New era for corporate annual report design

Partway through last year’s annual reporting cycle, the Government performed a blatant u-turn on its requirements for company reporting, when it withdrew its proposed operating and financial review guidelines.

This impacts on an element of design that receives little attention in the creative press. The presentation of corporate reports (both financial and corporate social responsibility) engages more design professionals than ever before, and standards within the field are constantly rising.

Chancellor Gordon Brown had proposed that UK companies provide annual reports that examined a far broader range of issues and impacts in their business environment, and offer clear and transparent guidance to shareholders and other interested parties.

For the designers in this field, this appeared to offer both greater challenges – and opportunities – than ever before in how to present complex information, and when Brown backed down from his stance, earlier this year, it was seen by many as a lost opportunity to advance the process of corporate reporting.

What has been very interesting is how many companies have continued with their commitment to produce ‘transparent’ reports, regardless of Brown’s wishes.

What has resulted is a new generation of corporate reports with an emphasis on clear information design and ‘narrative reporting’.

These publications are a departure from the reports of yore which were either dry, fusty financial tomes or marketing-driven public relations documents and are, instead, setting new standards for design in this field.

I am sure that other agencies would join me in stating that it is a new era for a section of the design industry that is offering interesting challenges for those working within it.

Piers Evelegh, Creative director, Flag Communication, Cambridge CB4 9PJ

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