Elements of a Great Annual Report Design Cover
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.