Choosing the Best Annual Report Layouts
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.