Your annual report: 6 questions to help you choose the right design agency

Easy annual reports

Posted in April, 2016

2.6 seconds. That’s how long it takes for a person’s eyes to focus in on a specific element of a document or webpage. It’s also how long it takes for them to form an opinion – in a document’s case: whether or not they care enough to continue reading. So when it comes to your company’s annual report, a little creativity goes a long way. Nowhere does it state that an annual report must be boring. Trust us, we’ve looked. So how do companies like Warby Parker and Airbnb create annual reports that not only fulfil their legal requirements of reporting on the year that’s been, but become an invaluable marketing tool?

To begin with, they recognise that their annual report is (and should be) more than just a purely functional document peppered with jargon, industry terms, figures and pie charts. It also presents an invaluable opportunity to boost credibility and even boost market perception and bolster share prices.

When Warby Parker released their first year end report in 2012, co-founder and co-CEO Neil Blumenthal could never have predicted the profound effect tasteful design could have on what’s commonly viewed as a rather bland document.

…it was retweeted 2,000 times and led to our three highest consecutive day of sales

So how can you achieve a similar result with your annual report? Search for the right creative agency. Rather than settling on the first designer who fits your budget, interview a few design agencies. The right creative agency can not only add value to your business, but understands how to create an annual report that builds credibility, improves company perceptions and becomes a powerful marketing tool for the rest of the year.

If you’re in charge of collating your company’s annual report, make sure you ask the below six questions to any prospective design agency. By doing so, you’ll quickly find out who is well versed in the art of creating compelling annual reports.

1) What experience do you have

Finding an agency who has thorough ASIC experience and understands the requirements your year end report should meet will go a long way to making the process a complete breeze. Without this experience, you could find yourself racking up costs fixing your designer’s mistakes – or worse yet: wearing the reprinting costs if it’s mishandled!

2) Do you have a track record of delivering on deadlines

It’s Murphy’s Law that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. An agency that understands the deadlines and lead times involved with the production of annual reports will have a robust and proven process. They will have dedicated staff to cover work, fast turnarounds with typesetting and proactive in keeping you on schedule.

You’ll also want to know if they have a close relationship with a printing house. This goes a long way in securing preferential treatment for meeting those tight deadlines, and ensuring colours, varnish and binding are perfect the first time.

3) Can you arrange shareholder mailouts?

If you’re still using your share registry as a mailing house, you could be missing out on a lot of savings. By finding an agency who can handle shareholder mailouts, you’ll be able to ensure your shareholders receive their annual report, NOM and proxy forms quickly and efficiently—usually for significantly less than your current mailing house.

4) Are you able to make recommendations based on our budget?

A low budget doesn’t necessarily mean low quality. A design agency who offers a flexible annual report solution will guide you through binding, printing techniques, stock choices, even online options such as PDFs, flip books & microsites that will look bespoke without the price tag.

5) Is proofreading/copywriting included as part of the service?

To achieve highly competitive rates, smaller outfits tend to omit this crucial aspect of annual report production. Others just don’t recognise it as important. Rogue punctuation, random capitalisation, spelling errors and grammatical errors are unprofessional and have no place in any advertising and marketing materials - including your annual report. Bolster your credibility and make sure this is included.

6) Can you evolve our current brand style?

Your annual report has a longer life span than just a few weeks. It’s a document that can be referred back to throughout the year and used as part of your marketing materials. An agency who understands this will actively provide you with direction and opportunities to evolve your brand through the use of new design & brand elements.


The design standard for annual reports gets higher every year. Shareholders now expect something that is engaging and informative. They no longer want to simply see facts and figures that tell them their investment is safe - they want to feel it.

If you’re in charge of putting together this year’s annual report, print off this page and put your prospective design agency in the hot seat.