An annual report provides a comprehensive overview of your company’s annual business. Since the content of these reports is very informative, it is important to present it in a way that your audience better understands and visualizes your achievements.
These reports also include various design elements that aid your metrics and create a unique, creative, and visually rich history of your business activity.
This post outlines best practices for designing annual reports, provides a template to create your own, and provides examples of third-party annual reports that you can use as inspiration.
What is an annual report?
As a refresher, an annual report is a document produced by companies that shows annual performance including achievements and challenges. It provides a comprehensive overview of processes and strategies, while also addressing key performance indicators.
Annual reports are different from weekly reports in that they cover everything that has happened in the past year, including content that you have already mentioned in weekly, monthly, or other reporting styles that you have created.
Designing an annual report is a careful process as it is critical to strike a balance between powerful graphics and clarity and understanding. Most reports include data visualizations such as charts and graphs to improve the user experience and draw attention to key metrics.
Below is a template that will allow you to create an annual report for your company and outline the sections that should be included in each report, regardless of the industry.
Design template for the annual report
The template you use to create your annual report should be based on your unique business needs and the metrics you want to include.
However, you can customize most of the templates to suit your business needs, such as: B. this template offered by HubSpot. The following image contains two pages from the downloadable template, including a company overview and an annual performance analysis.
The template allows you to dig deep into aspects of your business that are discussed in the annual report, whether it’s marketing campaigns or annual sales performance. Even so, there are certain elements that should be included in all annual reports and we will discuss them below.
1. Summarize your annual goals and strategies.
The first section of your annual report should summarize your annual goals and strategies. This gives your audience an overview of your annual focus and provides the information they need to understand and contextualize the rest of your report.
In essence, it sets the tone for the rest of the report as it explains the intent behind your operations. If you are a marketing company that produces an annual report, this section is a great place to describe your marketing goals and the campaigns you have created to meet those goals.
2. Outline key performance indicators (KPIs) and goals.
Another part of your annual report should include the KPIs that you used to measure success. This section really is the heart of your report as it shows the results of your years of activity.
Use charts, graphs, and other creative design elements as these will add impact to your words and really demonstrate the meaning of your data. For example, let’s say one of your overall goals was to increase ROI across all channels. While you can certainly explain that Twitter’s ROI is up 15% year over year, a graph that visually shows the difference between years paints a clearer picture of success.
A strong annual report is a well-rounded annual report. As a result, this section can also include an analysis of the challenges and expected outcomes, explaining areas where you may not have achieved your goals.
3. Explain key findings and make future recommendations.
While the above section is detailed, it is also helpful to include an overarching summary of the key elements of your year. You can take this time to focus on the metrics and campaigns that you think are most important to your stakeholders and audience.
You should also aim to make recommendations for future business activities based on your insights from the current year that can be valuable in getting buy-in from stakeholders and the teams you plan to work with in the future.
The following are best practices for creating a visually engaging and informative annual report that includes all of the above.
Best practices for designing annual reports
A clean and deliberate design will help you create a visually appealing report that will grab attention. Let’s go over the best practices for designing your annual report.
Since your report will be specific to your business, be sure to include branding that will let viewers know that it is specific to your business.
Branding also helps create visibility and shows viewers that you own the accomplishments, challenges, and general metrics discussed in the report.
Use powerful graphics.
As mentioned earlier, a high quality report has graphs to help you understand your metrics. Be especially careful to create graphics for the most important and impactful content, such as annual sales.
Use color and fonts.
Another way to ensure that your report attracts attention and makes a lasting impression is to use colors and fonts to draw attention to important information. Differentiating between a regular metric and a great metric that shows up in color can seriously damage your audience’s memory.
However, it is important to find a balance between design and content.
Don’t be too busy.
While you can (and should) include various design elements in your annual report, you should follow standard design principles and avoid cluttering your report with unnecessary colors and graphics that distract and overshadow the metrics you have outlined.
A report that is busy, crowded, and filled with different fonts and colors will be harder to understand and won’t leave the impact you want. Make careful decisions and make sure your decisions are geared towards presenting achievements, not just making the report look pretty.
Examples of annual reports
Let’s look at some examples of high quality annual reports to use for inspiration.
Google Annual Diversity Report
Google’s 2020 Annual Diversity Report is a high quality report.
The report begins with a general overview of Google’s efforts to improve inclusion in the company, as well as diversity goals and graphs that demonstrate the results of their efforts and show that they are committed to the task. The image below is a visual representation of their hiring efforts year over year.
Ablynx is a pharmaceutical company that takes a unique, creative approach to an annual report using 3D charts. The image below is an example of the charts used to create visual representations of the largest number of business shareholders to show their company’s market growth.
Duni specializes in table setting and take-away packaging for restaurants and global businesses. The annual report is straightforward, clearly organized, and minimalist, but still uses colors, images, and various design elements to enhance the impact of its words.
The image below shows the year-over-year growth in the financial target that is grabbing audience attention with large fonts, colors, and line chart visualizations.
Annual reports paint a picture of success
It is important to understand how to create an annual report that shows your company’s successes and includes design elements that emphasize the meaning of your words and allow your audience to understand, visualize, and absorb your accomplishments.