulty of keeping communication materials on-brand. They suggested that nonprofits build out a brand book of common materials such as:
An understandable logo guide with many “approved” versions of the logo
An icon set
Photos and imagery
A PowerPoint template
More panel discussions are in the works, and I look forward to upcoming panel discussion on design ROI for nonprofits. If you are interested in sitting on a panel to discuss this, let me know and I’ll connect you with the organizers. Just fill out my form here and mention that you’d like to participate.
For the second year in a row, I attended the Nten conference put on by the Nonprofit technology network. Once again, I met amazing leaders in the nonprofit sector doing terrific work to solve some of our world’s most difficult challenges. I also had the privilege to serve the attendees by presenting a session entitled “Emerging Trends in Annual Reports”. Presenting with me were Sheri Chaney Jones from Measurement Resources (her new book will be released by Wiley later this year) and Yasmin Nguyen from Vibrance Global. Our session covered three ideas:
Stop counting hamburgers! Sheri explained how to implement a measurement culture that emphasizes strong performance and measurable outcomes.
Yasmin showed us all a simple way to take and upload video using his iPad, a tripod, and YouTube.
I demonstrated simple ways to add interactivity to PDFs, and an easy way to post your annual report content online using a basic WordPress installation.
Our session was only one of over 90 sessions, and I wanted to share some new strategies I picked up at the conference and in three of the sessions I attended:
Probably one of the funniest moments was when the do-gooder finalist video awards were announced, and an award went to Nutiquette, a very entertaining take on a serious subject, aimed at young men and intended to encourage them to do regular checks for cancer to ensure early detection.
Since we often work with graphs and charts in the publications we design, my favorite session was DataViz!, which was presented by Ann Kemery and Johanna Morariu from InnoNet, and Andrew Means from Groupon. They shared that they typically start with a scatter plot, to look for correlations and trends in the data. Their favorite chart (in general) is a dot blot. They directly label chart elements, avoiding legends. And they remove unnecessary clutter, such as grid lines, rules, and the tick marks that excel automatically includes in charts and graphs. They use color and weight to pop out key findings. They showed a great example of combining quantitative information with qualitative data. And my biggest takeaway was to title charts with the message you are trying to convey. For instance: “In climbing the income ladder, location matters” is far better than “Income by location” in conveying meaning and helping readers to understand the data.
I attended a terrific SEO session lead by Andrew Garberson SEO Lead at Lunametrics, and Eric Werner, the Search Marketing Manager at The Home Depot. Andrew reminded us that SEO is not a number, a word or a set of links. It is an extension of our marketing not a metric. SEO should drive traffic that should already belong to you. It is measured by non-branded organic search returns. If you do redesign your site, your SEO will take a hit. Try not to change your domain name or URLs or you will lose the authority associated with the page content. And internal linking within a site is incredibly helpful in SEO, as it allows google to move through and index your site more easily.
Next year the conference is in Austin. Hope to see you there!