How to Design an Inspiring Annual Report
October 11, 2019

How to Design an Inspiring Annual Report


Designing an annual report is no small feat. Every year, foundations and nonprofits go through the same process of identifying stories, writing content, designing, and printing. This process can often feel laborious and repetitive, however, it doesn’t have to. Consider these six tips to design an engaging annual report — one that celebrates the work done and inspires action for the work ahead:

1. Choose a format that your audiences actually use.

Always strive to meet your audiences where they are. Do they read print? Are they online? Do they gather in-person? Understanding how your audiences choose to share and consume information will inform the format or platform you choose, making your report more accessible.

Photo credit Sharon Matthew.

2. Craft a compelling narrative.

This requires you to take a step back and ask ‘what is the purpose of the modern annual report?’ For some organizations, your report might serve as an artifact—something you create for historical documentation. For others, it might be about sharing the the origin story of your work, illustrating the connection between where you’ve been the past year and where your focus is moving forward. Honing in on its purpose will allow you to keep the message clear and the readers engaged.

Photo Credit Gian Jurado.

3. Visualize the story through photos and numbers.

People consume information in many different ways. Some prefer long-form content, while others prefer visual forms of storytelling. Using compelling photos and highlighting impressive numbers adds diversity to your annual report, creating interest and providing an easier entry point for your audiences.

Photo credit Hung Ngo.

4. Create interest through hierarchy and whitespace.

Similar to photos and numbers, typographic hierarchy and whitespace can also add interest to your annual report. By using bold type, you can quickly communicate powerful messages, emphasize important passages, and draw your readers’ eyes down the page. By using ample white space, you can affect the pacing of your annual report (and therefore, the speed at which your readers move through the content).

Photo credit Belu.

5. Serve “bite-size” stories.

People are inundated with information. By reformatting your annual report into smaller, more bite-sized stories, the chances of the information “sticking” is much higher. People are more likely to remember elements of your annual report if they’re presented in a digestible way.


6. Draw audiences in with suspense.

Not surprisingly, the first thing your readers see will set the tone for your entire annual report. When choosing a photograph, headline or graphic to use on your cover (or digital hub, depending on your format), consider what will draw your readers in. Thought-provoking visuals and statements will create a sense of suspense, encouraging readers to dive in.

With a little pre-planning and some imagination, every organization can design an inspiring annual report.

Are you struggling to infuse creativity in your annual report process? Drop us a line.