Annual reports fail to give upbeat message

The majority of annual reports just “don’t shape up”, according to research by corporate communications consultancy Dialog. The new research suggests designers should take more responsibility for wider editorial control.

Annual reports, with very few exceptions, fail to communicate positive information about their companies and fail to say why the companies are different or better, says the research report.

Annual report designers should reposition themselves to make annual reports more effective as marketing tools, says Grahame Jones, Dialog managing director.

The research document, titled Improving Annual Report Effectiveness, describes many reports as failing to communicate well to their audience and being “dense but empty”.

This offers an opportunity for designers to become involved in decisions on content, says Jones: “Consultancies should get more involved in the role of editing.”

While designers see a chance to play a larger role in the production of annual reports, some design consultancies suggest clients still do not appreciate the relevance of effective design.

A spokesman for Carr Kamasa, which has designed Grand Metropolitan’s annual report for the past two years, says that although “the relationship between consultancies and companies is developing”, the designer’s role depends on whether the client sees the report as a marketing tool or a chore.

David Ritsema, marketing director at Radley Yeldar, which has just completed annual reports for Fisons and Guinness, agrees: “There are numerous companies which approach their reports as a necessary evil.”

Carnegie Orr cites the Advertising Standards Authority as one of its more adventurous clients, keen for its position in the creative world to be reflected in its annual report (pictured).

“The ASA report is a showcase brochure,” says the consultancy’s managing partner James Carnegie-Brown. “It breaks the mould from standard report and accounts design and opens up possibilities of good design.”

“Companies which are more brand-led take a more proactive role to communicating than [those which are] more engineering-led,” adds Dialog’s Jones.

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